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The New Main Street

The New Main Street

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Published by Richard Phelps
A look at what makes Columbia’s Main Street unique as it prepares to welcome its first major retailer in decades.
A look at what makes Columbia’s Main Street unique as it prepares to welcome its first major retailer in decades.

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Published by: Richard Phelps on May 21, 2011
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Main Street.It’s the historic heart of the city. It’s thefinancial and political center of the state.It’s the region’s emerging arts district. Andit has more opportunity for new retail, res-taurants and clubs than any other district inthe city. And unless you live or work there, youprobably haven’t visited it in years.Perhaps you should. With Mast General Store opening, a newNickelodeon art house cinema, new restau-rants and clubs, an emerging arts sceneand almost monthly festivals, markets,tours and crawls, Main Street is becominglivelier than it has been since the depart-ment stores fled for the suburbs some threedecades ago.“We’ve got to pull people back to MainStreet,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin, who ismaking the kind of push to turn the streetinto a destination as his predecessor BobCoble did for the nearby Vista.City leaders have spent more than adecade and millions of dollars trying torevitalize Main Street, which has long beenpegged as a retail destination.But this year has brought a series of projects, programs and events that hassparked new life in the old shoppingdistrict. Among them:
The North Carolina-based Mast GeneralStore in the old Lourie’s building, whichopens this week and promises to be a desti-nation for shoppers and attract otherretailers.
 A new Nickelodeon art house theaterand media center, being built in the formerFox Theater next to Lourie’s beginning inNovember, which would bring foot trafficto the street day and night and spur otherarts activities in the area.
 A new garage at Sumter and Taylorstreets that will help ease the parkingcrunch.
 A city program intended to help buildingowners improve their facades should makethe area more attractive.
 A dozen artists’ studios in the ArcadeMall and a proposal for an arts space in theTapps Building.
New clubs and restaurants such as White Mule, Zoe’s and a Braziliansteakhouse.
 And a string of newer festivals andevents: First Thursdays, Wing Fling and theUrban Tour.Benjamin even wants a jam-up New Year’s event. No word on whether that willinclude dropping the Big Chicken.“There’s a lot going on in downtownColumbia,” Benjamin said. “We have a vibrant Vista and a vibrant Five Points andagreat 27,000-student university.“But we have to go on pushing the im-portance of having a vibrant Main Street. If  you are going to have a great city — not agood city but a great city — you have tohave a great urban core. And we have themakings of that here on Main Street.”
GATHERING ON MAIN
 Festivals and regular events thatbring people to Main Street
Main Street Marketplace.
10 a.m. to2 p.m. each Friday in May, June, Septemberand October on Boyd Plaza in front of theColumbia Art Museum. Crafts, fruits, localspecialties, organic food and vegetables
Columbia Open Studios.
Art studiosinside the historic Arcade Mall, 1332 Main St.,are open as part of this weekend’s citywideartists studio tour, which continues today fromnoon to 6 p.m.
First Thursdays.
6-9 p.m. on the firstThursday of each month. Businesses keep their doors open late, offering a mix of spe-cials, events, art and entertainment
Happy Hour History Tour.
5:30-7:30p.m. Fridays in May and October. A guided tourstarting at the State House offers insight into the city’s history, focusing on life on MainStreet and in the downtown corridor. Partici-pants stop at historic sites and receive twofree beverages and appetizers along the way.Reservations required. Call (803) 252-1770,ext. 24, or email reservations@historiccolum-bia.org 
Latin Festival.
Aug. 27
Greek Festival.
Sept. 15-17
Italian Festival.
Oct. 22
Urban Tour.
April 2012. Live entertain-ment, a glimpse into downtown living spacesand special offers and giveaways from mer-chants
 Wing Fling.
May 2012
ONLINE AT THESTATE.COM
Interactive walking tour:
Take a block-by-block walking  tour down Main Street
Photo galleries:
Staff photography that provides a peekinside Main Street businesses, apartments and condos
Interactive map:
Main Street highlights, including videosproduced by the Historic Columbia Foundation on somekey architectural features
PRODUCING THIS SECTION
Reporters:
Adam Beam, Dawn Hinshaw, Jeff Wilkinson
Contributing:
John Sherrer, director of cultural resources,Historic Columbia Foundation
Photographers:
C. Aluka Berry, Kim Kim Foster-Tobin,Tracy Glantz, Gerry Melendez
Designer:
Kelly Cobb
Editor:
Eileen Waddell
Online:
Kelly Davis, Rachael Lowe
MAIN STREET’S 4 ROLES
Main, on the cusp ofanew life, is city’sheart, power center
2. HEART OF THE CITY
Jessie Rearden prepares her arts and crafts booth for the Main Street Marketplace, one of the events and businesses thathave been drawing people to Main Street, in good times and bad.
GERRY MELENDEZ/GMELENDEZ@THESTATE.COM
3. EMERGING ARTS DISTRICT
The Columbia Art Museum, Main Street’s anchor, is being joined by otherarts venues.
KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN/KKFOSTER@THESTATE.COM
4. MORE OPPORTUNITY FOR RETAIL > > >
Mast General Store, which opens Wednesday, is expected to usher in a new wave of shops and restaurants.
D2
SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2011| THE STATE | WWW.THESTATE.COM
COVER PHOTO:
Folks make their way down MainStreet, headed toward Gervais Street.
C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM
By JEFF WILKINSON
 jwilkinson@thestate.com
1. THE STATE’SFINANCIAL ANDPOLITICAL CENTER
High-rises — three built in the pastseven years — are home to bankers,lawyers, politicians, lobbyists andbureaucrats.
C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COMC. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM
 
