BRADENTON -- At a time in America's economy when some retailers may think they haven't got a prayer, Hobby Lobby sees growth differently.
Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts superstore, plans to open mid-summer as an anchor in Pinebrook Square, 4490 Cortez Road. New to the Bradenton-Sarasota area, the faith-based company expects to hire 30 to 50 new local employees.
"We opened 26 stores in 2010, 33 stores in 2011, 29 stores in 2012 and are hoping to open 50 more in 2013. There are many reasons for our growth, but we just give the credit to God," said Vincent Parker, Hobby Lobby's customer service director in Oklahoma City. "We feel that the market is under served and that we can bring a very unique shopping experience to the area. We are looking forward to becoming part of the Bradenton community."
Their typical store ranges from 55,000 to 65,000 square feet, and this new one will take over renovated space formerly leased by Big Lots.
"Pay for full-time employees starts at $13 an hour and $9 for part-time," Parker said.
Hobby Lobby stores carry more than 67,000 products in 13 departments, most of which can be personalized. An additional 30,000 seasonal items relate to Christmas and other themes. Custom frames cater to the artistic customer, while classes are offered to those interested in learning new skills.
Stores are responsible for selecting teachers and scheduling in-store classes so long as they use products that can be purchased in Hobby Lobby, according to Parker.
Pinebrook Square, currently home to Outback Steakhouse and a strip of smaller businesses, is being renovated after the city approved the changes in July. Construction crews are at work removing and rebuilding walls and windows.
Benderson Development, owners of Pinewood, is "extremely confident that Hobby Lobby is an excellent addition to the shopping center. It will draw a tremendous amount of traffic and they are a wonderful retailer, the best in their class for what they do," said Mark Chait, executive director of leasing for Benderson. "Our plan is to be long-term property owners and to work
to enhance the property long term. We try to build a strong tenant mix and to bring out the best aspects of all of those.
"The addition of an anchor now will help draw customers from all around and it will be a unique market," he added.
Business operators already open in Pinebrook welcome the news.
"Any business coming in is only good for the businesses around and about. It'll bring in more traffic, more trade," said Brian Loughlin, owner of Pinebrook's Perfect Tans & Beauty Spa.
After 11 years in business, Loughlin estimates he draws about 10,000 clients a year at his current location.
"It's very central to Cortez Road. It's got a lot going for it, the Outback, the restaurants and Publix across the street," Loughlin said. "People like it around here. It's got a good following."
Hobby Lobby's faith-driven policies have been in the news lately, most recently for challenging requirements for its health insurance to cover certain drugs and devices that the owners, David Green and family, believe can cause abortions. The contraceptives are specified as preventative care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"The owners and managers of Hobby Lobby are members of various different denominations," Parker said. "Hobby Lobby itself is not directly affiliated with any particular group or denomination. We support many different Christian organizations. We encourage all to seek the gift of eternal life through Christ and to attend a Bible-believing church."
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748, 0411, ext. 7024,