The Daily Gamecock

New businesses in Five Points face aging infrastructure, high expenses in setting up

<p>A picture of the exteriors of Jack Brown’s Burger and Beer Joint, Drip Coffee, Publico and Village Idiot in Five Points on May 31, 2022.&nbsp;</p>
A picture of the exteriors of Jack Brown’s Burger and Beer Joint, Drip Coffee, Publico and Village Idiot in Five Points on May 31, 2022. 

When Will Mills began renovating the Columbia location of Jack Brown’s Burger and Beer Joint in Five Points, he said it was “a complete gut job.”

“We did new floors. There’s a new roof on here. Some of the walls in there are new. We basically came in, completely gutted it and started over,” Mills said.

Mills, the restaurant’s general manager, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 21. Like others, he had to work around staffing and supply shortages. He also had to work around aging infrastructure and adapting to major ups and downs as college students left for breaks. These issues, however, are not unique to Jack Brown’s or to other businesses in Five Points.

When Sean McCrossin, owner of Drip Coffee, renovated his Five Points location, the plumbing lines crumbled and needed to be replaced.

As people convert retail spaces to restaurants in Five Points, they need to fit more equipment into smaller spaces and update aging infrastructure like plumbing, according to Richard Burts, a private developer who owned multiple businesses in Five Points for more than 30 years.

“The other places were not upfitted for restaurants. So you got all the hassles that go along with that: whether it’s building out a kitchen, getting a set of plans or creating your new menu, what do you want the place to feel like?” Burts said.

The Publico location in Five Points had to spend $30,000 halfway through its renovations when the owner, Mike Duganier, discovered the building’s plumbing was more than 50 years old.

“It was either do it now or, in six months to five years, it's gonna corrode, you’re gonna have to close the restaurant and put a hole in this ground, so we just spent the money and did it,” Duganier said.

Katy Renfroe, the Five Points Association manager, said the Treadwell development on the 900 block of Harden Street may combine high rent with other payments to make starting up more difficult for small businesses. Rent there will be $32 to $38 per square foot, according to J.P. Scurry, the developer heading the Treadwell project. 

Scurry said with these prices, businesses will have to pay a triple-net-lease (NNN) for the maintenance of the common area. According to Investopedia, tenants that sign a NNN agree to pay all property expenses alongside rent and utilities.

“Five Points was founded in 1950 on the small village feel,” Renfroe said. “We don’t want that to go away. We don’t want it to be a bunch of chains. We want it to stay small and local. So it’s okay to have some national stuff, I just don’t want it to overtake it.” 

While business owners who already signed a lease will not have to worry about rising rent prices for now, they are dealing with historic levels of inflation, which is pushing the cost of goods higher.

Brian Glynn, owner of Village Idiot, said inflation and product shortages have led him to raise prices on some of his restaurant’s menu items. Food prices in restaurants have increased 7.2% in the last year, according to the consumer price index in April. Recently, when the delivery trucks were running late, Glynn had to make a store run for cheese and take it to three of his locations so they could make it through a dinner service.

“That’s another thing of running a business out post-pandemic, the labor shortage goes across a whole lotta industries," Glynn said. "Today, they didn’t have enough people in their warehouses to get their trucks stocked and out on the road until about six, seven hours after they were supposed to."

Mills said every other week something will be missing that he needs at Jack Brown’s. One week that’s Gatorade for his staff. Another week it’s to-go boxes. To overcome these supply shortages, they shop at different retailers or share resources with other businesses in Five Points.

“Now, pretty much every truck order we do, there's at least two or three things that they don't have,” Mills said. “Where it used to be, that was a very, very rare occurrence.”

Once up and running in Five Points, some businesses may experience extreme flooding, according to Mills, due to trash build up from surrounding neighborhoods. Some streets, such as Devine Street, are at an incline going into and out of Five Points which can result in garbage blocking sewage drains causing flood build ups.

“I’ve literally seen a car float down,” Mills said.

Five Points saw multiple areas become flooded on May 21 after a severe thunderstorm rolled through Columbia. 

Glynn said one obstacle new businesses run into, or maybe aren’t aware of, is the fact that some businesses’ customer base is college students. That means there are periods in the year businesses see much less foot traffic as students leave for breaks.

“So, if your business is solely based on college,” Glynn said. “You have to be able to realize that you’re going to go through a month over Christmas where your customers aren’t here.”