Businesses planned for old Kmart location
Local residents will have some new shopping options soon as two national retailers are making plans to open stores in Palatka.
Marshalls and Five Below have signed leases to occupy space in the Town & Country Shopping Center, according to Joshua Nolan, director of asset management and leasing for Morguard.
The real estate company owns and operates the shopping center off State Road 19. Marshalls and Five Below will occupy a portion of the space Kmart occupied until it closed in 2017, Nolan said.
“We are excited to bring two national, thriving and successful retail brands to the Palatka market,” Nolan said Friday. “Marshalls will provide some variety as far as goods such as clothing and shoes, while Five Below provides broad retail offerings focused on teens and tweens.”
Nolan was unable to provide a projected opening date for the stores, but said Morguard is “working with Putnam County for permit review and we anticipate (the site) being under construction at some point this year.”
Nolan said Morguard will spend $2.1 million toward building improvements, including new facades for each store. He said Marshalls would occupy about 22,000 square feet, while Five Below would be 8,500 square feet.
In addition, he said Morguard will spend $1 million upgrading property near the shopping center, including LED lighting for the parking lot.
“We’re going to be doing a resurfacing and striping of the parking lot and some cosmetic landscaping,” Nolan said.
A new sign has been placed in front of the shopping center with a Planet Fitness nameplate. Planet Fitness and Petsense opened last year in a portion of the building Kmart occupied.
Marshalls, which operates more than 1,100 stores, is part of The TJX Companies Inc., a publicly-traded company that also consists of T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and other stores.
When contacted for comment, a spokeswoman for TJX and Marshalls said the company “has not made an announcement about a new store in Palatka at this time.”
“Generally speaking, it is our practice not to announce store openings until close to an intended opening date,” Marketing Supervisor Katie Babb said in an email.
Officials from Five Below did not respond to a request from the Daily News for comment about plans to open a store in Palatka.
Charlie Douglas, chairman of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, said bringing the new retail stores to the area “is the culmination of about a year-long process of the chamber working with this particular business interested in the Putnam County area.”
“The chamber has been working alongside them with data and demographics as they considered (the area),” Douglas said. “It’s a great market indication that national brands are taking interest in our community and opening businesses here.”
Douglas said about $534 million annually leaves Putnam County as shoppers spend their money outside the county, meaning lost tax revenue.
“It’s an opportunity gap where money goes outside the county,” Douglas said. “Every dollar we can retain here will help support our overall economy.”
Douglas said new retailers making plans to open here will help spur optimism in the community as it tries to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are undoubtedly going to be challenging days ahead the longer the pandemic stretches on, but we certainly have to be thankful for the positive signs we see,” Douglas said. “This investment in our community is one of the bright spots we have to be thankful for and celebrate.
“We believe that more (retailers) are on their way and that we’ll continue to see growth here. Even in light of difficult economic times, there’s still opportunity for businesses to choose Putnam County as the location for their business. The chamber is excited to welcome them to our business community and here to support them in any way we can.”
Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill credited the work of city officials, the chamber and the county for continuing to recruit businesses into the community.
“It’s definitely something exciting anytime you get a big box store and are put in the position to have jobs and have significant (economic) activity,” Hill said. “It’s good to see people further recognize what’s going on in Palatka and Putnam County.”
Hill said the area remains positioned to have an “economic boom if we stay the course.”
“We’ve got to continually educate our kids and our employees around here to give them the skills necessary to move forward,” Hill said. “We’ve got to continually increase our infrastructure, including fiber, in order to attract these businesses in.
“This is in the one place that you have where you can create emerging markets in the state of Florida. It’s the last true snapshot of Florida and it is a goldmine that is yet to see its fullest potential.”
Terry Turner, chairman of the Putnam County Board of Commissioners, agreed the retail development was a sign of optimism for the county.
“It’s a wonderful bright spot for the community, especially in these times,” Turner said. “I’m still very optimistic the county is headed for good clean growth that will help the community.”
Brian Bergen, the chamber’s vice president of economic development, said adding new jobs is great for the county. He said it was too early to project how many jobs will be created by Marshalls and Five Below.
Like Douglas, Bergen said the chamber has worked with the retailers and the property owner for more than a year.
“It’s been exciting,” Bergen said. “I think once other retailers see a headline retailer is coming back into the area, it usually stimulates more growth. It’s exciting to see that happening and what it will do for retailers already here to increase foot traffic.”
Marshalls has stores nearby in St. Augustine, Gainesville and Jacksonville. Five Below has stores in Gainesville and Jacksonville.