Urban Outfitters confirmed Thursday that it will bring its first Midlands store to the Vista’s Gervais Street after scouting the area for about five years.
The ultra-hip clothing and home goods store is slated to open in July at 912 Gervais, an 83-year-old building.
“The building is completely unique and fits the Urban Outfitters aesthetic with its rich history and old beam ceilings,” John Hauser, director of stores for Urban Outfitters, said in an email. “We like to let cool buildings dictate the store design, and, with this particular location, we stripped away layers of the building to reveal its natural beauty.”
The company considered other areas, including Main Street, but decided on the Vista for its “great energy,” accessibility and proximity to the University of South Carolina, Hauser said. College students and young professionals are the retailer’s core customer base.
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“It’s another example of how downtown Columbia is on the radar of some top-flight regional and national retailers,” said Matt Kennell, president of City Center Partnership, which promotes growth in the city core.
That movement started largely when Mast General Store opened its first Midlands’ location along Main Street less than two years ago. As the economy began to improve, Columbia landed its first Whole Foods, which opened near downtown last fall. Trader Joe’s also confirmed Thursday that its opening date for its first store in the market, on nearby Forest Drive, will be March 22.
Urban Outfitters is another store long coveted by Columbia residents, who had become accustomed to seeing major retailers choose Greenville and Charleston to enter South Carolina. The Philadelphia-based retailer already has a store in Charleston.
“That shows that Columbia has moved up a notch in the retail world,” said Kennell, predicting it will be “much easier” for the area to attract major national retailers once it has a stable of them doing well here. “It’s sort of a spinoff effect.”
Urban Outfitters will begin remodeling its 10,000-square-foot Vista store this month. Hiring of about 25 employees will start in June. The retailer visited Columbia last year as part of its traveling store tour, setting up a pop-up store – a shipping container that unfolds into a retail location – for four days about two blocks away from its new location.
“This allows us to get a feel for the community and host fun events to create some noise and get the word about Urban Outfitters out there,” Hauser said.
The retailer tailors each of its stores to reflect the community it is in and meet the needs of local customers, officials said. Columbia’s store will carry a range of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, as well as home, music and lifestyle products.
“We are very excited to bring Urban Outfitters to a great city like Columbia,” Hauser said. “We love the area and look forward to being a part of the community.”