SEMINOLE — For the past 46 years, the shop at 11046 Johnson Blvd. has been a hub for Boy Scouts across Pinellas County. But on Tuesday, the Seminole Scout Shop will shut its doors permanently.
The decision to close to the shop came as the final phase of the merging of the West Central Florida Council, which included troops in Pinellas and parts of Pasco counties, and the Gulf Ridge Council, which comprised Hillsborough, Hardee, Highlands and parts of Pasco counties.
People who used the Seminole location, which served as both a one-stop shop to buy uniforms and badges and the office location for senior Scouting staff, will now be sent to the Tampa location.
The store served more than 110 troops in Pinellas County, but had seen about three or fewer customers per day during the past year, according to a foot traffic study.
"More and more people are buying stuff online," said AJ Gonzales, a district executive who worked in the Seminole office. "As we move into millennial parents and younger Gen X parents, it's moving toward online sales . . . Keeping another store open just doesn't make sense when we could allocate that toward camps or to getting disadvantaged kids involved. It's just money better spent."
Matt Hall, another district executive, said he initially hoped the councils wouldn't merge, but ultimately concluded that more Scouts can be reached with pooled resources.
"The scouting program isn't as robust in Pinellas County as it was 10-15 years ago," Hall said. "But we're starting to turn that around."
A major issue they faced, he said, was access to Pinellas County schools for recruitment.
"It's a lot more difficult to recruit a teenager than a Cub Scout," Hall said.
But he said relations with school principals have been improving.
John Baringer, director of special projects, has worked in the Seminole location since 1995 and said the shop was located on land donated by Seminole founder Jesse Johnson. Before it moved to that location in 1971, the old Scout shop was near Haslam's Book Store in St. Petersburg.
Vincent Hovermale, scoutmaster of Troop 318, said he was grateful they did a recruiting event for Cub Scouts last week, before the store closed.
"We're very unhappy they're closing," he said. "I'm grateful for the bigger merger. But it really displaces a lot of us."
Back in the day, he said, retailers like Sears would carry Boy Scout uniforms, but now, the only place to get them is at the Scout shops or online at the Boy Scouts of America Amazon store.
Brian O'Neil, assistant scoutmaster for Troop 219, said his troop didn't use the store too frequently.
"I guess it's further away, going to Tampa," he said. "But it's really not that big a deal to us."
Gonzales said the Tampa location has a larger selection of products, including camping gear, that the Seminole location didn't have.
"At the end of the day, the real importance is about serving young people in our community," he said.
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