Cranberry scones and lemon truffles soon will be replaced by giant hoagies and Reubens at a shuttered coffee shop on Rock Hill's Cherry Road.
Groucho's Deli is set to open next month in the former Cupps building across from Winthrop University. The Columbia-based sandwich maker boasts 18 franchises in the Carolinas, but this is the first in Rock Hill.
"I told them you cannot beat this location," said Realtor John Rinehart, who is handling the deal. "You have over 6,000 students within 150 feet of your front door. That alone is a tremendous market."
Owner thinks store is ideal fit
Store owner Meg Jenkins Locke, a Rock Hill native and daughter of longtime high school coach Bob Jenkins, said she knew instantly the location was an ideal fit. Locke operates two Groucho's franchises in North Carolina.
"When I was here, Rock Hill was about 35,000 or 40,000 people," said Locke, who now lives in Hickory, N.C. "Obviously, there's growth in this area. We're going to be right beside it."
An opening is scheduled for Aug. 18.
Groucho's will face competition from nearby Sub Station II, Jersey Mike's and the new Earth Fare grocery store. But it brings the kind of institutional backing that Cupps lacked as an independent start-up.
Founded in 1941 in Columbia, Groucho's is known for its Formula "45" sauce and a sandwich called the Apollo Dipper, made with hot ham, turkey and Swiss cheese melted together.
"We've been eyeing Rock Hill, just waiting for the right opportunity," said franchise president Deric Rosenbaum. "It is a major market. Anything next to a university should do well."
Plenty of longtimers know Bob Jenkins, who coached track at Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools before moving to South Pointe to start a new program. Jenkins alerted his daughter after spotting the for-sale sign at Cupps the day it went up.
The Cupps legacy
During its 10-month run, Cupps attracted a loyal clientele of Winthrop students and professors. A social group, called Drinking Liberally, met regularly to drink beer and to talk politics. Local bands played on Friday nights.
But owner Chuck Robinson said sales didn't grow quickly enough to justify the grueling hours. When he got a job offer in the software industry, Robinson felt he couldn't turn it down.
Robinson hopes Groucho's can become a worthy successor.
"I kind of hoped it would continue on as a coffee shop," said Robinson, reached by cell phone in Dayton, Ohio, where he was doing some software work. "I have high hopes for it still. I'm hoping it will keep some of the spirit."
How it started
Groucho's was formed in 1941 when Harold "Groucho" Miller came to Columbia with a handful of original recipes for potato salad, cole slaw, and various salad and sandwich dressings, most of which were thought up during his childhood in a Philadelphia orphanage. There are 19 Groucho's locations in the Carolinas, including 16 in South Carolina.
For more on Groucho's, including their menu, go to www.grouchos.com