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Business: Shop owners await word on anchor store’s plans
By Jason Lesley
Without their anchor grocery store, some owners of shops in Litchfield Market Village say they are struggling through a tough time.
“We’ve taken a direct hit,” said Debra Guglielmi, who runs Litchfield Wine and Liquors with her husband, Guy. Their shop is two doors down from the upscale grocery that Piggly Wiggly closed Nov. 9 after selling most of its South Carolina locations to Bi-Lo.
“It’s definitely tested our patience,” Guglielmi said. “Everyone is waiting for them to get open. What’s so heart-breaking is that I don’t see anyone in there working and all of our neighbors want to know why not.”
Bi-Lo officials did not respond to questions about the timetable for reopening the store.
They said last year that the company planned to expand and renovate the former Piggly Wiggly. Georgetown County approved an expansion several years ago, but conditioned any work on a connection between Litchfield Market Village and the adjacent Mingo shops.
Guglielmi said small businesses depend on their anchor stores to generate traffic. She looks out on hundreds of empty parking spaces amid the live oaks of the shopping complex at Highway 17 and Willbrook Boulevard. “The bottom line is all about convenience,” she said. The Guglielmis are depending on their loyal local customers to ride out the lull. When they put a banner provided by a supplier near Highway 17 to remind customers they are still open, the county made Waccamaw Management move it further off the road after residents complained. Meanwhile, they are being forced to be more selective about donations, she added.
The Guglielmis, residents of The Reserve, have operated Litchfield Wine and Liquors for three years. They have made plans to expand with a second wine and liquor store in the new Pawleys Market at the South Causeway anchored by Lowes Foods. That store will open May 15, she said, but it’s not helping their present situation that’s been made worse by the closing of Carolina Wings and Rib House. That leaves Elite Retreat and Spa as the only business on that end of the shopping center.
Guglielmi and her husband are planning an antique car show in the center’s parking lot April 12 and will invite the other small businesses to participate.
Dave Fiori and fiancée Stephanie Kalat are remodeling the former Blockbuster Video space in the shopping center for a new Anytime Fitness branch. They have talked with their business neighbors and plan to put coupons from them in their new member packets next month. “They are a great, young couple,” Guglielmi said.
Tom Oaks at the Cyclopedia bike shop said he’s missing some of the usual service and repair work that takes place in winter. “We got walk-in business last winter,” he said, but with the grocery closed most of that has dried up. “It hurts with the anchor closing.”
Debbie Trimmer at Massey’s Pizza says January and February are typically slow months but this year is exceptional. “It’s off for everybody in here,” she said. Eggs Up Grill has a loyal following that doesn’t depend on the grocery store, she said, and that helps her pizza business in return. However, she’s seen cars enter the shopping center parking lot, turn and leave when drivers discover the grocery store is closed. “This is such a beautiful shopping center,” she said. “It’s just off the beaten path.”