Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Deals & Shopping

REI, Mast General, White Castle and other stores and restaurants we crave in Tampa Bay

Six years ago, when Ikea announced plans to open its long-awaited first store in Tampa, tbt* published a list of other cultishly coveted retail and restaurant chains we'd like to see come to Tampa Bay.

You know what was on that list? Crate & Barrel. H&M. Trader Joe's. Bass Pro Shops.

Today, we have a Crate & Barrel in Tampa and not one, but three H&M stores at local malls. There's a Trader Joe's in Sarasota; it's only a matter of time before Tampa gets one. And thanks to a controversial $6.25 million county subsidy, a Bass Pro Shops should open in Brandon by fall 2014.

And there's more. Since 2007, Tampa has seen an influx of national chains: Big-box outlets like Buy Buy Baby, Dick's Sporting Goods and HHGregg; restaurants like Ocean Prime, Texas de Brazil and Pinkberry; specialty stores like Lululemon and The Art of Shaving. From Aldi to Wawa to Zara, you name it, we've got it.

When Tampa's first Container Store opens on Saturday, it'll check off a big, empty box on the wish list of many Tampa shoppers. All the hubbub got us wondering: Are there any other chains that we're still dying to see here in Tampa Bay? With all of these stores opening in the past six years, is there anything we're still missing?

We asked around, and here are a few suggestions we heard.

Retail stores

REI: The sporting goods and outdoor-gear giant has more than 100 stores around the country, including one in Jacksonville that opened this month — the chain's first in Florida. The stores sell memberships offering consumers discounts, deals and even cash dividends. We've heard rumors they're looking at Tampa Bay.

Five Below: Dollar stores are so 2009. Nowadays, kids want a store where everything costs $5 or less. Based in Pennsylvania, this retailer of child, teen and tween merchandise — decor, games, crafts, electronics, sporting goods — has expanded to more than 200 stores in 18 states, including Georgia. Can Florida be far behind?

World Market: Like HomeGoods, this chain sells stylish gifts and decor for consumers looking to strike a price balance between Crate & Barrel and Tuesday Morning. It has more than 250 locations, including 13 in Florida. The nearest is in Winter Gardens, east of Orlando.

Mast General Store: Imagine a department store-sized Cracker Barrel gift shop with a greater focus on quality and diversity. That's Mast General, a huge and homey general store with a mind-boggling array of foods, apparel, toys, sporting goods and gifts. There are only a handful of locations throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the company is not averse to expansion — a Mast General will open in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2015.

Mexx: For a while, it looked like this could be the next Zara or H&M. This Dutch apparel giant, which has hundreds of stores around the globe, was purchased in 2001 by Liz Claiborne, but it never found stateside success, and was sold to a private equity firm in 2011. There are plenty of stores in Canada, but only one in America.

West Elm: If you like yuppie outfitters Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, you'll probably dig their sister furniture store, West Elm. We asked for one in 2007; six years later, we're still waiting. The closest one is in Orlando.

Microsoft Store: We know, we know, Microsoft will never be as cool as Apple. We get it. But Microsoft Store openings are usually accompanied by private, exclusive concerts by the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Lenny Kravitz and the Black Keys. For that reason alone, we want one in Tampa.

Polaroid Fotobar: It seems like an antiquated notion, but Polaroid opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Delray Beach in February, and plans to expand, possibly in Florida. The shop blends Apple's clean aesthetics with its own retro appeal, allowing smartphone users to create prints on site that look like old-school Polaroids. They also sell film, cameras, high-tech prints and other products.

American Apparel: A few years ago, it was the hipster clothing line of choice. Today, it seems customers have caught onto the fact that American Apparel really just sells overpriced undies and leggings. The company has closed stores and reported a net loss of $37.3 million in 2012. Come to think of it, maybe we're better off without this one.

Food and restaurants

Ted's Montana Grill: Ted Turner's mid-priced steakhouse chain serves classic American comfort food with a twist: Bison meat is everywhere. Steaks and burgers are available in both beef or bison form. The menu even features a house wine called Bison Ridge, which, to the best of our knowledge, does not contain actual bison meat. But you never know. The nearest Ted's is in Estero.

Wegmans: And you thought shopping was a pleasure at Publix. The privately owned Wegmans has about 80 stores from upstate New York down to Virginia, and in 2012, The Atlantic called it "the anti-Walmart," citing "cult-like loyalty among its customers." The secret? Happy employees. Every year, Wegmans ranks near the top of Fortune's list of the best companies to work for.

