Pizzeria Slated for Cottontown
We now know the identities of two of the three businesses that will be opening along a strip of Sumter Street in Cottontown that formerly housed Dave’s Transmission — and one of them is a pizzeria.
Cason Development Group announced today that Città del Cotone will open at 2150 Sumter St. this fall.
The former owner of Irmo-based Noah’s Antica Pizza, Rick Marzan, is behind the new pizzeria, as is restaurateur Tommy Price, who according to a Cason Development release had a role in creating local restaurants Za’s Brick Oven Pizza and the Congaree Grill.
S.C. United Opens New Centrally-located Soccer Facility in North Columbia
We, the “amateurs” from SNST’s Amateur Hour, took a road trip to the heart of South Carolina this weekend to watch S.C. United open their brand new Monticello Road Soccer Complex with a game between the Bantams and the Tri-City Otters.
The Bantams have been competing in the PDL since 2012, and have been developing South Carolina’s youth for even longer, so this was a special, special night.
S.C. United opened the new facility to unite Columbia with a centrally located, soccer-specific facility to host their games. This situation is far more ideal than playing in high school stadiums with awkward football lines, and with stands so massive that they swallow what atmosphere the fans create.
This year, the team is introducing fans to the new stadium with a season long theme, “Around the World in Seven Games.” The first night (Saturday) was British Night, and seeing as how Bantams Head Coach Lee Morris and Rob Strickland, Director of Competitive Soccer, grew up in England playing soccer together, that seemed like a good place to start. The stadium featured British music including Beatles classics, a very tasty British porter, and some delicious fish and chips from the British Bulldog Pub, where the local American Outlaws chapter watches U.S. Soccer matches.
Off the field, the event was an enormous success! Strickland told us last season that the team averaged just 30 fans a game. We weren’t sure if he was exaggerating or not (he likely was), but the game we went to last year didn’t have a whole lot more than that.
But on Saturday, the team set an all-time Bantams record for attendance with just under 1,200 fans cheering on the Bantams! The place was packed! People were loud, and roughly a third were wearing “Bantam Brigade” shirts that were given away as fans entered the stadium.
So what’s the Brigade? There weren’t songs, smoke, or pool noodles (this time at least) with this supporters group, but there was a giant Brigade flag, and every kid that walked out with the players was wearing the shirt. The man leading the players out was wearing one as well, along with a kilt, while playing bagpipes.
Of course, we had to talk to this guy after the match. His name is Jody McArthur and he has been working at S.C. United for 16 years. He told us he’s worked with S.C. United at all kinds of different levels over the years. One teenager we spoke with was waving the giant flag at half time, and he told us Jody had been his coach “for forever.”
We sat down with Jody for Episode 008 of SNST’s Amateur Hour to get more details on what Bantams Brigade is, why he’s spearheading it, and a bit of how the club runs from his perspective. He was a lot of fun to chat with… a lot of fun (I had to Google how to insert “bleeps” in my editing software).
To be fair, he has a lot to be excited about, not only with the record crowd, but the team’s success off the field was matched with an awesome performance on the field as well.
The Bantams dominated the Otters, defeating them 4–1! Three of their goals came in the first 15 minutes, and to be honest, they could have scored more.
This game had everything! Skillful passing, ankle-breaking dribble moves, beautiful goals, and even a penalty save! The crowd was into it for the full 90 minutes too, cheering on players who were from all over the world, as well as from just down the street.
But they all had two things in common: They wore the S.C. United Bantams badge, and they did their club proud.
S.C. United has a record of two wins and one loss so far this season. Their next match is on Tuesday as they host rivals South Georgia Tormenta for “Football Fiesta Latino Night.” I can’t recommend checking out a Bantams match enough, and they have six remaining home games this season. If you can’t make it to a game, most matches will be streamed on Local Sports Productions’ YouTube page, and the team are working on making the remaining games available online soon after they are played.
The State Newspaper: North Main businesses oppose homeless shelter expansion
NORTH COLUMBIA –A north Columbia merchants group is opposing the expansion of a homeless shelter and treatment facility in Eau Claire.
The Providence Home — which has served homeless, drug addicted and alcoholic men since the 1960s — wants to build a dormitory at its compound of buildings at 3421 N. Main St. The new building would allow the home to expand its capacity from 36 to 60 men.
But the North Columbia Business Association on Monday released a letter to the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals opposing the expansion, not because the organization doesn’t do good work, but because of the concentration of similar facilities in the emerging North Main corridor, it said.
“We feel that the North Columbia area has shouldered an unfair burden in the amount of group help homes,” the letter said.
The nine-member board voted unanimously, Chairman Chris Barczak said. The zoning board will take up the issue at 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The board noted that in addition to Providence, several other major group homes and service providers are in the area, including The Women’s Shelter, Transitions service center and the Christ Central complex of services.
The concentration of group homes and services is problematic as the city and county continues a multimillion-dollar project to widen and beautify North Main, hoping to stoke an emerging retail and hospitality corridor, board members said.
But members, individually, said it was a tough call.
“I’m still kind of in prayerful thought,” said association member Alex Zelling, co-owner of Palmetto Payroll Solutions, 9 Belleview Circle. “The ministry is vitally important to our community in general. They’ve been doing a great job. But when you’re try to redevelop (an area) . . . when is the concentration to the point where it becomes a detriment to the area?”
The Providence Home complex now includes two houses, two dormitories and a cafeteria. The home recently tore down a third home, which the new dormitory will replace.
Executive Director Rob Settle called the $750,000 project a “dream” for the organization, and noted that all of the money has been raised through private donations. Those backers include two large anonymous donors and more than a dozen churches, among them First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church and Shandon United Methodist Church.
“Citizens, especially property owners, have always been concerned about the problem of homelessness,” home officials said in a statement. “Homelessness causes concern about crime, drugs, panhandling on the street corners, etc.”
Providence Home’s mission “is to get homeless men off the street, off drugs and alcohol, help them obtain jobs and housing, and hopefully come into a faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!”
