071317 Development: German grocery plans Pawleys store in U.S. expansion
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Development: German grocery plans Pawleys store in U.S. expansion

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A German-based grocery chain is planning to build a store at Pawleys Island as part of its expansion into the U.S. market. Lidl is seeking a zoning change to allow construction of a 33,000-square-foot store on Highway 17 at Petigru Drive. The site is across the street from the Publix store that opened in 2015.

Lidl will be the sixth supermarket in the area and the fourth from the North Causeway to the South Causeway. If that puts people in mind of a restaurant row or a motor mile for grocers, they aren’t too far off, said Rob Salvino, research economist at Coastal Carolina University. “They’re looking for where consumers are driving,” he said. “There are only so many intersections. They try to get to the best corner.”

The 4.8-acre site was rezoned as a “flexible design district” by Georgetown County in 2015 to allow multiple uses including two fast-food restaurants. It allows over 35,000 square feet of commercial space. The owners, Jody Tamsberg and Guerry Green, have asked to have grocery store added to the list of uses.

“It’s a 33,000-square-foot grocery store wanting to go there,” said Boyd Johnson, the county planning director. “It was enough for us to say it was a major change.” That will require a public hearing, scheduled for July 20 before the Planning Commission, and three readings from County Council.

A traffic study for the mixed-use development showed that the major impact would be on the southbound side of Highway 17 at the project’s entrance, where it would be one step removed from “bumper-to-bumper” at peak times. But the Lidl plan would do away with that entrance. Access would be from Petigru Drive, Johnson said.

While he believes the grocery store may bring more traffic than the current uses allowed for the site, that should be offset by the shift in the entrance. “I don’t think it’s going to be that impactful,” Johnson said.

Where there will be an impact, he said, is on the intersection of Petigru Drive and Waverly Road, where the county asked the state Department of Transportation to align the offset ends of Petigru. The state is proposing a roundabout, but that raised opposition from residents because it would require cutting down an oak tree on the corner. Johnson said the talks with the engineers for Lidl began earlier this year and that was one reason he pressed for the intersection work. “It’s another reason that people will be using Petigru,” he said.

Lidl opened 20 stores in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia last month. Four more stores in Virginia and North Carolina open today. The company plans to have 100 stores along the East Coast by next summer. It did not respond for a request for information about its plans for a Pawleys Island store.

“I guess it’s like fast food, if you see a McDonald’s, you’re going to see a Hardee’s and a Wendy’s,” Johnson said

The growth of grocery stores around Pawleys Island is one effect of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area after the 2010 census, Salvino said. “Look at the demographics and it’s a phenomenal opportunity,” he said. “They’re going to compete for the business that the data tells them is there.”

Lidl has about 10,000 stores in Europe. The company promotes its high quality and low prices and what it calls “a simple and efficient approach to grocery shopping.”

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