Thursday, May 1, 2014
Crowds of customers explored the neatly arranged aisles and well-organized sections for Harris Teeter's Isle of Palms grand opening Wednesday.
After months of construction, the 25,000 square-foot high-end feature store of the Island Center on Palm Boulevard opened its doors to a warm reception.
“We're very excited today to open a new store on the Isle of Palms and another addition to the Charleston market,” store director Chris Beeker said. “Harris Teeter has really been trying to move into the Charleston market and the surrounding areas and this store is a great step in the right direction.”
The full-service, high-tech chain is a far cry from the mom-and-pop store it replaced. The Red and White became a staple for locals and vacationers as the island's only grocery store for more than half a century. Barefoot beachgoers could stop in and pick up essentials from familiar faces in the quaint, fourth-generation family store.
Apple iPads are now available at the door for customers to enter their information and sign up for e-VIC discounts until the new cashiers and employees learn the faces. Eight checkout lines and two USCAN checkouts speed up the traffic flow. A bakery and Boar's Head deli sit just outside an organic produce department and a full wine section that offers new and alternative options to customers for a lower price that smaller stores aren't able to match.
Some will miss the Red and White's old-fashioned aisles lightly dusted in sand. Others are optimistic about the future. Joe McCormick has lived on the Isle of Palms for 25 years and says while he remembers the Red and White well, he's looking forward to what the new store can offer.
“It'll be a nice addition, especially for those summer weekends that can be a killer on the island,” McCormick said. “Some people will have that nostalgia for Red and White; it's to be expected, but I think once they familiarize themselves with the layout and the store, it'll be all right.”
Tom and Melissa Parsons have lived on the Isle of Palms for 35 years and have mixed feelings toward the new store. They both are excited about the new products it offers and its clean, organized layout. But they both appreciated the Red and White's support of the local community and hope the values carry over.
“The Red and White served the community well and gave back to the community and from what I've heard about Harris Teeter and seen so far, they'll make a good effort to do the same thing,” Tom said. “Red and White was such a small and personal store and there's something special about that. But certainly the island should be pleased to have such a beautiful grocery store like this they can ride their bike to.”
“One thing that's so important to the islanders is how the Red and White owners were so supportive of the community,” Melissa said. “Harris Teeter says they're very big on supporting the community and to the locals that have lived here forever, that's important.” Beeker says building and maintaining a presence in the local community is a top priority for the Isle of Palms Harris Teeter. Part of that initiative could be seen on Wednesday with a variety of local products available including Boone Hall strawberries and John's Island shrimp.
“We are making sure to stay ingrained in the community,” Beeker said. “We're still integrated into local buyers, selling local produce, local meats, local seafood. All of our associates are from the area and we were able to add roughly 75 new jobs with this opening.”
The local reception on the opening day could be a sign the community is ready to accept the new addition. By noon, the store was brimming wall to wall, aisle to aisle with customers. Some were curiously browsing, others filling shopping carts.
“We really want to build the same reputation stores like the Red and White and Piggly Wiggly had previously,” Beeker said. “Today, we've already seen a very strong local presence that we're very excited to have.”
Harris Teeter on Isle of Palms is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.