More than a store: the fight to keep Sweetbay in Midtown - FOX 13 News

More than a store: the fight to keep Sweetbay in Midtown St. Pete

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The "Closing Soon" sign in front of the Sweetbay store in Midtown St. Petersburg is a sore sight for residents in the revitalized neighborhood.

"I'm a little angry, yeah," said Neighborhood Association President Kurt Donley, "The city, the whole community went all in to get it in here and for them to sneak out in the middle of the day is by no means a good thing."

Sweetbay is closing 32 of its locations. During a press conference outside the store on Monday, city leaders said shutting down this one would destroy Midtown.

"This is more than just a building, this is the story of the beginning of growth in a community. We cannot let this building go dark," said State Representative Darryl Rouson.

The store opened in 2005 with great anticipation that it would help revitalize Midtown St. Petersburg, which has historically been an economically depressed area.

It is now the anchor in a plaza with smaller businesses surrounding it. The owners of those businesses worry that if Sweetbay closes, they'll be next.

"I feel like it's a big company, you feel like when they close, everything else is gonna get down," said Beauty Supply Shop owner Nadia Alhadri.

City leaders hope to strike a deal with the grocery chain, but so far they say Sweetbay is giving them the cold shoulder.

"We'll hold your hand and we'll show you the way, but we can't do that if you won't come to the table, and that's what this is about," said School Board Member Renee Flowers.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said if he can't convince Sweetbay not to shut this store down by mid-February, he'll have to go to "Plan B."

"We will continue to reach out to other vendors of services in the event that Sweetbay decides to give us the silent treatment," Foster said.

"We are asking the community to stand up, stand out and show them that we cannot sit by while you just close this institution that has become the beach head for development in Midtown," Rep. Rouson said.

Sweetbay said they've met with city leaders in the past to discuss options to make the story more profitable, but those efforts have failed. They added that they regret having to shut down this store, as well as all the others that will close in coming months.

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