Upscale grocer Southern Season is moving into a former Food Lion store off in Mount Plesant, the latest high-end supermarket to set up shop in the town, officials said Friday.
The 42,000-square-foot supermarket is scheduled to open by the end of next summer in Brookgreen Town Center, marking the first South Carolina store for the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based grocer, and the latest piece in the revitalization efforts along Coleman Boulevard.
Clay Hamner, chairman of Southern Season, Inc., said in a statement that the company had been looking at sites all over the mid-Atlantic and southern regions for its second store.
Hamner said Mount Pleasant was picked because of its “desirability, along with the excitement of the Coleman Boulevard revitalization efforts and the opportunity to be part of a business-friendly community.”
Larry Shaw, president and CEO of Southern Season, said the company plans to open another store each coming year, targeting states like Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky.
Founded in 1975, Southern Season’s Chapel Hill store is known for peddling local and international fine food, wine, specialty gifts and cookware.
Southern Season’s arrival in Mount Pleasant adds to a mounting presence of upscale grocers in the township.
Coveted grocer Trader Joe’s opened a store last year at the former Hungryneck Antique Mall at 401 Johnnie Dodds Blvd, just blocks from Whole Foods Market. Both stores are just miles from the planned Southern Season.
Retail experts have said Mount Pleasant’s high income is a lure for merchants.
High-end grocers clustered within a short distance is not unusual, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food World, a grocery trade publication in Columbia, Md.
“It’s only closer together by demographics,” he said. “That’s the targeted area where they want to operate, and sometimes one or two don’t make it. The target is to reach that specific customer and demographic.”
Still, the town hasn’t been immune from casualties of supermarket wars. Food Lion shuttered its Brookgreen Town Center store in 2010, and years later closed its two remaining East Cooper supermarkets amid a nationwide restructuring plan.
Still, Mount Pleasant, is home to more than a dozen other supermarkets like Publix, Harris Teeter and Piggly Wiggly, largely bucking the trend of grocers shelving expansion plans amid the lethargic economy and mounting competition from discounters like Walmart and Dollar Tree expanding grocery selections.
The town’s grocery store offerings are growing while other areas like North Charleson are struggling to attract more.
Southern Season’s Mount Pleasant store is expected to create 88 jobs when it opens its doors and employ as many as 300 during seasonal peaks, officials said.
Mayor Billy Swails announced the supermarket deal Friday, a day after he and Charlie Way of The Beach Co., which owns Brookgreen Town Center, flew to Chapel Hill to finalize details.
“This is a real coup for Mount Pleasant,” Swails said, “and for the ongoing revitalization of Coleman Boulevard.”
Swails said Southern Season’s national reputation will create “a destination experience” on Coleman, which the town is set to improve next year.
The Coleman plans include new bike lanes, onstreet parking, landscaping, drainage work and a new roundabout where Coleman and Chuck Dawley boulevards intersect.
Southern Season is taking over large vacancy across from The Boulevard, also owned by The Beach Co. The mixed-use development is expected to be completed in the spring and will include 325 upscale urban residential apartments, street-level retail and restaurants.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.
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