It's been more than two weeks since 33 Sweetbay supermarket locations shut down for good, many of them in the Bay area. The empty properties are now leaving communities anxious for anything to take their place.
It's a sight Sweetbay shoppers never saw coming: their neighborhood supermarket, shuttered.
"All of us here never expected this to happen," said Muriel Dowling, who used to shop at the 9th Avenue North Sweetbay location in St. Petersburg.
All the Sweetbay locations on the chopping block closed their doors by February 6th. In that short time, some businesses say their plazas are transforming into ghost towns.
"We worry about the future of the center, of course. If they'll continue to keep it as a center," said Barbara Tellone, who owns a dry cleaning business next door to a vacant Sweetbay on 9th Avenue North in St. Petersburg.
Tellone says since Sweetbay pulled out, walk-in business is down dramatically.
"We've seen a lot of businesses come and go, but also, looking around the area we've seen a lot of centers that are ghost towns. So it is kind of scary," Tellone said.
Customers of the former Midtown St. Pete Sweetbay say shopping has become a struggle since the supermarket boarded up earlier this month.
"As a community, we really miss this store," said St. Petersburg-native Gary Perkins.
A spokesperson for Sweetbay says the company is working with other retailers who may be interested in filling the vacant store fronts.
In a statement to FOX 13 News regarding the Midtown St. Pete location, a Sweetbay spokesperson said,"...discussions are underway. We hope to begin negotiations soon so we can find another grocer to fill our space."
In the meantime, anxious shoppers have their needs on hold as the company searches for someone to fill dozens of now vacant spaces.
The vacant Sweetbay locations span in size from 30,000-55,000 square feet of retail space.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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