Its lease with the city signed, Lobeco-based Lowcountry Produce hopes to open a new specialty food market by mid-October in Beaufort's old city hall.
Co-owner Noel Garrett offered more details Tuesday about plans for the store on downtown's Carteret Street.
"It will be a true specialty grocery," said Garrett, who runs the company with his brother and another business partner. "I'm shooting for it to be Beaufort's Dean and Deluca."
Products will include local fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, cheese and prepared foods, including signature Lowcountry Produce items the company markets to thousands of stores across the country, Garrett said.
Lowcountry Produce was started about 17 years ago by Garrett's parents and makes all of its products locally at its farm stand in Lobeco. That location will remain in business when the new market opens downtown, Garrett said.
Garrett and city officials gathered Tuesday for a news conference at the building at the intersection of Carteret and Craven streets. Built in 1917, it served as a post office for many years before housing city employees. It has been vacant since August.
Both Lowcountry Produce and city officials say the site can support a small alternative grocery market.
"If everyone who says they'll shop here actually shops here, I think we'll be fine," Garrett said.
Landing the store marks an important step in Beaufort's focus on downtown redevelopment, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
A traditional grocery store probably would not consider such a small, urban location, he said.
"This is something people have wanted that a traditional chain would never buy into," Keyserling said. "But a successful, locally based company that's looking for room to grow did buy into it, and its being here will encourage more people to live downtown."
Last week, City Council gave staff permission to agree to a lease of up to 10 years with an option to purchase. Lowcountry Produce will pay about $44,000 in rent for the first year, with the price increasing incrementally each year.
Keyserling, a Realtor, called the price competitive for other buildings of similar size, age and location.
Lowcountry Produce has the option to purchase the property within three years for $660,000 -- the appraised value of the building, as of June 8, according to the lease.
Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission spent months negotiating the deal.