As hundreds of acres are approved for development at the Appling/Harlem exit off Interstate 20, the historic Pumpkin Center convenience store and gas station locals have come to know for decades will be at the center of major change.
Several hundred houses in two major housing developments and a new industrial park occupying more than 200 acres less than a mile away were recently approved by Columbia County officials. The small gas station and convenience store on the outskirts of Harlem’s city limits will soon be at the crux of major construction over the next 15 years.
Perry Parilamin, Pumpkin Center’s owner, said he has heard about the developments, but he is only concerned about more potential for competition. Pumpkin Center is the only gas station within four miles in any direction.
In March, it will be two years since Parilamin sold his store in Aiken and purchased the nearly 3,000-square-foot gas station in what he thought was the quiet countryside.
“I wasn’t thinking everything was coming this way,” he said. “So like maybe after a few years, I might have competition. We don’t know what’s going to happen then.”
Parilamin said he experienced an uptick in traffic when the new Harlem Middle School was being built and that the workers the construction brought to the area increased his business.
“That seven to eight months we did good because all of the construction workers coming in at lunchtime,” Parilamin said.
Parilamin purchased Pumpkin Center from Young Ju and Hyun Su Kim and has been making what he calls small but necessary improvements.
A concrete floor was replaced with tile, two new bathrooms were renovated and cleaned up and LED lighting has been added inside and outside the building. Under Parilamin’s ownership beer and wine sales have returned to the store, and a “beer kave” has been installed.
The building’s roof got a fresh coat of paint, brightening the pumpkin painted there along with the words “Pumpkin Center.” Parilamin said he wanted to keep things the same as much as possible.
“People know this is Pumpkin Center, that’s why I kept the Pumpkin Center,” Parilamin said.
Parilamin has invested nearly $20,000 so far in renovations and said the next major improvements coming soon will be installing new gas pumps and paving the parking lot.
The business is open 24 hours and employs four full-time and two part-time workers including Parilamin.
As for the development boom coming to the area, Parilamin said he is just planning to wait and see what happens.
County leaders have approved rezoning 250 acres south of the Pumpkin Center roundabout and on both sides of Highway 221. Phase one of the neighborhood located south of the roundabout is being built by Meybohm and will include more than 200 single-family homes. The entrance of the neighborhood will share the road built at the entrance of Harlem Middle School.
The entire subdivision will have 600 homes, but officials say it could be more than 10 years before all of them are built.
The new industrial park will be north of the Appling/Harlem exit 183 off I-20, with Club Car occupying one warehouse.
In addition, officials are set to hear a rezoning request to build 200 homes on nearly 200 acres north of the new industrial park, near Columbia Road. If approved, the neighborhood, currently dubbed The Appling Project, will be constructed by Blanchard and Calhoun and will consist of quarter-acre lots.
The rezoning request is expected to be heard by the board of planning and zoning Feb. 1, with the ultimate outcome decided by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 20.
Funding has also been secured to widen the overpass at Highway 221, with roundabouts at the exits on both sides to reduce the limited sight distance that has posed a dangerous problem for increased traffic to the area.
All of the development takes place within a mile or less from the front door of Pumpkin Center.
“How it goes depends how we are going to handle it,” Parilamin said.