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The Stonebridge Village alternative lures shoppers to Flowery Branch
Sydney Cahall, 16, a student at Kennesaw Mountain High School, shops Thursday at the new T.J. Maxx in the Stonebridge Village shopping center in Flowery Branch. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

To the delight of area shoppers, new retailers are popping up at the Stonebridge Village shopping center.

For residents in and near South Hall, the shopping center is helping customers save on gas by providing an attractive alternative to the Mall of Georgia.

Stonebridge Village, on Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch, opened last November with The Home Depot. Kohl’s department store followed early this year. Since March, Target, OfficeMax and PetSmart opened. And in May, Chili’s Grill and Bar had its grand opening along with T.J. Maxx.

Shoppers seeking home repair items and gardening tools said they often find a full parking lot at The Home Depot.

Robyn Kendall, a Flowery Branch resident, said the new stores are convenient. Before the shopping center opened, she spent more time and money traveling to Buford or Gainesville for items she now buys in Flowery Branch.

"When we need something for the house, it’s nice to just come by here," she said. "You don’t have to spend nearly as much gas to come here. It’s quicker. Now it doesn’t take me all day to do my shopping."

Kendall said her husband, Stan Kendall, is an avid gardener and frequents the store’s garden center while she shops at Target. She said the Target photo lab has been a great asset for her since she previously traveled to the Buford Wal-Mart to develop photos.

She said she has been excited about the shopping center, but worried about increased traffic.

"It hasn’t been too bad so far," she said. "I’m sure a lot of people are coming here instead of going further. I know I see my neighbors here a lot."

Eleanor Green drove 15 miles from Hoschton in Jackson County to visit the new shopping center for the first time Sunday.

"Mileage-wise it’s about the same (for me) to the Mall of Georgia, so I thought I’d give this a try," she said. "I’m definitely coming back here more. It was a nice country drive to here with beautiful scenery, and you’re not going to see that on your way to the Mall of Georgia."

Green said she came to spend the afternoon shopping at T.J. Maxx and Target.

"I enjoy shopping, so I’ll come over here because I won’t have to use as much gas," she said. "And here, my husband will come with me because he always wants to go to The Home Depot. But under no circumstances would he accompany me to the Mall of Georgia."

Larry Shaw, Target store manager, said business has been going well since the store opened on March 4.

"We’ve been pleased," he said. "We’ve gotten about the same number of customers we expected."

He said the convenience is probably the key that’s keeping the store so busy, as well as its Starbucks, which is the only one in South Hall. He said the Chili’s Grill and Bar has also been hopping.

"With gas prices at $4 per gallon, people are trying to make less trips and stay as close as possible to the house as they can. This shopping center is a destination where people can eat at Chili’s and then shop," he said.

Shaw said that as more stores and restaurants open in the shopping center, he believes Target will get busier, particularly on the weekends.

He said the Chick-fil-A is expected to open in November.

More stores are opening their doors in the meantime. Ross, AT&T Wireless and Supercuts will be opening soon. General Nutrition Center has already opened, as well as Carvel Ice Cream and Posh Nail and Spa.

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