Providence Home is structured and secure, officials said. “We have a strict zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use (one strike and you are out), and we do regularly testing,” he said. “We have required curfew, and we do not allow loitering on the streets and sidewalks. We have mandatory meetings five times a week, plus we meet regularly with individual residents in a mentoring relationship. It is a place of strong accountability, both physically and spiritually.”
Many of the men have been referred by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through the Dorn V.A. Hospital, Settle said.
However, Columbia City Council member Sam Davis, who represents north Columbia, said that he supports the merchants’ opposition. “The northern part of the city has become inundated with those types of facilities, and folks have made it clear that that is not their preference,” he said. “It would be good if people would look at other parts of the city to locate them. (The merchants) have the right to state their position (about the type of development) when you are trying to recruit business.”
The State Newspaper: Food & Wine magazine named this Columbia-brewed coffee best in SC
Updated May 04, 2018 05:36 PM
Food & Wine magazine has named Columbia’s Indah Coffee the best coffee in South Carolina. The honor came in March when Food & Wine published “The Best Coffee in Every State.” Indah came in over runner-up shops in Greenville and Charleston. Indah “is doing great work for the local coffee cred,” the magazine said.
Among the criteria for the selection, Food & Wine looked for a roaster at or near the top of their craft, community engagement, innovation and customer experience. The magazine sought “a destination-worthy café, or an on-premises tasting lab, a business bringing something to the local conversation, beyond latte art skills and optimized-for-Instagram aesthetics. These shops ought to be places of welcome, places of warmth … In the end, it was mostly about the user experience.”
“We are honored to be chosen for this and humbled to be named with the other coffee talent our state has to offer,” said Stefanie Hauser, who founded the company with her husband, Nick.
The couple opened the doors to their first retail location a year ago in Columbia’s historic Cottontown neighborhood. Nick, a Specialty Coffee Association of America certified roaster, is the lead roaster for the business and has been roasting for close to eight years.
Indah Coffee Co. is located at 2238 Sumter St.
S&A Seafood Opening a Huge Success!
Last Friday, NOMA celebrated the grand opening of S&A Seafood Restaurant and Market! With pineapple mimosas, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and some delicious seafood- this new business certainly started off with a bang. Welcome to the NOMA community S&A, we are excited to have you!
6th Annual SC Cornbread Festival Was a Success!
This past Saturday, April 21st, the 6th Annual South Carolina Cornbread Festival was held at Earlewood Park in NOMA. The day was filled with cornhole, face painting, live music, dancing, and tons of cornbread! It was a gorgeous day in the Trestle District! Check out pictures from the festival below:
Columbia Business Report: Cromer’s New Home is a Comfy Fit for an Iconic Store
By: Melinda Waldrop
February 15th, 2018
Columbia mainstay Cromer’s is settling into its new digs, and the popcorn, peanut and cotton candy makers already feel right at home.
Cromer’s held a soft opening on Feb. 15 at its new store at 3036 N. Main St., and customers clearly got the moving memo, filing past balloons and a sign proclaiming “Ya’ll, We’re Open!!”
“It’s been incredible,” general manager Jason Reda said from behind the steadily busy counter. “It’s been better than expected. People have been coming up to the doors before we opened.”
Cromer’s, founded in 1953 by South Carolina farmer Julian D. Cromer, moved into the burgeoning North Main business district from its former location at 1700 Huger St., where it had been since leaving its longtime Assembly Street home in 2003. The 12,600-square-foot building near the railroad trestle is “finally a place designed for what we do,” Reda said. “It was designed and built for our needs.”
Yellow bags stuffed full of popcorn freshly popped on-site lined the shelves, nestled next to white paper bags of roasted peanuts. Cotton candy beckoned in brightly colored bags, and an assortment of other sweets filled barrels. A coffee bar offered caffeine fixes on the opposite side of the store, which will continue to rent concession equipment to schools and other organizations.
The store is now giving tours, Reda said, of “all the things that make a fat man happy.” Cromer’s asks for a day’s notice to arrange a tour.
A grand opening, an all-day event with plans for music and appearances by local dignitaries, is planned for late April or early May.
“It feels like the old times,” Reda said. “We’re just two miles from our old location, and we got a huge outpouring of support.”
Cromer’s joins an ongoing North Main renaissance in the Cottontown area sparked by pioneering businesses Vino Garage and War Mouth gastropub. In December, Cason Development Group purchased four additional properties in Cottontown with plans to invest $1 million in the properties, which bring the developer’s total of area holdings to eight.
A restaurant tenant has been identified for a 1,000-square-foot building at 2150 Sumter St. Work continues on the redevelopment of 2222 Sumter St. for Amsterdam Lumber Co., and Cason is still looking for an additional tenant for a 2,000-square-foot space in the 12,000-square-foot building at 2238 Sumter St. which houses Indah Coffee Co. and Circa Barber Shop. And offerings from newly opened Cottontown Brew Lab are on tap around town.
“I think we’re getting in on the ground floor,” Reda said. “There’s nothing but good things happening.”
The Post and Courier: Development Brings Growth Potential to North Columbia
By: Mike Fitts
January 14th, 2018
COLUMBIA — A real estate development of more than 75 acres is expected to bring new growth to north Columbia, a part of the city that often has been left behind as investment went elsewhere.
Azurest at Heritage Creek, announced in November, is a privately funded project that will bring single-family and multi-unit homes and retail space to a site near Interstate 20 on Mason Road.
“This definitely will be a game-changer for North Columbia,” said Cecil Hannibal, executive director of the Eau Claire-North Columbia Development Corp.
In addition to improving the quality of available housing, it should bring the kind of shops and other small businesses that are part of what makes a neighborhood livable, said Columbia City Council Member Sam Davis, who represents the area.
“It’s really going to add some of the basic amenities that every progressive neighborhood should have,” Davis said.
Needing the growth
North Columbia has been a less affluent area of the city historically, and that has been reflected in lower investment.
According to a 2017 retail real estate report by commercial real estate firm Colliers, north Columbia had a far lower stock of retail space than other districts of the city, listing about 350,000 square feet of space compared to more than 3.5 million square feet in the Harbison/St. Andrews area and almost 4 million square feet in Northeast Richland.
