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Northwest Bradenton shopping center expected to be home of Fresh Market

MANATEE -- From what Bonnie Bradley has heard of the changes coming to her shopping mall, the Northwest Promenade, the future looks exceptionally bright.

She’s been told that Fresh Market, a gourmet and specialty food market, will be moving in to the east end of the plaza at 6705 Manatee Ave. “It’s a fabulous store. Everything in it is beautiful,” said Bradley, manager of Pierro Jewelers. “We don’t have anything like it in Bradenton right now.”

But the promising future has a downside that has already affected the 45,000-square-foot Northwest Promenade. Several tenants, including Beef O’Brady’s and Richard’s Whole Foods, have had to move out to make room for the Fresh Market.

Bradley and other business people located at Northwest Promenade also are dreading the coming construction period, during which the east end of the plaza is said to be demolished and Fresh Market’s new home is expected to be built.

“We’re happy that they’re coming in, but unfortunately, it’s going to take at least a year to build it out,” said Bradley. “We’re hoping people don’t think the mall is closed during that time.”

Ken Woods, owner of the Perks 4 Pets natural and holistic pet store near Pierro, is also concerned about the period of transition to Fresh Market’s opening. He estimates business has dropped about 20 percent in his store because of foot traffic lost by the temporary vacancies created during the transition.

“I do think once Fresh Market is in, it will make up for what we’re going through,” he said. “But until they are here, there’s nothing here. So there’s no question we’ve felt the impact.”

Shelby Ray, an employee at SunniBunni, said the void left by departed tenants is especially evident in the evenings, when Beef O’Brady’s used to attract a reliable nighttime clientele.

Fresh Market won’t confirm that its is placing a second Manatee County store in the Northwest Promenade. Neither would Benderson Development, the plaza’s owner.

Brett Burgher, a leasing agent with Benderson, refused to comment on Fresh Market’s expected presence at the plaza. Burgher would only say that Benderson is “excited about the future” of the plaza and plans to continue its transformation into an upscale mall that he described as “a smaller version of St. Armands.”

Several tenants are already contributing to that identity. In addition to Pierro, which has had its current location for 17 years, and Perks 4 Pets, the Northwest Plaza features SunniBunni organic smoothies, the Shortcut to Fitness Center for private fitness appointments, and Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

Burgher said an upscale identity for Northwest Promenade is fitting because of the relative affluence and high incomes of the surrounding neighborhood. He anticipates the plaza’s transformation will be completed, and all tenants lined up, by the end of 2012.

Meanwhile, the plaza’s existing tenants said they hope Benderson will make an extra effort to ensure their business presence shines through the construction expected to begin soon.

“I do think it will be a very good thing,” Woods said. “All the people I talk to are very excited. And I honestly believe once Fresh Market comes in, you’ll see the parking lot will be quite packed.”

Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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