One of the most active blocks in downtown Columbia is welcoming eight new businesses in a short period of time, turning up the energy level even higher.
The 1600 block of Main Street already has set itself apart as possibly the coolest 500 feet in town. It’s got an indie movie theater. An eclectic regional general store. A specialty ice cream shop. A wine parlor. A vegan restaurant. Yoga and Pilates studios. A boutique cigar store. An indoor/outdoor cafe. An arts center. A pocket park.
And now? A just-opened event venue. A bakeshop and another on the way. A restaurant built around fried chicken and champagne. A women’s clothing shop. A web development company. A boutique bowling alley. And a marketplace with items ranging from handbags to bowties to board games.
“I just think that people are recognizing the coolness of that area,” said Matt Kennell, CEO of the City Center Partnership, which promotes development in the central business district.
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These new businesses have just opened in the 1600 block of Main in the past month:
▪ The Pastor’s Study event space at Lula Drake, 1635 Main St.
▪ Shoppes on Main, 1626 Main St.
▪ Ally & Eloise Bakeshop, 1626 Main St.
And these are on the horizon:
▪ The Grand bowling alley, hoping to open in December, 1621 Main St.
▪ Cyberwoven web development company, opening in January, 1634 Main St.
▪ Sugar Belle’s clothing boutique, under construction, 1623 Main St.
▪ Birds & Bubbles restaurant, announced, 1649 Main St. (also in the old Hennessy’s restaurant)
“A rising tide lifts all ships, so we’re glad that those businesses are coming,” said Ben Rex, president of Cyberwoven, which designs websites and web strategies for companies. “Hopefully, in our coming down and other employers coming down (to Main Street), not only will we support the current establishments but broaden the foundation so that new places continue to open.”
Only a few years ago, the 1600 block was the “desolate fringe” of Main Street, said Joe Nester, a vice president of Agape Senior, which was one of the modern pioneers of the 1600 block.
The Agape pharmacy beside Michael’s Cafe and Catering recently was renovated into the Shoppes on Main. Agape founder and chief executive Scott Middleton owns several buildings in the 1600 block, including The Grand bowling alley.
“When you got on the 1600 block, you were looking out for your safety. It was like the old West, tumbleweeds and stuff,” Nester said. But now, “We’re really trying to pitch that destination concept of everything is on Main Street now.”
It seems to be working.
With the 1600 block quickly filling in and very few available storefronts remaining on the stretch toward the S.C. State House, the time could be right for Main Street’s activity to spread farther north toward Elmwood Avenue.
Already this year, the 1700 block became home to DaufusKEYS Gullah Bistro & Piano Bar, joining the popular Al Amir Mediterranean restaurant. Soon, the Local Yocal bodega-style grocery store will open in that block, too.
“Looking at the 1700 and 1800 blocks, the question is what makes similar development practical and as synergistic as what’s happening in the 1600 block,” said Cyberwoven’s Rex. “And that will require current building owners and government entities to think collaboratively and open-mindedly about current and future uses of property. And I hope that moves quickly.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.