A Panera Bread restaurant is slated to open next spring in the former Bluestein’s Building, at the corner of Gervais and Park streets, in the Vista.
“We just think the Vista’s a really, really good spot (with a) great audience,” said Bo Gdovin, operating partner for Southern Bread, a franchise that puts Panera Bread cafe-and-bakery restaurants in most of South Carolina and parts of Georgia.
The Vista has seen an increase in housing, retail and commercial development in the past couple of years. That growth drove Gdovin and his partners’ decision to open a restaurant there, he said.
The move brings another national chain to the entertainment district.
Urban Outfitters and Chipotle Mexican Grill opened there last year. The district typically has been home to locally owned stores including Bluestein’s Wholesale Dry Goods, which sold workingman’s clothes, towels and bulk socks for nearly 60 years at the soon-to-be Panera site before closing this summer.
“The Vista is able to support the national and the local character type of business,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which helps guide growth in the area. “You need a mix of all of those.”
Panera will make a substantial investment in the building, which is on a prime corner, Delk said.
“I do not think it will take away from local, high-end restaurants,” he said. “It's going to be a great lunchtime spot and a lower cost place for dinners.”
When neighborhoods end up with all national chains, they tend to become much less interesting, Delk said. But he doesn’t see that happening in the Vista.
“We have a really good, balanced mix of both, and that is continuing,” he said. “I don’t see that balance shifting to the national guys.”
Fewer than a third of the two dozen stores that opened in the Vista this year or will open in the coming months are national chains.
Panera is still in the permitting stage, but Gdovin said he hopes to have permits in hand by Christmas. It will take four to six months to renovate the building. The restaurant will be mirror the style of the Midlands’ newest Panera on Sunset Boulevard in Lexington, he said, except it will be bigger — about 4,900 square feet — and will not have a drive-through window.
Gdovin said he expects the location will lend itself to a high level of catering and a lot of foot traffic. The restaurant likely will have close to 20 parking spaces.
The restaurant will employ up to 60 people, Gdovin said, adding hiring will begin after the first of the year.
Christmas pecans, anyone?
Florence’s Young Plantations has opened temporary stores throughout the state and in Charlotte, offering holiday gift items. The company, one of the oldest holiday-gift companies in the Carolinas, specializes in pecan-related gifts.
The stores, including one in Columbiana Centre on Harbison Boulevard, also carry a variety of gift baskets, cheese biscuits and confections. They will be open through the end of the year.
The stores also will offer product samples so customers can “try before they buy,” according to a release.