Apple Store coming to University Park's Mall at University Town Center

cschelle@bradenton.comMarch 15, 2014 

UNIVERSITY PARK -- After years of rumors and whispers, the Apple Store is officially coming to the Mall at University Town Center.

Apple applied Friday for a building permit for a new retail store at the $315 million Mall at University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive. The 880,00-square-foot mall is under construction at the corner of University Parkway and Cattlemen Road and is expected to open Oct. 16.

Construction of the 6,997-square-foot store is estimated to cost $1.2 million, according to the building permit application. For comparison, the Apple Store inside International Plaza in Tampa is 7,000 square feet. Both malls are operated by Taubman Centers, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Apple once committed to the Westfield Southgate mall in Sarasota, but those plans fell through, and clues of the store committing to Sarasota resurfaced in the fall when Apple reserved a space on its website for job openings for a retail store in Sarasota.

The Sarasota store will become the 17th retail location in Florida for the Cupertino, Calif., company. Overall, the company operates only 423 Apple retail stores around

the world and 254 in the U.S. The average revenue per Apple store across the company is $51.5 million, according to Apple's 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Apple stores are often considered mini-anchors in malls because of their large draw for their relatively small spaces.

"I have a few Apple products. I would definitely go there," said Terry Librett, who was shopping for a protective case for his iPad Mini at Target on North Cattlemen Road on Friday.

Michael Babyak, 22, said shopping at a real Apple store would be more fun than buying Apple products at a more general electronics store like Best Buy.

"We already have products, but if we wanted to get replacements we would go there," he said.

Despite the power Apple stores wield, certified Apple reseller Computer Advantage, 7810 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, could stand to benefit in the long run.

"Apple has an Apple pie, and we have one slice of that pie now," general manager Spencer Blunden said. "You can still go to Best Buy, still drive to Tampa, but instead of stealing our slice of our pie, Apple will come in and bring another pie."

That will lead customers to Computer Advantage, where appointments with any sort of "geek" isn't necessary and the wait won't be as long. Computer Advantage does see some business from people who shop at the Apple Store in Tampa that need certain repairs that the corporate store doesn't offer.

"We do have training programs that offer a little bit more learning," Blunden said. "For older clientèle, it's a little better fit than what Apple offers."

Blunden has spoken to other dealers in the 250-store network that sells Apple products that have had Apple stores open nearby, and found that business actually picks up when Apple moves in.

"Apple Store brings more awareness to the Apple brand, as if it needed more," Blunden said. "And sometimes people will go to the mall and will say, 'Can I go anywhere else without being in the mall?' "

The mall, leased by Taubman Centers in partnership with Manatee County's Benderson Development, will include more than 100 shops, including: Macy's, Dillard's, Saks Fifth Avenue with Sophie's restaurant, American Eagle Outfitters, Brooks Brothers, Champs Sports, FootLocker, Gymboree, Lululemon, Oil & Vinegar and Omega, plus restaurants BRIO Tuscan Grille, Capital Grille, Cheesecake Factory, Kona Grill, Seasons 52 and Smoothie King. Another restaurant is expected to be announced later this year ,and the mall also has room for a fourth major anchor for future development.

-- Staff writer Sabrina Rocco contributed to this report.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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