The first Lotte Plaza Market in Rockville, MD. The upcoming location at the old Sweetbay Supermarket will look similar.

Lotte Plaza Market has filed plans with the City of Tampa to renovate the former Sweetbay Supermarket off Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., next to the Home Depot, as it prepares to open what will be New Tampa’s largest Asian marketplace.

The renovation project on the 49,432-sq.ft. building, roughly 11,000 square feet of which will be storage and cooler space, will transform the inside of the former grocery store into a marketplace that sells Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese food items and ingredients, a wide selection of meats and fresh fish and seafood and a huge variety of fruits and vegetables not found at American grocery stores. 

The Lotte Plaza Market also will include at least three restaurants in its food court, as well as a bakery and a tea stand.

The renovations will cost roughly $4.5 million, according to the plans. The owners of the small Maryland-based ethnic grocery store chain focusing on Asian groceries and goods purchased the old Sweetbay Market for $7 million in January of 2021.

The Sweetbay building closed in 2013 and has been unoccupied since. KNK Tampa, Ltd. bought it in 2001 and leased it to Kash n’ Karry for a 20-year term beginning in November of that year. Kash n’ Karry operated under the lease until June 14, 2006, when its Belgian parent company Delhaize America, Inc., converted it into a Sweetbay. But, despite its rebranding, Sweetbay never gained the popularity of nearby Publix or Walmart stores. 

In October of 2013, Jacksonville-based Bi-Lo Holdings bought 72 Sweetbay stores, plus the leases to 10 other underperforming Sweetbay locations that had already been closed. One of those leases belonged to the New Tampa location, which had six years remaining on it, but Bi-Lo Holdings declined to do anything with the property other than pay the rent until the deal expired in 2020.

Founded in 1976, Lotte Plaza Market is considered to be one of the premier Asian and international groceries in Maryland and Virginia, where it has 12 locations. The mini-chain also has one location in New Jersey, and opened the only other Florida location in Orlando on W. Colonial Dr. in February 2019.

Lotte Plaza Market is hoping to open 50 new locations by 2030. — JCC

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