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Fort Myers is about to get a new major player in the retail furniture game — and an overhaul of a bedraggled shopping center to boot.

El Dorado Furniture purchased Colonial Plaza on Cleveland Avenue in December for $9 million and intends to open a 70,000-square-foot store there in mid-2013, said chief operating officer Pedro Capo, a member of the family of Cuban emigrants who founded the chain 45 years ago.

“For the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been making deliveries in Southwest Florida,” he said. “People there were coming to our stores, so it makes sense for us to place a store in that area.”

Besides, he said, “There happened to be a very good price for the shopping center” and it was a good place to open a store.

Southwest Florida’s economy was hit hard by the real estate bust, but that’s not entirely a bad thing, Capo said. “By having so many stores go out of business on the West Coast, a lot of empty buildings that used to sell furniture. There’s the opportunity to sell furniture.”

Colonial Plaza is half empty and in need of refurbishing so El Dorado intends to “redo the entire center, not just El Dorado,” he said. “We’ll do landscaping and upgrades before we actually put our brand in there. It’s an investment in the community.”

When the store opens, it will provide customers a unique shopping experience, Capo said.

When a customer first walks in, “You don’t find furniture. That’s what you expect but you find facades, old-fashioned light poles,” with merchandise on “streets” devoted to different lifestyles. “It’s just like being in a small Disney World.”

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