Jacksonville’s coastal environment has landed another business.
Bradenton-based lifestyle retailer Bealls Inc. has signed a lease at St. Johns Town Center to open Bunulu, a new concept that will start by the holidays with four locations in the state.
The Jacksonville store should open Oct. 15 in the space formerly occupied by Fossil.
Bealls Department Stores Inc. President Lorna Nagler said Jacksonville was chosen as one of the first locations so the company could test the concept in different parts of Florida.
The concept features clothing and accessories that serve the coastal lifestyle.
The first will open in August at the Coconut Point mall in Estero, between Naples and Fort Myers in Southwest Florida. In addition to St. Johns Town Center, Nagler said two more leases were pending in the state but she declined to say where those would be. Those should open in October or November.
“St. Johns Town Center is an amazing real estate development, so that is why we wanted to pick that site,” she said.
Nagler said her team looks for locations with high traffic counts and higher incomes, as well as a density of customers who live what she calls the Florida coastal lifestyle.
Bunulu’s tagline is “Land. Water. Style.” She said Bunulu is an Aboriginie name for a place of water.
It is designed to carry clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women who want to dress for an active and casual lifestyle. It will feature well-known brands such as Patagonia, Columbia and The North Face as well as other brands that Nagler said will “surprise and delight.”
The targeted customer is age 35 and older, although age is not the defining characteristic. “The common denominator is people who like the outdoors, the intersection of fashion and function,” she said.
In other words, dress for boating and go out to dinner after.
The store will be arranged so customers can envision how the apparel might work for them.
Nagler said the store will coordinate the merchandise for display. “Show me the best board shorts with the best T-shirt. Show me the shoe that goes with that,” she said.
Bunulu also will carry items like Yeti coolers, GoPro cameras and sunglasses.
The store might eventually create a clothing brand. “It’s on our drawing board. We just didn’t start there,” Nagler said.
It also might later expand beyond Florida to other markets in coastal environments.
McIntyre Elwell & Strammer General Contractors Inc. is shown on a building-permit application as the contractor for the St. Johns Town Center store.
It will renovate 3,749 square feet of space at a project cost of $425,000.
Décor comprises paint colors such as ocean beach, dune white, green wave, Largo teal and indigo. Reclaimed weathered wood and beech wood are part of it, too.
“It’s going to feel like you are in the outdoors,” Nagler said.
The stores will average about 4,000 square feet of space. That’s much smaller than other outdoor and recreation retailers, such as Academy Sports & Outdoors, Dick’s Sporting Goods, West Marine and REI.
Asked about competition from the big-box recreation retailers, Nagler said some of them are singularly focused, such as on boating or camping, hiking and biking.
In addition, most of the big-box stores carry large inventories. “We are edited and pull together the best of the best,” she said.
Also, the smaller size presents a boutique feel. “The person who wants to shop here is the person who wants a different and unique experience,” she said.
It’s also smaller than the typical Bealls stores. Nagler said Bunulu fits well in the Bealls focus on the Florida lifestyle.
Bunulu’s assortment will be different and higher priced than those at Bealls and the outlets, she said.
The bunulu.com website says the company prefers to be in shopping centers that also feature Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Bahama, Lululemon, Whole Foods or similar tenants.
It looks for area median household income greater than $80,000, such as areas of affluence accessible to Town Center. The median household income in Jacksonville is about $50,000.
Retail broker Carrie Smith, regional managing partner with Franklin Street, said the opening at the Town Center is a testament to the strength of the shopping center and of Jacksonville’s economy and market.
“The concept targets an affluent customer with a coastal outdoor lifestyle, and, in Jacksonville, the brand can easily capture that customer,” Smith said.
Nagler, 58, came to Florida four years ago from the Midwest, where she spent much of her career. She has been president and CEO of Christopher & Banks, president of Lane Bryant and Catherines Stores and held management roles at Kmart, Toys R Us and Kids R Us.
Nagler said she had always been with a national retailer, but Florida presented a different opportunity. She toured Florida’s Bealls Department Stores and experienced “the breadth of this state.”
“As I learned about Florida, this concept kind of came to me because I want somebody to curate that kind of store for me,” she said.
Sensing a void in the market, she pitched the idea to Bealls Inc. Chairman R.M. “Bob” Beall II. “We talked about it and talked about it,” she said.
Privately held Bealls Inc., founded in 1915, operates more than 530 stores. It’s known for its Bealls Department Stores, Bealls Outlets and Burkes Outlets.
Nagler said the response from what a “small and mighty” team pulled together has been strong.
“We are ready to hit the coast,” she said.