Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail scene in the North Main Street District of Columbia has changed.
With half of U.S. adults vaccinated against the coronavirus, Gov. Henry McMaster ending South Carolina’s state of emergency and nearly all mask mandates lifted, more people are getting back to normal life.
Through the pandemic, most North Main Street businesses held on despite tough times, like the restaurant The War Mouth that publicly asked for help staying afloat. Others shuddered, like Walgreens on North Main Street and the Taste of the South Gift Shop on Sumter Street, making way for new businesses.
If you haven’t visited the district that consists of the Elmwood, Earlewood, Eau Claire and Cottontown areas recently, then it might look a little different.
Here’s what new:
A Taste of the South gift shop closed last year and NoMa Warehouse opened in its place at 2222 Sumter St.
NoMa Warehouse opened in March as a hub for local artists. The building serves as a co-working art studio space with areas for rent. On Friday nights, NoMa doubles as a flea market with artisan goods for sale.
Mazie Cook and Beth Lawson, who co-own NoMa Warehouse, said they were inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory to create a communal art space in Columbia.
The warehouse has often been used as an event space for the community. It’s hosted small concerts and community organization meetings, and it will host an upcoming “Summer Sol Fest.” Local bands will play at the musical festival on June 19, and local vendors will set up food and drink stations, according to the business’s Facebook page.
Also on Sumter Street, the Freeze Automotive business moved to Garners Ferry. The building owners, Karen Yip and Robbie Hinrichs are developing the building for future restaurant or retail use.
The garage building will be a blank slate for one or tenants in Cottontown. Yip said they plan to add large garage doors to the building and a landscaped outdoor seating area to fit the neighborhood’s character.
The building is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. No tenants have signed on to lease the building yet.
North Main Brewery
In the last year, plans have moved forward for a $34 million brewery and office building in the former Stone Manufacturing Building on North Main and Phillips streets.
The mixed-use building will mainly hold a brewery, office building and a catering company on about 4.6 acres of land. Developers are using an existing 64,000-square-foot warehouse for the brewery and taproom, according to city records.
The Middleton family, who are prolific Columbia developers responsible for many building revitalization efforts on Main Street, is behind the project.
The brewery got six zoning exceptions from the city in March to move forward with the development.
Changes at Cottontown Brew lab
The owner of Cottontown Brew Lab announced in April on Facebook that the neighborhood microbrewery would be closing temporarily for renovations.
In his post, owner Zack Jones said, “the operational costs of trying to build a regionally distributed brewery without the financial support of a proper tap room have meant that we rarely met operating costs.”
The brew lab was operating as an outdoor biergarten with picnic tables, televisions and often food trucks parked at the lab during the pandemic. It would have to close for rainy days or cold weather.
Jones is planning to develop the property for “a higher quality, indoor dining experience,” he said in the post. He gained the funding for these upgrades through outside sources. Jones will also evaluate a cheaper brewing system to cut costs, the post said.
It is not known yet when Cottontown Brew Lab will reopen.
Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits opened
The Soda City vendor opened a brick and mortar cafe in November 2020 on North Main Street.
The eatery offers biscuits ranging from seasonal selections such as crab cake biscuits and pumpkin pie biscuit pudding to its staple items like the chipotle pimento cheese and sausage biscuit.
Husband and wife Renee and Todd Adams started Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits, named after their cat, in 2018 and it quickly became a Soda City Market favorite.
The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It still sets up at Soda City on Saturday mornings as well.
Hyatt Park upgrades
Columbia City Council approved more than $1.5 million in upgrades to Hyatt Park, which is nestled between the Earlewood and Eau Claire neighborhoods.
Construction was scheduled to start in March and be completed by the end of 2021. The park is funded mostly by the city with some state and federal aid, according to previous reports by The State.
The upgrades will include daylighting a stream that currently runs under the park, adding a new playground, walking trails and boardwalks, additional lighting, a new band stage and a splash pad water feature.
After the renovations, the hilly park is expected to be more accessible for older residents near the area to use as well.