Cover Stories Current Issue June 2018 On The Cover Trends

Retail Trends Upward in Greater Gainesville


Written By: Chris Eversole

While stores in and around the Oaks Mall are closing, the regional retail hub along Archer Road is bustling – drawing customers from a growing geographic area.

The loss of Macy’s and Toys ‘R’ Us and the planned closing of Sears in the Oaks Mall area are more than compensated for by the regional shopping destinations on both sides of I-75 on Archer Road.

The Neighborhoods at Butler and Celebration Pointe are defying the common view that internet sales have throttled retail stores.

The two shopping areas are bringing in customers from not only Ocala and Lake City but also from far beyond, said developers, retailers and retail experts.

Today’s consumer wants a diversity of shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities, noted Ralph Conti, co-managing member of Celebration Pointe Development Partners.

“When fully built out, which will be fairly soon, we will deliver an unmatched experience that we believe addresses the broadest of consumer demands when it comes to competing for where people chose to live as well as how they chose to spend their discretionary dollars,” he said.

The Celebration Pointe experience for customers ranges from taking in the Bass Pro’s 12,000-gallon aquarium featuring live fish to savoring the delicacies of Kilwins Quality Confections.

Celebration Pointe also has the look and feel of a traditional downtown with its pedestrian-only City Walk and Promenade, its version of Main Street, which is anchored by Bass Pro to the north and a state-of-the-art RPX theater, Regal Celebration Pointe 10 – offering alcoholic drinks and high-end food options – to the south.

“Every business that has opened in Celebration Pointe has seen significantly higher sales than expected,” Conti said.

Butler Enterprises had high hopes when it doubled the size of the longstanding Butler Plaza on Archer Road to add Butler West along the Clark Butler Boulevard.

The reality since Butler West opened two years ago has exceeded expectations, noted Director of Marketing Mary Reichardt.

“The group we use to compile data for us was shocked at the large ring we have of shoppers from quite a distance outside the city – which we already knew just by talking to people and looking at license plates,” she said.

“The more access people from the surrounding 12 to 14 counties have to the stores they love without having to go all the way to Orlando or Jacksonville, the better,” she said.

The draw will increase once the Butler Town Center, located at the southwest corner of Archer Road and SW 34th Street, opens this fall, she predicted.

The town center will include Whole Foods, Ben & Jerry’s, The Village Jeweler and P.F. Chang’s.

Butler Enterprises has been dedicated to responding to the ever-changing market.

“As the popularity of shops like Aldi grew, customers began to demand them—where we had not heard of them 20 years ago,” Reichardt said.

“Adding stores that are new to the market, such as Total Wine and Aldi and the upcoming Whole Foods, prevents the significant amount of ‘leakage’ to larger markets,” she said.

“We’re helping keep economic dollars that are earned here spent here.”

Celebration Pointe has looked for the best that the Greater Gainesville Area has to offer, Conti noted.

Reggae Shack owner Omar Oselimo is delighted that Celebration Pointe tapped him from the many local restaurants it considered.

“This is a big opportunity for the Reggae Shack brand,” he said.

The Celebration Pointe Reggae Shack – scheduled to open in August – will have tasty Jamaican-style food like the one on University Avenue near downtown Gainesville does, but it will be different in some ways, Oselimo said.

“We’re working on serving our food more efficiently so that people can get in and out quickly,” he said. “We will have a sweet spot, with better food than you get at a fast-food restaurant but with fast service,” he said.

While the two shopping areas are highly competitive with each other, they actually complement each other, Celebration Pointe’s Conti said.

He calls Celebration Pointe a mixed-use lifestyle center – with several Class A office buildings, the soon-to-open boutique Hotel Indigo, a main street retail experience and a unique residential offering all very strategically connected in a very walkable and environmentally friendly atmosphere.

The success of the March of Dimes in moving its March for Babies to Celebration Pointe shows the potential for Celebration Pointe to be a major Greater Gainesville destination, he said.

“Celebration Pointe serves not only the Greater Gainesville area, but because of its location and tenancy along with its accessibility off of I -75, it really is a super-regional destination,” he said.

Conti refers to Butler as a power center, an industry term for a shopping area that emphasizes large chain stores.

“We’re delighted to have a very successful 1 million plus square foot power center on the other side of Celebration Pointe Avenue (the new multi-modal bridge that Celebration Pointe built),” he said.

An example of the compatibility of the two shopping areas is that there’s room for both the Nike Factory Store at Celebration Pointe and for Gainesville Running & Walking at Butler.

His niche shoe store should maintain its loyal customer base despite Nike’s arrival, Gainesville Running & Walking owner Mike Carrillo said.

“What sets us apart is our customer service, which includes a gait analysis,” he said.

Business has picked up steadily since he moved the store to Butler, Carrillo said. “I’m getting more people from Lake City and Ocala than I did before,” he said. “There are more places to shop and eat lunch here, making it the complete experience.”

His location along Archer Road is convenient, he said. “People like being able to pull up close to the store,” he said.

Reichardt, the Butler marketing director, said that Butler Town Center will demonstrate the importance of a robust retail experience.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on the experience shoppers will have at Butler Town Center, starting with the moment they pull in to seeing the beautiful signs full of character and charm, the landscaping, the urban walkability, the fountains for ambiance and the play.”

She noted the Deborah Butler, the president of Butler Enterprises, consulted with urban retail expert Robert Gibbs in designing the town center. In addition, Gibbs invited Butler to speak to his students in Harvard University’s Urban Design Executive Education program, Reichardt said.

“The stores that are closing are doing so not because people are buying their merchandise online, but more because these stores haven’t adapted to changing consumer needs,” she said.

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