Shipwatch Square will begin to see new life in the spring, when a restaurant wholesale store opens on the site.
Restaurant Depot is buying 6.4 acres of land on the Meeting Street side of the Shipwatch site, which also is bordered by Rivers and McMillan avenues, with plans to build a 65,000-square-foot store.
Rich Danieli, COO of Restaurant Depot, said the company has been looking for a Charleston-area location for a year and a half.
Charleston is “a city that’s growing culinary, and as we do our market research geographically by location, it’s exactly what we’re looking for with the right number of restaurants, the right number of customers,” he said. “And we believe that in the location that we’re going into, we’re in the perfect location to serve all those customers.”
The location is fewer than 3 miles from Berlin’s Restaurant Supply, which has been in business in the Lowcountry since 1986. No one from Berlin’s was available to comment today on Restaurant Depot’s entry into the market.
Shipwatch Square has been targeted for redevelopment in recent months. North Charleston City Council voted in the spring to give a subsidy of up to $500,000 over five years for a Piggly Wiggly to locate at the site, which has been classified as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Greenville-based Appian Investments I LLC — an investment pool comprising employees of the commercial real estate firms NAI Earle Furman, SVN International and others — is redeveloping the site with plans for the Piggly Wiggly, as well as retail and office space.
Restaurant Depot caters to independent restaurant owners, giving them a one-stop location for any supplies they need, including uniforms, fresh produce and kitchen equipment. The store will operate seven days a week and be open only to restaurant owners.
“We know where the independent restaurants are in the city, and ... our business model is that we have a 5-mile radius, a 10-mile radius, a 15-mile,” Danieli said. “And we try to be in the position where we have the densest amount of population in the 0 to 5 miles, and the location that we’re on right now is that. It’s exactly where we want to be.”
The store is expected to initially bring 50 jobs to the area when it opens in spring 2018, with the possibility of more as the business grows.
Jerry Daws, president of Republic Property Co., which is helping develop the property, said the companies are currently “doing our due diligence” to inspect the land, but he said he didn’t foresee any complications.
Daws said Restaurant Depot is making an $11 million to $12 million investment into the building, and they hope to open it before Mother’s Day.
Restaurant Depot has 120 stores across the country, with one other S.C. store in Mauldin, in the Upstate.
Danieli said the North Charleston location will be almost identical to the other stores.
“This would not be unique, it’d be pretty much the same as we’ve opened before,” he said. “The model works, and we’re not going to change much.”