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Cornelius News

The local retail landscape continues to change

“When people are out they still want that experience of shopping.” Sissy Parks co-owner of Sweet Magnolia said. / Photo by Tripp Liles

Many retailers looked at 2021 as a chance to rebound from pandemic-induced losses but instead were forced to deal with staff shortages, supply chain issues and renewed restrictions, not to mention new COVID strains. As 2022 dawns, here’s a look at what may be in store for the Cornelius retail landscape.

RETAIL | By Tripp Liles

Jan. 13. Just like so much of American retail, retail in Cornelius is at a crossroads. Downtown is poised for a Renaissance, thanks to the Cain Center for the Arts, which opens in December of 2022. It will be a catalyst for mini breweries and restaurants—most likely a hotel—but some traditional shopping is long gone.

SteinMart is a thing of the past, as is the furniture warehouse that popped in and out in the space of a year.

At the same time, mainstays like the 50-year-old independently owned Ace Hardware is successfully going toe-to-toe with corporate behemoths like Lowe’s Home Improvement and Home Depot.

Personal service

Today’s consumers are shunning brands that don’t support their new values—and paying more for those that do.

Small retailers like Sweet Magnolia in Magnolia Plaza help define the retail scene in Cornelius.

Sweet Magnolia is a “lifestyle” store featuring furniture, gifts, clothing, and original art in a boutique setting. Owners Tracy and Sissy Parks—they’re sisters—offer unique products with a local, personal touch.

“When people are out they still want that experience of shopping. We know it’s about the customer experience and it’s how people are treated when they come in the door and Amazon can’t provide that,” Sissy Parks said.

“Sometimes you just need a little hug and you want to sit on the sofa and talk,” she said.

Known for personal service and hard-to-get food items, Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market in Shops on the Green is expanding into the old Madison River Fly Fishing store which closed in June.

Market trends

Amid the pandemic, people looked to relationships and community, rethinking where, what and how they buy.

Through their purchase choices, today’s consumer is purposefully seeking to influence their communities and the environment, and to confirm how they see themselves in the world, according to Accenture, a multinational professional services company that specializes in information technology services and consulting.

According to Accenture, 50 percent of shoppers agree that the pandemic made them “totally revise” their personal purpose and what is important to them.

Then, too, people working from home are spending more money on-line and locally.

For small retailer/entrepreneurs, grocery-anchored retail was a good place to locate their store—perhaps smaller than it would have been in years past. According Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis Group (CBRE), this sector is experiential, necessity-based and has a lower vulnerability to e-commerce competitors.

Even though Amazon and others have entered the grocery-delivery arena, 84 percent of American adults in 2020 never ordered groceries online. Grocery-anchored centers remain a solid proposition, according to CBRE.

Tadd Holzen, founder of locally based Asset Specialists of North Carolina, said some strictly e-commerce retailers are killing it. 

“For brick and mortar, I think it depends on the product, competition, visibility, location, etc.,” he said.

There is very little vacancy and plenty of takers for space that comes available, Holzen said.

New stores continue to open. Kaleigh Basile, marketing director of Native Ceuticals, says the CBD store will hold a grand opening Jan. 20 at 19400 Jetton Road.

Birkdale Village

Birkdale Village in Huntersville had its share of challenges as COVID derailed a wide variety of national retailers like Pier 1. The owners of the outdoor mall are making it more pedestrian friendly—the roundabout in the center will go away—and adding at least five new, smaller tenants, including Apricot Lane, Brown Bag Seafood Co., Girl Supply, Green Brothers Juice & Smoothie Co. and Lovesac, a furniture retailer, in early 2022.

Birkdale Village

“It’s an exciting time in the retail industry. We’re feeling very optimistic headed into the new year and can’t wait to welcome these new brands to The Village,” said Adam Schwegman, partner and senior vice president of leasing at North American Properties, Birkdale’s owner.


The U.S. Census Bureau reports more than 4.6 million new business applications were filed in 2021 through October. Compared with pre-pandemic levels, 40 percent of Americans were still making an increased effort to shop small and shop local as businesses reopened and pandemic restrictions eased, according to a Harris Poll from August 2021.

In-store shopping continues to evolve with new technology an innovative store concepts.

Laura Moore is opening a new custom frame shop in Kenton Place. Moore, who has over 20 years of retail experience, has embraced technology to carve out a niche and modernize the process.

She’s utilizing technology to better serve my customer base and have a work life balance that is healthy.

“Using simple tools like FaceTime and Google business allows me to offer flexible hours of operation, in-home appointments and one-on-one interaction not afforded in a standard retail space. These tools were not available 20 years ago and they are now vital to my success,” she said.