The Grand Strand is a 60-mile crescent of beach lolling along the Atlantic Ocean's coastline in South Carolina. In the center of this area known as the Grand Strand sits Myrtle Beach, a city of “Smiling Faces Beautiful Places” as the South Carolina slogan says.
Some 14 million tourists flock to Myrtle Beach's shoreline each year to experience the city's easy charm, world-famous golf courses, wide beaches and abundance of shopping, dining and entertainment options. A growing number of people are also calling Myrtle Beach home in recent years. According to the 2000 census, the trade area boasts more than 417,000 permanent residents making it the 13th fastest growing metropolitan area in the country.
With so much going for Myrtle Beach, it's no wonder that Chattanooga, Tenn.-based retail developer CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., with joint-venture partner Burroughs & Chapin, chose the city as the site for its latest retail project, Coastal Grand-Myrtle Beach, a more than 1 million sq. ft. regional mall.
CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. teamed up with joint venture partner Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., a privately held company that develops and manages amusement attractions, retail centers and recreational properties. Burroughs & Chapin owned the 170 acres that now make up the grounds of Coastal Grand.
Michael Lebovitz, CBL's senior vice president of mall projects, reports that the team wanted to create a shopping experience unique to Myrtle Beach, situated in the heart of the action.
As such, Coastal Grand rests just two miles from the ocean. “We chose a central location in the market. Anyone, whether they live north or south of the Grand Strand, can get there quickly,” Lebovitz says. “It's also the largest [retail destination] and has the most to offer.”
In its prime location, Coastal Grand stands out among its retail peers and entertainment venues. The exterior of the mall features streets lined with palm trees, lighted fountains, and various creative architectural touches.
The mall's eastern exterior façade represents Myrtle Beach's coastal appeal. Stucco with embedded oyster shells and tabby are natural elements used on the mall's exterior. The western exterior façade represents South Carolina's low country, with design elements mirroring marshlands including moss-draped live oak trees.
Inside, Coastal Grand is designed to represent the two exterior themes of coastal and low country living. Architectural and design elements throughout both regions include giant murals representing the themes. Mall amenities such as seating areas, lighting and plants tie into the low country and coastal concepts to create the perfect ambiance.
All of Coastal Grand's design elements work together to give the mall “local flavor,” highlighting the Grand Strand region. According to Lebovitz, “From the live oak trees, to the outdoor fire pit, to the boardwalk flooring, to the beautiful murals, Coastal Grand — Myrtle Beach is truly a grand and unique shopping destination.”
Coastal Grand also features its own “Restaurant District.” The restaurant district is centrally located and adjoining the mall with five restaurants and an entertainment area including staging, water fountains and other activities for the entire family.
“[The restaurant district] gives people a chance to take a break from shopping, relax, have a bite to eat, and then go back to shopping. And it extends the shopping visit,” says Rusty Phillips, CBL's vice president of peripheral property.
Columbia, S.C.-based Gov. Mark Sanford attended the March 17, 2004, ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for Coastal Grand. Sanford believes the mall accomplishes CBL's mission of bringing something new and fresh to the marketplace.
“A world-class retail center like Coastal Grand mall brings exactly the kind of competitive advantage to the Grand Strand's tourism industry that it needs to continue being the driving force behind our state's tourism cluster, and a key component of our state's economy as a whole,” Sanford says.
The Myrtle Beach market
Myrtle Beach is an amalgamation of markets. As Lebovitz says, “When you go to Myrtle Beach you really have two main areas of focus: the growing permanent population and the strong tourist population.”
Jan Bass, CBL's regional leasing director, adds there's another market to contend with as a potential Coastal Grand shopper. “We have what we've nicknamed the ‘invisible demo,’ or those with second homes or condominiums in Myrtle Beach,” she says. “They're not counted in the census and they're not counted in the hotel or rental agency numbers, but thousands of people have a second home in the area and they shop for clothes, home supplies and eat out, just like the permanent population. We know they will visit Coastal Grand as well.”
In addition, Barb Ivankovich, vice president of corporate relations and mall marketing for CBL, says the tourist market includes conventioneers and Northern dwellers. “There's a snowbird market that visits from Canada, the Northeast and Midwest for part-time seasonal living,” she reports.
