TAMPA — There’s help on the way, Tampa Bay, for those who need a bit of help to suck in that gut.
The Spanx empire of slimming shapewear will soon open a stand-alone store at International Plaza in a space where Sony once sold high-end electronics. The mall also announced the coming of Chipotle restaurant to round out the issue.
The Spanx brand is already a global success story, selling modern girdles in a host of outlets. This one, however, will be the first independent Spanx retail site in the region.
The story of Spanx has become legend in the retail market. Sarah Blakely was working as a sales trainer by day and performing stand-up comedy at night in the 1990s. Originally from Clearwater, Blakely was selling fax machines in the Florida heat, and hated the feel and look of panty hose in open-toed shoes. Yet she liked the shaping effect of the fabric on other parts of the anatomy. So she cut the feet out of a pair of panty hose and had an aha moment.
With a $5,000 investment and a patent (she wrote the first draft after consulting a textbook from Barnes & Noble), she began the company that reinvented the girdle for a new generation of women. She chose the name “Spanx” in part by looking at other successful brands, such as Coca-Cola and Kodak, that had a distinctive “K” sound.
As the company’s official history reads, “Plus, it’s all about making women’s butts look better, so why not?”
Spanx now sells “power panties,” braziers and activewear for yoga and running at stores including Sports Authority, Dillard’s, Neiman Marcus and Bridal Belle. There’s also a new line of shapewear to help men slim their figures. Spanx recently started opening its own retail stores in larger cities such as New York.
Spanx officials did not return calls for comment. But in the last week, Spanx contractors started the preliminary work at the site and filed construction paperwork with the city of Tampa.
International Plaza officials confirmed the news Friday midday, adding that the mall has other new tenants coming. This spring, patrons will see the region’s first Lilly Pulitzer, Boston Proper and Camicissima, not to mention the massive Life Time Athletic health club.
Plus, the inside restaurant area will see a rarity: Chipotle opening a location in a food court.
“It’s exciting to introduce so many fashionable and fun ‘firsts’ to the Bay area,” said Nina Mahoney, marketing and sponsorship director for International Plaza and Bay Street.
The mall is at 2223 N. West Shore Blvd.