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Excellence on Main Street Award

Outstanding Promotion

Downtown Sumter's Pokémon GO Lure-A-Thon

Downtown Sumter recognized the opportunity to capitalize on the national Pokémon craze to attract people downtown. In Pokémon GO, a location-based augmented reality game, players use a mobile device's GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures that appear on the screen.

By strategically using the features of the game, including PokéStops, PokéBalls and lures, and complementing these features with attractions spread across the downtown, the event encouraged participants to walk all over the central business district. Offering more than 50 attractions throughout downtown, the event included face painting, door prizes, a photo booth with Pokémon props, cellphone charging station, Italian Ice, bottled water, and food and drink specials.

The event met its goal of using a trendy, family friendly event to attract a diverse mix of non-traditional visitors to downtown. Many of the estimated 2,000 visitors were exposed for the first time to the physical improvements and businesses added in recent years.

To promote the event, Downtown Sumter designed and printed marketing materials, including posters for the businesses and handouts for Pokémon players. Social media was a centerpiece in promotions. Organizers used the event Facebook page as well as the South Carolina Pokémon and Sumter Pokémon pages to spread the word, an effort that resulted in more than 1,000 shares.

Other winners

Outstanding Public/Private Partnership

Main Street Hartsville and City of Hartsville

The City of Hartsville worked in concert with private developers to transform a parking lot into a retail corridor, complete with a boutique wine shop, upscale salon, frame shop and art gallery. The effort increased safety and downtown foot traffic, reinvigorated the downtown economy and expanded the tax base.

City officials turned an off-putting alleyway into a pocket park and entrance to the new retail corridor. Along the side of the newly developed space, East College Avenue once known as rollercoaster alley was repaired. The city also installed an archway across East College Avenue to welcome visitors to Coker College and the new shopping district.

An additional walking corridor connects the repaved parking lots to Carolina Avenue, the main thoroughfare to Coker College. The result: a downtown that is connected — not only on maps and in pictures, but also with partnerships among private developers, property and business owners, residents and city officials.

Downtown Service Award

Todd Touchberry, Sumter

Todd Touchberry has showed his longstanding support for the City of Sumter's downtown by preserving and promoting its rich past.

His appreciation for his hometown, and especially its downtown, is reflected in the period décor of Cut Rate Drug Store and Soda Fountain. For the last eight years, Touchberry has managed the soda fountain portion of the drug store. It has been located downtown since 1935 and features authentic pieces from that period and later decades.

In addition to displaying Sumter memorabilia, Touchberry maintains a collection of about 100 yearbooks from the local high school. His collection also includes signs, boxes, and items from current and past downtown Sumter merchants.

While Touchberry participates in the city's festivals and events, he also organizes antique car shows and drive-in movies as fundraisers for many causes, including the local military museum, the Shriners, and victims of the recent hurricanes and floods. The car shows and drive-in movies are held in the parking lots next to and behind Cut Rate.

Gaines Jontz Rehabilitation Award

Bobby Wilson, Alderman's 20 Stores in One, Manning

In 2012, the roof of the historic Alderman's 20 Stores in One building had collapsed, breaking the sprinkler line and flooding the building in downtown Manning.

The 14,750-square-foot structure was left vacant and deteriorating for two years before Bobby Wilson started renovating it. He returned the 1919 building to its former glory by using historical photographs and documents to guide restorations. Plus, he concealed modern building features to avoid compromising the structure's historic character.

By saving the building instead of razing it and starting over, Wilson's rehabilitation project serves as a success story to inspire the reuse of other buildings and promotes sustainability and economic development.

Master Merchant Award

Yvan Youssef, Laurens

The City of Laurens needed an inviting bar to help attract customers to its downtown. So, Yvan Youssef, a Kurd from Syria who grew up in France and came to the United States in 2001, decided to expand his downtown restaurant, ROMA, to include a bar.

The City of Laurens allocated $20,000 for Main Street Laurens to develop a restaurant-centered grant, a portion of which assisted in the ROMA expansion. And Youssef dedicated some matching funds toward the expansion and the purchase of new seating and supplies. He also redecorated the venue, updated the menu and named a dish after a longtime Main Street Laurens volunteer. But Youssef's support doesn't end there.

During Main Street Laurens events, he opens his restaurant, even if it falls at a time when he ordinarily is closed. He also offers special menus, outdoor seating and live music.