NAPLES, Fla - The Mercato in North Naples is at 80 percent capacity. That's a big change from just a few months ago when store fronts were covered with for lease signs.
Now, Mercato is filling up with new stores. The Counter, a custom build your own burger joint, is set to open in mid August next to Bravo.
So far in 2012, three new stores have opened. Pikolinos, a high end shoe store, opened in March. Grace & Shelly's Cupcakes opened in May and last month Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar opened.
This fall four more stores are expected to open. Venture X, Taps, The Wine Loft and Kelly Chase Couture, a bridal boutique.
A spokesperson with Mercato tells WINK News several new leases are currently in the process of negotiations.
For Bob Dean, the manager of Pikolinos, it's not surprising Mercato is finally filling up. "They could have gone to a number of places, they could have gone to Cononut Point, but Mercato looks like the place of the future."
That expectation of being the next big thing in Naples is what drew Naples Flatbread founder and CEO Ralph Desiano to Mercato. He says, "Mercato has a name with the community and vacationers as well."
While all the new restaurants are a big attraction for locals and tourists, business owners hope to see more retail stores to bring in more foot traffic."
Dean says, "Not everyone thinks of Mercato as a shopping destination. They think of it as a go to the movie type of place and go to the restaurant. We have a lot of great restaurants, but I don't think they think of it as a retail destination yet, but hopefully soon."
Desiano agress that's the one thing 5th Avenue downtown has more of. "They have more retail," he says. "I think when we can get that here we'll have the whole package. I think we have a lot, but I don't think we have the whole package yet."
With new stores come new jobs in the community. The Counter is planning to hire 80 new positions. They're holding a job fair at Mercato Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.