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Trader Joe’s to open soon; Kmart closing store in Columbia

krupon@ thestate.comJanuary 25, 2013 

Trader Joe’s will open in Forest Acres in March or April, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

An exact opening date for the much-anticipated grocery store at 4502 Forest Drive has not been set, said Alison Mochizuki, but the facility is moving closer to completion.

This will be the quirky grocer’s first presence in the Midlands, coming on the heels of nearby Whole Foods’ entrance into the market. Both grocery chains have cult-like followings for their healthy fare and have stepped up the competition in the Midlands’ grocery scene.

Trader Joe’s sells a large selection of low-cost store-brand products. The Monrovia, Calif.-based chain says its foods are made with no MSG, artificial trans-fats, genetically modified ingredients or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. It also carries selections of vegetarian, gluten-free and kosher products.

The store already has locations in Greenville and Charleston. Remodeling began last summer on the 13,000-square-foot former Columbia Athletic Club, which the retailer converted into a one-story building.

Store officials had said the store opening likely would take place in the first three months of the year, but they now say it could be as late as April.

Chipotle opening in Vista

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open its third Columbia-area location this summer in the Vista.

Construction will begin in March on the restaurant at 619 Gervais St., the former site of a gas station, spokesman Chris Arnold said.

The “fast-casual” restaurant entered the Columbia market at Forest Acres’ Trenholm Plaza about three years ago, later opening a second location on Harbison Boulevard in the Irmo area.

Company officials chose the Vista for their third location based on a variety of factors, including its proximity to the University of South Carolina campus, and the mix of residential and office space in the area, Arnold said.

The roughly 2,000-square-foot store will employ about 25, he said.

Target expanding grocery selection

The Target store on Garners Ferry Road is being remodeled to offer a greater grocery selection. The Target in the Shoppes at Woodhill also will be redesigned over the next few months to the company’s PFresh format, a store manager, who declined to comment on the record, told customers.

The new concept will offer fresh produce and meats, as well as a fuller selection of grocery items. It will not offer a full grocery store as a SuperTarget would, but will give consumers more food options.

The renovations should be complete by the end of March.

Efforts to reach a corporate Target spokesperson this week were not successful.

Kmart closing in Irmo

Kmart will close its third store in three years. The chain once had six stores in the Midlands.

The Big K at 6169 St. Andrews Road in Irmo will close April 30 as its lease expires, shopping center owner John Baker said. The 100,000-square-foot store has been in that location close to 35 years, Baker said.

The retailer closed its store on Bush River Road in 2009 after about 35 years in that location. The building sat empty until recently when it was transformed into a church.

Less than a year ago, Kmart closed its store on Fort Jackson Boulevard after nearly fulfilling a 50-year lease. Baker – whose firm handles most of the Kmart shopping centers in the area – said his team is evaluating options for the Fort Jackson site. It is in a prime spot for retail redevelopment on the heels of the opening of a nearby Whole Foods-anchored shopping center. The spot has been mentioned as a possible site for a small, neighborhood Wal-Mart store.

The Kmart stores in West Columbia, Lexington and on Two Notch Road remain open. Leases for those stores expire within the next decade, Baker said. It is unclear if the leases will be renewed.

Typically, when the retailer has closed a store, it has liquidated merchandise through big markdowns. A store manager at the Irmo location could not answer questions about the closing, and efforts to reach a corporate spokesman Thursday were not successful.

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