COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new grocery store is coming to the North Main Street in Columbia - the first in the Elmwood-Cottontown area in years.
Uncle Willie's will be moving into 2205 Main St. which was previously a kitchen appliance showroom.
"I am so excited," said Elmwood resident Sloan Birnie. "We're super excited. love going to the grocery store!"
Sloane and her husband, Robbie have lived in Elmwood for six years, only two blocks away from where Uncle Willie's will open.
"It’s definitely a great development for this area downtown," Robbie said. "It’s something that we’ve been looking forward to for a number of years. It just kind of adds to the walkability and really just like ease-of-access to amenities and things like that — as downtown continues to evolve and grow, grocery stores being close and having that avenue is fantastic."
Christa Williams is the owner of Uncle Willie's. She said she wanted to open this grocery store after running for Columbia City council and hearing the needs of the residents.
"It’s kind of bringing that mom and pop model back," Williams said. "That mom and pop grocery store model back into the community and hopefully someone out there will want to do the same thing in their community if they're living in a food desert."
Williams said portions of the North Main Street area are considered a food desert.
"They don’t have a grocery store within a mile or two, within even 5 miles of here, having a grocery store," she said. "When you're looking at your senior, your elder, older population, your senior citizens, your differently-abled that are living in the area, they deserve to have access to food."
The grocery store will also provide delivery and curbside pick-up.
Williams told News19, the store is named after her uncle, Willie Aiken Jr., who was a farmer in Santee. She said Uncle Willie would provide fresh fruits and vegetables to his community.
For residents like Daquan Sutton, it will be a welcome change compared to the 10-minute drive he currently has to do to get to the nearest grocery store.
"It's very convenient and saves a lot of trips, especially with gas prices rising," Sutton said. "A lot of people now have started to do Instacart just to save trips from having to go to the other side of town for the grocery store."
President of the Elmwood Neighborhood Association, John Wilkinson, said he's excited about this new development and happy to see the area being built up.
"As more development comes to this part of town, which we’re excited about. We want to make sure that at least some of that development is neighborhood servicing," Wilkinson said. "We got some luxury developments coming to town and some affordable housing options that are proposed."
Williams added that the community grocery store will not sell high-end products, but it will sell quality and affordable fresh produce and meats. The store will also accept SNAP and EBT.
She plans to partner with local vendors and farmers to keep prices low for shoppers. Williams hopes to have the new store open by April.