The building on Laurens Street in downtown Aiken where the Stoplight Deli and Birds & Butterflies are located has a new owner: Sam Erb.
The deal for his purchase of the 6,000-square-foot structure closed on June 20.
Erb, 54, and his family owned the popular West Side Bowery restaurant, which closed last August after serving Aiken for more than 30 years.
“I looked at buildings throughout Aiken, but the reason I bought this one is because my heart is downtown,” he said.
Erb discussed his plans for his new acquisition, which was constructed in the 1930s, earlier this week while sitting at an outdoor table in front of the Stoplight Deli.
“My main reason for doing this interview is to let the public know that the Stoplight Deli and Birds & Butterflies are two strong merchants, and they plan to stay here,” Erb said. “I think they look forward to working with me, and I look forward to working with them.”
A Mellow Mushroom franchise is scheduled to open later this year in the Bowery's former location at 151 Bee Lane in The Alley.
“I miss the customers I used to have at the Bowery and everyone around town who was associated with it,” Erb said. “But opening a restaurant isn't something I'm going to do right now. I bought this building as an investment.”
Erb, who declined to reveal what he paid for the structure, wants to make improvements to its two storefronts that will include new glass in the windows and new doors.
The property where the building is located extends to Pendleton Street in the back, and Erb might eventually build a small office building there that faces Pendleton.
“I want to clean up that back lot and make it have a nice look,” he said.
Erb also is considering the possibility of buying more buildings in the future, and one day, he might start up a new restaurant.
“The restaurant business is in my blood, and if I get bored and I don't have anything to do, I might open another place,” he said. “But it would be something small, and it would never be on the scale of the Bowery.”
Meanwhile, Erb is helping his sister and brother-in-law, Maggie and David Sacks, in their Newberry Hall catering and event hosting venture.
“I'm working in the kitchen, cooking and prepping,” he said.
Most of all, Erb is excited about becoming a familiar face in the downtown business community again.
“Downtown Aiken is thriving, and with The Mill at Park opening and Mellow Mushroom coming, all sorts of things are happening, and I'm glad to be a part of it,” he said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.