Even with that lower supply, north Columbia had the highest rate of vacant retail space at almost 15 percent, compared to 9.2 percent in the Northeast and just 1.3 percent in the adjacent downtown district. North Columbia also had by far the lowest average requested rent, according to the Colliers report.
North Columbia has been seeing some growth recently, prompted in part by a city streetscaping project that has revitalized the appearance of a stretch of North Main Street closest to the hot downtown real estate market.
Retail businesses including restaurants and shops have been opening in the wake of the streetscaping, including the coming relocation of the iconic Columbia snack retailer, Cromer’s, to 3030 N. Main St. on Feb. 1.
The Azurest project should prompt growth over on north Columbia’s northern edge, giving the area added economic vitality on both sides, Davis said.
“It’s going to function as a catalyst for that part of the city,” he said.
While Azurest is a private investment, the city has been working to make sure that other north Columbia facilities are up to par, with Greenview Park recently renovated and Hyatt Park scheduled for renovation.
“The amenities that we’ve put there are consistent with what we’ve done throughout the city,” Davis said.
Boosting the community
The Azurest project will start with single-family homes, with the first work possibly as soon as two months from now, according to Willie Tompkins, who owns the land.
Tompkins, owner of Bostick Tompkins Funeral Home, has invested in real estate projects before, and said he liked the site’s easy connections to Columbia’s interstates.
It’s not certain yet how many homes that Azurest will have when it is complete, Tompkins said, but paperwork filed with the city said it could include up to 85 single-family homes and up to 95 townhomes.
The site also is projected to have multiple small restaurants, plus boutique shops and small office space, according to the city filing. Tompkins projects that the full development could take three years.
Tompkins said he wanted to do something to boost the community with the land, as did its previous owners, the Montieth family. The Montieth family played a major role in Victory Savings Bank, which for decades was the only black-owned bank in Columbia.
The main involvement for city officials will be to help guide the project through permitting and other city processes, Hannibal said. No one from the project has asked for city dollars, Davis said.
One audience for the residential property on the site could be the colleges in north Columbia, which includes Columbia College, Columbia International University and the Lenoir-Rhyne graduate program, Hannibal said.
Tompkins said the early response to the project from the nearby neighborhoods has been positive, including calls from those hoping to buy a new home in the development.
“A lot of people love it,” Tompkins said.
The State Newspaper: Bourbon’s Niemi gives update on North Main restaurant and West Columbia steakhouse
BY JANET JONES KENDALL
December 29, 2017 04:03 PM
Updated December 29, 2017 04:05 PM
A year ago, local chef and restaurateur Kristian Niemi announced plans to open a new restaurant on North Main Street. Although not much has happened at the site at 2150 N. Main St., the plans are still in motion, Niemi told The State on Friday.
“Drawings are complete and the job is being put out for bid by my contractor,” Niemi said. “So, basically, I’m waiting just like everyone else.”
Niemi told The State last fall his plan for the restaurant — which he named NoMa Revival — was to join other local businesses in the area to help boost the revival of North Main Street. His plans for Revival are to use the 7,100-square-foot space as a multi-use complex that would include a restaurant, beer garden, bocce courts, concert hall and an open-pit barbecue.
Niemi also announced plans last fall to open a “high-end” steak and seafood house at Brookland, the $40 million mixed-use development under construction at State and Meeting streets near the Gervais Street bridge in West Columbia.
That project, too, is still “in the works,” Niemi told The State, and is most likely looking at an early 2019 opening.
Niemi also said he would be announcing another concept soon but could not provided details of that project at this time.
Niemi’s entrance into the Columbia dining market began at The Blue Marlin on Gervais Street, where he was the restaurant’s first general manager. From there, Niemi opened Mr. Friendly’s in 1995 and later opened Gervais & Vine in the Vista and Solstice Kitchen in northeast Columbia. In 2013, he opened Bourbon whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole kitchen at 1214 Main St. Earlier this year, he sold another original restaurant — Rosso Trattoria Italia, which he opened in Forest Acres in 2009.
The Free Times: Plans Announced for Multi-Use Development in North Columbia
By Chris Trainor Nov 2, 2017
A multi-faceted residential and retail development is in the works in North Columbia, not far from Interstate 20.
Development and City of Columbia officials gathered Nov. 2 to formally announce the coming Azurest at Heritage Creek development. Businessman Willie Tompkins — of Bostick-Tompkins Funeral home, among other business ventures — has plans to develop the nearly 37 acres at 1307 Mason Road, which is near the upper end of North Main Street, near Greenview Plaza.
The site is about 6 miles north of the State House. It is about a mile and a half north of the iconic Obama gas station.
According to City of Columbia planning paperwork, the Azurest development is slated to include up to 85 single family homes, up to 95 townhomes, a park, community gardens, a recreation center, an assisted living facility, several business offices, several boutique shops, a couple of casual dining restaurants, up to four quick service restaurants, a co-op grocery and hardware store, refurbished ponds, a banquet hall, a 75-100 room “micro hotel” and a convenience store, among other amenities.
Officials say the land where the development will sit was once owned by the influential Monteith family. County records indicate Tompkins bought the 36 acres in March 2015 for about $747,000.
Tompkins told Free Times he’s not yet sure when he will break ground on Azurest at Heritage Creek.
“It will be coming soon,” Tompkins says. “We want to do something that will give people jobs. … Someone has to start [development in that section of North Columbia]. I want to do good and get it started.”
The announcement of such a dynamic development comes at an opportune time for Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis, who is in the waning days of a competitive race for his seat in Columbia’s mostly African-American District 1, which covers North Columbia, including the site where Azurest will be. Davis is facing challenger Chris Sullivan in the Nov. 7 municipal election.
Much has been made of the revitalization going on in the vicinity of Main Street just north of Elmwood Avenue, in the Cottontown area. There have been decidedly fewer announcements on the economically depressed upper end of North Main.
Davis has insisted development will come to that area, and notes Azurest is a big step.
“The vision for North Columbia is real,” Davis says. “It’s always been real. … There are new businesses coming into North Columbia and new businesses coming to North Main.”
While Azurest would be a private development, the Eau Claire Development Corporation, a nonprofit that is one of several development corporations under the city’s umbrella, will help facilitate business for the nascent multi-use site.
