CARY — It’s finally here, in all its camouflage glory.
Bass Pro Shops Sportman’s Center is set to open to the public on Wednesday evening, promising all the fishing rods and hunting gear a lover of the outdoors could desire.
There’s been plenty of excitement since the retailer announced a year ago that it would build a store in Harrison Square shopping center. Bass Pro Shops have been known to attract customers who are willing to drive far to get there.
But some Cary leaders say the 105,000-square-foot store is more than a tourist draw: It’s also helping to revitalize an aging shopping center off of Harrison Avenue.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he made no secret of that when he talked to the store’s managers last month.
“I said it’s an excellent location, and not only that, you’re really helping the area because that shopping plaza needed you to be there,” Weinbrecht said.
Seven businesses have signed leases at Harrison Square since Bass Pro Shops announced it was moving in, said Nate Cretarolo with GFD Management, which oversees the property.
New tenants will include western-wear store Country Connection, restaurants and a furniture store, Cretarolo said.
Sherman Dye plans to open a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the plaza this spring. When he heard Bass Pro Shops was coming, he knew that’s where he wanted to be.
“It’s an aging center,” Dye said of Harrison Square. “If they had not been there, we probably would not have paid much attention to it.”
Town leaders have said they want to focus on breathing new life into older shopping centers around Cary. Finding a new draw for a plaza can be an alternative to demolition.
Bass Pro Shops is replacing Carolina Pottery, which was the anchor tenant for years at Harrison Square.
The plaza was built in 1989, said Ricky Barker, assistant planning director for Cary. A Sam’s Club was at the site before Carolina Pottery, he said.
The shopping center features fast-food restaurants and several small businesses. Across the street, The Arboretum at Weston is newer, with some high-end retailers and restaurants such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Bonefish Grill.
Weinbrecht said he thinks Bass Pro’s presence will boost business in the entire area, maybe even stretching into downtown Cary.
Bass Pro Shops stores tend to be “very beneficial” to surrounding businesses, said Anita Bumgarner, general manager of the Cary store.
The company attracts youth groups, conservation groups and others who show up for fishing and hunting seminars. As a result, surrounding businesses are likely to see more foot traffic.
“We feel we’ve got a good location to catch people going to the beach or coming home,” Bumgarner said, referring to the store’s proximity to Interstate 40. “Maybe we’ll even revitalize the area. We encourage our customers to visit our neighboring partners.”
Weinbrecht said he knew the store was a big deal when he got a phone call from a stranger in Rocky Mount following the announcement.
“He was in tears,” Weinbrecht said. “He was so happy a Bass Pro Shops was coming to Cary.”
And while a big-name retailer likely won’t come to every aging shopping center in town, Weinbrecht said he hopes some other plazas will see a similar rebirth.
Staff writer Paul A. Specht contributed to this report.
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