LAND O'LAKES — Customers of Beall's Outlet on U.S. 41 were recently greeted by yellow signs announcing the store is closing.
"All sales are final," the signs said.
More evidence of economic sluggishness? Hardly.
What the sign failed to communicate was that the store is moving — to part of the old Walmart store less than a mile west on State Road 54. The move will almost triple the discounter's space, from about 10,000 to 27,500 square feet.
"For as long as five years, we've looked for a way to expand that store or relocate it," said Bill Webster, director of public relations for the Bradenton-based department store chain. "It does really well."
The outlet sells men's, women's, children's and teens' clothing and shoes as well as housewares and toys.
The new store will have wider aisles and bigger departments with more inventory. It also will feature a new checkout system similar to the one at Best Buy, where customers wait in one line for the next available register. That way people don't have to choose a checkout line and hope they're in the shortest one.
The new store will likely open in late April or early May. Webster said it fits into the corporate plan of closing smaller stores or folding them into larger ones. He said he wasn't sure if new jobs would be available, as some employees at current stores might be transferred.
The new Beall's will no doubt breathe new life into the quarter-century old Village Lakes shopping center, which is showing its age with faded paint and dated signs. Walmart moved out in 2009 to a new supercenter about a mile away at the apex of U.S. 41 and Dale Mabry Highway. Shortly after that, The Room Exchange, a furniture consignment shop, abandoned the strip center to open a new location across SR 54 near Lifestyles Family Fitness and Kmart.
The center still includes a Sweetbay supermarket, a Goodwill thrift shop, a Dollar Tree, two hair salons, a pizza parlor, deli, dental office, a music school, and a check cashing service. Outparcels include an aging KFC restaurant, a bank and Benedetto's, an Italian restaurant that recently expanded to offer lunch.
Patrick Berman, who keeps tabs on shopping centers for the Cushman & Wakefield real estate firm in Tampa, said the new location would be good for Beall's Outlet.
As to what will happen to the current Beall's Outlet on U.S. 41 is anyone's guess. The center is anchored by Big Lots and includes a dry cleaner and a Subway restaurant. A McDonald's occupies an outparcel.
Berman said such a space would fit a variety of uses, including a dollar store or a liquor store.
The SR 54 corridor, he said, is an up and coming area for business. "There's been a lot of residential growth," he said.