“Our role is to be a catalyst for economic development through retail, commercial and residential,” ECDC’s Cecil Hannibal says. “So, my job is to support [the developers] in any efforts that I can, to help mitigate any issues they may have, supporting them through the city.”
The State Newspaper: Retailer to open in Columbia’s N. Main Street
BY JEFF WILKINSON
September 18, 2017 01:41 PM
Updated September 18, 2017 04:40 PM
The North Main/Cottontown area, which is becoming a new commercial corridor in Columbia’s growing downtown, is getting a new business. Amsterdam, an Edgefield-based custom wood supplier, will open its first design center and retail showroom in the 4,500-square-foot building at 2222 Sumter St. next to Indah Coffee Company.
The building’s owner, Cason Development Group, is also talking with another boutique retailer about leasing space that adjoins the Indah building, according Frank Cason, president of the Cason company. Cason added he is exploring other redevelopment opportunities in the Cottontown neighborhood.
“The neighborhood itself and the people that live there provide incredible support and a base for unique businesses,” Cason told The State. “The proximity, mixed with the feeling of being in a neighborhood, creates a great atmosphere.”
The Design Center at Amsterdam will be the first new non-food retailer in the area since a renaissance of new businesses in the North Main/Cottontown area began about two years ago. “We’re trying to thoughtful about the balance of food and beverage, true retail and office,” Cason said. “You need all of those to have a commercial neighborhood.”
The Sumter Street property is between Franklin and Jefferson streets and just around the corner from The War Mouth restaurant at 1209 Franklin St., which Cason renovated from an abandoned auto repair shop. Cason owns four buildings in the area, which is roughly defined by Elmwood Avenue, North Main Street, Franklin Avenue and Sumter Street. It is a cluster of 1940s through 1970s one- and two-story buildings that used to house car dealerships, mechanic shops and other service industries.
A building at 1223 Franklin St., just a down block from The War Mouth, is under renovation for a brewery.
Cason said he is negotiating with a women’s clothing boutique, two restaurants and a small office user for the neighborhood. “We’ve got a few thing working,” he said. “But nothing we can announce right now.
Amsterdam Lumber Co. will be moving into its new digs within the next month, Cason said. It specializes in reclaimed wood and thermally treated new lumber that can be made into furniture or customized for uses such as floors, ceilings and wall panels.
“It’s a lot of mantles, beams, heart pine floors, hard to find stuff,” Cason said. The Design Center at Amsterdam will be upfitted using the company’s products. “The intent is to create a unique and comfortable place where builders can bring clients to not only view the company’s products, but also work on customizing patterns and colors,” Amsterdam Lumber Co. chief executive Martijn Van Zadelhoff said in a news release.
Cason purchased 2222 and 2238 Sumter St. from Joe W. “Bill” Dunn in 2015, according to the news release. The buildings had been the home of Dunn Electric Co.
Indah Coffee Company and Circa Barber Shop opened in May at 2238 Sumter St.
Until recently, 2222 Sumter St. had housed a maintenance facility for Loomis Armored US, part of the international cash handling company.
The Free Times: Moving Up Main
By Eva Moore
May 31st, 2017
Curiosity Coffee Bar owner Greg Slattery had to leave Columbia to realize how much he loved the Capital City. He moved to Athens, Georgia in 2009, spending three and a half years there before moving back.
“At the time, I thought I was escaping to what I thought would be a more musically hip scene with more arts and culture going on. But I found out I was dead wrong. Just not right at all. Not only do I feel like the music scene’s better here, but now I am a part of the renaissance in Columbia.”
The new center of that renaissance, for Slattery and others, is along a stretch of Main Street between Elmwood Avenue and River Drive, an area bounded by the Cottontown and Elmwood Park neighborhoods.
That’s where Slattery and his partner, Sandra Moscato, just opened a small coffee shop inside local wine shop Vino Garage.
“I was most excited about the idea of being a part of the development of this area,” Slattery says. “It’s just such a neat stretch. I love the industrial building sort of vibe. …Looking at this, it felt like I could be part of something I’d be really proud of.”
Curiosity Coffee Bar isn’t the only coffee shop to open here in the past month. One block away, Indah Coffee Co., a longtime Soda City Market vendor, opened its first brick-and-mortar spot in the former Dunn Electric Co. building on Sumter Street; it shares the airy, welcoming space with Circa Barber Shop.
The caffeine boom had led some to dub the area “Coffeetown.”
But it’s more than just coffee. Curiosity and Indah are among a slew of new businesses that have opened or are about to open in this area, including a brewery, an architecture firm, a trendy furniture store and a yet-to-be-announced project by an out-of-state restaurant group.
The boom is no accident; the City of Columbia and the surrounding neighborhoods have been laying the groundwork for years. But the new development is raising inevitable tensions — fears of gentrification, and even a quibble over what the area should be called.
With development over the last few decades focused on the Vista and downtown, it’s been a long time since Columbia had a real explosion of changes in one of its urban neighborhoods. But as the city fills in and further diversifies, people are paying close attention to how this area will grow.
Folami Geter owns Lamb’s Bread Vegan Café, which has been at the corner of Main and Franklin at least since 2005; she bought the business from her father several years back. During a recent lunch hour, Curtis Mayfield was on the stereo and Geter and her staff were spooning out collards, vegan mac-and-cheese and other specialties. The clientele at this black-owned business is a mix of black and white.
“Maybe six or seven years ago, there were only two or three thriving businesses on our stretch of Main Street,” Geter says in a later email interview. “We were surrounded by empty abandoned buildings.”
In some ways, they still are. One of those abandoned properties is Jim Moore Cadillac; the dealership closed in 2009. Vacant warehouses, garages and weedy parking lots dot both sides of the street. Christ Central Ministries, which serves the homeless and other disadvantaged people, owns properties both north and south of Elmwood on Main. Men sometimes gather outside a liquor store on the east side of the street.
But recently, Geter says, “The landscape has changed tremendously.”
“It’s interesting to see folks who would have never thought of coming this far [up] North Main, now flocking to area businesses,” she says. “It’s proof that our city is growing. It’s absolutely different now. We don’t mind the change.”
