Hundreds of customers turned out Thursday for the 8:30 a.m. opening of Columbias first Whole Foods.
The organic grocer, which has been looking for a spot in the Columbia market for the better part of a decade, had a bread breaking rather than a ribbon cutting in Cross Hill Market, with dance performances and a speech by Mayor Steve Benjamin.
How about this, Columbia? Benjamin said to the shouts of the crowd.
Benjamin said the center on Fort Jackson Boulevard at Devine Street is an example of how developers can adapt existing in-town properties to make something special for shoppers and the community. The highly anticipated Whole Foods and Cross Hill Market are just one part of an in-town revitalization that is being felt from Forest Acres to Main Street, the Vista to Southeast Richland. Its time for our present to meet our potential, Benjamin said.
When the doors opened at 8:45 a.m., shoppers started stocking up on opening day specials.
Judy Rubinson of West Columbia had a cart stocked with more than 30 pounds of grass-fed ground beef that was on sale for $2.99 a pound; it is usually $7.99 a pound. She is a regular shopper at 14 Carrot in Lexington and goes once a month to Earth Fare and Rosewood Market to stock up on specials. She plans to add Whole Foods to her rotation.
Were very into the Whole Foods lifestyle, she said. Thats how we eat every day.
Others were there hoping to win one of the gift cards the retailer was raffling off for opening day festivities. Gary Votour of Columbia was in line to see if he had won. But he planned on doing some shopping regardless.
Votour shopped at Whole Foods in Boston before moving to South Carolina 11/2 years ago. He was happy he would be able to get the grocers tuna salad again, in particular.
Amanda Dawson recently relocated to Elgin from San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, a soldier at Fort Jackson, and their nearly 2-year-old son, Luke.
While she will shop the bases commissary for most of her groceries, including some organic food, she said she likes to get her produce at Whole Foods, especially fresh berries to feed her son.
Dawson who moved here two week ago said she was happy she didnt have to wait long for Whole Foods to open. When she heard it was opening, I was like, Im going to be there with bells on.
A mass of new merchants
Many eyes were on Whole Foods Thursday, as the popular organic grocer opened its first Midlands store. Several smaller retailers also have opened in Cross Hill Market with more to come. A look:
• M Boutique opened Tuesday. Local entrepreneur Emily Garrett had been looking for a new location to move her womens clothing shop because her Devine Street lease was expiring.
We had been doing some research in other areas, she said. Then, the Edens development group approached her about Cross Hill. We were excited about being in a new center that had more of an anchor to give us more exposure. It kind of just fell into place.
At 1,520 square feet, the store is about the same size as Garretts previous location, but she expects to diversify her customer base at the new location so she has brought in a range of new lines. We have definitely changed our mix.
Garrett kept her bread and butter collections affordable, trendy collections, including Joes Jeans and French Connection. But she also brought in some more upscale lines, including Michael Stars and Max and Cleo, a dress division of BCBG. She also expanded her accessories section, including handbags, belts, jewelry and candles.
We walk a fine line to cater to a lot of ages, she said.
• Nadeau Furniture opened Saturday. The 3,900-square-foot store with the tagline Furniture with a Soul imports handcrafted furniture from India and Indonesia, store manager Ryan Reynolds said.
It features mainly non-upholstered items, such as dining tables, bookshelves, china cabinets and end tables, he said. A lot of it is one-of-a-kind type pieces.
The retailer has stores in Charleston, Savannah and Charlotte. It chose to locate in Columbia as the economy begins to rebound because it seemed like a good fit, spokeswoman Franci Kneller said.
The customers are savvy and trendy, and seem to be a good match for our furniture, she said. We chose Cross Hill Market because it is a great new addition to the neighborhood, providing the locals with a new retail experience with a great mix of stores. We love how they have used the existing buildings and converted the site to fit the urban neighborhood and are excited to be a part of this new center.
• Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa will open next week, but its workers were giving previews on the sidewalk outside the store Thursday during Whole Foods opening celebration.
The retailer is a franchise of basically day-spa services that are targeted to the middle market, president and chief executive Todd Leff said.
Hand & Stone offers a membership to consumers who get discounts for committing to one massage or facial each month. For $49 a month, they get a massage or a facial. A typical day spa might charge $90 to $100 for those services, Leff said.
The retailer, managed locally by Will Dennis, has been able to grow during a down economy growing to 90 stores from 25 in 2009 because it offers an escape from an increasingly stressful world, Leff said.
People will spend $50 to escape for an hour. They may not be able to afford that $3,000 vacation anymore, he said. This is their time away.
Ulta, a makeup and beauty shop chain, opened Thursday alongside Whole Foods. It is the chains second Midlands location, joining its Village at Sandhill store.
Soon to open
• Charleston Cooks will open in two weeks. The Charleston-based store is branching out to Columbia to sell its kitchen and cooking goods. It will also offer classes and demonstrations.
• Jamie Scott Fitness is set to open in early December. The gym is run by personal trainer and former USC football player Jamie Scott. It is relocating from Rosewood Drive.
• Restaurants American Roadside Burger and Tazikis Mediterranean Cafe also are set to open in December.
• Basil Thai Cuisine will open in January. The restaurant will be brothers Henry and Chai Eangs first venture outside the Lowcountry.