Front Porch of the South prepares to close its doors

Its nearly four-year run as a mega-thrift and antique mall is coming to an end, with the Great Porch of the South on Veterans Parkway in north Columbus preparing to vacate the premises.

“We’re closing the doors. It should be the end of this month for the vendors, and the rest of it is we’ve got to move a lot of stuff out,” manager Vincent Ellison said Wednesday.

The 123,600-square-foot mall, which billed itself as the largest climate-controlled such venue in the South, opened to the public in May 2011. At its peak, Ellison estimates there were about 400 vendors on site, peddling everything from furniture, lamps and framed pictures to clothing, collectibles and quirky knickknacks. There at one point was a lifesize Elvis statue for sale.

“We had them come from all around,” he said of customers who visited the 7607 Veterans Parkway mall. “About every summer we had a busload of elderly people come in from Savannah.”

Ellison declined to say what caused the demise of Front Porch, although when asked if it was simply because of declining business, he responded, “Something like that.”

It’s not that management and staff did not give it a good shot at making the venture work. The facility blended an eclectic array of events to draw people who then would, hopefully, turn around a make a thrift booth purchase.

There were auctions, wrestling matches, gun and knife shows, a crawfish festival and even roller derby. Ellison said the final clash between women on roller skates at the venue will be April 16. Concerts were also part of the atmosphere on occasion, with classic country’s David Allen Coe, metal-rock band Jackyl and up-and-comer country singer Tyler Farr making a stop at the Front Porch.

Ellison said he has no idea what will become of the building once the mall is gone. It previously was a Buffalo Rock soft drink and beverage bottling and distribution plant before that company hit the exits.

A listing on the commercial real-estate site LoopNet says the 12-acre property is zoned commercial, but could be rezoned to its former light manufacturing industrial use if a prospect wishes. The building includes 113,000 square feet of warehouse space, 14 dock doors and four drive-in doors, along with 10,000 square feet of office space.