Over the last several years, other businesses began to open. In 2011, David Roberts opened DER Kitchen in a building he’d bought five years earlier on the corridor. Roberts rents commercial kitchen space to food trucks, caterers and other food purveyors. Chocolate Nirvana is probably his most prominent kitchen user — and in the next few months, Roberts will be converting the front of his building into a retail space for the dessert maker.
In late 2012, Doug Aylard opened Vino Garage, bringing his beer and wine expertise to a low-key little wine shop on the west side of Main Street.
The most recent explosion began in earnest, though, with the opening of restaurant The War Mouth. Its owners chose Cottontown after an exhaustive search.
“Rhett and I creeped every street in the Metro, basically,” says Porter Barron, who co-owns The War Mouth with Chef Rhett Elliott and developer Frank Cason. “We knew we wanted to be as close to the city center as possible, but we didn’t want somewhere so concentrated that we couldn’t have a barbecue pit. This was a commercial district that wasn’t too crowded and was close.”
“We also wanted to be close to the river so we could go catfishing late at night when we get off work,” he adds.
The area makes a lot of sense for a restaurant, says Barron.
“We were surprised nobody beat us here, because it’s been obvious that the neighborhoods surrounding this commercial district have long since surpassed the offerings of the commercial corridor,” Barron says. “The residents in these areas have invested lots into these homes over the past several decades; it’s only the commercial district that was still blighted. It was clear this was an underserved area.”
The War Mouth opened to great reviews in December 2015, serving food inspired by hunting and fishing and Midlands barbecue joints.
Since then, developer Cason has bought several more properties in the area, including the building that now houses Indah and Circa, and one that will soon house Columbia Presbyterian Church. It’s won him over, he says.
“I’m from Columbia and lived here all my life and honestly didn’t know much about it,” Cason says. “My impression was ‘Don’t go north of Elmwood.’”
He found, though, that the Elmwood Park, Earlewood and Cottontown neighborhoods are filled with people with disposable income.
“There’s probably no area in Columbia that has that big of a gap between perception and reality,” Cason says. “Many people perceive that area as blighted not just commercially but residentially. The commercial needs help, but the residential is very nice. Lot of millennials, empty nesters.”
There are other newcomers. Architecture firm Studio 2LR recently renovated the old Wilson Furniture building at Main and Confederate, and moved in. A new furniture store, Copper Barn, is in the midst of its grand opening. Cromer’s P-Nuts plans to move to a building along the corridor that it bought in February. Restaurateur Kristian Niemi announced a project called Revival, though it’s not rolling yet. The area just above River is even getting a Pelican’s SnoBalls, the bright pink-and-blue New Orleans frozen treat franchise.
The area’s first brewery, Cotton Town Brew Lab, hopes to have its beer production up and running by the end of the summer. Owner Zack Jones says he started off looking at buildings in Charleston — “the mecca of breweries,” he says — but decided to stick around Columbia instead. The warehouses and garages that dot Cottontown are ideal for light industry like a brewery — at the future Cotton Town Brew Lab, the 16-foot ceiling means plenty of space for big tanks. Once production is up and running, Jones plans to turn his attention to building a tasting room and, eventually, a canning line.
And, as Free Times reported last week, it’s not just homegrown businesses eyeing the area anymore. A Tennessee-based development group called Fresh Capital has bought a property at 2203 Main St., which currently houses A&F Body Shop and a few other ramshackle buildings. Fresh Capital paid $463,000.
The group is associated with such chains as Taziki’s, Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and I Love Juice Bar — but real estate agent JP Scurry of Colliers International says the buyer hasn’t yet decided what restaurant to develop on the site.
“Obviously they liked the property; there are some neat buildings on it,” Scurry says. “But they have not confirmed or finalized what they see there. They’re a very flexible group. Creative. Lot of different concepts.”
None of this development, it turns out, was an accident.
All About the Neighborhoods
For years, city planners and neighborhood groups have been trying to figure out how to lift up North Columbia.
You’ll hear quibbles from some — including some in this story — but to many Columbians, everything north of Elmwood Avenue is North Columbia. It’s a majority-black district with many proud, historic neighborhoods, and institutions like Columbia College and the Lutheran Seminary. It’s also struggled with poverty, and particularly with attracting businesses like grocery stores and restaurants.
Zero in on the area just north of Elmwood, though, and you’ll find something different. According to data compiled in 2014 using U.S. Census figures, the two-square-mile Earlewood/Cottontown/Elmwood Park area is more than half owner-occupied homes, with a median household income that mirrors that of the city at large. It’s about 60 percent white, 36 percent black — slightly whiter than the whole city, and certainly whiter than North Columbia.
A lot of stones have been laid over the years to help North Columbia, including the Elmwood-to-River-Drive stretch of Main. A detailed City of Columbia master plan released in 2005 visualizes the North Main corridor as a series of “villages,” with an “artist village” centered around Main Street and River Drive. City development corporations have built and redeveloped buildings throughout North Columbia, and given businesses reduced rents or loans to open in the area.
City leaders have also specifically targeted the area that’s now developing. Federal grants helped the city streetscape Main from Elmwood to River Drive, burying the utilities underground and smoothing the road and sidewalks. The city developed a façade loan program to give businesses along the corridor money to improve their storefronts. The city also did a zoning overlay for the area, reducing the number of parking spaces required for new businesses to move in, hoping to reduce the barriers to entry.
Another probable factor in the recent redevelopment? Bull Street. Greenville developer Bob Hughes is redeveloping the former state mental hospital property; it has a city-funded baseball stadium and a lot of new infrastructure going in. And it’s not far from Cottontown.
But the neighborhoods just north of Elmwood felt they had to do more. It turns out that the education Frank Cason got about the Cottontown area was probably no accident.
“Our neighborhood had always been on the defensive,” says Paul Bouknight, president of the Cottontown/Bellevue Historic District Neighborhood Association. “A few years ago we decided to go on the offensive.”
The Earlewood, Elmwood Park and Cottontown neighborhoods compiled some information for developers and started getting the word out.
