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Dawn Blankenship and her husband, Brett, own Wood You Furniture.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Feb. 10, 201612:00 PM EST

Is Wood You Furniture moving to clear space for Earth Fare?


Wood You Furniture is relocating its Mandarin store in two weeks, moving from the Mandarin South shopping center where the store owners say Earth Fare will open a grocery store.

Dawn Blankenship, who owns Jacksonville-based Wood You Furniture with her husband, Brett, said they have leased space for about five years in the center at 11700 San Jose Blvd.

Their last day there will be Feb. 20. They will open Feb. 23 about 3 miles north at 10100 San Jose Blvd.

Books-A-Million real estate subsidiary Preferred Growth Properties LLC bought the Mandarin South shopping center in July 2014. Blankenship said Preferred Growth Properties representative Bear Burnett told her and her husband that Earth Fare had signed a lease there.

Burnett has not returned several phone calls and emails.

Mandarin South is at San Jose Boulevard and Loretto Road. Earth Fare has been expected in the area.

The natural and organic foods grocer opened its first Jacksonville store in August 2014 at the Atlantic North shopping center at 11901 Atlantic Blvd.

At the time, Earth Fare CFO Scott Little said the company wanted to open up to four stores in Jacksonville, including in Mandarin and Westside.

Earth Fare, based in North Carolina, has not confirmed the Mandarin South location. A spokeswoman said Tuesday the company would be in contact when it is ready to make a statement.

The manager at Earth Fare’s Atlantic North store referred questions to Earth Fare in North Carolina.

Preferred Growth Properties LLC bought the 4.9-acre, almost 70,000-square-foot Mandarin South center for $4.7 million. Mandarin South was developed in 1982.

The available anchor space is up to 41,000 square feet and more than 20 years ago housed a Winn-Dixie, which has opened across the street.

Wood You Furniture occupies about 6,000 square feet within the former Winn-Dixie space.

Earth Fare’s Atlantic North store is about 24,000 square feet.

At the time of the sale, Mandarin South was about 64 percent vacant.

Cantrell & Morgan real estate continues to market the anchor space for lease on its site.

Preferred Growth Properties markets the shopping center on its website and lists Burnett as the contact.

The PGP site says the center is in the “highly desirable” Mandarin area off of San Jose Boulevard and south of Interstate 295

“The property will be redeveloped into a high end lifestyle center with the PGP signature style and top tier retail branding,” it says.

Renderings on the Cantrell & Morgan website as of January 2014 show a significantly renovated facade for the center, including the anchor space.

The extent of the work as shown indicates construction could take at least several months once construction starts to be ready for new tenants.

For example, it took four months to remodel the interior and exterior to re-open the Winn-Dixie store at Point Meadows in Baymeadows, although that shopping center was significantly occupied and did not require a complete facade makeover.

Representatives of Cantrell & Morgan have not responded to numerous telephone calls in the past few weeks.

Blankenship said the center already has cleared out space next door to her store at the closed Ollie Koala’s BackYard in preparation for Earth Fare.

Heather O’Keefe at Planet Beach said she will continue to lease at Mandarin South and hopes renovations begin soon. “I want them to hurry up and start,” she said.

Associates at AutoZone and Poochie Spa said they expected their stores to continue leasing at Mandarin South as well.

Blankenship said business has been good at Wood You Furniture, which offers unfinished wood and custom hand-finished items in wood stains and many color choices.

Wood You Furniture was founded in 1977.

On the site, Brett Blankenship said he started work at a Wood You Furniture store in the early 1990s while he was completing college at the University of North Florida.

He remained with the company, eventually becoming operations manager for Wood You Distributors, managing the corporate retail stores and the distribution center.

He and Dawn opened their first store in 1998 in Bradenton.

In late 2011, the couple bought the rights to the trademarked Wood You Furniture brand.

Blankenship said on the website that Southeast expansion is the desire, however the company will focus locally first and then develop the business model as opportunities arise.

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