Microsoft set to open store in Sarasota's The Mall at University Town Center

SARASOTA -- Sarasota and Bradenton technology nuts will have another reason to visit The Mall at University Town Center come June 11 when Microsoft opens its eighth Florida store.

Microsoft spokesman Jonathan Adashek said opening a store in the Sarasota area has been on the company's radar for quite some time.

"Florida in general is a very important market to Microsoft," Adashek said. "There are a lot of people here using our products every day."

The Microsoft store in The Mall at UTC, near the east main entrance, will feature the lineup of tablets, phones, computers, Xbox gaming systems and other products that other Microsoft stores offer. After a few months of traffic, Adashek said the company will tailor the products carried in store based on Sarasota's shopping patterns.

Technology grants totaling $1 million will be given to six local nonprofits as a

part of the store's opening celebration. Beneficiaries will be: Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium; Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Sun Coast; Girls Inc. of Sarasota County; Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida; Manatee Community Action Agency and Children First.

Kaitlyn Fusco, public relations manager for Mote Marine Laboratory, said they're receiving $500,000 worth of computer software from Microsoft and have yet to determine where it will be used in the laboratory.

Mote is also in the running for $4,000 worth of computer hardware, but are only eligible to win it if 40 Mote representatives attend the grand opening at the mall.

Joy Mahler, chief executive of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, said upgrades in technology aren't the only benefit she hopes the organization will see from developing a relationship with Microsoft.

"We hope to see opportunities and training for littles to learn more about technology and the latest and greatest," Mahler said.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers football player Derrick Brooks also will be at the store to play Xbox and visit with fans and customers.

Specialists for small businesses, teachers, children and video games, among others, will be on hand for customers to talk to about their technology needs.

"Our team is here to create individual relationships with customers and allow them to get the technology that will benefit them," Adashek said.

Customers who don't use Microsoft machines can stop in the store and receive free assistance with Microsoft products on their Apple machines. The Microsoft store will have an answers desk where associates will install purchased products for free.

The Apple store in The Mall at UTC opened when the mall debuted in October. It's Microsoft's biggest competition in the mall, and Adashek said Microsoft's store experience sets them apart from any other technology store.

"When you walk into our store, you'll have an individual experience," he said.

The first Microsoft store was opened in Scottsdale, Ariz., about five and a half years ago. Since then, the company has opened 111 other stores in Canada, Puerto Rico and more than 30 states.

Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.