The community also started a branding effort, according to various community members, trying to educate people about the fact that “North Main Street” doesn’t start until just above River Drive. The area immediately north of Elmwood is still plain old Main Street, and it’s in the same zip code — 29201 — as downtown Columbia.
“People refer to it as North Main, but it’s Main Street,” Bouknight says of the rapidly developing corridor. “Similar to what they did in Charleston with ‘Upper King,’ we did ‘Upper Main.’ All of that has seemed to help.”
There’ve been other efforts to separate out the “Upper Main” area. David Roberts, who owns DER Kitchen and has lived in Elmwood Park since building a house there in 1997, jokes that he briefly tried to rebrand the area SNOE, for Slightly North of Elmwood.
“We’re struggling for an identity,” Roberts says. “Everyone knows Main Street, the Vista, Olympia. What do we call our little section of Main?”
“It’s nothing against being associated with North Columbia,” he adds. His business is a member of the North Columbia Business Association. But he thinks his area needs its own name and identity.
Roberts says he’s seen some recent changes in the neighborhoods themselves, not just the corridor. “Elmwood Park and Cottontown are very diversified,” he says. “That’s one reason we like it. We couldn’t have bought our lot in Shandon.” But he notes that until recently, he and his wife were some of the few people in the neighborhood with kids — and who sent their kids to the neighborhood schools.
“When we moved in, you were either gay, single, double-income-no-kids, or retired,” he says. Now, people with kids are staying.
Not everyone thinks the booming area needs its own brand.
“I’ve never seen a reason to not just call it North Main,” says Slattery of Curiosity Coffee Bar. “I feel like the only reason you don’t want to call it North Main is whatever association you might have with that name. To me it is what it is. I’ve always loved this area. It’s affordable, it’s fun. Honestly, the only vandalism or crime that’s ever happened to my property while living in this area was from a drunk white college dude who went through everyone’s car on our street and threw our change out in the street.”
The G Word
While metrics are hard to come by this early in the boom, developers tell Free Times there’s already been a spike in the cost of some commercial properties in the area, with owners feeling their lots are worth a lot more than they used to be. And there are very few residential properties for sale in the Cottontown area these days, Bouknight notes.
What’s more, it’s indisputable that many of the new businesses in the area are white-owned, while many of the older businesses in the area are black-owned.
With the Elmwood-to-River corridor so hot, is there a concern that the attention might harm what people love about the area, or push out people who are already there?
Sam Davis, the area’s long-serving councilman, is used to getting pulled a lot of different ways, as he represents basically all of North Columbia.
“I think gentrification, as everyone knows, has positives and negatives,” Davis says.
Davis says development will be good for the entire North Columbia area — “businesses follow rooftops,” he notes — but that he wants to make sure the new businesses don’t push out or make life harder for existing businesses or residents. He cites the façade program as an example of how the city has tried to help existing businesses prepare for the changes coming to the area. The city needs to stay focused on projects like that, he says.
“Affordability along the North Main corridor is an attraction,” Davis says. “We did a good experiment in the Vista, now we need to focus our energies in the northern part of the city and eastern part of the city.”
The area’s newer business owners say they’ve tried to tread lightly.
“That’s a tricky thing,” says Barron, co-owner of The War Mouth, when asked whether the new development is a force for good. “In this case, we certainly aren’t gentrifying this area. It’s only the commercial corridor that has not kept pace. The neighborhood associations around here have been clamoring for commercial business; they were just opposed to El Cheapos and liquor stores, places that would result in a lot of calls to the precinct. When we came and introduced ourselves to the neighborhood associations first thing, we were deferential coming in, and I’m proud to say we have a very good reputation.”
On the other hand, while commercial development is positive, being a hip new area could bring undesirable focus, according to Slattery.
“I do worry about gentrification,” Slattery says. “I’ve lived in these neighborhoods since ’06. My biggest concern, and what I hope doesn’t happen is that the culture and the heritage of this part of town gets lost in brand new banners saying, ‘Whoo, we’re It.’”
Cason, the developer, also sees the boom just north of Elmwood as a potential way to boost the entire North Columbia region.
“They desperately want more services out there, more retail,” he says of Eau Claire and areas further up Main. “I believe this will help them. [But] between Elmwood and Sunset, I think that has to happen first. … We need some infill development. Once people start to see that, retailers will start to take notice.”
Bouknight, the Cottontown neighborhood president, is excited about the changes in the area — but he’s very clear about his priorities.
“Our great concern is not to hurt the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” he says. “Life is good in Cottontown, Elmwood Park and Earlewood. It’s quiet, family-centric neighborhoods. We’re a bunch of porch dwellers. … We don’t want what happened in Five Points where it has metastasized into the neighborhoods, parking and so forth. We want the business, but we want it contained and we want to maintain the privacy of our neighborhoods.”
Cotton Town Brew Lab hopes to begin production this year. (picture by John A. Carlos II)
Greg Slattery co-owns Curiosity Coffee Bar, a new business inside Vino Garage. (picture by John A. Carlos II)
Lamb’s Bread Vegan Café has been serving up big portions for more than a decade at the corner of Main and Franklin streets. (picture by John A. Carlos II)
Circa Barber Shop
Curiosity Coffee Bar
(inside Vino Garage)
The War Mouth
Chocolate Nirvana retail storefront (inside DER Kitchen)
Columbia Presbyterian Church
Cotton Town Brew Lab
TBA restaurant project by Fresh Capital
Cola Today: Cottontown Gets A Brewery
CITY, FOOD & DRINK, THE DAILY
MAY 08 2017 / CHLOE
Cottontown gets a brewery
A restaurant + a coffee shop come to a neighborhood – the only natural fit is for a brewery to join them, right?
Cottontown Brew Lab is opening in the reviving Cottontown neighborhood off N. Main St. – in a former auto repair building at 1223 Franklin St. – as a production brewery late this summer, and a tap room early 2018.
(If you live under a rock, Cottontown is buzzing with potential after now-successful The War Mouth restaurant opened there last year, and much-anticipated Indah Coffee shop opened last week.)
