APRIL FOOLS — Following a 3-2 vote last month, which denied a 98,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter in the Ringling Shopping Center, city commissioners are now considering a proposal for a new tenant: Hardbound, a fast-growing Tampa Bay adult-bookstore chain.
The X-rated bookstore, whose flagship location in Ybor City, Tampa, boasts more than 2 million books, saw a spike in business after the release of the novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
With the growing popularity of the novel and demand for others like it, Hardbound’s CEO says he’s been looking to expand.
“Sarasota was the next logical step,” he said. “We’ve kind of reached our peak in the Tampa Bay area, and after some research, we decided the market here is exactly what we’re looking for.”
According to a Hardbound spokesperson, the chain is considering relocating its headquarters to the new Ringling Shopping Center location.
“After the commissioners voted against Walmart, the location kind of just fell into our laps,” said a company executive. “We think the location is big enough that we could rebrand Sarasota as our home.”
Much of the Walmart debate centered on a stipulation in the city’s zoning code that forbids certain types of commercial use in the shopping center — specifically department stores.
According to the city’s zoning code, a department store is “a store of 15,000 or more square feet of gross floor area selling a wide variety of retail goods arranged in general departments.”
Because the bookstore only contains a single department, it fits within the shopping center’s specified guidelines.
“I agree with residents who were against Walmart — downtown Sarasota is no place for a big box department store,” said a Hardbound spokesperson. “Hardbound only has one, albeit giant, department.”
Now that the new tenant fits within the city zoning code, some Alta Vista residents are more open to the idea.
“I was completely against having a Walmart so close to my home and to the downtown area,” said one resident. “This area is zoned for neighborhood use. This seems like a much better fit — a bookstore has much more of a neighborhood feel.”
The planning board, in a unanimous vote, has approved the bookstore’s site-plan application, and city commissioners will vote on final approval April 1.