Blondie's Cookies, which started in 1985 with a single store in Kokomo, Ind., and grew to 10 stores in malls throughout the Hoosier State, launched its first out-of-state expansion with the opening February 1 of the first of four planned stores in the Tampa Bay region at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.
Blondie's Florida Regional Manager Rosa Jackson says new stores also are planned for three Westfield malls in the region: Brandon (opening in May), Citrus Park (July) and Sarasota Square (October).
The stores will bring 45-50 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. Jackson said the Wiregrass store, which doubles as a regional warehouse, will have about 15 employees when fully staffed, and the other three stores will employ eight-10, including managers and assistant managers.
Further expansion in Florida is possible, Jackson says, but not until she and CEO Brenda Coffman get the four planned stores up and running.
Jackson, a Dade City native, has moved home from Indiana to oversee operations in Florida. It was a trip home to visit family this past April, along with Coffman's spring trip to her condominium in Sarasota, that spurred the company's leap into the Tampa Bay region.
"It's something that we've always wanted to do," Jackson says. "We've talked about it for years, but the timing was never really there. We had no intention of doing it this year, but my boss and I came down on spring break and I said, 'I found a mall.' She said, 'I found a mall, too.' So she said, 'I'm ready.'"
Jackson says the turnaround from concept in April to reality in February has been a whirlwind. The company received its building permit at Wiregrass on January 15, Jackson says, and construction that usually takes 60-90 days was completed in about three weeks.
Expansion into Florida during a recession might seem counter-intuitive, but Jackson says Blondie's Cookies was never daunted.
"The reason for that is, we believe in the product that we sell," Jackson says. "If we can do well in Indiana, in the Midwest, where your general purchaser is very conservative, then we definitely can do very well in Florida, where there's a little bit more discretionary income."
Writer: Carter Gaddis
Source: Rosa Jackson, Blondie's Cookies