TAMPA — Blind Tiger Cafe is set to open its fifth local coffee shop, and for the second time in recent months it will take over a former Starbucks.
Owner Roberto Torres said the new Blind Tiger will replace the WestShore Plaza Starbucks space and open on Sept. 26. Torres said he’s excited to open on the WestShore property while it is on the cusp of unveiling more plans to create a modern mixed-use retail complex.
“The mall is going to change and we’re excited,” Torres said. “I mean, even 10 years ago they probably would have never called us.”
That’s because a decade ago, malls were largely still holding on to big-box anchors and traditional retailers to lure in shoppers. Now, consumers are increasingly drawn to local brands that feel more authentic to a city or region.
WestShore’s owner, the Washington Prime Group, made announcements last year that it would turn the then-existing Sears space into a slice of a bold new development plan. In January, the Sears closed amid its parent company’s bankruptcy.
Washington Prime has filed renderings with the city that call for apartments, condos, a hotel, a medical office space and a grocery store.
As for Torres, taking over former Starbucks spaces helps cut down on his start-up costs. The plumbing and electric are all set up for the needs of a coffee shop. He opened a Westchase location inside another flipped Starbucks space earlier this year.
Starbucks had announced last year it would be closing up to 150 shops, especially those that were in close proximity to other Starbucks shops.
“Now we only have to make it our own, train our people and start spreading the gospel of good coffee,” Torres said.
The WestShore location is smaller than Torres’ other shops at about 900 square feet.
He said while developers are doing “a lot to activate the space," there are still plenty of customers who come to the mall for Macy’s, the movies or the handful of restaurants.
He also expects to get a lot of regulars from the surrounding business district — a number that will only grow if Washington Prime follows through on its own office space plans.