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Esthetics institute set to move into historic Tapp's building on Columbia's Main Street

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The Southeastern Esthetics Institute will soon occupy the main floor and basement of the historic Tapp's building on Main Street.

A new tenant is planning to set up shop in the historic Tapp's building on the 1600 block of Main Street.

The Southeastern Esthetics Institute, the esthetics and cosmetology school that currently operates out of several suites in the Vista, will be consolidating its operations at Tapp's. The institute will occupy 27,000 square feet in the Main Street building, including the main floor and the basement.

Courtney Sykes, the institute's chief administrative officer, tells Free Times that work to renovate the space will begin in coming months, and she's hopeful for a spring 2021 opening.

The Tapp's building, which is located at 1644 Main and has residences in its upper floors, has seen a number of uses through the years. It housed Tapp's Department Store for more than 90 years. More recently, it was home to the vibrant Tapp's Arts Center. The arts center exited the location in November 2019, and moved to Five Points, where it operates as Tapp's Outpost.

The Southeastern Esthetics Institute is the largest privately owned, nationally accredited esthetics institution in South Carolina. It offers accredited curriculum through its esthetics licensure course and the advanced esthetics academy. The business is currently headquartered at 823 Gervais St., and has several suites in the Vista.

Sykes says leases on those spaces will be running out soon, and the institute is looking forward to coming to Main Street.

"We are just excited to to be in one space, instead of several different suites," Sykes says. "You can imagine the running around we do. So, we're excited about that."

The institute plans to work with Sherer Architects to renovate the main floor and basement at Tapp's, and the plan is to highlight the art deco design of its origin as Tapp’s Department Store. The Fountain Room in the basement will be updated as a coffee shop and eatery for students and visitors.

"I love the history of Columbia, and I love the art scene," Sykes says. "My big vision is to bring it back to where it was, which is a lot of that art deco style."

She says she also hopes to work with artists to have quarterly window displays in the building's big windows along Main, which was something the Arts Center did when it occupied the space.

Esthetics is a cosmetology related field, particularly pertaining to treatments for the skin, including chemical peels, laser treatment, hair removal and more.

Sykes says the institute operates year-round, with groups of students rotating in and out throughout the year. It has 100 to 150 students enrolled at all times.

The addition of the school, and the hundreds of students that it will bring to the Main Street District throughout the year, will add another element to the lively 1600 block of Main, which includes the Mast General Store, the Nickelodeon Theatre, The Grand eatery/bowling alley, the upscale Hendrix restaurant, The Woody on Main dance club and more.

Matt Kennell, who leads the downtown property owners' group City Center Partnership, says he thinks the institute will be a good addition to the Main Street District, which has continued to evolve in the last decade.

"It's a big deal," Kennell says, calling the Tapp's building one of the "historic gems" of the district.

"That building has been a success throughout the years, and it's had diverse tenants," he adds. "I think this is a very solid commercial tenant, and they've taken all of the space on the main floor and the basement. That's a big part of it."

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