Dollar General has signed a 10-year lease for half of the building that formerly housed a Piggly Wiggly grocery store on May River Road in old town Bluffton, and nearby merchants offer mixed reviews.
Former Bluffton Mayor Emmett McCracken, who co-owns Stock Farm Antiques on May River Road, said he is happy the empty building will find new life. The 20,500-square-foot space has been vacant since April, after Piggly Wiggly's lease expired and a thrift store that had been subleasing the property moved out.
"Dollar Generals tend to carry grocery food, so that is going to be useful for everyone accustomed to going there for canned goods or bread or milk," he said.
But potter Jacob Preston, who operates a studio on Church Street, said he doesn't think the store fits old town's character.
"I was hoping for a Whole Foods or a fresh-food market or something more consistent with the original one-square mile" of old town, he said. "A Dollar General store is not, in my view, congruent with the more aspirational look at where Bluffton is going."
The building has roots in grocery stores since 1962 when S&N Grocery opened. The late George Scott took over in 1965, eventually moving the store to the current location of the Sippin' Cow Cafe. The Piggly Wiggly opened in 1989.
After Piggly Wiggly closed in February 2008, the building's owners intended to sell. Both Bluffton and Beaufort County officials expressed interest in putting government offices on the property, but part of the space was eventually occupied by the Cancer Awareness Foundation Off Island Thrift and Dollar Store.
June Simoneaux, who owns the family property with her brother, Jeff Scott, said she did not know when the Dollar General store would open, but that she and her brother were in the process of upgrading the building with new air conditioning units and floors and repairing the electricity and plumbing, with the goal of finishing by Nov. 1.
Dollar General spokeswoman Emily Weiss said she did not have details on when the store would open. She said it would carry Dollar General hallmarks like cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, and seasonal products, as well as some packaged food. It will be outfitted with coolers for refrigerated foods like dairy products and freezers to store frozen food.
Mayor Lisa Sulka said she had noticed a coat of fresh paint on the building Tuesday and that it had been difficult to see the building empty for so long.
"The old Piggy Wiggly is well-missed. It serviced all the residents that lived here, and when it left, it was very sad for everyone, but it also needs to be used," she said. "There are going to be people who love it and people who hate it, but at the end of the day, it's being used."