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Iconic Tampa seafood shop closes after 47 years

Cox's Seafood Market on Dale Mabry closed last month as the owners decided to retire.

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 12:15 p.m. October 19, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Cox's Seafood in Tampa, which opened in 1976, closed Sept. 30.
Cox's Seafood in Tampa, which opened in 1976, closed Sept. 30.
Photo by Louis Llovio
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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Cox’s Seafood Market, a staple along North Dale Mabry Highway for nearly 50 years, has closed.

In a note posted to its Facebook page the company’s owners thanked customers and employees and said Cox’s was “sailing into retirement waters and your unwavering loyalty has been our anchor.”

“We’re signing off, but our gratitude remains endless.”

The store shut down Sept. 30.

Cox’s was opened in 1976 by the Richard and Faye Cox, who ran the shop for 40 years before handing it off to their son and daughter, Richard Cox Jr. and Melissa Cox-Balbontin.

For decades, the family operated the business out of tiny storefront in a three-business strip center between Hillsborough and Waters Avenues. A small fish-topped roadside sign and the shop’s name on the building’s brown façade were the only real indicators that Cox’s was there for the thousands who sped by on Dale Mabry.

But Cox’s was far from unnoticed.

Day after day for decades the shop saw a steady stream of customers buying fresh seafood from across a glass counter that resembled a butcher shop out of a movie set in the 1950s. And in the days leading up to a holiday, lines would form around the building as cars took up every conceivable parking spot — and some that were inconceivable.

But on Thursday the storefront was eerily quiet. While the name is still up on the building, it was deserted inside with the counter empty. All that remained were some products — sauces and McCormick & Co. breading among them — sitting atop the counter and in a small glass-doored cooler near one of the two entrances. The parking lot was empty and the sign thanked customers for their years of support in black plastic letters.

Underneath the sign was another one. This one belonging to CRES of Florida, the commercial real estate firm marketing the shopping center.

According to a profile on Loopnet that shows CRES as the listing agent, the 7,058-square-foot shopping center is on the market for $2.5 million. The listing shows up on several other commercial real estate websites as well.

The overview of the property on each of the webpages says that it could be repositioned or that a new owner “might want to redevelop this site.” It also asks — in all capitalized letters — that anyone interested in the property “please please” not bother the tenants. “They are not aware the property is for sale and we are trying to avoid disrupting their businesses.”

The center is owned by Cox Drug Store LLC according to Hillsborough County property records.



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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