As store manager Jennifer Worley walked through the produce section of the new Walmart Neighborhood Market at 3533 Broad River Road, she stopped to remind employees how to stack red leaf lettuce in the display counter.
Opened in February, Wal-Mart’s small-format grocery with some 41,000 square feet under roof is one of the newest retail outlets to arrive in the Midlands, and Worley and her staff aim to make a good first impression.
Indeed, it seems that almost every week there’s a new grocery, bar, restaurant or pizza joint announcing a grand opening.
“Retailers are expanding at high velocity given the improving economy and increased consumer spending, driving the greatest level of construction seen in recent years,” according to a Colliers International retail space report by Jessica Rahal, research coordinator.
The investment of retailers, many of whom are opening their first locations or expanding within the market, is putting a squeeze on available space. That has prompted new construction and redevelopments while rental rates – specifically for junior anchor and shop space – are climbing, Colliers reported.
At year-end the vacancy rate for the Columbia market was 8.5% compared with 8.7% for the end of 2014. However, the slight change in vacancy “is misleading as many retailers are preleasing space in planned and newly constructed shopping centers,” the report said. “Also, a majority of the retail space remaining vacant is located in older shopping centers.”
Columbia appears to offer plenty of potential for retailers wanting to grow their business.
“We’ve been looking in Columbia for a while,” said Robert Maynard, CEO and co-founder of the N.C.-based Famous Toastery, which will open its first Midlands breakfast restaurant in the former Moe Levy’s building at Lady and Assembly streets. “We’ve been watching downtown for some time and we’ve really seen a transformation down there.”
Another newcomer to the market is Newk’s Eatery, which in November opened at 707-A Gervais St. in the Vista’s City Market redevelopment. Also located in the redevelopment are two other newcomers to the market, Grill Marks and The Wired Goat. A brewery remains under construction and additional space is available for retail or office use.
The Columbia market is ripe with potential for Newk’s, said Chris Newcomb, co-founder and CEO.
“We believe our re-thinking of fast-casual — with an emphasis on dynamic flavor, supremely fresh ingredients and creative, homemade recipes — will appeal to Columbia’s families, downtown workers, food enthusiasts and die-hard Gamecock community,” Newcomb told the Shelby Report, a publication for the food and grocery industry.
Although Wal-Mart superstores have been in the Columbia area for decades, the Broad River location is the first of three Neighborhood Markets the national retailer plans to open in Richland and Lexington counties. Other neighborhood stores are being built at Knox Abbott and Charleston Highway in Cayce and at the intersection of Old Barnwell and Emanuel Church roads in Lexington County. In November, the company opened a Neighborhood Market in Sumter.
“Our Neighborhood Market stores give our customers quick and easy access to a wide variety of affordable products – fresh produce, a full grocery department with a bakery and deli,” said spokesman Phil Keene.
Wal-Mart launched the Neighborhood Markets concept in 1998 as a smaller-footprint option and operates more than 600 Neighborhood Markets, said the stores average 38,000 square feet and employ approximately 95 workers.
Here are other highlights from the Colliers retail report of what’s happening around the area:
- West End Alley is under construction across the street at the 700 and 800 blocks of Gervais Street. City Bar and Fondue will be joining the new restaurant at the development. Additional tenants include Wet Willie’s, Tsunami and Rocketman.
- Exterior renovations have been approved for the former fire station in the Vista near the University of South Carolina Alumni Center. The building will offer up to 35,000 square feet of commercial space.
- A Kroger Marketplace is under construction at Killian’s Crossing at I-77 and Killian Road. Other tenants at Killian’s Crossing include Chick-fil-A, Applebee’s, McDonald’s, and Panda Express. The lifestyle center is located at I-77 and Killian Road and offers 400 acres of retail, residential, and commercial space.
- The Fresh Market plans to open a new store at Two Notch Road and Forest Avenue, near the Village at Sandhill. The 25,000-square-foot store will anchor a new 37,000-square-foot center to be called The Shoppes at Two Notch and is expected to open in the fall.
- Landmark Square Shopping Center at I-77 and Garners Ferry Road recently underwent a major facelift. Ross Dress for Less and Burke’s Outlet are the shopping center’s newest tenants. Goodwill, which is also located at the center, is expanding its store.
- A redevelopment also was completed this year on Park Terrace Drive in the Harbison Boulevard retail corridor. The retail center is anchored by Guitar Center and Academy Sports. Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza recently opened its first South Carolina restaurant at the location. Additional retailers include Salsarita’s, Sports Clips, and Title Boxing Club.
- A new retail center is complete at Forest Drive and Percival Road. Tijuana Flats recently opened its first Columbia location at the development. Other tenants include Panera Bread, Wing Stop, PetCo, and Mattress Firm.
- Costco is building a store at Piney Grove and Fernandina roads near the Harbison shopping district.
- Construction has begun on a new Sam’s Club at Fashion Drive and Forum Drive in the Village at Sandhill. The 136,000-square-foot warehouse superstore will be the company’s third Columbia location.
- A 108-room Aloft hotel is under construction on Lady Street across from the new Hyatt Place hotel.
- The Clarion Hotel on Gervais Street is being converted into a dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn/Home2 Suites hotel. Upon completion, the hotel will offer 230 guest rooms.
Published in Feb. 15, 2016 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report