A cosmetology school plans to enroll more than 100 students when it opens next year in a shopping center on Rock Hill's Cherry Road.
Stylists learn how to work with hair and makeup at Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology, the largest school of its kind in South Carolina. Students must log 1,500 classroom hours to become certified.
Shuler, the school's founder and president, said enrollment typically swells in poor economic times, making this one of the few examples of an industry flourishing in the downturn.
"What happens when you have a good economy is people can graduate high school and go out and get a job," said Shuler. "Whenever things get tight, people get laid off, and they don't have any skills. All of a sudden, they realize they have to get a skill."
The school plans to open in early March in Northeast Plaza, a strip shopping center that's enjoying a comeback after years of decline.
Charlotte-based New South Properties bought the center for $6 million from a pair of Charlotte chiropractors who had owned it since the 1980s. The company installed new facades, repaved the asphalt to fill in potholes and reconfigured the giant parking lot for a more pedestrian-friendly layout.
Its vision is for the center to enjoy a renaissance similar to Love's Plaza further south on Cherry Road, where merchants have found success after a similar renovation.
New South recently signed Luigi's Spaghetti House, which plans to open early next year in a space believed to have been vacant for 15 years, said New South founding partner Will Whitley.
The center's biggest space has yet to be filled. Bi-Lo moved last year to a supercenter across the street, but it still controls the lease at its former location.
For a new tenant to move in, the rent must be the right price for both parties, and Bi-Lo has to agree to give up the remainder of its lease, Whitley says.
Until a new tenant moves in, Whitley says the cosmetology school will help bring in traffic.
"They will absolutely be our anchor tenant for the foreseeable future, until we find the perfect replacement for the former Bi-Lo," he said.
The shopping center fits into a broader effort to reinvigorate Cherry Road, once the busiest commercial corridor in Rock Hill. The city has spent $12 million over three years to refurbish the road by burying overhead utility lines, planting trees and flowers, rebuilding sidewalks and installing new storm drains.