It won’t be a secret for long: One of Fayetteville’s best-known eateries may be opening a new spot on Charleston’s West Side.
Secret Sandwich Society owner Lewis Rhinehart says he’s pursuing some avenues that could lead to another location in the former Staats Hospital on Washington Street West in Charleston’s Elk City District.
“It’s very, very preliminary. I’m heading in that direction, but there are no guarantees at this point,” Rhinehart said. Developer Tighe Bullock, whose company Crawford Holdings LLC owns the Staats building, approached Rhinehart a few months ago.
“I always thought Secret Sandwich Society is a great place,” Bullock said. “We’ve been talking about figuring out some ways we could finance this and get them over to Charleston.”
The Tamarack Foundation for the Arts is already planning to develop a creative business incubator in the Staats building once it reaches its $100,000 fund raising goal.
The recent opening of The Grove, an art gallery and music space on the second floor of Secret Sandwich’s Fayetteville location, could pair well with that endeavor.
Rhinehart says The Grove is “really taking off” since it opened in September and thinks a similar space would thrive in the Elk City district.
“Every month we have a different artist and live music every weekend, so we’d certainly try to replicate that [in Charleston],” he said.
With the building’s first floor renovated and ready for leaseholders, Bullock offers prospective tenants a unique financing incentive.
A one-percent interest loan from the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority permits Bullock to keep construction costs low enough when restoring commercial buildings so that occupants also benefit. The costs to tenants for building out their space, Bullock said, can be used as “prepaid rent” for a three-year period.
“It allows tenants to build out the space, but not pay more than they would normally pay just to occupy a space. It’s a really good business model,” Bullock said.
Secret Sandwich Society would likely occupy what’s known as “Little Staats,” or the one-story brick structure nestled between The Grill and the larger Staats building.
Despite its name, the roughly 5,000-square-foot space is more than double the size of the Fayetteville eatery.
“I think having a restaurant like that would bring the most pedestrian traffic, and that’s kind of what we’re shooting for,” Bullock said.
“We want to work on creating a community that everyone can walk to where they need to go.”
Rhinehart said the historic buildings, other new businesses and “neighborhood feel” piqued his interest in the Elk City District.
“I’m very attracted to the idea of revitalizing an existing neighborhood, rather than going toward a different type of aesthetic,” Rhinehart said. “I know it’s a little bit of a risk.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Rhinehart owned a pizza shop for a dozen years before moving to West Virginia, where he helped run Pies & Pints with co-founder David Bailey. Bailey also founded Secret Sandwich in 2010.
Rhinehart purchased Secret Sandwich Society from Bailey in 2012.
David and Tashia Bailey plan to open a second location in Richmond, Virginia, this summer.
Reach Elaina Sauber at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.