By Gary Nager
You may not realize it, but the Pebble Creek Collection (PCC) on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. is the oldest shopping plaza in New Tampa. Built during the 1970s, the strip center looks as good as it ever has, thanks to an ongoing facelift provided by the center’s landlord and owner, John Martinez, which has included replacing the entire roof throughout the plaza.
That’s a good thing, because our office was in the Collection more than a dozen years ago, and roof leaks were an ongoing issue when we were there.
“We’re also going to replace the plaza’s current monument sign on Bruce B. Downs with something a lot nicer,” he says. “I’m really happy with the way the center has filled back up.”
When Martinez purchased the plaza in 2005, he says it was always close to full and bustling with activity. In fact, he was able to manage PCC from his home in California. But, when the local economic bubble burst in 2007-08, he says it became a lot harder to keep the tenants in business, much less happy, and by 2011, Martinez decided to move to Tampa to take a more hands-on approach and get the plaza back to capacity. He was as careful as possible to choose businesses that would complement the existing tenants and hopefully survive the ongoing economic downturn.
And today, other than the long-empty former gas station located on the northern outparcel of the plaza, with direct frontage on BBD, which Martinez hopes to be making a formal announcement about soon (see below), and a former chiropractor office in the plaza itself, PCC is now full.
The newest new tenant to open is one that Martinez is particularly excited about — Once Upon a Child, a chain of children’s consignment stores with more than 260 locations across the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s a known retail name, in our anchor tenant space in the plaza,” says Martinez. “I hope it will attract a lot of traffic for the entire plaza, from the restaurants to our real estate offices.”
Once Upon a Child owners Melissa and Brian Levering say their store, which had been open less than a week at our press time, was definitely generating quite a bit of traffic from people hoping to cash in on the store’s commitment to purchasing (and reselling) high-quality, new and gently used apparel, toys, baby equipment and furniture for children at affordable, family-friendly prices.
“So far, so good,” says Melissa. “We’re definitely in purchasing mode right now and quite a few people are finding us and bringing in their quality baby and child clothing.”
The current tenants who have been in the plaza the longest are Bryan and Pam Hardy of Insurance Associates of Florida. “We’ve been here almost 20 years,” Pam says. “We’ve always loved this plaza and moved our office around in it quite a bit. We really like the current lineup of tenants (see diagram) here.”
Another long-time tenant in PCC is Alex, the owner of Party Scene, which is a small store packed with everything you need to throw a great party, including her great dozen latex balloon special for only $9.99. “It’s nice to see the plaza fill up, but I will definitely benefit when that gas station comes in,” she says.”
And, speaking of the gas station, Martinez assures us that a deal is imminent. “The ink isn’t dry on the deal and I have to invest some money to have gas tanks located under the station,” he says, “ but I expect that there will soon be a Circle K convenience store with Chevron gas moving into that building very soon.”
Sam, the new owner of the new King Beauty Supply in the plaza, says he moved from a successful location on Bearss Ave. because, “this is a better neighborhood and closer to my home.”
Another tenant who is waiting for a gas station is Full Circle Pizza owner Ron Chase. “Our dinner business keeps building,” he says, “but I’m betting a gas station will really pump up my lunch crowd. I’ll probably have to start selling slices (of pizza) at lunch, instead of only whole pies, like we do now.”
Although he already has a pretty solid lunch business, new Las Palmas Café owner Ramses Garcia says that the combination of an anchor gas station and his new-and-improved, more authentic Cuban cuisine recipes should make that crowd even bigger.
“We’re already getting great feedback from our customers,” Ramses says, as a couple who overheard him nods in agreement that the food at Las Palmas is even better than it was before. “And, we’ve been coming here long enough to have known all of the previous owners.”
Changing ownership and tenant lineups have long been a staple of the Collection. For example, the current Kobé Steakhouse has previously been Harris & Co., Durango Steak House, Wasabi and other restaurants, none of which has lasted more than a couple of years. “Hopefully, Kobé will change that,” says Martinez. “I’m hoping all of these tenants will be able to stick around.”