It’s Taco Tuesday at The Whig and Jessika “RabbitPunch” Johnsonand Laura“Carter Away” Perozzi jammer and blocker re-spectively for the ColumbiaQuad Squad roller derbyteam — are up to their tat-tooed elbows in tortillas andcheese.Anyone can come andhang out here,” Perozzi saysover an undercurrent of groovy tunes from the juke-box and the clink of pintglasses. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”The Whig has a crowdabout as eclectic as theycome: Hipsters like Johnsonand Perozzi, State Housepoliticos, office workers,university types. The en-lightened dive bar hosts anyand all comers.That’s the way co-owner Jonathan Robinsonlikes it.“At 4 or 5 in the afternoon you have lawyers and in-terns from (office towers)across the street and ahandful of USC faculty,” hesaid. “At nine or 10 you’llhave older USC students.Late night, it’s the hipsterrock and roll crowd.”Opened in 2005 in thebasement of the historicbuilding that houses Colum-bia’s ABC network affiliate,The Whig got its name fromthe 19th century’s WhigParty — a nod to the StateHouse across the street —and the wig shops that lineparts of Main Street.It was inspired by Rob-inson’s and co-founder DinoPournaras’desire to opensomething a little moreurban than other bars inColatown. There are noTVs. No beer signs. Nodance floor. No stage.But it does have one of the coolest juke boxes in theSoutheast, one that changes with the bartenders’attitudes.“We weed out the songsthat drive us crazy,” Rob-inson said. “I mean, we likeGuns N’ Rosesand theB-52s, but how many timescan you hear Paradise Cityand Rock Lobster?”Occasionally, The Whig will have live music — “butonly people we like,” Rob-inson said. Wednesday is discountedpint night. Each Sunday, theGreater Columbia Societyfor the Preservation of Soulspins records from 6:30 p.m.until midnight.The Whig also featuresbetter-than-you-would-thinkfood. In addition to the pop-ular 50-cent tacos on Tues-day, the everyday menu haspizza, burgers, three-cheese And, being in the base-ment of a former bank, the Whig also boasts a verycomfortably furnished vault. Yes, vault.“We definitely wanted aplace with character,” Rob-inson said. “So we did whatnobody else in Columbia was doing.”grilled cheeses and smokedgouda mac-and-cheese. Forspecial occasions, theyserve up chicken and waffles.“It’s straight bar food, but we use all fresh ingredients,so that makes a difference,”the third co-owner, PhilBailey, said.
Jessika ‘Rabbit Punch’ Johnson, left, and Laura ‘Carter Away’ Perozzi enjoy tacos and beer at The Whig on a recent Tuesday night.The restaurant and bar is below street level at Gervais and Main streets.
C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM
 JEWEL OF THE BLOCK 
Chicken and waffles and beer (and no TVs)? You bet 
BY JEFF WILKINSON
 jwilkinson@thestate.com
 Don’t miss this historical detail
BALCONY, BRENNENBUILDING,1210-1214 MAIN ST.
Owners of Main Street buildings of all sizes built before the Civil War and through the 1870s and 1880s lovedheavy metal. Styles and sizes variedwidely, but this once-prevalent architec- tural element lends an air of sophis- tication to even the most modest of structures.While not original to the circa-1870Brennen Building, this 19th-centurycast iron balcony features an intricate,curvilinear grapevine design.
 John Sherrer, Historic Columbia Foundation
EYECATCHER