White Castle/In-N-Out Burger: Every corner of the country has its own fast-food chains, but whether you're a West Coast expat or a stoner on a mission, you know that when the right mood hits, nothing can compare to a Crave Case or Double-Double. On the flip side, Florida does have plenty of Chick-fil-As. You win some, you lose some.

Au Bon Pain/Dean & Deluca/Paris Baguette: Dean & Deluca's nearest location is in Charlotte, N.C. Au Bon Pain, on the other hand, actually has more than two dozen Florida stores — it's just that most are in Miami. That's tough news for fans of delectable sweets, pastries and grab 'n' go meals. Paris Baguette is a similar Korean chain that's rapidly expanding into California and the Northeast. Pretty soon, retirees may start demanding it here, too.

Peet's/Tim Hortons: You can get Peet's coffee most everywhere, but its stand-alone cafes are found almost entirely on the West Coast, making it California's answer to Dunkin' Donuts. As for Tim Hortons? Just ask the Canadian on your street if it's any good.

Guy's American Kitchen and Bar: C'mon. You know you're curious.

Contributing: Susan Thurston, Robbyn Mitchell, Stephanie Hayes, Katie Sanders

     
Comments
Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

The holiday season has officially arrived, bringing all the glitz and shine of twinkling lights and tinsel. It's also bringing festive get-togethers, and whether they're office parties or fancy soirees, the instinct is to look as shiny and bright as ...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17
Glass art jewelry shines at Zen Glass and another round of markets

Glass art jewelry shines at Zen Glass and another round of markets

Art Jewelry: Pendant PaloozaI can tell you from my experience working in a gallery, people love art glass jewelry, particularly pendants. They make great gifts. Find a plethora at Zen Glass Studio's Pendant Palooza on Saturday. They're showcasing jew...
Published: 12/07/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17
5 things to do under $5: Sunday Bicycle Rides, Werks and Passafire at Jannus Live

5 things to do under $5: Sunday Bicycle Rides, Werks and Passafire at Jannus Live

1. Winter Village Express: The holiday setup on the riverfront at Curtis Hixon Park this year features a new holiday-themed streetcar ride from Ybor City. Hop on at Centro Ybor after enjoying some games, holiday activities and treats, with special ho...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/08/17
As Big Beer buys up the little guys, craft brewers try to #TakeCraftBack

As Big Beer buys up the little guys, craft brewers try to #TakeCraftBack

It’s a stunt, never going to happen.Every man, woman and child in the country would have to kick in $659 and change to come up with the $213 billion it would take to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer. Nonetheless, the Brewers Assoc...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/02/17
Jingle down Central Avenue and take your pick of markets this weekend

Jingle down Central Avenue and take your pick of markets this weekend

ALL THE WAY: JINGLE DOWN CENTRALDowntown St. Petersburg is a great place to shop, and a few of the galleries and boutiques have come together to create a shop hop on Sunday. Jingle Down Central is fairly walkable (unless you have a load of bags, then...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Top things to do this week: Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, Ukulele Festival, Florida ‘snow’ and boat parades

Top things to do this week: Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, Ukulele Festival, Florida ‘snow’ and boat parades

WARMEST WISHES: Snow, boat paradesChristmas is an odd time in a place that doesn’t get cold, so this weekend brings the oh-so-Florida traditions of letting kids play in fake snow and decorating boats with over-the-top lights for a floating parade. Th...
Published: 11/29/17
5 things to do under $5: Cat film fest, free Glazer Museum admission, Ybor City Cigar Heritage Festival

5 things to do under $5: Cat film fest, free Glazer Museum admission, Ybor City Cigar Heritage Festival

1 Cats Film Festival: The elaborate holiday decorations are enough to draw us to the Florida Botanical Gardens this time of year, but Saturday brings a family-friendly, 70-minute reel full of wild and hilarious cat antics curated from the Internet’s ...
Published: 11/29/17
Thanksgiving weekend shopping mall-ternatives

Thanksgiving weekend shopping mall-ternatives

Mall-ternatives: Thanksgiving Weekend ShoppingThis is it — shopping's big moment. What used to only be one major shopping event the day after Thanksgiving has now grown into a whole weekend and some change, with Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday....
Updated one month ago