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East County Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 4 years ago



+ Rack attack could be on the way
Speculation is high that the Sarasota-Manatee market could be the next target for Nordstrom Rack, the off-price division of the popular department-store chain.

Nordstrom officials declined to comment. But three construction-industry executives familiar with the project say the new location will be in The Shoppes at University Town Center, a Benderson Development plaza on University Parkway, just west of Interstate 75. It’s across the street from the future Mall at the University Town Center, a $315 million project currently under construction.

The conjecture is Nordstrom Rack will take over space that was previously a 19,000-square-foot Circuit City. Construction crews are currently renovating and adding 15,000 square feet to that building, says Mark Chait, Benderson’s executive director for leasing. Like the Nordstrom officials, however, Chait declines to identify what tenant will take over the space. Chait, in an interview with the East County Observer, says the new space could be ready by June.

The unconfirmed reports are backed by Nordstrom’s previous decisions:
• Nordstrom has committed to the market at least once before. That was in 2008, when it signed a letter of intent to open a non off-price store at the Benderson-led mall project. That store, before the recession torpedoed the original mall project, was planned at 138,000 square feet.
• Nordstrom Rack is in expansion mode nationwide. The Seattle-based chain is planning at least 11 new stores in 2013, according to the firm’s press statements and website. New store locations — many of which are 35,000 square feet, the size of the renovated Benderson Circuit City — range from Jacksonville to Chicago to Boston.
Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson says the strategy is to nearly double the Nordstrom Rack count nationwide, from 119 now to 230 in four years. Sales on the Rack side of the chain were up 20% in 2012 over 2011, says Johnson. Says Johnson: “We see great growth potential in the rack stores.”
• Nordstrom Rack has gone into deserted Circuit City locations nationwide more than 10 times, from New York City to Texas to Michigan. In October 2010, it went into a former Circuit City in the Walter’s Crossing shopping center at I-275 and Dale Mabry Highway, in Tampa.
Johnson acknowledged Circuit City locations are good fits for Nordstrom Rack, though he adds that the company has also gone into former Linens ’n’ Things stores. “We like to have our rack stores in exciting developments where our customers regularly shop,” Johnson says.

+ Former DooleyMack executives regroup under new name
Wendy Mack is back.

The well-known local construction executive, longtime chief financial officer of Lakewood Ranch-based DooleyMack Constructors, technically never left. But now she runs a new local firm: DM Constructors.

That new firm, moreover, marks the end of DooleyMack, which was once one of the largest commercial construction firms in the region. Founded in 1977 by Bill Dooley, the company had $104 million in annual sales and 130 employees as recently as 2010. Recent past projects include a $20 million renovation at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in downtown Sarasota.

But the recession left the firm gasping for work, which is why Mack says it ceased operations late last year. Three DooleyMack entities outside Florida, in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, are still open. But Mack says those companies no longer have any connection to the shuttered Florida DooleyMack. Mack says the local firm’s demise stems from a “perfect storm” of economic factors.

“People who understand the industry,” says Mack, “understand what happened to DooleyMack.”

The leadership team at the new entity, officially launched in December, is comprised of several former DooleyMack executives. In addition to Mack, CEO and principal, that list includes Chuck Evans, who is president at DM Constructors and Keith Coulter, who is an executive vice president.

The DM Constructors focus, says Mack, is to go after contracts under its Women’s Business Enterprise designation, which gives it an advantage for certain bids and jobs.

“In this market we need a niche,” Mack says. “We need something to be different.”

The firm, adds Evans, has booked about $10 million in total projects and hopes to expand that by at least $5 million in the next two fiscal quarters. The company also seeks to grow its presence in the market by going for subcontractor work on large projects.
— Mark Gordon

Big Summer Golf Card sold
The Big Summer Golf Card, which has provided golfers discounts for more than 20 years in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties and throughout the state, has been sold.

Big Summer Golf Card Holdings, LLP, a new company formed by East County developer John Neal and Charles Varah, representing the Pasold family, have purchased the Big Summer Golf Card program.
There are more than 100 courses that participate in the program, reaching about 17,000 golfers per year.
Linda Talbot operated it for more than 20 years.

“We think it is in everyone’s interest in the local market, to maintain the integrity of summer golf in our area and to ensure that the Big Summer Golf Card program continues,” said John Neal, president of John Neal Homes.

A popular feature of the card program that stopped in 2007, The Big Money Tour will be back with monthly drawings and prizes for all cardholders.

Varah says the partnership will allow more opportunity to develop new programs for the future.

“What is especially appealing is that the Big Summer Golf Card has provided a stable, contract-driven, summer golf marketing program which has been a lifeline for many area golf courses and an important revenue source during the, traditionally, quieter period of May to October,” Varah said.

The Big Summer Golf Card will be sold for a pre-season pricing offer of $53 through mid-April 2013.

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