CBL's goal was to create a shopping center that would appeal equally to all sectors of the market. Yet, special care was given to ensure a memorable experience for tourists.
“All the tourists have malls where they live,” Lebovitz says. “We wanted to create an environment with a unique appeal and a strong lineup of stores so people would make sure they visited while in the area on vacation.”
Ivankovich sums up what Coastal Grand offers to its patrons this way: “It's not just a shopping center. It's an entertainment and dining center. It's a family destination. It's a fun place.”
As part of the project's marketing campaign, Ivankovich says CBL's creative staff penned the perfect positioning line: See more. Do more. Shop more.
Grand architectural design
Coastal Grand was designed to reflect the history and natural setting of Myrtle Beach and the South Carolina low country with precision and beauty.
“You can't pick it [Coastal Grand] up and put it anywhere else in the country,” says Bass. “Those who live in the area say the mall makes them proud because it really ‘shows-off’ the beach, the community and the region's history.”
Atlanta-based design architect MSTSD Inc., along with design consultant Communication Arts Inc. of Boulder, Colo., worked together to give Coastal Grand its authentic local flavor.
The design team gathered pieces of the local vernacular in the project's planning stages. On a market tour, they browsed through history books, visited the Welcome Center and snapped photos of sand dunes and shutters on local homes. One picture of shrimp netting seen during the tour became the design inspiration for an open archway that leads to Coastal Grand's restaurant district.
“The design team took those nuances and put them into use in such clever forms throughout the mall,” Bass adds.
Outdoor amenities include beach-inspired features such as a pop-jet fountain for children's play, a fire pit for evening gatherings and a gazebo area that can house live entertainment.
The mall's interior features coastal and low country-themed murals of the region. Other locally inspired touches include Adirondack chairs, hurricane shutters, boardwalk flooring and ceiling fans. Center court benches resemble sand fences that hold up the dunes on the city's beaches.
Even the colors used in the design reflect local culture. As Larry Sweat, vice president and director of design with MSTSD Inc., says, “Both interior and exterior color palettes are inspired by local landscapes and building materials. The colors are derived directly from marsh landscapes, sand, sunsets and water.”
(See architecture sidebar on opposite page.)
CBL's Bass describes Coastal Grand's retail “soup to nuts” mix as 90% leased. “When retailers learned about the growth and the millions of tourists that visit the area, they responded quickly at the opportunity of joining the mall. We are still working on some deals and are confident the few remaining spaces will be filled,” she says.
Coastal Grand offers everything from a 52-thousand sq. ft. sporting goods store that caters to patrons of Myrtle Beach's 120 golf courses to trendy home cleaning products at temporary Retail Merchandising Units, or RMUs.
The mall features three anchors, Belk, Dillard's and Sears, along with traditional big boxes — a 14-screen state-of-the-art Cinemark Theater, Bed Bath & Beyond, Books-A-Million and Dick's Sporting Goods — built in as part of the mall.
Coastal Grand also offers 20 new retailers that weren't in the market before. Among them are Ann Taylor Loft, Charlotte Russe, Brookstone, Gymboree and Swim 'N Sport.
In addition, Coastal Grand features local tenants. “We have approximately 10 excellent local merchants in the mall and they're catering to the visitors who will definitely be attracted to their unique merchandise,” Bass reports. “We really touched on a little bit of something for everybody.”
Included in that something for everybody is a lineup of 20 specialty retailers at the mall. In selecting alternatives to traditional retailers, Jeff Gregerson, CBL's vice president of specialty retail says he tries to target offerings that aren't included in the permanent tenant mix.
“Our specialty retail program allows us to keep something new and fresh in the mall for our shoppers to see when they come in,” Gregerson reports.
“One of our hottest selling items is the Super Chamois — a special chamois that does incredibly well at soaking up any kind of spills in the home,” Gregerson says.
Another popular specialty retailer at Coastal Grand is a company called Past & Presents. “It has nostalgic merchandise such as Coca-Cola items and old movie paraphernalia. And that's very popular in a tourist market,” Gregerson explains.
In addition to Coastal Grand's indoor specialty retail, Gregerson says CBL plans to add specialty retail outdoors. “We put in utilities on the sidewalks and common areas [in the restaurant district] to add specialty tenants to the festivity out there,” he says.
