Uptown Greenwood Seeing Business Surge
By: Adam Benson
GREENWOOD, SC - Two restaurants. A boutique store specializing in personalized stationery. A salon and spa. An acupuncture and natural medicine shop.
All have recently opened or will do so soon in spaces across Uptown Greenwood, responding to continued investments by city leaders to upgrade the sector’s arcades and promote its walkability and economic development potential.
“I think Uptown Greenwood has done a really good job in the last decade or so to prove that we have what it takes to be a thriving community,” said Lesley Lane, who manages space in The Greenwood Building.
On March 28, Golden Root Natural Medicine opened at 207 Waller Ave., just a few doors down from the former home of Asian fusion restaurant UchiE, which shuttered in mid-January.
But soon, the 217 Waller Ave. location will be known as El Maya, a family-run restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine.
Owner Mari Carmen Solis said they’re still waiting on permits and haven’t announced a grand opening date yet, but she said Uptown was an attractive site.
“There’s a lot of business in the area, and really nice space,” she said.
And next Friday, Kevin Franklin and his wife, Kim, will open Southern Soul on Main at 312 Main St.
“We figured the Uptown area was pretty unique and the environment here is versatile and will attract all types of different customers,” he said. “We’re going for a family-oriented vibe, and the atmosphere here is a whole lot different.”
Caroline Davis, a Greenwood native who moved back to the city two years ago from Savannah, Georgia, is slated to become The Greenwood Building’s second retail tenant when she opens Fig early next month.
“I just felt there was a void in the Greenwood market for this kind of store, which I remember from growing up in Greenwood as a little girl,” Davis said. “It’ll be a cozy little store, but we’ll fill it up.”
Fig, which stands for Fine Invitations and Gifts, marks The Greenwood Building’s second foray into the retail world.
Lane said Davis’ plan will complement the popular Main & Maxwell at 210 Main St., an art gallery featuring pieces by local and regional artists.
“As far as Caroline goes, her vision will really cater to a younger generation, which is going to be really important to Uptown Greenwood in the years to come,” she said. “We’re thrilled that Fig is going to be joining Uptown.”
So is City Manager Charlie Barrineau.
“Success attracts success. With a growing mix of clothier, unique retail, hospitality, offices and a full-service boutique hotel, Uptown will continue to attract entrepreneurs,” he said. “The landscape and walkability of Uptown also lends itself to a positive visitor experience.”
Barrineau said Buffalo Grill owner Jeff Robinson also plans to open a salon and spa on the third floor of the Grier building.
In February, the City Council voted to allocate $530,000 in hospitality tax revenues to areas of concern at the 34-year-old arcades, including better lighting, pedestrian-friendly handrails and mechanical upgrades to its three elevators.
Lane said city leadership’s approach toward growing Uptown – from bringing in an urban farmers market to initiatives such as Bee City USA that requires ecologically sensitive planning – is directly tied to its continued growth.
“Our city leaders have done a phenomenal job over the last decade with coming up with some really progressive ideas,” she said.
Ongoing projects such as a major renovation at 206 Main St. – former location of Jay-Smith Clothing Co. – is bringing ground-level retail space and a business incubation center.
Gianpaolo “Geep” Bonaca, proprietor of The Mill House, is spending $700,000 on improvements to building at 233 Maxwell Ave., that will expand his business, add 25 employees and $500,000 in hospitality tax dollars to the city and allow the restaurant’s Good Times Brewery to take on a statewide profile.
Uptown Greenwood is such a hot commodity that earlier this year, business owners in the Shoppes at Hampton Place plaza at 115 Hampton Ave., told their landlord they’d be willing to pay more taxes so they could join the district.
Last month, the City Council unanimously voted to annex the 6-acre shopping center into the district, expanding its borders for the first time since it was created in 1984. Spread across 13 city blocks, the district has a taxable base of $25 million.
A new social media and marketing campaign is under way as well.