Here’s the current building, two-storefronts down from The War Mouth and around the corner from Indah Coffee ⬇️
Here’s what Cottontown Brew Lab hopes to look like late-summer 2017, with the tasting room-portion finished Jan.-April 2018 ⬇️
March 2016 | Building purchased by owner/president Zack Jones
January 2017 | Received Federal Brewery License
Now | Building clean up + waiting for plan approval by the City of Columbia
Once plans are approved:
-8-12 weeks of construction
-3-4 weeks of equipment setup + test batches of beer
-Late summer 2017 | Open as a production brewery (a.k.a. they’ll make beer but *only* sell kegs to bars + restaurants)
-The brew house will be in the main part of the building (the room behind the currently red-framed garage door)
-January-April 2018 | Taproom open to the public (a.k.a. you’re allowed in now to drink )
-1,500 sq. ft. taproom + bar area
-Housed in the right side of the building (set further back, with the currently white-framed garage door)
-They’ll offer light food options
The end goal? To be a regional brewery like Westbrook (Charleston) or Terrapin (Athens). Nice. We don’t hate that idea.
Cottontown Brew Lab says they’ve received nothing but love from the rest of the neighborhood, and they’re excited to open. We’re excited too – especially after seeing this Tropical IPA.
Cheers to more Soda City beers,
The Free Times: Indah Coffee Co. to Open Cottontown Shop, Roastery
By Eva Moore Feb 6, 2017
Indah Coffee Co. will be one of two tenants in a refurbished building in historic Cottontown, the developer announced today.
Cason Development Group is redeveloping 2238 Sumter St., which housed Dunn Electric Co. from 1945 until 2000.
The space will house a coffee shop and retail location of Indah Coffee, a local roaster well known to devotees of Soda City Market. The press release cites “a coffee café, a beer and wine bar, a cupping or coffee sipping/tasting room, conference and meeting spaces, and a roaster space unlike any other in town.”
The refurbished building will also host a second location of Circa Barber Shop.
The new project is right around the corner from restaurant The War Mouth — also a Cason project.
The Cottontown area is in the midst of a development boom, with several businesses slated for the strip of Main Street north of Elmwood — brewery Cotton Town Brew Lab, barbecue and grocery Revival — and several already open, including Vino Garage, Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe and Sweet Temptations Bakery.
And there could be more to come, per Frank Cason: “An additional retail space will be available in an attached space at the rear of [2238 Sumter St.]. The former warehouse and loading dock could be configured for an outdoor patio and maybe a small music venue.”
Cason has also bought nearby 2222 Sumter St. for other to-be-determined purposes.
Live 5 News: Columbia Sees New Life on North Main
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) –
Columbia officials have long hoped for a revival of business activity on North Main Street and there is some evidence that it is finally beginning to happen.
Their hope is that it will boost the economy one startup at a time.
For the last year or two, the area located just a few blocks up from Elmwood Avenue has begun to show signs of the kind of development that could make this the next hot spot for people looking for cool places to eat, drink, and hang out. Many of the improvements on North Main were made possible by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – better known as the stimulus program.
Businesses such as Vino Garage and the War Mouth along with a couple of bakeries and other new restaurants that do not serve fast food are popping up in the area. Those businesses are part of a landscape that began developing about eight years ago when the city began using tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funding to improve North Main infrastructure.
At Earlewood Park on Thursday, the City of Columbia put on a workshop aimed at helping entrepreneurs carve their way through the bureaucracy that can sometimes slow if not stop small business development. This comes on the heels of a couple of major economic development reports underscoring the need to streamline the startup process for budding business owners.
Small business owner Shelly Johnson attended the workshop. She wants to open a bakery and deli shop further up North Main in the Greenview area.
“We need to start building up the neighborhoods in our area. Like, they’re drying up and we need to bring some new things to it, you know, and I want to be one of those people that bring something new to the area,” Johnson said.
Johnson has her eyes on space in the largely vacant shopping center Greenview Plaza located just south of I-20. She will have some advantages in carrying out her efforts.
A few days ago the annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report put Columbia startup costs as the fourth-lowest in the nation.
Entrepreneurs will also get some help from the state Chamber of Commerce which called this week for a standardized business licensing process statewide.
Copyright 2016 WIS. All rights reserved.
The State Newspaper: Carolina Kernels: 65 flavors of popcorn – and counting
BY JANET JONES KENDALL
April 20, 2016 03:00 PM
Updated April 20, 2016 02:00 PM
When Tamala and Vinson Lathan opened Carolina Kernels in Columbia’s Greenview Plaza on North Main Street two years ago, the husband and wife team had no idea their gourmet popcorn would be sold at Colonial Life Arena and University of South Carolina athletic events or that they would get orders from as far away as Wyoming, Wisconsin and New York.
“We were really busy at Christmas sending orders all over the U.S.,” Tamala said.
The business saw such immediate success that in March, after just two years in business, the Lathans moved to a larger location – a former car lot – at 2720 Main St.
The larger location allows more room to showcase Carolina Kernels’ 65-plus flavors of specialty popcorn – flavors such as key lime pie, chocolate pecan pie, cheesy buffalo wings, better cheddar and dozens more.
“We just try flavors we like and they work,” Tamala said. “We are always working hard to create new flavors to provide our customers with an array of options. All of the flavors are made in house in small batches to help ensure quality and freshness.”
One of the local favorites is a special recipe that the Lathans call “Famously Hot,” a flavor created especially for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Columbia’s tag line is Famously Hot, so just like the summer days in Columbia ‘Famously Hot’ popcorn flavor starts out cool and slowly brings the heat that might leave you sweating,” Tamala said. “It’s our secret blend of cheeses and spices.”
The Lathans also are cooking up their next product, hot mini-doughnuts that will be sold at area sporting events and, if well received, will be sold in the store.
How did Carolina Kernels get its start?
Both Tamala and Vinson are self-described “foodies.”
“We love to travel and sample the local fares wherever we go,” Tamala said.
It was Tamala’s love for all things popcorn that started her on her way to Carolina Kernels. Tamala started making flavored popcorn several years ago in her home kitchen in Atlanta. She quickly outgrew her own space, rented a commercial kitchen and started selling online. Orders started taking off immediately; Tamala soon decided to open a store back in her home state in Columbia’s Greenview area close to where she grew up.
