PORT RICHEY, Fla. – Three new businesses have opened in the past two months at Gulf View Square Mall. Dream Bubble Shop, Hot Headz Hair Salon, and Yancy Street Comics are all locally owned.

  • Development project attracted business owners
  • Lots of vacant stores still need occupants 
  • New businesses could make the mall more unique
  • More Pasco County headlines

“I came here the day the mall opened in 1980,” said Kenny Banaciski, co-owner of Dream Bubble Shop, which moved to the mall six weeks ago. “Our parents took us here. I was just a 13-year-old at the time. I remember walking through here and my dad saying, ‘We gotta go.’ It was so packed.”

That’s not the case these days. Several of the mall’s stores, including anchors JCPenney, Macy’s, and, most recently, Sears, closed up shop in recent years.

“It was sad. Every time we’d come in here, you’d see the stores closing and more stores closing,” said Banaciski.

Still, he said business has been good.

“The foot traffic here is just probably 10 times better than what we had before, and we’ve still got a lot of vacant stores in the mall that need occupants,” Banaciski said.

For Yancy Street owner Steve Baginskie, his first six weeks in his new location have felt like a homecoming of sorts.  The comic store was located in the mall for 10 years before leaving when it came under new ownership.

“This mall’s been here so long, and so many people want to see it survive and thrive, so we figured it was the time to come back,” Baginskie said.

A main draw for business owners: a development project taking place behind the mall in the spot where JCPenney and Macy’s once stood. Developer B&Z Port Richey, LLC is in the process of building 312 luxury apartments that are expected to welcome their first residents early next year.

“It’s going to be families, so we’re going to have this live-work-play atmosphere, and I’d like it to create an indoor Main Street,” said Banaciski.

“I’m hoping that the whole idea of it is so that they have almost a one-stop shop experience here, where they can come in and get pretty much anything they would need,” said Baginskie.

General Manager T.J. Pennington said the new arrivals are just the beginning of changes for the mall. A tattoo parlor, 2 Extreme Tattoos, is also due to open soon, and Pennington said corporate is working on securing new tenants for the food court. All of the current incoming businesses have multi-year leases. Pennington said he thinks the smaller businesses will have drawing power since they offer items shoppers can’t necessarily find online.

“I think it’s really encouraging,” said Baginskie of the local business presence. “We’ve always said that this mall’s never going to have all the big-name corporate stores again. They’ve left already, and I don’t see anything that’s going to bring them back. But I kind of like the idea that being a lot more independently owned businesses that offer a bigger variety of merchandise and services. So, it’s going to be a unique mall. It’s not going to be your average, Old Navy-type mall.”

Pennington said he thinks that diversification is something more and more malls will have to look into in order to survive.

One shopper said she’s excited about the change.

“The rumor has always been that this mall was closing, so it’s nice to hear it’s not going to be closing,” said shopper Bonnie Stern of Port Richey.

Pennington said several improvement projects are also in the works, including converting lighting inside and in the parking lot to LED.

An art walk is planned to take place at Gulf View Square July 20. It will be free for the public to attend and browse the work of various local artists.