The view through the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window in theMcNair Law Firm’s new 18th-floorlobby is stunning.It feels like you can almost reachacross Gervais Street and touch thecopper dome of the State House.The effect is singular. You’re in aplace of power.The motto of the firm — thestate’s third-largest — is that theyoperate at the intersection of busi-ness and government.And now we literally do,” saidchief executive and managing part-ner David Tigges.The modern, wedge-shaped,all-glass Main & Gervais building,built by Atlanta developer JohnHolder, put an exclamation pointon the city’s and the state’s “powerblock,” the 1200 block of MainStreet, arguably the most politicallyinfluential chunk of real estate inSouth Carolina:
The McNair Law Firm shares theMain & Gervais building, whichopened last year, with the NationalBank of South Carolina and EastCoast shopping center giant Edens&Avant.
Next door, slightly off Main but with a 1201Main Street address, isthe 25-story Capitol Center — thestate’s tallest building. It housesstate agencies like the S.C. Depart-ment of Commerce and, on the topfloor, the private Capital City Club.
 Across Main Street is the FirstCitizens tower, which opened in2006. It is home to the bank’s cor-porate offices and the influentialNexsen Pruet law firm — thestate’s second-largest.
 And just up the street in the 1300block of Main Street is the Meridi-an Building, which opened in 2004and houses BankMeridian and thestate’s largest law firm, NelsonMullins Riley & Scarborough.The three new office towers,built within six years of one anoth-er, marked the zenith of a construc-tion boom in Columbia unequalledsince Gen. William T. Sherman’stroops got tricky with matchesduring the Civil War. They filled thecity’s need for first-class officespace for some of the state’s mostpowerful entities – and representedabit of one-upmanship betweenthe competing banks and law firms. Vaughn Granger, who openedGranger Owings Classic Clothierson Main 35 years ago and caters tothe lawyers, lobbyists, politicians,bureaucrats and bankers that in-habit the towers, said the 1200block alone cements Columbia’sMain Street as South Carolina’sMain Street.“Downtown Greenville is nice if  you want to get something to eatand take a stroll,” he said. “But this where the power is.”
C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM
By JEFF WILKINSON
 jwilkinson@thestate.com
David Tigges is chief executive of the McNair law firm, at thecorner of Gervais and Main streets.
CHARACTER
Welcome to S.C.’s power center
1200 block is hometo lawyers, lobbyists,politicians, bureaucratsand bankers
Martha Studstillopened her Uptown Gifts inOctober of 2008 — just in time for the economyto crash.But with hard work and a LOT of person-alized, South Carolina-specific gifts to offer,Studstill has tapped in to a niche market that ispaying off.She sells S.C. crafts, S.C. foods, S.C.-themed just-about-anything to tourists, conventioneersand Fort Jackson parents who take time to visitthe State House just a half-block away.“You get a lot more tourists there than anyonerealizes,” she said. “It’s a shame it isn’t open onSaturday.”But a big part of her business is personalizedgifts (monogrammed, stainless steel oysterknife, anyone?) and gift baskets featuring someof the best products the state has to offer.Some of her most loyal customers are thelawyers, bankers and lobbyists in the officetowers that surround her, who want to give vis-iting clients a little South Carolina flavor to takehome with them.“They are businesspeople, and they under-stand local business,” she said. “So they’ve been very supportive.”
 Jeff Wilkinson
Martha Studstill lets a fresh breeze in as she opens the doors to her store,Uptown Gifts. The store specializes in S.C.-themed items.
 WHO WORKS HERE
Shopkeeper finds a Palmetto niche
C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM
FROM GERVAIS TO LADY
WWW.THESTATE.COM | THE STATE | SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2011
D3
THE POWER BLOCK

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