City celebrates Mast Store opening, expects renewal of downtown
Mast Store — a key tenant in Columbia’s ongoing Main Street renovation — opened its doors in an elaborate ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. Columbia leaders cheered the effort as a keynote sign of progress for the downtown district.
He addressed a crowd that stretched from the Main Street corner, across the road and to the opposite sidewalk. According to John Cooper, the crowd was two to three times larger than any previous opening.
Once inside, many of the attendees made their way to the back corner of the store, which held more than 500 varieties of novelty candies to be purchased by the pound.
The building was consumed with the “old-fashioned” theme, with antiques on the high wall as well as rocking chairs scattered throughout. The building itself had been restored to its 1927 condition by on-site designer Jeff Meadows.
The store, like the general stores of old, has all sorts of goodies. In addition to candy there are a variety of gifts, gourmet foods, home decor and even clothing.
Fashion manager Jill Dortch said Mast categorizes itself as having “lifestyle” fashion.
“People will find that one shirt that they love and just have to have it in every color,” Dortch said. “There becomes a sense of identity with the city and the store.”
That sense of identity may very well come from the way the store operates. Faye Cooper, John Cooper’s wife, said that all of the in-store staff are from Columbia.
Faye Cooper went on to say that each Mast Store begins to develop its own personality, with the stock listings and even layout change from store to store.
“We are not a chain store,” Faye Cooper said. “We are a family of stores.”
Mast Store is not the only new addition to Main Street.
Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse is under construction only a block away and hopes to also inject a bit of life into the corridor. The all-you-can-eat restaurant, fashioned after the Myrtle Beach restaurant Gauchao Brazilian Steakhouse from the same owners, is set to open in the old Kress building across from the Columbia Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As with its Myrtle Beach counterpart, the steak house will feature a menu that includes of 17 cuts of beef, among other types of meat and an extensive salad bar. Servers dressed as cowboys will roam the aisles serving meat.
“This [opening], although it’s a great milestone, is only the beginning of great things for downtown Columbia,” said city councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman.
These two new business will not be alone in their attempts to revitalize Main Street, though; they will be in a sense joining a train already in motion.
The Nickelodeon Theater, currently located at the corner of Main and Pendleton streets, will move to the Fox Theater right next to the Mast General Store at 1605 Main St. The Nick’s new home will house the Helen Hill Media Education Center, which is named in memory of American animator, social activist and Columbia native Helen Hill. The center is set to provide a platform for young film makers and empower them to express their creativity.
This Thursday, Mast Store will contribute for the first time to First Thursday, a monthly art crawl on Main Street started by Mark Plessinger, the owner of the eyewear boutique Frame of Mind.
The First Thursday event will coincide with Mast’s grand opening celebration, which will run from Thursday until Sunday and will feature drawings, informative seminars and “old-fashioned” fun.
Attendees will also be able to stroll along the street to see any one of the art exhibits being presented.
Frame of Mind will be showing artwork from DR Granger and Kelsey Granger. Fire in Motion will perform there, and DJ Deft Key will provide music.
In addition, anastasia & Friends will host “Go Figure!”, which is a group exhibition of works that relate to the human form.
S & S Art Supply will present abstract works by Jamie Blackburn with a performance by DJ Preach Jacobs.
The Tapp’s Art Center will also be showcasing art by a variety of artists including Molly Harrell, Claude Buckley and Regina Moody with a musical performance by The Caddy Boyz.