On the periphery, Phillips reports that Coastal Grand offers several carefully chosen eateries for its new district. “Restaurants very much want their own identity. So by doing [the restaurants] as a district, they get to build their own freestanding building. They get the look they desire, and we get them right at our front door,” he says.
Among the restaurants slated for five available slots are Atlanta's Buckhead Brewery and Charleston, S.C.'s Charleston Crab House, establishments that Phillips describes as something you won't find everyplace else.
“Buckhead Brewery is a regional chain and will open their seventh restaurant at Coastal Grand,” Phillips says. And he adds that Charleston Crab House has five locations in operation.
One restaurant in the district will open in late June, and Phillips reports that CBL hopes to open two more restaurants by Coastal Grand's first anniversary.
Some 37 acres of outparcel, too, are a part of Coastal Grand. Phillips reports that CBL has nearly 25% of the property committed with such restaurants as Sticky Fingers, Red Lobster and Smoky Bones, and hopes to commit another 25% within the next 120 days.
“We're talking to some banks, fast-food operators and of course more restaurants as we continue to build out the peripheral property,” he says.
Phillips reports that even the outparcel areas of Coastal Grand will carry its low country and coastal themes. “We've made detention [ponds] into water features, and palm trees line the entrance to the outparcels and carry through to the mall,” he explains.
Year-round tourist trade
While the tourist traffic at Coastal Grand is heaviest during the summer months, it remains strong throughout the year.
Myrtle Beach's 120 some golf courses begin filling up each year in March and the first few weeks of April. Then, Bass reports, mid to end of April finishes out Easter visitors and spring break traffic.
“May really starts the families coming in, because school is getting out and Memorial Day approaches. And [shoppers] are swarming in there through Labor Day,” Bass says.
“There are two holiday seasons in Myrtle Beach, summer and Christmas,” Bass adds. “We're about to hit a major peak in tourist traffic in the coming months.”
In October, both golfers and conventioneers begin flooding the market. “Then November and December are your natural Christmas season,” Bass says.
In January and February, snowbirds populate the trade area, according to Ivankovich. “The snowbird market comes down for part-time seasonal living. And there's a tourism or crossover to convention groups that come from Canada, the Midwest and the Northeast,” she says.
“One kind of populace just flows right into the other as you approach the season,” Bass adds. “Clearly the cash registers are going to be ringing constantly and steadily.”
Sound architectural creation
Design architect MSTSD Inc. of Atlanta and Boulder, Colo.'s Communication Arts Inc. are the masterminds behind the look and presence of Coastal Grand — Myrtle Beach.
“We wanted this project to embody the unique personality of Myrtle Beach,” says Larry Sweat, vice president and director of design with MSTSD. “We felt it was important to reflect the region's rich heritage, its natural beauty, and the coastal lifestyle. We wanted to create … a new symbol of pride in the community.”
To accomplish its goal of making Coastal Grand an authentic Myrtle Beach destination, the design team used materials and design elements reflecting both coastal and low country, or marshland, local environments. Organized to run nearly parallel with the ocean, Sweat reports that one side of the mall's exterior represents the low country while the other side represents the coast.
As Sweat describes, “The coast side is strongly influenced by the area's old beach structures, utilizing the vernacular architecture of wood lattice and grille-work.”
As such, the design team used stucco materials and tabby (stucco embedded with oyster shells) on the coastal side, with swirling wave patterns picked up from natural elements in the area.
Coastal Grand's porte-cochere, or signature entry that leads through the food court and theater area and into the mall, is designed as a classic entry pavilion. “A textured metal roof, patterned grilles and louvers, classic column elements and decorative glass all recall Myrtle Beach's coastal landmarks and beach architecture,” Sweat says.
In contrast, the design team chose mottled brick and textured mortar joints to reflect the low country architecture. Coastal Grand's restaurant district is the centerpiece to this low country side of the mall.
“The [low country] area is designed to provide for outdoor special events, music, food and dance,” Sweat says. Included in the outdoor design is a gazebo for entertaining, a pop-jet water fountain for play and a fire pit for outdoor winter festivities. “All of this occurs in an outdoor space under a canopy of three large transplanted live oak trees,” Sweat adds.
