Living Here Guide

Cool shops, trendy retailers call Columbia home

Cool retailers are hot on Columbia.

Just a few years ago, many Midlands-area shoppers were asking “why not us?” as Greenville and Charleston scored sought-after national brands that skipped this area.

But Columbia is coming into its own, landing in the past 12 months such hot shops as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Designer Shoe Warehouse — and coming soon, Urban Outfitters and Costco.

The trend started when Mast General Store two years ago opened its second South Carolina location on Columbia’s Main Street in the midst of a revitalization.

Just a month later, Whole Foods announced it would anchor a new upscale shopping center on Fort Jackson Boulevard.

As the economic recovery has gained steam over the past two years, the area has scored Academy Sports, HomeGoods and Quaker Steak & Lube.

Columbia still can’t check off of its list Costco, an Apple store or Cheesecake Factory. And shoppers will still have to drive 100 miles to Charleston to shop H&M when it opens there this fall. But the city’s cool quotient is ratcheting up.

And don’t discount those local innovative entrepreneurs who make Columbia’s retail and restaurant scene unique.

Five Points, a funky urban village, has everything from consignment shops to Papa Jazz, the city’s coolest music store, while the Devine Street area in Shandon offers boutique clothing and specialty shops.

Gwen Rawls brings an Italian flair to Trenholm Plaza with her upscale shoe boutique, which features Roberto Cavalli, Loriblu, as well as her own specialty line.

And coming later this year, Kristian Niemi’s Bourbon will bring a taste of the French Quarter to the burgeoning culinary cluster around Main Street.