Cromer’s, the throwback popcorn, peanut and cotton candy sensation since 1936, will move to North Main Street later this year.
“This is the end of the moving,” said Carolette Cromer Turner, granddaughter of Julian Cromer, the Lexington County farmer who founded Cromer’s Peanuts. The move to North Main from Huger Street will be the company’s third since 2003.
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In the new location, Cromer’s will showcase its production work as part of the customer experience, bringing out in the open the steel vats used to boil vast amounts of peanuts as well as the daylong work of popping corn and making cotton candy. There will be a dedicated retail space for shopping, along with counter service for customers and a sit-down dining area.
“What you see today is going to change; it’s going to be very different and it’s going to be more of a return to the classic fun of Cromer’s like it used to be on Assembly Street, with some new things, too,” said Chris Turner, Carolette’s son.
Cromer’s operated for 40 years on Assembly Street downtown before moving in 2003.
Turner, the company president, and her two sons Chris and Rob recently consolidated Cromer’s ownership among themselves. Chris has a background in software and professional sales and Rob is a Columbia attorney.
The trio has purchased a vacant 12,600-square-foot building on North Main at the trestle. They plan to open in their new location later this year – in August or September.
“This is a really big move for us as a company,” said Chris Turner, co-director of the company, who said the group has mulled over Cromer’s future for about two years.
Started in a shelter at the State Fairgrounds, Cromer’s was facing an “existential crisis,” Turner said. A tenant in the Cogdill flooring building on Huger Street for the past 10 years, Cromer’s lease was expiring and the family had to decide whether to continue in the business, or, if not, then what to do with the company, Chris Turner said.
The trio formulated a new business concept. At the end of an 18-month search, they rallied around a new location, 3036 N. Main St., a primary city thoroughfare.
North Main Street runs through one of the most up-and-coming areas of town and is comprised of a mix of established residential neighborhoods and a variety of industrial warehouse space that rapidly is being re-purposed for alternative uses from traditional retail to craft beer breweries and bars.
“It’s ideal for us,” Chris Turner said of the new site. It offers the company the vast amount of space it needs to cook peanuts and make popcorn. “We also wanted a fun and exciting kind of retail space there,” Turner said.
Cromer’s business is about 50 percent retail and 50 percent wholesale, Chris Turner said, with wholesale up about 30 percent in the past year. Online sales, at www.cromers.com, also are up, he said. Longterm, Cromer’s will look to put locations in outlying retail centers within the Columbia area, or even outside the metro area, Turner said.
Last year, Cogdill’s put its building at 1700 Huger St. up for sale, announcing its intent to move to a smaller structure. While the property has attracted some interest, it remains on the market, according to Colliers International.
Cromer’s was located on Assembly Street downtown for 40 or so years, suffering a fire in 1993 that destroyed the warehouse and retail business, said Carolette Turner.
The family rebuilt in the same spot, but declining health and flagging enthusiasm in the Assembly Street business district caused Cromer’s to move the business to its warehouse location on Berea Street near Williams-Brice Stadium.
That move proved to be too far out of the way, Turner said, and the business suffered. That and the advent of the student housing boom in that area caused Cromer’s to move back downtown, to the Cogdill building.
“Each time we moved, there was a reason for the move,” Carolette Turner said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398