Landscaping both inside and around the exterior of Coastal Grand was carefully designed with indigenous plants to screen mall service areas and to break up large parking areas. “Large caliper trees and large caliper [plants] landscape everything inside the road loop,” Sweat says.
In addition to design purely for beauty and presence, Coastal Grand provides a family-friendly environment inside and out.
“We wanted this center to incorporate vacation allure and quality memorable experiences, comfort, convenience, charm and meaning,” Sweat adds.
COASTAL GRAND — MYRTLE BEACH LIST OF RETAILERS
- Bed Bath & Beyond*
- Dick's Sporting Goods*
- A-1 Wireless
- Abercrombie & Fitch*
- After Hours
- American Eagle
- Andy Owings Music Center
- Ann Taylor Loft*
- Auntie Anne's Pretzels
- Bath & Body Works
- Body Shop
- Buckhead Brewery*
- Canipe's Candy
- Champs Sporting Goods
- Charley's Steakery*
- Charlotte Russe*
- Cracker Barrel
- Dairy Queen
- EB Games
- Express/Express Men
- Fast Fix Jewelry*
- Finish Line*
- Foot Locker
- Friedman's Jewelers
- fye (For Your Entertainment)
- Gemini Boutique
- Glamour Nails
- GNC (General Nutrition Center)
- Goldmine Jewelers
- Grand Strand Regional Medical Center
- Hallmark Cards
- Hollister Co.*
- Hot Topic*
- Island Resort Wear
- Jos. A. Bank Clothiers*
- Jungle Fun*
- Kay Jewelers
- KB Toys
- Kligs Kites
- Lane Bryant
- Limited Too*
- Marble Slab Creamery*
- Motherhood Maternity
- Mrs. Field's Cookies
- New York & Company*
- No Fear*
- Nextel Cellular
- Ocean Jewelry
- Pacific Sunwear
- Payless ShoeSource
- Picture People*
- Rack Room Shoes
- Red Lobster
- Reeds Jewelers
- Rochester Hots & Hamburgers
- S&K Menswear
- Sansei Japanese*
- Sbarro the Italian Eatery
- Smokey Bones*
- Sports Fan-Attic*
- Sticky Fingers*
- Street Stuff*
- Swim 'N Sport*
- The Children's Place
- The Magic Shop
- The Shoe Dept.*
- Things Remembered
- Tiki Jim's
- Trade Secret
- Victoria's Secret
- Vitamin World*
- Wet Seal*
- Wireless World
- Worley's Wonder
- Zales Jewelers
*Retailers making their debut in the Myrtle Beach market.
Retailers are reporting record sales since Coastal Grand's March grand opening, according to CBL and its retailers. Ivankovich says, “We've simply had outstanding sales reports from the department stores and the small shops, and the momentum continues.”
New York-based Jeremy Ezra, a leasing representative for Ann Taylor Loft, a Coastal Grand retailer, concurs. “Since the grand opening, our Coastal Grand store is performing way beyond our expectations,” he reports.
Bass adds that she's hearing this same message from all the mall's retailers. “I've been overwhelmed with comments like, ‘We need more merchandise,’ and ‘We've been to the bank three times today to make a deposit.’ Those are actual quotes we are getting in e-mails and in telephone conversations,” she says.
Gregerson reports that specialty tenants, too, are experiencing excellent shopper traffic and attendance at product presentations. “Some of the people giving demonstrations have actually lost their voices after a couple of days, and [specialty retailers] have had to bring in additional help and rotate speakers,” he adds.
Shopper word-of-mouth is even beginning to kick in full force, according to Ivankovich. “We've heard positive responses from the community about the great stores at the mall. We've also heard from people as far away as Arizona and the West Coast who visited Myrtle Beach that can't stop talking about their unique experience at Coastal Grand. We will continue our marketing efforts to build on this excitement.”
Along with all its early retail successes, Coastal Grand has an ally among local constituents as well. Bass says, “You can actually feel the local pride as you walk through the mall, because the mall reflects the area so well.”
From all reports, the climate at Myrtle Beach's newest shopping, dining and entertainment destination is as grand as it gets.