COLUMBIA, SC — Eric Stockard was one of the first small business owners to take a chance on Main Street, moving his S&S Art Supply there from Rosewood Drive in 2010. That was before Mast General Store moved in, sparking a renaissance along the once-struggling corridor.
By the end of the year, though, S&S will close its doors at 1633 Main St., and Stockard will move on to other pursuits.
“We gave it a good run, and we had a lot of fun,” he said.
But the business was too small to compete with Internet sales and big-box retailers, Stockard said. Some customers would come in to browse the art supplies and then use their smart phones’ bar-code reader to find a better deal online – a practice known as “showrooming.”
That killed sales but also the camaraderie of an expert shopkeeper discussing his products with customers, Stockard said.
“When two back-to-school (shopping periods) in a row are basically a bust, the writing’s on the wall,” he said.
Stockard and his wife, Amanda Ladymon-Stockard – who is expecting their second child next spring – will close the store Dec. 20. Until then, they plan weekly sales to liquidate all of the store’s merchandise and fixtures.
“We stocked up just before back-to-school, so we have a lot of stuff,” he said, including a new line of children’s supplies introduced earlier this year.
Stockard said he will work for his father, Brian, who started the business with him – and since has opened two locations of The Cigar Box, one on Main Street and one on Rosewood Drive – and pursue other opportunities.
He still will be involved on Main Street, which has transformed in the three years since he opened his business there – drawing in a range of retailers, residents and offices.
Stockard is a board member of First Thursdays on Main, a nonprofit that hosts events that draw crowds to Main Street one night a month.
“I really, really hate to see them close,” said Matt Kennell, president and chief executive of the City Center Partnership which helps guide growth in the downtown business district. “Eric and his wife have been wonderful boosters for Main Street.”
While it is hard to see any store close, losing S&S is especially painful because “it’s exactly the kind of store we want on Main Street,” Kennell said. He said it brings a creative mix of people to the area that helps it thrive.
Meanwhile, the partnership will be working to fill the space that S&S now occupies, which Kennell said hits a “sweet spot” in the market.
“We have strong demand for small spaces,” he said. “We’re hoping it will get filled up pretty quick.”