The long dormant Sweetbay Supermarket property, which has been empty since 2013, has a new owner.
And, it appears that New Tampa may soon be home to a new Lotte Plaza Mart, a small-chain Maryland-based ethnic grocery store focusing on Asian groceries and goods.
John Neukamm, the attorney for the sellers, KNK Tampa, Ltd., confirmed that the sale was completed on Feb. 1, but would not say what the plans were for the site.
He said a “different type of concept” was likely heading to the space, one that has not been seen locally.
Neukamm said that he had spoken with the North Palms Village Master Association and that they were “very excited” that the sale of the former Sweetbay had been completed.
According to city records, the property, located right across Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. from the AMC movie theater and next to Home Depot, was purchased by SW Tampa, LLC, for $7-million.
According to Sunbiz.org, the Florida Division of Corporations’ online directory of companies in Florida, the owner of SW Tampa, LLC is Sang Min Lee, who also owns Sungwon Orlando, LLC.
The only other Lotte Plaza Mart in Florida is located in Orlando.
Both SW Tampa, LLC (the SW is likely short for Sungwon), and Sungwon Orlando, LLC are registered at the same address in Jessup, MD, as Sungwon Distributors, LLC, which serves as the headquarters of Lotte Plaza Mart.
Marc Bergoffen, the lawyer representing SW Tampa, did not respond to messages. Ross Waters of Atlantic Retail, one of the brokers involved in the sale, declined comment.
If a new Lotte Plaza Mart does materialize at the old Sweetbay site, it will be the second large ethnic grocery store to open in New Tampa since 2019, joining Taaza Mart, a roughly 17,000-sq.-ft., predominantly Indian grocer located in Tampa Palms.
The potential Lotte Plaza Mart location would be more than three times as large as Taaza Mart — at roughly 55,000 square feet.
Founded in 1976, Lotte Plaza Mart is considered to be one of the premier Asian groceries in Maryland and Virginia, where it has 12 locations. The mini-chain also has one location in New Jersey, and opened the Orlando location on W. Colonial Dr. in February 2019.
Like all Lotte Plaza Marts, the location in Orlando — which moved into a 60,000-sq.-ft. space formerly occupied by a Winn-Dixie — has a wide choice of Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese food items and ingredients, an impressive selection of meats and fresh fish and a huge variety of fruits and vegetables not found at your regular American grocery stores.
The store has received online praise for its variety and prices.
Although there are no exact plans available for what a New Tampa location might feature, the Orlando store also has a hair salon, bakery and food court, featuring a handful of Asian restaurants, including Taglish, a Filipino-American concept run by Chef Michael Collantes, who has worked with such notable chefs as Wolfgang Puck.
The nearest location for buying Asian groceries currently is the MD Oriental Market located on E. Fowler Ave., or the A-Green Oriental Market on E. Fletcher, both in the USF area.
If S.R. 56 is now the Restaurant Row of the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel areas, the BBD corridor from Cross Creek Blvd. to Tampa Palms Blvd. might be its supermarket counterpart.
Sprouts Farmers Market, which opened last year, and Aldi, which is under construction and will likely open sometime this year, are within walking distance from the potential Lotte Plaza Mart location, and just south of the I-75 interchange, Taaza is located in Market Square at Tampa Palms.
That stretch of stores is bookended by Publix Super Markets in the City Plaza at Tampa Palms and at the New Tampa Center, giving shoppers of all ethnicities five supermarkets within five miles.