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Business booming in East Manatee

UNIVERSITY PARK — A brightly colored activity center for children celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, and is among a group of new businesses set to open at Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

Also planning openings in the area during the next few months are a new Marshalls department store; a virtual golf business; a steakhouse and sushi lounge; a deli; a pizza parlor and grill; a Chipotle restaurant; and an Allstate insurance office, said Mark Chait, director of leasing for the Benderson Development Co. LLC, the shopping center’s developer.

Also new to the area will be a dental office and a hotel, he said.

The Kids Activity Center, 8440 Cooper Creek Blvd., Suite 102, offers classes in gymnastics and sports skills, cheerleading, art and music, along with birthday and private play parties, and a Kids Night Out that is a safe and cost-effective alternative to a babysitter.

“We’re opening today, but we’re celebrating our grand opening all month,” said executive director Robert Bain.

Among the grand opening goodies for parents are freebies through Sept. 24, he said. Discounts are also available for siblings and multiples, like twins or triplets, he added.

Nearby are new digs for Turner Orthopedics and an Allstate insurance office scheduled to open in a few weeks, Chait said.

At the Shoppes at University Center, a new Marshalls department store will open next month with 26,000 square feet of space, he said.

At the center’s northwest corner, at I-75 and University Parkway, a new Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel is nearing completion and is expected to open in late fall, he said.

Along Tourist Center Drive, a virtual golf business called Caddyshank is slated to open in 3,500 square feet, along with a Great Clips hair salon and a Kumon Learning Center tutoring business, he said.

Farther west at University Park Center, a national chain leasing 3,200 square feet of space will be opening Aspen Dental, with future neighbors set to include Jason’s Deli; Kumo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge; and Red Elephant Pizza and Grill, Chait said.

On the south side of University Parkway, a new Chipotle Restaurant occupying 2,400 square feet is under construction with a November opening expected, he added.

Chait acknowledged that the recession has made his work as a leasing director more challenging, but suggested that rather than turning suddenly overnight in a positive direction, the economy may show gradual improvement as a better business climate fuels expansion.

It may already be happening, if a new massage business is any indication.

Massage Heights, at 5275 University Parkway, Unit 110, which advertises itself as a “massage retreat,” opened in mid-June and was busy Tuesday with clients who arrived for various types of massages.

The business employs 17 massage therapists who offer an introductory one-hour massage for $39.99, said director Kaitlyn Innes.

Other services include a peppermint foot scrub priced at $12; hot stone therapy to relieve stress and tension, at $20; and a hot towel-cold stone face massage for $12.

“The location is fabulous, you can see us from the road,” said Innes. “Many people need massages, we’re right here to help them.”