Sweetbay on Gall Boulevard in Zephyrhills will close
The Sweetbay "on the hill" in Zephyrhills is one of 33 underperforming Florida Sweetbay stores to be closed by mid-February. The store, at 7325 Gall Boulevard, is one of three Sweetbays in Zephyrhills. The other two are on State Road 54 West and County Road 54 East. "It's all the math," said Sweetbay spokeswoman Nicole Lebeau, of Sweetbay's corporate headquarters in Tampa. "It's a matter of performance and field expectations. This is an extremely competitive market. Folks have lots of choices, and the competition is tough." Statewide, about 2,000 employees will lose their jobs. Sixty to 70 jobs will be lost in Zephyrhills, Lebeau said. Eligible full- and part-time associates are being offered severance packages based on the length of their employment. All are receiving one-on-one meetings."We are doing what we can to place folks as we are able," Lebeau said. "I hate it," customer Rick Volk said of the closure as he shopped at the Gall Boulevard Sweetbay on Wednesday. "I like it. It's always so nice and clean and has nice people. We'll just have to go to a different one," he said. Volk said he thinks the closing of the Gall Boulevard Sweetbay is tied to its proximity to Publix, Save-a-Lot, the Walmart Supercenter and Kmart. Both Walmart and Kmart have grocery sections. Twenty-two of the closings are in the Tampa region. Sweetbay will have 72 stores in Florida after the closures. Vonnie Mikkelsen, executive director of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, expressed surprise at the announcement. "It is always disappointing to hear of a business closure, particularly when it means people will be losing their jobs," Mikkelsen said. "This announcement comes as a surprise, especially in light of optimistic economic forecasts for Pasco County and growth coming soon to the area. Just recently we learned Panera (Bread) and Ross will be opening stores in Zephyrhills. We remain confident that with new growth coming to the area, another retailer will fill the space and provide jobs soon." There are no plans to close the other Zephyrhills stores, Lebeau said. As with the other stores that are remaining open, "they're successful and we want keep them that way."