Wanted in Columbia: First-to-market retailers

I’ve been thinking a lot about the new Bull Street Development. We know their recruiters are targeting first-to-market retailers — companies that are new to the Columbia market. And we also know they are targeting companies interested in reaching the business crowd and students.

I can think of numerous businesses already in Columbia that might want to open an additional location at Bull Street. But new to Columbia? That's a lot tougher. Looking over the Wanted in Columbia list, a couple of options stand out:

  • Ann Taylor
  • Apple Store
  • Chop House
  • Eddie Bauer
  • IMAX
  • Tupelo Honey
  • PF Changs
  • Teavana

None of these stores are in the Columbia market currently and all would be a pretty good fit for the target demographic. Problem is, I don’t see any of them locating to an unproven retail area. If you want to move into the Columbia market, though, your options are limited and Bull Street might be your best bet.*

Harbison** is getting much of the new investment, but it’s pretty much full. There really isn’t any room to build and Red Robin and Dave and Busters just took the last remaining large spots at Columbiana Mall. 

The Vista, Main Street, Forest Acres and Garners Ferry might appeal to some of these companies, but again, there isn’t that much quality space available.

Sandhills is really far out and off the interstate. Lexington is pretty far away from the core, too. If you want to build only one Columbia area store, it’s likely not going to be at Sandhills or in Lexington. And of course, Dutch Square and Columbia Mall are essentially dead. 

So that leaves the Bull Street Property as the best opportunity to move into the Columbia market. 

I think the new retail is going to be a tougher sell until we know what the foot traffic looks like. Restaurants would seem to be an easy fit with the baseball stadium, benefiting from pre- and postgame crowds. I think a top notch movie theater makes sense here because of it’s proximity to campus. (The Dutch Square Theater is nearby, but as we’ve established, Dutch Square is dying…)

We'll see. I'm in the camp that thinks Bull Street will be a success. In my opinion, the fact that no major retailers have been announced yet doesn't mean companies aren't interested. I really do think it's just the way retail works. But until the announcements start coming, we won't know if the types of businesses that will be occupying Bull Street will truly be new to the market, or just more of the same. 

* Another option is that companies don't want to invest in Columbia. And while that might be true, I think it's more likely that they are looking for the right place to invest in Columbia. 

** Look, I know that many of you hate Harbison… I get it. But it’s the place right now that hits most of the demographic check boxes in Columbia right now.