When Sweetbay's parent company announced last week it planned to close 33 stores in Florida, including the one in the Midtown community of St.Petersburg, it caught many by surprise. "I didn't expect that to happen, I figured it was a good neighborhood store and everybody would use it," said Robert Graves, a regular customer.
Apparently it also caught the Mayor of St.Petersburg, Bill Foster, off guard." I've been on the phone trying to contact the Sweetbay to see if we could get a reprieve, some reconsideration, even if temporary," said Foster.
Today Mayor Foster and several other elected officials and community leaders met in the Sweetbay store parking lot to pledge their support to fight the closing. The city invested $1.35 million dollars in the shopping center 10 years ago. The supermarket is considered the anchor of a major revitalization effort in the historic minority and low-income Midtown area.
"This building this is more than just a building, it's the story of the beginning of growth in a community. We cannot let this building go dark," said Darryl Rouson, Florida House of Representatives (D), District 55.
Sweetbay store and pharmacy fills a big gap in the neighborhood, where the people have few shopping options, and transportation needs. " I ride my bicycle here and every 2 or 3 days I pick up what I need and go back home with it so it's good," said Robert Graves. Once the store closes he says he'll be forced to ride a bus, or catch a ride to the closest store.
Mayor Foster said if Sweetbay's parent company won't reconsider, he will work to bring another big-name grocery store to the location.
73 people who work at the Midtown Sweetbay will lose their jobs when the store closes next month.