By David Rogers. May 25, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Cake and bubbly are the order of the day on Saturday (May 27) as SouthMarke shopping center at 1179 Main Street celebrates its 25th anniversary of serving Blowing Rock.
“My how time flies,” owner Karyn Herterich told Blowing Rock News on Thursday. “This has been such a joy. We have met so many wonderful people through the years, from shop owners leasing space from us to their many, many, many customers.”
Herterich added, “We’ll be serving ‘birthday’ cake and champagne beverages to those with ID, beginning at 5:00 pm. We welcome visitors and downtown merchants alike, and of course our many friends who double as customers of not only the anchor store we own, Serves You Right! in the back, but the customers of all our tenant stores. We now have a terrific variety of shops in Southmarke and they all bring business to one another.”
With its signature Victorian architecture, garden setting, and unique stores, it can well be argued that the construction of Southmarke changed the face of downtown and strengthened the commercial appeal of Main Street’s south end. The shopping “mall” was designed by local architect David Patrick Moses, built by Steve Silver and Boone Construction, and developed by then Florida residents, Mrs. Herterich and husband, Dieter.
“At the time,” said Herterich, “we envisioned a sort of visual escape from big city shopping. We selected businesses whose types were under-represented in Blowing Rock or not currently in the area at all. The name, ‘SouthMarke’, came from its being located at the south end of Main Street on historical property.”
The Herterichs were pioneers of sorts when it came to Blowing Rock’s downtown business community in that they were the first shopping complex on Main St. (rather than single storefront buildings), as well as the first to mandate that their tenant businesses maintain a year ’round business and keep minimum store hours for the main retail spaces. They added six small, stand-alone “pavilions” that were seasonal only, offering specialty merchandise to the public from May through October.
“That was an entirely new merchandising concept for Blowing Rock,” Herterich noted to Blowing Rock News. “Put in perspective, the average rent on Main Street in those days was $5.00 per square foot and most buildings were not winterized. So most businesses closed up after October and many moved their inventory south, to warmer climes or resort communities in Florida.
“Southmarke was different and delivered value,” added Herterich. “We opened with tenants paying $12.00 per square foot because they were occupying state-of-the-art buildings that offered both air conditioning and heat. Few buildings had either in the early 1990s. That set a certain tone and standard, I guess, because it wasn’t long before other property owners on Main Street realized that they were going to have to make improvements to their buildings in order to command comparable rents. Slowly, Main Street came to life even in the winter months and special events like Winterfest only strengthened what before was regarded only as the off-season.”
Many of Blowing Rock’s most successful retail shops today were born in Southmarke, Herterich pointed out. “Our founding tenants were Celeste’s, Sarah Peck, Winterfire Gallery, J.W. Tweeds, and Pleasant Papers. We launched Serves You Right! in 1993 and around that same time there were other respected retailers here, such as We’re Good Sports and Gregory Alan.
“Today we have longtime tenants Monkees, 100 West Union, and of course Serves You Right! all remaining today,” Herterich observed. “Last year, Blowing Rock Cigar became the first private smoking club offering premium cigars in the High Country.
“And,” Herterich smiled, “we can’t forget our oldest Pavilion business, B-Dazzled. It is a small fashion jewelry shop at Southmarke’s upper sidewalk entrance. Lenoir residents Lynn Hines and her late husband, Larry, opened 14 years ago this season. We have a returning Pavilion tenant, Made In The Shade, joining new pavilion tenants, Big Heart and Dreamweavers.”
Herterich finished the interview by noting that a number of former tenants, as well as local business and civic dignitaries are expected to drop by the Saturday celebration.
For additional information, interested parties may visit www.southmarke.com or call Karyn Herterich at 828-265-7065.