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Columbia Food Fresh Market, 2016 Harden Street: 31 December 2010   7 comments

Posted at 1:12 am in stores

I hardly ever drive down this stretch of Harden Street, so sometime last summer, I saw this place for the first time. My reaction was "Huh. Had no idea that was here -- looks pretty nice."

I think if I had read these stories from WIS and The State about the store opening on 14 November 2008, I might have had another reaction, like "Hmm, better take some pictures now..".

That's because, frankly, they show all the signs of a well intentioned Bad Idea about to be put into practice. In particular:

The housing authority tried to recruit a grocery store to the area for nearly five years. It courted large grocery store chains that already had a presence in the Midlands but couldn’t find anyone interested, Walker said.

That should have been a pretty big hint right there that the commercial prospects weren't that good. There's also this:

Plus, the housing authority’s shopping plaza offers a smaller space than what most chains seek for new stores, Walker said.

“All of the big chains that we have gone to want 30,000 to 40,000 square feet,” he said. “Our whole shopping center isn’t that big.”

Little IGA-type stores can be successful in small towns and rural areas, but not, I think, a mile from a full-sized Food Lion..

The State article noting the passing of the store also mentions that the pharmacy listed on the roadside marquee is also already gone:

A drugstore in the shopping plaza closed earlier this year after the sole pharmacist moved to Louisville, Ky.,

There's also this gem

The store had been a source of pride for Columbia City Council and the Columbia Housing Authority, two public bodies that worked hard to recruit a grocery to the neighborhood near the heart of downtown Columbia.

But the store became another victim of the Great Recession and was not making a profit, said Gilbert Walker, executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority.

“The grocery store business is a tough business, especially when you don’t have a name brand,” Walker said.

Well then, perhaps it was a bad idea to open one?

I don't want to sound too testy here, so let me be clear -- I'm sorry for the people who lost their jobs, and for the nearby residents who lost a grocery store -- that doesn't mean it was a good idea.

Written by ted on January 11th, 2011

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7 Responses to 'Columbia Food Fresh Market, 2016 Harden Street: 31 December 2010'

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  1. I wandered in about six months ago just to see what it was all about and was decidedly unimpressed. The shelves and coolers were half empty, like they were preparing to go out of business, they had that depressing dim save-a-nickel lighting thing going on, and there were no bargains -- everything was full price. Ugh.

    Dennis

    11 Jan 11 at 7:04 am

  2. Reading The State article Ted linked to in the post, I found while paging through the comments that grocery stores operate on a 1% profit margin, even in the best of times. Grocery Stores aren't a license to print money it goes on to say. In many low income neighborhood, shoplifting is a tolerated behavior which drains the profit margin to almost nothing. Another attitude (which drives my mom crazy) is that everything is someone else's fault

    Comments on the <a href="http://www.wltx.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=114054&quot; WLTX article indicate that similar factors killed the 2300 Taylor Street Food Lion a few years back. One in particular says they had to replace their entire shopping cart inventory 3x in a 16-month period. Apparently the shopping carts are app. $300 per cart and they had to replace their entire fleet of 100 of them 3X...doing the math, that means they spent app. $90K in 16 months on shopping carts...couple that with the theft issues that are rampant (from what I've gathered) in that neighborhood, and you have a recipe for unprofitability.

    My late grandmother obviously knew this was going on as she didn't want to go in the 2300 Taylor Street Food Lion. My great aunt went in once with a neighbor and it was the first & last time they'd go in there. I just wish I could share this with my grandmother.

    Andrew

    11 Jan 11 at 2:13 pm

  3. Here is a corrected link to the WLTX article

    Andrew

    11 Jan 11 at 2:15 pm

  4. According to the State, the person who ran it for the first 18 months was a Florence area man who owned five convenience stores. Sounds like they were desperate just to get someone to run it.

    Another thing that struck me it the same article was one of the people interviewed said he came there mostly to buy lottery tickets.

    No wonder it failed.

    Tom

    11 Jan 11 at 4:40 pm

  5. The same type of failure is going on at Addesso, Rosewood Hills, Canalside, and North Main Plaza. Spending state and federal dollars on ill thought out social engineering neighborhoods. Doesn't work.

    tonkatoy

    12 Jan 11 at 10:48 am

  6. I stocked up on lots of groceries after they announced their closing. LOL! Everything was 50% off!

    Alicia

    12 Jan 11 at 12:37 pm

  7. I agree with Tonkatoy -- Canalside already looks likes the projects - I say let the city buyem and rentem - It is just a blink away with the way the city thinks. or it could be the new rapid transit (bus depot) gateway to Cayce -- lol

    Kc

    12 Jan 11 at 12:39 pm

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