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Mars Music, a Tampa, Fla.-based retailer is hitting the West Coast this year with interactive, 25,000- to 30,000-sf stores that sell fun along with musical instruments, recording equipment and pro audio gear.

Each store includes a fully-operational stage for performances and clinics, a recording studio and a learnings center offering individual, group, and master-level instruction. The company currently 35 superstores in 27 major markets in 17 states, and is opening 10-to-14 stores a year. Sales in 1999 topped $200 million.

Dennis Haffeman, vice president of operations for the company, acknowledged the company’s West Coast push, but would only talk about signed leases, saying a store would open in South Orange County at the end of the month. Another company source says the company will open stores in Seattle and Portland this year as well, but could not provide specific locations.

The likley Seattle site remains elusive, but Portland real estate sources say a Mars Music will lease space in Mall 205, purchased last year by Center Oaks Development and about to undergo substantial renovation.

Mars Music was founded in 1996 when Mark Begelman, the former head Office Club (Chairman & CEO, 1986-1991) and Office Depot (President & COO, 1991-1995), purchased Ace Music, a 4-store chain in South Florida. At Mars Music, Begelman pulls triple duty: Chairman, CEO, and lead guitar in the company band, Men from Mars.

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