Within two years Carolina Kernels outgrew that location, which led to the shop’s relocation last month.
While popcorn is the obvious draw for customers to Carolina Kernels, folks may not realize the restaurant is also just that – a restaurant with a full cafe-style menu with items such as housemade chicken salad, a fried bologna sandwich and even banana pudding. Wash it down with some fresh-squeezed traditional lemonade, strawberry lemonade or fresh-brewed tea, all made fresh every morning by Tamala’s mother, Geneva.
“We call the tea ‘Mama G’s tea,’ ” Tamala said.
The menu also includes Vinson’s favorite food: hot dogs. “Just like the popcorn, the hot dogs come in a variety of flavors,” Vinson said.
Choices include the typical chili dog, Chicago dog, and slaw dog but also specialty dogs such as the Main Street Famous, which is topped with grilled onions and peppers. There’s also the Big Herb, named after Tamala’s father, which includes grilled beef sausage, chili, New York onion sauce, cheese and Giardiniera peppers.
“Vinson and (my dad) used to spend a great deal of Saturday morning hot dog hunting around Columbia after their weekly trip to the flea markets,” Tamala said. “ He is responsible for Vinson’s love of hot dogs.”
Who eats there?
“The clientele is as varied as the popcorn flavors,” Tamala said. Carolina Kernels draws a good number of moms with young kids, city officials and employees and area professionals – anyone who likes popcorn.
What does the place look like?
The decor at Carolina Kernels pales in comparison to the aromas that waft through the eatery’s new digs. Now, there is a display are for the popcorn and space for lunch customers to sit down and dine in. Future plans for the property include more outdoor seating, bike parking and a doggie station with fresh water and treats for the many four-legged friends that accompany customers walking from the surrounding neighborhoods.
IF YOU GO
Where: 2720 Main St.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday
Cost: Popcorn per bag ranges from $3.50 to $10.50, depending on size and ingredients. All sandwiches are $6 or less.
Details: (803) 851-6195; www.carolinakernels.com; www.facebook.com/carolinakernelspopcorn
The State Newspaper: Is North Main the next downtown hot spot?
BY JEFF WILKINSON
April 18, 2015 08:50 PM
Updated April 21, 2015 12:37 PM
Main Street is bustling. The Vista is booming. Bull Street is looming. Is it finally time for North Main to shine? Long the stepchild of downtown’s renaissance, the 5-mile-long stretch of Main Street from Elmwood Avenue to I-20 has been a corridor of promise, but not much progress, for decades.
Now, the lower part of North Main from Elmwood to the railroad trestle at Earlewood Park is set to pop. It even has a name: NOMA.
“There’s definitely momentum,” said real estate broker Chris Barczak, who renovated the 13,000-square-foot Trestle Building and in January leased much of it to the eclectic furniture store Carolina Imports.
As Main Street’s revitalization stretches toward Elmwood, many are saying it is inevitable that it will jump Elmwood into NOMA. But NOMA’s success might not depend solely on Main Street’s fate.
With the Vista increasingly filling up with chain stores and restaurants – and with the gentrification of North Main’s in-town neighborhoods and the incremental improvements in Eau Claire farther north – NOMA is being eyed as a destination for more-local, less expensive development.
Carolina Imports was displaced by renovations to the former City Market Antique Mall on Gervais Street in the Vista, where it had been for a dozen years. The mall is being converted into restaurants and apartments. “We needed a sort of warehouse,” owner Eva Bradley said. “It’s hard to find that downtown and (it) be affordable.”
In addition, three NOMA properties recently have been placed under contract, according to several sources, two of which are planned for restaurants – a sit-down brick oven pizza restaurant and a barbecue joint. Also, it is said a Walmart Neighborhood Market could be heading to the former Jim Moore auto dealership site, in the first block off Elmwood Avenue.
The new eateries – if they happen – will join long-standing and lone-standing Lamb’s Bread vegan restaurant, the 3-year-old craft beer and wine shop across the street called Vino Garage and North Main Bakery.
Other than that, the street is pretty much a clean slate. The reason for the interest is the affordability, ample parking – many of the lots are car dealerships abandoned for decades – and the more than 2,000 residents of the gentrified neighborhoods of Elmwood Park, Earlewood, Cottontown and Keenan Terrace, who are within walking distance.
“People here will support what’s going on,” Lamb’s Bread owner Folami Geter said. “But there’s nothing happening yet.”
Columbia Metropolitan Magazine: Classical Glass of SC
“George Clooney looks as good in person as he does on the movie screen,” says Hi Roberson, and she would know. Hi and Bill Roberson, owners of Classical Glass in the heart of Columbia, are multi-faceted artists in ways that go beyond their stained glass creations. Between the pair, they’ve worked in movies like “The Patriot,” “Radio” and George Clooney’s “Leatherheads.” They obviously make a lovely couple, because George Clooney cast them as a husband and wife without even knowing they were married
Their Main Street studio shop, Classical Glass of SC, is decorated with framed scenes in stained glass. The vignettes vary in size, subject and mix of vibrant colors, yet they all are remarkable in their artistry. Bill, president of the company, has two decades of experience in stained glass fabrication, restoration and conservation. The best stained glass is made by hand by artists, not in an assembly line in Asia.
Stained glass can be traditional or contemporary. It gives homes and offices a constantly changing element. It will, as no other medium can, change a room with energy and light. The design options are limitless and glass is a valuable tool for enhancing a personal space. “I take pride in creating one of a kind designs that are unique to a client’s personality and tastes,” states Bill.
Bill and co-worker Guy Fowler design and construct the stained glass. They are currently working on a “limited edition” of specific designs. Hi masters an important part of any business – the customer service. Her easy laughter and animated banter puts customers at ease. If fact, a valentine gift from Hi to Bill in 1989 started the whole adventure in stained glass.
In the years since, Bill says he has created thousands of windows. By his count he’s installed at least 4,000 church windows throughout the southeast. Bill is a proud member of the Stained Glass Association of America. He can assure you a successful and enjoyable experience from design to installation.
To contact Classical Glass, call (803) 929-0707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by and pay them a visit at 3031 Main St., Columbia, SC 29201.