Most of the stores still sit empty at the former Waccamaw Pottery off U.S. 501 a year after new owners took over, aiming to revive the old shopping center.
There are some physical changes — no more weeds, parking lots are lit up, a new roof — but there’s only a spattering of action in a couple of store spaces.
Landing new retailers and restaurants is taking longer than some officials had hoped, in part because of the still sputtering economy and the uncertainty last year surrounding the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, property manager Martin Durham said.
Durham envisions the complex, which he says will be called Waccamaw Center, being a hub for small shops selling clothes or ice cream and service businesses run by “people starting out with a new idea.”
“There is a market for a mall at a different level,” Durham said.
Interested tenants regularly call and check out the place as crews continue to make needed roof repairs and pressure wash buildings that were once slated for demolition before the failure of the nearby theme park nixed new development plans for the shopping center property.
“It’s just a matter of getting things shaped up,” Durham said. “By the end of this year, you will start to see a little more activity.”
The complex has three tenants, including the main draw in Imaginations costume store, and one on the way. A nightclub that opened last spring across from The Boathouse closed last summer.
The first new tenant since the nightclub, the Serra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is under construction and plans to open by the end of March.
Owner Frank Schauer is aiming to be part of the complex’s comeback, lured to open there by the low rent on the 5,000-square-foot space facing U.S. 501. The jiu jitsu center will have a full MMA cage to use for training for fights and weight room and offer women’s cardio kickboxing and kids classes.
“The price is right. It was a no-brainer for me,” said Schauer, who signed a three-year lease. “Hopefully it will help wake this place up.”
Schauer said he believes the shopping complex can succeed by filling up with businesses that folks plan to go to, ones that don’t rely on drive-by traffic.
During its heyday, the shopping complex attracted throngs of tourists, a go-to destination for some during their vacations along the Grand Strand. It was known as Waccamaw Pottery, then Waccamaw Factory Shoppes.