Residents of the Midtown area of St. Petersburg have lost their fight keep their Sweetbay grocery store open. Despite even protests by Mayor Bill Foster, the supermarket chain says it must close the store.
Sweetbay is set to close 33 of its Florida stores because the locations are not making enough money. But Foster had hoped to convince Sweetbay to keep the Midtown store open or at least delay its closure.
The Midtown store opened in 2005. When the neighborhood finally got a major grocery store, it was a big deal. It was the first supermarket in the economically challenged neighborhood.
Foster held a press conference on January 21.
"I've been on the phone trying to contact these representatives of Sweetbay to see if we could get a reprieve, to see if we could get some reconsideration, even if temporarily," said Foster.
FOX 13 spoke with Foster Wednesday, after his meeting with Sweetbay. Sweetbay executives didn't waver in their decision, following the meeting with Foster.
"This one is scheduled to close and there was no turning back. That decision is irreversible," Foster said.
"We've been in the community of Midtown for seven years now and we'll certainly miss being a part of this area, but it's a business decision," said Sweetbay spokesperson Nicole LeBeau.
Losing the store will leave a noticeable void in Midtown.
"It's sad they're going to remove this store out of this neighborhood because it's convenient for people that live over here," said Midtown resident Delphine Abrams.
But another store could be coming. Sweetbay still has a long-term lease and has to pay rent. They're looking for a new tenant. LeBeau says they plan to bring in another grocery store.
"We know the needs in the Midtown community. We know what needs to happen. We need to get a grocery store in there. The faster we can get out of that store, the quicker a new store can come in there," she said.
Foster says he and city leaders will do their best to fascinate the opening of a new grocery store, but that ultimately negotiations between Sweetbay and their Midtown landlords will determine what happens next.
"We're going to sell St. Pete. We're going to sell Midtown," said Foster. "My economic development staff will be available to talk demographics."
The Midtown Sweetbay will close February 13 or sooner. The store has already stopped receiving food deliveries.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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