CHARLOTTE SUN, December 26, 2018 –
Whether you’re pro-local or pro-corporate, new business is booming in the city.
As corporate businesses, such as Starbucks and AutoZone, make the way into the community, the heart of Punta Gorda’s local businesses continues to beat strong.
“We are encouraged by the fact that we are now on the radar for nationally recognized customer names, such as Chase Bank and Starbucks, that will work hand-in-hand with our close mom-and-pop stores that are so very much the charm of the city,” said John Wright, president of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce.
Local entrepreneur Benedetto “Ben” Dipiazza, 41, opened a new barber shop, The Bearded Scoundrel, in September. Located at 318 Tamiami Trail on the second floor of the Cedar Point Offices building, he is the lone barber of the shop, offering cuts and shaves, as well as full-service hot towel treatment from $15 to $40.
Traditional barbering is considered an art due to use of the straight razor, according to Dipiazza.
“In today’s age the difference between a cosmetologist and a barber is that only a licensed barber can use a straight razor and a cosmetologist cannot,” Dipiazza said. “We get a lot of working-class families who understand the value of a dollar.”
Over the last two years, Punta Gorda has seen the arrival of 169 new businesses, but the closure of 123, leaving a net rise of 46, Wright said.
Currently in development in the city are three national chains.
Located at 615 Cross St., the coffee giant is expected to open in the spring 2019 as a stand-alone store in the Cross Trails Shopping Center.
“Starbucks is a valued tenant of ours in many locations,” said Benderson Development Company spokesperson Mark Chait in a September Sun report. The company owns Cross Trails where the Starbucks is being constructed. “They provide a wonderful product and a great gathering place for a community.”
A new Chase Bank chain is also under construction at 911 Tamiami Trail and Cross Street, the site of a former gas station and convenience store. An estimated date for completion was not available.
AutoZone Auto Parts will be adding its name to the Punta Gorda business roster. It is currently under construction at 3905 Tamiami Trail and Madrid Boulevard near Burnt Store Road. An estimated date for completion was not available.
“As the Punta Gorda business sector holds firm, we still face the challenges of enlarging the employment pool, finding affordable housing for that pool and fending off the summer doldrums as our customer base shrinks significantly, especially in the months of August and September,” Wright said.
Two major Punta Gorda housing projects are in the works.
A new affordable housing development was approved by the City Council in September. The project is in the planning stages. Construction is planned at 24420 Airport Road adjacent to the Verandas senior housing on Airport Road and Cooper Street. The project will allow for construction of 56 affordable housing units, not specifically designated for seniors.
Although not considered affordable housing, a multi-family housing project is also in the works at 1425 Park Beach Circle. The proposal calls for two buildings and a total of 39 units along with a pool, cabana, storm-water facilities, landscaping and solid waste collection.
“Knowing what we face,” Wright said, “we are collaboratively working together to showcase our area more as a commercial haven, using social media to promote the city in a positive light, attracting a slightly younger and engaging demographic to look at us as a place to enjoy working, playing and living.”