Orangeburg County’s leaders have made attracting new stores a priority for the county over recent years and especially in 2018. While there’s been some success, they are looking for more.
Stores, unlike restaurants, will be slower in coming to the Orangeburg market, according to Randy Etters, chairman of The One Orangeburg County Initiative’s commercial, retail and housing task force.
"They play their cards very close to the vest for competitive reasons, fearing that their competition may get a jump on them in emerging markets," Etters said in March. "We have developed an extensive list of retailers that will be contacted by our consultant group."
New Jersey-based Gruber Phillips International was hired to promote the Orangeburg area to 100 retailers based on regional demographics and what residents have said they’d like.
The company provided the county with a list of companies seeking to expand their Southern footprint that could be interested in Orangeburg.
Etters said several retailers have expressed an interest in locating to the area, but have also noted their hesitancy to become a pioneer for a particular development.
Etters said discussions have been held with retailers like Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Ashley Furniture, Hobby Lobby, Home Goods, Sam’s and Wal-Mart Market, to name a few.
"While the interest is there, they are also keen to the nationwide shrinkage of retail due to the prevalence of online sales giants like Amazon," he said. "I guess time will tell if there will be a storefront resurgence, but if it does we want to primed to take advantage of it."
Etters said Orangeburg is blessed with heavily traveled corridors that are attractive to retailers.
Ollie's Bargain Outlet on Chestnut Street is an example of a retailer seeing the benefits a storefront on a major route.
"These retailers are looking for easy entry in the market such as the redevelopment of the old Kmart building," Etters said. "From the retailers we have spoken with, they are being heavily influenced by the traffic counts in these areas."
Etters said retailers are moving away from old census data and are using more sophisticated methods of evaluating travel distances.
"They actually determine the maximum travel distance their customers would accept and then see how many residents fit their household demographic in that zone," Etters said.
Building for the future
Fort Motte Partners, a partnership of Century 21 The Moore Group and C.F. Evans Construction, is planning to develop a 62-acre tract adjacent to the North Road Walmart.
"There is no news yet, but quite a bit of interest," Fort Motte partner Marion Moore said via email last spring. As the summer arrived, Moore continued to be optimistic about the project.
"We have to take the long-term approach," he said in a July interview. "We still have a very viable project."
By the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, the property remained vacant.
The development is expected to include retail outlets, restaurants, an entertainment complex with possible movie theater, as well as a hotel and residential areas.
Green space will include walking paths, ponds and open spaces.
North Carolina-based Piedmont Companies Inc. is also planning to develop a retail and restaurant complex near the intersection of St. Matthews Road and Old St. Matthews Road.
Company officials have said they are in the process of acquiring 170 acres for the $120 million project, which is identified as Destination 601.
Piedmont projects the development could one day have about 10 sit-down restaurants, six fast-food restaurants, ten retailers, a grocery store, two hotels, a senior living center as well as a police substation.
Officials have been mum about the progress of the project through much of 2018 and into early 2019.
Piedmont previously developed plans for a business quarter on Russell Street. The plans included a 25,000-square-foot library as well as office space, retail, dining, green space and an outdoor amphitheater.
There has been little discussion about the project since 2016.
There are several examples of retail growth in the Orangeburg area in the past three years:
• A 41,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market store celebrated its grand opening Jan. 28, 2015. The store is located at the corner of John C. Calhoun Drive and Stonewall Jackson Boulevard.
• German discount grocer Aldi opened in March 2015 at the corner of North and Willington roads.
Aldi has said Orangeburg’s population density, market competition, cost of property and traffic patterns were all reasons the company chose the area.
• A renovated and larger Piggly Wiggly opened at the Orangeburg Plaza, located at the corner of Chestnut Street and Columbia Road. The store opened in October 2015.
The store is about 27,000 square feet in size, an increase of about 9,000 square feet over the previous store.
• A gourmet spice and tea shop, Tea Thyme, opened in September 2016 at 1122 Church St. off of Russell Street in the downtown district.
• A Dollar Tree opened in February 2017 at 1270 John C. Calhoun Drive across the street from Subway. Dollar Tree carries items from housewares to party supplies.
• GrandSouth Bank celebrated the official opening of its location at 1055 St. Matthews Road in August 2017. The 4,600-square-foot standalone bank provides a full range of services.
• German discount grocery chain Lidl opened its new, 36,000-square-foot store on North Road next to Sonic in September 2017. The grocer chose the area due to its traffic, dense population and established retail locations.
• The former Chestnut Street Kmart has been renovated.
Ollie's Bargain Outlet opened its doors Feb. 27, 2018 and occupies about 32,000 square feet of the building.
Badcock Home Furnishings, which is also open, occupies about 17,500 square feet. Planet Fitness occupies about 20,000 square feet of the building.
The 85,000-square-foot building has been vacant since the August 2016 closure of Kmart.
• St. Matthews Square, located on 1.5 acres at 1580 St. Matthews Road, opened in 2018 offering the likes of Affordable Dental, American Deli, World Finance and Cellular Pro.
The mall is located next to the Walgreens across the street from Grove Park shopping plaza.
The 15,000-square-foot mall includes eight total units.
• Tru Hotel by Hilton is in the process of building a $5.5 million hotel on Citadel Road. The hotel will feature 90 guest rooms.
• An 84-suite SpringHill Suites by Marriott is planned for the area near the intersection of U.S. Highway 601 and Interstate 26. Construction has just begun on the hotel.
The investment is estimated at more than $8 million. The hotel will create a minimum of 15 full-time jobs.