What we lost
Some reading enthusiasts were stunned at the beginning of the year when Books-A-Million in Forest Acres’ Trenholm Plaza announced it would close just weeks after Barnes & Noble shuttered its prominently located store on Harbison Boulevard. The closings — along with one earlier in 2013 — left the Midlands with just three bookstores that sell predominantly new books. With the rise in online shopping and e-reading, don’t look for larger chain bookstores to make a comeback.
Oldies but goodies
As downtown Columbia undergoes massive changes, the city lost two retail institutions. Moe Levy’s — known for its Levi’s jeans and skiwear — closed its doors after 94 years in business at the corner of Lady and Assembly streets and removed its iconic lighted sign. Columbia businessman Ben Arnold bought the majority of that block and is looking to bring in a national retailer. Nearby, at the corner of Gervais and Park streets in the Vista, Bluestein’s Wholesale Dry Goods — which sold a mix of workman’s clothes, big and tall T-shirts, and hotel linens — shut down after nearly six decades. A Panera Bread is slated to open in that spot next year.
Major department stores
Troubled department store chain Sears closed its location at the thriving Columbiana Centre mall on Harbison Boulevard early in the year. Within weeks, Belk department store had announced it will expand its flagship store at the mall, taking over part of the former Sears space to open a standalone men’s store. Later in the year, however, Belk confirmed it would close its large department store at Dutch Square Center, leaving that mall more than half vacant.
What we gained
Columbia’s list of desirable national retailers continued to grow in 2014. J.Crew and Anthropolgie both opened this fall in Trenholm Plaza in the former Books-A-Million and added to the area’s mix of upscale clothing and home furnishings. Regional retailer Scout & Molly’s also opened in the center, selling women’s clothing and accessories. Across town on Harbison Boulevard, Nordstrom Rack opened in the former Barnes & Noble to bringing an outlet of famed department store. But the Midlands lost out on getting its first Costco when a deal to bring the discount warehouse retailer to Piney Grove Road fell through after the developer didn’t get the tax breaks it wanted from Richland County.
The Midlands gained a number of independent stores or small regional chains this year, including Wood You, a natural wood retailer on Decker Boulevard aiming to fill a void left by the closing of Forest Acres’ Good Wood. Also among those small retailers opening this year: Catch and Release Sportsman Consignment in Parkland Plaza in Cayce; Tomahawk Fishing Shop on Harden Street in Five Points; Palmetto Moon in Northeast Richland’s Village at Sandhill; Clothes Mentor on Harbison Boulevard; and Monkee’s boutique on Devine Street.
A new mall owner
Columbia Place Mall on Two Notch Road at Parklane Road got a new owner in 2014 and could see some big changes next year. Moonbeam Capital Investments bought the struggling mall this fall as it was headed toward foreclosure. Company officials say they are experts at reviving distressed properties and turning them into shopping and entertainment destinations. The company has promised to take an aggressive turnaround approach. The company has transformed other malls by bringing in entertainment options, such as bowling or laser tag, and by mixing retail and office uses.