COLUMBIA — The coronavirus pandemic has taken less of a toll on Columbia merchants in the Vista and along Main Street than might have been feared, according to a veteran of the retail real estate scene.

Rox Pollard, director of retail services in South Carolina for Colliers International, assessed how COVID-19 has affected Columbia recently for other staff members at the commercial real estate company.

In his report, Pollard noted that the Vista did lose some larger hospitality businesses, including Carolina Ale House and World of Beer. With students away or staying in their apartments so long, that toll could have been worse, since they are so much of the downtown client base, Pollard said.

If hospitality business that have been limping along can make it to the warm weather months and the resurgence of outdoor dining, they should survive, Pollard expects.

Shopping centers that have a grocer as their anchor tenant have done better than most during the pandemic, as consumers have continued to make their grocery trips, he said.

Those that are looking for retail space seem most interested in grocery-anchored centers, he said, with more space being leased to services such as doctor’s offices and fitness centers than before.

In his presentation, Pollard noted the push to shift the focus of Five Points more toward boutique retail and away from being seen solely as a barhopping district. Pollard noted that the district is synonymous with the University of South Carolina and said a big shift into more brick-and-mortar retail could be tough to pull off.

“I think it is a steep hill to climb,” Pollard said.

Pollard’s assessment noted that overall nationwide retail trade in its broadest definition actually increased during 2020 by 2.2 percent.

Most of that growth was in a massive shift to online shopping including for curbside pickup. Online shopping became 20 percent of all retail activity in 2020, rising from 13 percent the year before.

Lexington grocery store turnover

Two former Bi-Lo grocery stores have opened under their new owners, with Piggly Wiggly returning last week to Lexington County at the former Bi-Lo location west of downtown on U.S. 378.

The purchase of the store was announced in December by C&S Wholesale, which also acquired a Pooler, Ga., Bi-Lo location to become a Piggly Wiggly. The deal gives Piggly Wiggly a store in a fast-growing part of Lexington County.

Another former Bi-Lo is slated to become a KJ’s Market in Westside Plaza in West Columbia this month.

Philly to Columbia 

The Philly Pretzel Factory eatery location in Rosewood Shopping Center on Rosewood Drive in Columbia has reopened and relaunched.

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The carryout place, which features Philadelphia-style pretzels plus pretzel dogs and other baked treats, held a reopening last weekend. 

Locations in Rosewood and Irmo had shut down last fall after being in business for much of 2020. The Irmo location has not reopened, according to the chain’s website.

Spa shifts downtown

The RevIVe Wellness Studio formerly housed above The Main Course bar and restaurant at 1624 Main St. has moved to a new location nearby.

The spa, which offers elective IV rehydration, facial treatment and massages, among other services, has relocated to 1619 Sumter St. The spa’s Facebook page refers to this as its newest “temporary” location.

The spa is one of the businesses that the Middleton family has launched in the Main Street District.

Axes to fly in Irmo

The past year could make one eager to throw an axe at something.

If so, there’s another opportunity coming. An axe throwing bar is set to open in February, nearly next door to the Brooklyn Express restaurant in Irmo. 

Learn more about plans for the Chop House Axe Throwing Room of the Midlands from this Free Times coverage.

Auto repair plans

A Caliber Collision body shop would be built near the junction of Garners Ferry and Atlas Roads under plans filed with the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals.

New construction near the Candlewood Suites hotel would be home to the body shop.

The proposal will be considered at the Feb. 4 virtual board meeting.

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Have any Midlands business news to share in the column? Reach Mike Fitts at [email protected]

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