The empty Kmart store in Martinez soon will have a new tenant.
The former anchor of the West Town Shopping Center, which closed in September, is expected to reopen this summer as the fifth store for Carolina Pottery, said Grady Marsh, the company’s chief operating officer and grandson of its founder.
The announcement was the third in recent weeks involving the filling of a vacant big-box space in Columbia County.
Carolina Pottery, a family owned home furnishings and decor chain started in 1983 in Smithfield, N.C., also has stores in West Columbia, S.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and Cary, N.C.
“We’re hoping to open about June 1,” Marsh said. “Hopefully we can move it that quickly. We don’t typically do a lot of renovations, more than our fixtures and our products.”
The store will employ 30 to 40 full- and part-time workers, Marsh said.
The company will be eligible for a tax credit of $3,500 for each full-time worker because the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in October designated the area around Bobby Jones Expressway and Washington Road as an “opportunity zone” to encourage economic activity, said Columbia County Development Services Director Richard Harmon.
“This would be the first one,” Harmon said. “You just talk about 30 to 40 employees; that’s what’s important to a lot of people.”
The company had been hoping for a site in Augusta, Marsh said.
“We’ve been looking at that area,” Marsh said. “We feel Augusta is a good market, kind of a regional market. We’ve noticed in our Columbia store we get some decent traffic from Augusta, too, so there seems to be an interest in our type of products.”
The former Kmart site is one of four big-box locations that closed in Columbia County last year. The other three were Food Lion stores, and new tenants recently were announced for two of them. A Walmart Neighborhood Market is expected to open this fall in the Village at Furys Ferry, at Evans-to-Locks Road, and renovations have begun for a Big Lots store in the Evans Exchange on North Belair Road.
The third former Food Lion, on Old Petersburg Road, remains vacant and is partially in the path of the planned River Watch Parkway extension.
“These empty store fronts are being filled now,” Harmon said. “I’m glad we’re not having to create new asphalt and rooftops. We’re getting this in-fill stuff cleaned up, and that’s a good thing.”
The announcements dovetail with an overall increase in retail activity in Columbia County, Harmon said.
“People are seeing the numbers,” he said. “I had a developer call me this morning, ‘Is it true that y’all have gone three consecutive years issuing 1,000 single-family (building) permits?’ he said. ‘I’ve got four people I’m bringing to the Masters, and they don’t believe it.’ I said, ‘When they get through, bring them to my office and I’ll show them.’ ”