ISSUES 2014: Columbia’s restaurant and retail renaissance

December 31, 2013 

Kristian Niemi will turn the former Capitol City Cafe in the historic Brennen Building on Main Street into a New Orleans-themed restaurant and bar called Bourbon.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

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For years, Columbia shoppers asked, “why not us?” as they stood back and watched all of the cool national chains go to the Upstate and the Lowcountry. Greenville’s Main Street blossomed. Charleston’s downtown dining scene gained national attention. Columbia struggled to attract hot retailers or restaurants.

That began to change in the past couple of years, starting with the opening of the country cool Mast General Store along Main Street. Whole Foods followed in the Devine Street area and then Trader Joe’s in Forest Acres. Urban Outfitters opened in the Vista. Marshall’s Home Goods came to Northeast Richland and the Harbison area. A Charleston restaurateur opened The Oak Table across from the State House. You get the idea.

Columbia is in the midst of its turning point.

The city is poised in 2014 to attract even more shopping and dining options:

•  Hot Columbia chef Kristian Niemi will open Bourbon – a Cajun/Creole-influenced restaurant and bourbon-based cocktail bar – in a renovated historic building along Main Street. A dozen other restaurants recently opened or are planning to open along the corridor.

•  Warehouse retail giant Costco came close to landing in the Harbison area. And while the deal fell through in recent weeks, some say there is a chance the store still might find a home in the Capitol City.

•  Rumors continue to swirl that Columbia will get an Apple store, which sells and services the company’s popular iPads and iPhones. Some say it’s not a matter of if a store will open here, but when.

As the economy continues to improve and the unemployment rate edges toward normal, Columbia should expect some surprises in the coming year.

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