It is big news, I guess, that the WestShore Plaza is losing the highbrow Saks Fifth Avenue store, to be replaced by a large sporting goods store. I assume there was wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout Beach Park, Palma Ceia and parts of Davis Islands over this development. I mean, where will people go now to spend $670 for a cotton poplin designer jump suit? I only know this because I peeked at the Saks website and that was one of the first items that jumped out at me. I'm pretty sure I'd set off alarm bells if I actually wandered into a Saks, even by accident – and it would be an accident. The development stinks for the people who could lose their jobs, and it's easy to say it is happening because we're not a Saks kind of town. For the most part, our image is that of a Dick's Sporting Goods, F-150 pickup truck or Five Guys kind of town. But the truth is that Saks' impending departure doesn't signal the end of days for those with the desire to overpay and the bank account to accommodate the need.
There is still the International Plaza, where the hoity and toity can browse Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom and so on. After they load up the platinum card with clothes the rest of us can't afford, they can dine on a 22-ounce prime bone-in ribeye steak at Eddie V's, and drive home in the top-end Mercedes-Benz they just bought from that dealership on Dale Mabry. For Saks, the problem may have been the basic “location-x-3” rule of real estate. With the International Mall just two miles away, having a Saks at WestShore was like having a hood ornament on a Volkswagen. There are stores like Old Navy, Sears and J.C. Penney at WestShore. They have the kind of stores there that send you sale fliers in the mail. In other words, it's my type of mall. The class of shopper with credit-card limits sufficient for Saks wouldn't go into most of those stores without a disguise. Also, it's not insignificant that our fair city isn't the only place where the air is turbulent for Saks. The company has closings in a number of cities, including Dallas. Dallas! The Saks there is being replaced by a Belk's, which is good news for the elastic-belt set and troubling for Texas oil barons. But seriously, folks, take a look around at Tampa's rapidly evolving landscape. It seems like a new project is announced every day or so. With all the single-home construction, retail and condo skyscrapers and economic expansion, our city has the look of a place on the move. Because people here like football and barbecue in large doses, we forget sometimes that there are many people here with deep and deeper pockets. Those at the top of the income food chain have cash and a post-recession need to spend. Even without Saks, there are plenty of establishments willing to meet the need. What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, there should be more room at Olive Garden and the LongHorn Steakhouse, and there are sales again at Penney's. All is right with the world.