Harris Teeter shareholders to vote on merger

Kroger Co. operated a handful of grocery stores in Charleston area until the late 1980s, when it sold them to Bi-Lo. It’s poised to re-enter the fray with its pending pruchase of Harris Teeter.

Supermarkets seem to be devouring each other these days.

While the big news locally has been Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly’s sell-off of 29 stores and closing of two others, a huge vote will take place Thursday among shareholders of a local competitor that is acquiring seven Charleston area Piggly Wiggly stores.

Shareholders of North Carolina-based Harris Teeter will decide whether to merge their 212 stores with Ohio-based Kroger Co. in a $2.44 billion deal announced in July. If approved, Harris Teeter will become a subsidiary of Kroger.

If the deal is OK’d, Kroger will gain: seven existing Harris Teeter stores in greater Charleston; seven Piggly Wiggly stores being sold to Harris Teeter, also in the Charleston area; and two Harris Teeter stores under construction in North Charleston and Summerville. Kroger plans to continue to operate the stores under the Harris Teeter brand.

What remains to be seen is what Kroger has in store for the soon-to-be-acquired Pig locations. One big question centers on James Island, which has one Harris Teeter. After the Piggly Wiggly deal, that number will jump to four.

It’s little wonder so many rumors were flying within Piggly Wiggly before Sept. 12, when the grocer confirmed it was selling off a big chunk of its business.

As it turns out, the Charleston-based supermarket operator had struck a key part of the deal more than week before publicly announcing the two-part transaction.

Bi-Lo, which is buying 21 “operating” stores from Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Inc. for $35 million, entered into its purchase agreement on Sept. 4, according to a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The local chain might have kept the Bi-Lo deal under its hat for eights day in order to finalize a separate deal with Harris Teeter, which is buying seven Pig stores for an undisclosed sum.

A specualtive, back-of-the-envelope way to guesstimate how much Harris Teeter is paying is to look at what Bi-Lo paid. That would put it at around $11.6 million. Piggly Wiggly said it would not comment on the sales agreement.

Harbor National Bank is teeing it up in Harbour Town’s back yard.

The Charleston-based bank recently opened a new mortgage division office on Hilton Head Island at Shelter Cove.

It’s the lender’s second home loan outpost. The other is in Mount Pleasant. The new office is staffed by four employees. “We’re excited to expand into the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton area because they are growth markets,” said Charles F. Rivers III, CEO of Harbor National, which opened in 2006. He also noted that while “refinances are slowing down, new purchases are picking up.”

The Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce grew its membership by nearly a quarter in two days last week. The secret? Good coaching and healthy competition.

Volunteers gathered for a recruitment workshop with Jimmy Cusano of Your Chamber Connection, an organization dedicated to helping chambers of commerce grow their membership bases.

The workshop helped volunteers understand how the chamber positively affected the Summerville community, said Rita Berry, chamber CEO.

“It really re-engaged volunteers in the community to help give them a more in-depth understanding as to what we’re about,” Berry said.

Following the workshop, volunteers split up into teams, each led by captains, and set out on their mission to sign up the most new members.

After two days of reaching out to their friends, clients and colleagues, the chamber volunteers had recruited 150 new members. It now has 845.

Commercial real estate on King Street continue to attract out-of-town money.

The newest property owner from off is Jenel Management Corp., a New York-based investment firm. It has purchased the Gap building in downtown Charleston for $3.9 million, according to Domicile Real Estate Brokerage, which represented the buyer and seller.

The 8,760-square-foot space at 269 King St., just south of Wentworth Street, adds to the firm’s portfolio of more than 70 properties, which are largely concentrated in New York, Philadelphia and South Beach, Fla., according to its website.

Gap will remain as the tenant. The clothing retailer took over the space when Millennium Music closed in 1999. It once was the location of Huguley’s office supply store.

A year after opening, an 18-suite boutique hotel in downtown Charleston is reaping kudos for its sense of style, good service and uniqueness.

Fodor’s Travel has chosen Zero George Street Hotel at George and East Bay streets for its 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Awards.

The recipients were chosen based on nominations from 500 Fodor contributors.

Fodor’s senior editorial team reviewed more than 4,000 Fodor’s Choice picks and new property reviews before narrowing their top selections in eight categories. Zero George is featured in the “Home Suite Homes” category, which identifies “intimate pied-a-terres that make guests feel right at home.”

The hotel sits in five restored buildings dating back to around 1804. Each has a custom-designed armoire with a mini-bar and in-room coffee, wood floors, marble bathrooms, period millwork details and private piazzas. The hotel includes a bistro-style eatery that’s open at night.

Zero George will be featured on www.Fodors.com and in a free interactive eBook, available in the iBookstore. It was also honored at a special awards ceremony in New York last week.

The hotel is owned by Dean and Lynn Andrews, who purchased the former Maison du Pre inn in April 2012 for $3.2 million. He was a former Orient-Express Hotels executive who ran Charleston Place for years.