Leaders in The Vista hope more retail stores will follow an influx of students as housing projects begin sprouting in the area in the next couple of years.
Planned projects could add housing for 2,500 more students to the thriving shopping, dining and entertainment district. And several stores and restaurants already are opening to take advantage of its burgeoning population, Congaree Vista Guild leaders said during a media breakfast Wednesday.
“We are excited to see more retail that goes after the student business,” said Sarah Lewis, executive director of the guild, which helps guide growth in the area, during the event at Le Peep, a breakfast, lunch and brunch restaurant that recently relocated to the Vista from Northeast Richland’s Village at Sandhill.
Among the newest offerings:• Entourage, a store selling women’s clothing, shoes and accessories will open at the beginning of March at 701 Lady St., with eight to 10 employees. It is the Athens, Ga.,-based chain’s sixth store. All of its items will cost $42 or less. The store’s aim is to offer stylish, affordable clothing for a range of consumers in a rustic setting (think wooden farmhouse benches in a repurposed building), district manager Kristen Alexander said.
Black Bean Co., which bills itself as an “energy food restaurant,” will open in April at 701 Gervais St. The Charleston-based eatery sells health, vegan and natural organic food, according to its website. Its three Charleston-area restaurants sell a range of wraps, salads and sides, ranging from $3.50 for 8 ounces of couscous or pasta salad to $7.95 to $9.95 for wraps and $5.95 to $10.95 for salads.• Carolina Couture, a bridal store, has opened at 929 Gervais St. The company also has a location at Village at Sandhill, which will stay open, Lewis said.
• Nonnah’s is still in the process of remodeling 930 Gervais St., across from its former location, to expand. The Homegrown Hospitality Group, formerly TBonz, out of Charleston, still has not announced what new restaurant will open in Nonnah’s place. However, Vista leaders said that restaurant should open by August.
Shop Around reported in November that the restaurant chain – which owns Liberty Tap Room and Pearlz in the Vista and Rioz Brazilian steakhouse in the Harbison area – is planning a new restaurant for the Vista, but owners said it would be premature then to announce the new concept.
Homegrown has several brands that are not currently in the Midlands, including Italian restaurant Capriz, Flying Fish and Kaminsky’s Baking Co., according to its website.
Efforts to reach the owners Wednesday were unsuccessful.• Music Farm at the Roof is still on track to open in late spring or early summer, according to Bob Franklin, president of Tin Roof, which is partnering with Charleston’s Music Farm on the venue. Construction could begin on the concert hall and beer garden as early as next week, he said. It will be located in a vacant warehouse adjacent to The Tin Roof at 1022 Senate St.
Vista leaders said they will work hard to maintain the Vista’s unique, artistic vibe even as new retailers open and students move into the neighborhood en masse.
Larry Hembree, board president of the Vista Guild and managing director of Trustus Theater, said leaders want the area to be a place where customers can park and then walk to attractions, such as dinner and a show. They are considering ways to shuttle visitors from the Vista to Main Street to Five Points – and, eventually, possibly even the nascent Bull Street development.
He said the Trustus also is considering adding a piano bar within the next 18 months for patrons to enjoy after shows.
As the area comes into its own, Hembree said he was reminded of a quotation from the Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”