A nutrition store at the Orangeburg Mall has closed its doors and a jewelry store is not far behind.
The owners of Donna’s Nutrition Center and Carolina Jewelers blame online sales and rent costs, in part, for their decisions.
"The internet is taking a lot of sales from me and the rent is going up in this mall," Donna's Nutrition owner Donna Jackson-Dawson said. "Customers go online and they call me up for information and buy from Amazon.
“Small businesses can't compete with that."
Donna's Nutrition Center closed Dec. 15. Carolina Jewelers is closing its doors when all inventory is sold.
Donna's Nutrition opened in May 2008.
"I wish we could do more to keep small business here," Jackson-Dawson said. "It is really a struggle in this area."
Jackson-Dawson also said big box stores are making things difficult for small retailers like her.
"All my money has been going into the store and I have done everything I can for the past eight months to keep it going," Jackson-Dawson said.
The store specialized in health-related products such as vitamins and natural foods.
Jackson-Dawson said the store has also served as a source of information for many individuals who come upon the recommendation of local doctors.
"I don't know where they are going to go now," she said. "I appreciate their patronage. It has been a pleasure to get to know my customers."
Carolina Jewelers owner Larry Beener said, "It is time to hang it up.”
"We have been talking about this over the last couple of years,” the 65-year-old said.
Beener says “the high cost of doing business,” including the $2,375-a-month rent, played a part in his decision to close. So did the increase in online shopping.
The jewelry store has been at the mall since 2000 and in Orangeburg since 1990. The store was the only jeweler in the mall after Avinger’s Jewelers closed its doors six years ago.
Charleston-based IDK Investments purchased the mall in June of this year.
Orangeburg Mall Manager Theresa Weise expressed her surprise about the closing of the two businesses.
But she noted the mall's new ownership has not raised the rent since they purchased the property.
"Currently tenant rents are well below market," Weise said.
There are about 18 tenants at the mall with about five spaces currently empty. The departure of Donna's and Carolina Jewelers will bring the vacancies up to seven.
Weise says no other businesses have closed since the mall was purchased.
In fact, “we have had some interest a few months ago,” Weise said.
"It has taken some time for us to get off the ground," she said. "We are open to all sorts of ideas and different tenants. I would love to see a new concept. We have had a non-profit approach us and we have had some other businesses approach us. The business plans are interesting."
Weise said mall management will make sure existing tenants are taken into consideration as the spaces are filled.
Beener expressed his appreciation to customers who have supported him over the years.
"Everyone will be missed," Beener said. "It is kind of sad. Everybody in Orangeburg is almost a part of my family for all these years."
Beener said, as a jeweler, he has shared the lives and special occasions of many people.
Beener has been in the jewelry business for 48 years. He started in West Virginia.
Prior to opening Carolina Jewelers, Beener worked for Andrae's Jewelers for ten years.
He has sold jewelry in Orangeburg for the past 28 years. The store was located on Wingate Street for about ten years before moving to the Orangeburg Mall in 2000.
Beener plans to remain in Orangeburg and enjoy retirement with his wife, children and grandchildren.
During the closing process, Carolina Jewelers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The store is closed on Sunday.