Whole Foods Market will open in about three weeks at the new Cross Hill Market. The opening comes as commercial real estate begins a resurgence in an improving Midlands economy.
The long-anticipated natural-foods grocer plans to open for business at 9 a.m. Oct. 25. The store is the centerpiece of a redeveloped shopping center near where Devine Street becomes Garners Ferry Road.
The shopping center will be filled with like-minded retailers, many also new to the Columbia market, including Charleston Cooks, a Charleston-based retail kitchen store that also offers cooking classes, and Nadeau Furniture, which sells handcrafted “furniture with a soul.”
“We have come up with a really, really good unique tenant mix,” said Lyle Darnall, managing director for Edens development group, a major East Coast shopping center developer, based in Columbia, that is redeveloping the center. “It’s fun for the market.”
Whole Foods’ presence also could help stimulate further growth in the area, said Marianne Bickle, director of the University of South Carolina’s Center for Retailing.
“Retailers in the future … will start coming into that area,” Bickle said. “That will help the economic growth of the Columbia area.”
Whole Foods will appeal to a cross-section of the community – from college students to established professionals – who will keep coming back to the grocery store, improving foot traffic for nearby stores.
“This is going to be really good for the other retailers that are right next to it,” Bickle said. “It’s good for long-term business.”
In large part, other retailers already have seized on the possibilities.
The center is filled with stores that are preparing to open about the same time as Whole Foods: M Boutique, Ulta cosmetics store, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial, Jamie Scott Fitness, Charleston Cooks and Nadeau Furniture, according to Darnall. He said specific opening dates for those stores have not been set.
American Roadside Burger and Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe should open within about a month after Whole Foods, he said. The Basil Thai Cuisine restaurant is slated to open in the first part of 2013.
Edens started working on bringing Whole Foods to the Columbia market in 2004, but hit some stumbling blocks along the way. Several years ago, the developer hatched a plan to get Whole Foods interested as the anchor tenant in the former Kroger shopping center, which Edens wanted to turn into a special shopping destination.
Now, as the economy begins to improve, the plan is turning into reality.
“The economy is certainly getting better,” Darnall said. “We knew what we wanted to go in the shopping center. We just stayed after it. … After a while, all the patience pretty much paid off.”