Protesters gathered this afternoon on the northwest corner of 441 and Palmetto Park Road, motivated at least in part by the opening of the Hobby Lobby in West Boca Square. Our best estimate is that there were 30 people there, though there more may have come after we left.
As we drove in we saw this woman telling people to “Get a new hobby.”
There were a number of other motivated people there:
We had a pleasant conversation on the scene with Laura Goodhue, who is a VP with the local Planned Parenthood organization:
We asked Ms. Goodhue about the fact that Hobby Lobby’s main competitor, Michael’s, is owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. She said the protest was not about Hobby Lobby and they are not advocating for a boycott of the store. She said this was more about making people aware of women’s rights, particularly involving healthcare. She talked about political candidates and made clear that Governor candidate Charlie Crist is more in line with their views than the incumbent, Rick Scott.
When we asked Ms. Goodhue about the distinction between an individual’s rights against the government, as compared to an employee’s rights against their employer, and that employer’s rights against the government. The contrast is between the government’s power to actually ban something, and an employer’s refusal to pay for something. She didn’t give a straight answer to the question.
When we first arrived we saw a protester inside the plaza on the sidewalk right in front of the store. By the time we left he was gone and there were two Sheriff’s vehicles along the sidewalk.
The deputies were speaking with the store managers. We asked if they had removed the protester and one of the deputies said that they were “just keeping the peace.” We asked store management about the protest and also again about whether and when they would be carrying merchandise for the Jewish holidays. Like Ms. Goodhue they did not give a straight answer to those questions.
As we left we saw a few more protesters at the exit:
And to be fair, we did see one counter-protester, out on the median of 441:
Hobby Lobby is finally open. The grand opening was this morning at 9 am. We missed the ceremonies but got there before 10 am. There seemed to be a lot of customers for a weekday morning and it looks like a good start.
Some key details: It’s definitely big and there are a lot of sections. They have a fabrics section which we’ve heard some demand for:
The store map is helpful:
There’s also a framing section that is likely to be popular:
Here’s our video of walking into the store:
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Hobby Lobby for various reasons, related to their identity as a “Christian company.” When I walked in I was greeted by Jacqueline Chavez (below, far right), of the firm’s Management Ministries.
I think some of the critics don’t get how serious the company is about being Christian. Having Ms. Chavez there at the front door is a sign of it. The “Management Ministries” staff are part of that:
The focus is to exhibit a Godly culture by making a positive impact on the lives of the management teams. I believe this position is one of equipping men and women, right where they are and that is in the workplace. It is exciting to see biblical principles touching and changing lives across the country. Jesus said “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) The goal of Management Ministries is to let them see Jesus!
I met the two co-managers and they were happy with how things were going. The soft opening was Saturday and business was strong even though it was essentially unadvertised. This is not the first Hobby Lobby in South Florida – they told me there are stores in Davie and Kendall. From the store website there are plans to open another one in Coral Springs in a few weeks.
The store does seem to be running well, but from a business perspective I was surprised at how uncomfortable and unprepared they were for questions about the controversies. In light of an incident of alleged antisemitism in New Jersey where the Hobby Lobby President apologized, I asked about whether they would be carrying merchandise for the Jewish holidays. They had no idea whether or when Hanukkah merchandise would be coming to the store, though the store has plenty of Christmas merchandise on the shelves already.
The managers seemed unaware of the significant Jewish population around them. The West Boca Square plaza borders Boca Woods, which is mostly Jewish, and the Jewish Federation campus is not far away on the other side of 441.
I asked about the decision to locate a Christian store in an area that has such a large Jewish population and they simply said it was a decision made by the company’s real estate division and they didn’t know about it. To me it doesn’t come off as antisemitism but rather that they’re tone deaf. For a more critical perspective see this article in Coral Springs Talk.
Regardless of all of that, we’re pleased to see that the opening is going well. This is a great shopping option for a lot of people in West Boca and also a source of good jobs. We wish Hobby Lobby well.
We previously reported that the West Boca Hobby Lobby will have its grand opening on September 29th. But a reader noticed that the company website store locator pegs the opening on the 26th, which is tomorrow. See above for that.
Our report was based on what they told us (see their Twitter response below).
Update – Hobby Lobby responded to us just now.
So it looks like a soft opening on Friday with the grand opening on Monday.
We have reported previously on the West Boca Hobby Lobby opening and hiring. We previously reported that the hiring event was at the beginning of September. Apparently they’re still going and the hiring continues at least through Saturday as shown in the photos above and below.
It looks like they’re about ready for the grand opening on Monday the 29th. It’s an impressive front:
It’s located in part of the former Beall’s space in West Boca Square. In the shot below Chili’s and Palmetto Park Road are barely visible in the far left background:
And in this shot you can see the rest of the plaza heading north toward Target:
In related news we’ve heard there might be one or more protests or rallies against Hobby Lobby. One reader sent us something about one being organized by MoveOn.org for this Friday. That seems odd since the store isn’t opening until Monday and there’s not a lot of traffic at that end of the plaza. The other one was supposed to be a day or two after the opening, which made a little more sense but we never received solid details. We suspect the protests won’t amount to much, but we’d love to hear from our readers if they’re going to attend. We may stop by and take pictures.
Hobby Lobby announced today that their new West Boca store will have its grand opening and ribbon cutting event two weeks from today. It will be Monday, September 29th at 9 am.
This will be their 30th location in the state of Florida. Luis Gandia is the store manager of the 52,000 square-foot retail facility located in West Boca Square at Palmetto Park Road & 441. That’s the plaza with Target. The store is on the opposite end from Target, near Chili’s, filling in most of the space left by the former Beall’s.
“We feel blessed for the fantastic opportunity to be a part of this community. Our goal is for customers to experience the exceptional service, selection and value Hobby Lobby offers as we continue to expand nationwide,” stated John Schumacher, Assistant Vice President of Advertising.
The store “offers more than 70,000 crafting and home decor products in its stores. Departments include floral, fabric, needle art, custom framing, baskets, home accents, wearable art, arts and crafts, jewelry making, scrapbooking and paper crafting supplies.”
Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. All Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sunday.
We have written several articles on the incoming West Boca Hobby Lobby, and like Walmart it has been somewhat controversial among our readers.