Helping hand for grocery is a good idea

We think offering a helping hand to new businesses that locate in downtown Rock Hill is a good investment by the city. Helping businesses get a good start increases the chances they will become well established and a mainstay for downtown economic activity.

The city already is providing rent subsidies to two businesses, Millstone Pizza and Taphouse and Synergy Yoga & Wellness, both located on Caldwell Street. The city also has a $90,000 arrangement with Rinehart Realty to use the Old Town Market Hall for events throughout the year. The hall serves primarily as the indoor site for booths during seasonal farmers markets.

Last week it was announced that Rinehart officials have approached the city with another deal. Under the plan, the Old Town Farmers Market would be moved entirely outside and Market Hall would be occupied by Provisions at Sandy Creek, a North-Carolina based grocery store specializing in local meats, produce, dairy items and baked goods.

Rinehart, which owns the hall, has asked the city to provide $54,000 to help the grocery’s owners pay for rent. Rinehart also wants the city to guarantee that it would return to paying for space in Market Hall if the grocery store were to close and leave it empty.

The City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to approve $54,000 in rent subsidies for the store but rejected the request to stay under contract to pay for the space if the grocery goes under. At this point, it’s unclear whether that will alter the plans in any way.

We hope the plan goes forward and that the grocery and the other rent-subsidized downtown businesses thrive. A specialty grocery would be a good addition to the downtown scene.

We’re also pleased that the farmers market, which operates twice a week during several months of the year, will continue. While the market will be entirely outside, vendors will be sheltered by an awning across from Millstone Pizza and Taphouse and the future grocery.

While Provisions at Sandy Creek, which also has stores in Waxhaw, N.C., and Belmont, N.C., would not be the equivalent of a full-service chain grocery store, it would be a handy stop for anyone living in or close to downtown, including those moving into the planned new apartment complex at the site of the old Woolworth store. The grocery could be one more piece to the puzzle in attracting more downtown residents.

A specialty grocery also could be a destination for the “eat local” crowd looking for regional food. That pairs well with the farmers market, where fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, crafts and other products are available.

These ventures have the advantage of city support through rent subsidies, but the potential payoff for the public is high. More businesses downtown mean more tax revenues, more economic activity and more out-of-town visitors.

A specialty grocery store – along with the new Fountain Park, new office complex, apartments and the development of Knowledge Park – could be one more step toward making downtown Rock Hill a real attraction for both local residents and visitors.