Looks like interest in the regional department store business is starting to pick up. Earlier this week, we had Federated Stores (NYSE:FD) collecting ink after it made the interesting, questionable, and expensive decision to scrap all its local brand names in favor of going national with the Macy's brand; yesterday we had shares of California's Gottschalks (NYSE:GOT) popping up more than 22% on news of impressive earnings growth projections.

Gottschalks clearly is one company that doesn't need a glitzy moniker to deliver lip-smacking numbers. The company, which turns 100 years old tomorrow -- and will commemorate the achievement with its CEO ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange to herald the coming of the weekend -- said yesterday that it expects 50% year-over-year EPS growth through 2006.

A bit more granularity on those numbers: Management is telling investors to expect annual same-store sales growth of 2% to 3% and revenue growth north of 3%. Gross margins are expected to increase as Gottschalks increases sales of private-label merchandise. Store renovation and expansion is scheduled to restart next year. And there will be expansion -- but only slightly, and only in markets that are growing and, to use a "yuck" word, synergistic.

A company that churns out solid net profits -- and ample free cash flows -- while growing carefully (which, naturally, helps cash flows because capital expenditures are kept on a leash) and has significantly less debt than cash? No wonder investors are watching it so closely. One wonders whether competitors looking for acquisition candidates aren't doing the same.

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Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.