Urban Outfitters putting ‘funky socks’ on Vista’s feet

Urban Outfitters opens its newest hipster haven Thursday in Columbia’s Vista.

For the uninitiated, the store sells men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and home décor. But it also is an everything-old-is-cool-again store – from its vintage Miles Davis and Rolling Stones records to its graphic T-shirt, featuring the Kelly Kapowski character from the ’90s hit TV show “Saved by the Bell.”

Urban Outfitters is the latest in a string of much-sought-after national chains to open in Columbia since Mast General Store took a chance on Main Street two years ago, kick-starting revitalization efforts. Since then, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s grocery stores have opened. Lululemon also has announced plans to open on Devine Street, and Costco is close to closing a deal to locate on Piney Grove Road.

“We’re excited,” Sarah Lewis, executive director of the Congaree Vista Guild, said of Urban Outfitters’ opening.

Having a popular national retailer open in the Vista is confirmation the area is vibrant and growing, she said.

“Our hope is that Urban Outfitters will be very successful and other national retailers will be eying them and will want to follow,” Lewis said. “We can sustain them.”

Located at 912 Gervais St., the store has 45 employees, including six full-time workers, said Daniel Sawyer, Southeastern district manager. The chain has one other store in South Carolina, in Charleston.

The Vista store — which will host a variety of grand-opening activities Saturday — is in an 83-year-old building. Remodelers retained its brick walls and exposed wooden beams, adding lighting and funky décor to enhance merchandise displays.

A seating area in the center of the 10,000-square-foot store features a vintage couch and chair, and various fixtures are reused items or were built by a store set-up team. The store has seven dressing rooms with newly painted or reclaimed doors.

The store’s core customer base is expected to be students at the nearby University of South Carolina and other schools. But it also likely will attract younger students and young adults with its eclectic mix of clothing, home décor and novelty items.

Take the ceramic purple unicorn, for example, or 1.5-pound box of strawberry and grape Nerds candy or mugs with irreverent sayings. Or maybe you’re more in the market for the “Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy & Broke” or a $10 box of hair chalk for temporary color changes?

The retailer is more serious – for the most part – about its fashion with denim jackets, vintage-esque dresses, and Vans and Converse shoes. It also features brands such as BDG, Ecote and Silence + Noise.

Shoppers also will find men’s boxer shorts marked “fragile” and socks plastered with images of hot sauce bottles.

“Everybody loves funky socks,” Sawyer said.