East Bay True Value is no longer at its well-known location, nestled near a shopping center below Calhoun Street. Although they are keeping their moniker intact, East Bay True Value completed its move to 1409 King Street at the beginning of July.
Because this hardware store is the only one on the peninsula, it remains a popular place for the members of the community in need of hardware supplies, especially for those unable or unwilling to leave the peninsula.
East Bay True Value Hardware set up shop in a much larger building on upper King Street, above crosstown, allowing the business to grow in the ways they wanted.
“We love the new space,” says owner Kimberly Hines. “It’s much bigger. We have a lot more stuff, I’d say more than 50 percent more stuff. And it’s in an area that I think is growing. A lot of people originate from down here, our contractors, so we opened a half-an-hour early in the morning so we can get the contractors on their way to the city. And we bought it, so we won’t have to move again.”
East Bay True Value’s story isn’t exactly unique for the upper King corridor.
The area surrounding Hines’ store has experienced a number of businesses popping up in the last few years. A whopping six breweries have opened in the area since 2015, with another on the way. In 2017, Workshop opened its doors as a “fancy food court” a block away. Ohm Radio, Charleston’s non-profit radio station, set up shop inside the dining room a year later.
Charles Sullivan, partner with downtown real estate company Carriage Properties, also notes that business growth on upper King is a noticeable trend. “You’re seeing restaurants and entrepreneurial-type businesses move there because it’s just more cost effective to do business there,” he says. “You’re able to build the type of building you need. Typically, you can allow for parking and the things that most of your customers would want. And in the scheme of things, it’s not that far.”
Sullivan adds that upper King Street’s experience isn’t specific to that road. “You can look on all the upper streets, above the Crosstown, whether it’s King or Meeting and see rapid development there because there’s a little more freedom architecturally or aesthetically with the [Board of Architectural Review].”
Hines hopes that her business can expand, just like the area around her new building. “We have a pretty good customer count. I think most people know where we are,” says Hines. “I think because of what’s happening all down here, I just think it’s going to keep on growing and get bigger.”
The increased store size will also be good for business, according to Hines. “The actual purchases are larger because we have so much more stuff, so they’re happy they don’t have to go to Lowe’s to get what they need,” she says.
Owning a commercial property downtown is no small feat for a business. One study even named Charleston to be the worst city to own a small business in 2018. Plus, commercial real estate rates in the hardware store’s old area remain a tricky hurdle to clear.
“The bigger the parcel, the more valuable it is,” says Sullivan. “Because that was part of a larger street-to-street bounded [area] — it had streets on all four corners — that value is far greater than most.”
“It’s hard to put an exact price per foot,” he continues. “It just depends on what you’re able to do with the property. If it’s a typical house-sized lot, that’s different, but when you’re able to redevelop it into condominiums or apartments or a hotel, the valuation just goes up.”
Hines believes that, in addition to the benefits of ownership, the newer building is simply superior to the East Bay location. “The [last] building had a lot of problems,” she says. “It was leaking in the ceiling and it was small and there was no place to go, and there was a limited amount of parking. We got this whole lot next to it [the current building], and we’re going to have a garden center out here, so we just have room to grow here, and we didn’t have that.”
As the only store of its kind on the peninsula, East Bay True Value has been the hardware store of choice for many downtown residents who don’t want to venture out to Mt. Pleasant or West Ashley. The original location had been operational since 1988. In 1995, Hines began managing the store.
Some return customers, including Sullivan, miss the East Bay Street location, but they’re accepting of the move.
“Everyone is like ‘Oh, it’s so far away.’ But once you do it and realize it isn’t really that long — when I first looked at the building I kept driving back and forth, and I thought ‘It’s just not that far,'” she says. “Things are coming this way, there’s a lot of breweries out this way and a lot of restaurants. The city is also expanding.”
Despite working from the old location for over 20 years, Hines says that she does not miss the old building at all.
Overall, the business owner is content with the change in scenery, and prefers what she’s gained at the new location over what she’s lost. “The city is changing and there are pluses and minuses,” Hines observes. “I’m kind of glad I’m farther away from a lot of that because it was getting very hard to park in our space since we had a lot of contractors.”