Island Center sits halfway between Nico Pittavino’s home and office on the Isle of Palms, so Wednesday’s announcement that a Newton Farms gourmet grocery store will replace the recently closed Red & White was most welcome.
While the old supermarket was beloved for its history and its employees, Pittavino said, its selection was sometimes lacking. And then it lost its lease in November, leaving the barrier island without a full-service grocery store.
Pittavino, who moved to the island from Pittsburgh three years ago and already paid regular visits to the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in Mount Pleasant, now had to cross the Intracoastal Waterway even for staples.
“I’m excited because I know I can just go a half a mile from where I live and go grocery shopping,” said Pittavino, co-owner of an Apple product-repair business called Rotten Apples with husband Greg.
The plan for a Newton Farms, a boutique offshoot of Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., is the centerpiece of the renovation of the entire Palm Boulevard property.
The store is scheduled to open in mid-2014, said land owner Pastime Amusement Co., which is affiliated with The Beach Co. of Charleston.
The renovation has been in the works for months, and signs at the site prompted speculation about what was coming. But the identity of the new anchor tenant had been secret until Wednesday.
“We are confident their offerings will greatly exceed the needs and expectations of both the residents and visitors of the Isle of Palms,” said Leonard D. Way, vice president of Pastime Amusement and The Beach Co.
“The Newton Farms team understands the unique dynamics of catering to both the local resident and the vacationer.”
Piggly Wiggly opened its first Newton Farms store at Freshfields Village, between Kiawah and Seabrook islands, in 2005.
Up the coast, Island Center has been around for more than 50 years. The Red & White was something of an institution, but The Beach Co. decided it was time to upgrade.
In Piggly Wiggly, it is getting a blue-chip brand name that also happens to be locally owned.
“I think it reflects an opportunity to serve a strong demographic and a market that parallels what we’re enjoying serving on Kiawah and Seabrook today,” said Christopher Ibsen, the supermarket operator’s director of corporate affairs.
The developer and Piggly Wiggly have collaborated before. For example, the grocery chain’s supermarket just near the Isle of Palms Connector and Rifle Range Road in Mount Pleasant is part of the real estate firm’s Seaside Farms project.
That store and the future Newton Farms could compete for business, but Piggly Wiggly downplayed that. “I think we see them as being complementary,” Ibsen said
The Isle of Palms has about 4,100 permanent residents, but the population swells to more than 20,000 during the spring and summer rental seasons, said Mayor Dick Cronin,
He paid respect to the old while expressing excitement about the new. He called Red & White’s demise an “unfortunate consequence.”
“But the good side of that is they’ve found a very good grocery operation to come in there,” Cronin said.
Contact Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and John McDermott at 937-5572.