Business

Farmers Market to stay put a little longer

4/29/08, Columbia, SC: Assorted vegetables, both from in-state and out-of-state, at the Columbia State Farmers Market on Bluff Road.  A recent survey revealed that only about twenty per cent of the produce at the market is grown in South Carolina.  Jeff Blake/jblake@thestate.com
4/29/08, Columbia, SC: Assorted vegetables, both from in-state and out-of-state, at the Columbia State Farmers Market on Bluff Road. A recent survey revealed that only about twenty per cent of the produce at the market is grown in South Carolina. Jeff Blake/jblake@thestate.com

The State Farmers Market on Bluff Road will remain open for a few more months.

The state Department of Agriculture granted tenants a month-to-month lease extension because construction of a new market in Lexington County is running behind schedule.

And the added time will provide a little longer final bow for the Biscuit House, a institution on Bluff Road since the 1970s.

The new market is expected to open by late June, developer George Lee said. Frequent rain the past few months has made it difficult to pour footing and pave roads, he said.

"We'll be ready when God wants us to be ready," Lee said. "We need to do a 'no rain' dance."

The leases at the market near Williams-Brice Stadium were expiring Feb. 28. The department will give 30-day notices prior to asking tenants to leave, agriculture department spokeswoman Becky Walton said.

"We want the transition to be as quick and efficient as possible," she said. "We will be communicating with the tenants in a timely manner and frequently."

Large wholesale vendors are building their own facilities, and Lee said all the facilities - wholesalers, farmers shed and retail space - will open on the same date.

Biscuit House owner Gene Sansbury said he's glad he will be able to stay open a little while longer, but he still plans to close the store and retire when his lease runs out.

"I'll be 61 next month and it doesn't make sense for me to relocate," he said. "But I would love for someone to take over the business."

To mark the closing, USC junior Lindsey Downen made a video called "The Final Days of Biscuit House."

Downen, of Annandale, Va., said she drove by the restaurant frequently, but never stopped there until she learned it was closing. After a visit she decided to make a video for her photojournalism final.

"It was an amazing, interesting story," Downen said. "It's such a great place and the people are so friendly. It's really sad that it's closing."

The farmers market land was purchased by USC last year and will be used for parking and other functions once vacated. The purchase included the present state agriculture building, which also houses Sansbury's Biscuit House.

The new market's official grand opening was scheduled for April during the Midlands Spring Plant and Flower Festival.

The festival will be held April 15-18 in the watermelon shed at the current market on Bluff Road.

The new market will be much different from the old one. Located between U.S. 321 and I-26 near Dixiana, the $85 million market will be 2 1/2 times as large as the old market. By comparison, it's the size of seven Walmart Supercenters combined.

In addition to the usual wholesale facilities, farmers' sheds and retail and greenhouse areas, the market will boast:

- A 400-seat amphitheater

- A 200-seat conference center

- A demonstration kitchen

- A large event sign and RV park to draw people off the interstate

- And a fishmonger, meat market and restaurant.

The developers also are building a series of retail stalls called The Porches and The Stables that will rent for about the same price as stalls at the old Farmers Market.

The state also is building $5.5 million in farmers' stalls, a produce shed and additional offices to feature S.C. products and promote the department's "Certified South Carolina Grown" campaign.

  Comments