A Southern Season to Make Move to University Mall

The store is moving in 2003 to the space vacated by Hudson Belk's, giving it almost twice as much room.

The locally owned and operated gourmet food store, A Southern Season, will move from the Eastgate Shopping Center to the University Mall in the summer of 2003.

A Southern Season, with its assortment of foreign and locally produced foods that are hard to find elsewhere, is a favorite of local residents and out-of-towners alike. The move is a major boon for University Mall, located at the corner of South Estes Drive and East Franklin Street, as the mall has seen the opening of The Streets at Southpoint and other retailers take a toll on its business.

A Southern Season will be taking Hudson Belk's vacated space in the University Mall, which will give the food store almost twice the square footage that it has now.

Representatives from A Southern Season could not be reached for comment.

Some customers said they are pleased with the move, as the current building is a little cramped and parking is scarce.

"I did think it was cramped, especially at that inventory sale," customer Carol de Poix said. "It was so crowded that I couldn't get to some of the racks."

A Southern Season is making the move in part because of the marketing strategy of Kane Realty Corp., the firm that manages the University Mall.

Kane Realty started recruiting A Southern Season nearly two years ago, even before it was sure that Hudson Belk would be leaving its location. When people with Kane Realty started suspecting Belk would move, they began to brainstorm a good replacement for Belk that would add to the ambiance of the mall. A Southern Season stood "head and shoulders" above any other options, said Steve Brown, vice president of Kane Realty.

Once Belk made the move, he used a "full-court press" approach to convince Michael Barefoot, owner of A Southern Season, to make the move to University Mall, Brown said.

Brown said he is thrilled that Barefoot decided to move his gourmet food shop to the mall, which has seen several of its larger stores leave in recent years.

"I think A Southern Season will transform the property," Brown said.

Other store owners in University Mall say they are excited about A Southern Season's relocation. Wendy Smith, manager of Cameron's, a specialty shop in the mall, said she thinks the addition of the gourmet food store will bring in more business and will add to the unique dynamic of University Mall.

"That's the great thing about University Mall; it's got a local flavor to it," Smith said.

Steve Brown and Kane Realty are using that local flavor to their advantage. They believe that adding A Southern Season will help lend a different feel to University Mall -- a localized, more personal feel. "I'm not trying to knock the other malls," Brown said. "The other malls are great, but when you walk in the front door, you kind of know what to expect. We are really trying to make (University Mall) unique and different from all the others."

A Southern Season isn't just bringing its main store to University Mall. Barefoot is also opening a location for his Weathervane restaurant, which currently has a site adjacent to A Southern Season.

Robert Humphreys, executive director of Chapel Hill's Downtown Commission, said he is pleased with A Southern Season's proposed move. With so many shopping options outside of Orange County, Humphreys said it is nice for such a great locally owned store to remain in Chapel Hill.

"As a business advocate, it's great news for the mall and great news for the community," said Humphreys.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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