2022 Award Recipients
Excellence on Main Street Award
Laurens Lights Up the Night
Main Street Laurens
Aiming to make its Fourth of July celebration a more accessible community celebration, the City of Laurens moved the event from its amphitheater to its downtown courthouse square for 2021. In addition to a concert, fireworks, food trucks and recognition of local veterans, the celebration featured for the first time a video display projected onto the historic courthouse façade. The display used light mapping, in which the projections are specially designed to fit onto the three-dimensional architectural elements of the building.
The celebration developed as a collaboration between the city, Main Street Laurens, Laurens County and other community partners. Owners of the nearby Bailey Building opened their top floor to the projection equipment, making the display possible. Funding came from repurposed funds the city had budgeted for youth football before the pandemic led to the cancellation of that program, as well as community sponsorships.
Laurens Lights Up the Night became the largest single-day event ever in Laurens’ history, attracting 3,000 guests. Downtown businesses and restaurants that stayed open late and offered specials to cater to visitors reported record sales. Because the city now owns the projection equipment, it has used the equipment for smaller-scale displays, including a Halloween-themed display. The city planned a larger event for Independence Day 2022, including a parade representing all of Laurens County.
Creative Canvas Mural Project, Downtown Sumter
After the success of the Butterfly Project featuring street sculptures, Downtown Sumter wanted to expand the district’s public art offerings. Sumter County’s cultural director partnered with the downtown development organization to secure a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation. Together, the groups pursued commissions for three murals in the area.
One of the murals, just off Main Street, features an underwater scene from Sumter’s Swan Lake, showing the swans diving for food, while another alleyway mural celebrates Sumter iconography like the gamecock and iris. A postcard-style mural at the Sumter County Museum depicts local landmarks and historical figures.
The project matched the $45,000 grant from CCCF with donations from the Bank of Clarendon, Main Street Society, Sumter County Museum, Sumter Economic Development and Sumter County Cultural Commission. Downtown Sumter plans to expand the district’s public art projects further in the future.
Main Street Laurens – Holmes Family
Seeing new opportunities in the resurgence of downtown building rehabilitation in their hometown of Laurens, the Holmes family decided to purchase and rehabilitate two commercial structures using local contractors. The family has also contributed to the downtown district with committee and board service. Barrett Holmes serves on the City of Laurens planning commission, his wife Beth Holmes serves on the city’s historic preservation commission, and their son Barton serves on the board of Main Street Laurens.
The Midtown Building, bought by the family in 2019, is now the home of a coworking space, a corporate office and a new location for a local coffee shop, The Coffee Roost. In 2021, the family bought the deteriorated Swofford Building, which was facing the possibility of demolition. Once its rehabilitation is complete, it will house The Tailored Oak, a steak restaurant, corporate offices and potentially retail space. Contact Jonathan Irick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864.871.4429.
Gaines Jontz Rehabilitation
Main Street Cheraw – 168 Second St.: Bistro on 2nd
The declining condition of historic storefronts in downtown Cheraw often makes rehabilitation economically unfeasible. This was the case when the owner of a 1,600-square-foot, circa-1907 storefront at 168 Second St. — previously used for storage — donated it to the city. The deteriorated building had excellent features, including an original pressed-tin ceiling, but no utilities.
The town sought proposals for ways that the building could contribute to downtown vitality, and found an answer from local contractor Axel Speer, with plans to renovate it as a restaurant space. After the town deeded it to him, he replaced the roof and floor, as well as its mechanical and electrical components. The $250,000 investment used $21,000 in town tax incentives, including a preservation grant funded by the Municipal Association’s Hometown Economic Development Grant, as well as Bailey Bill tax abatements projected to be worth at least $30,000.
Bistro on 2nd has become the first of several evening-oriented restaurants in Cheraw, with other establishments opening or renovating since then. Contact Robert Wolfe at email@example.com or 843.337.7724.
Downtown Sumter – Julie Herlong
Offering a full bridal registry as well as jewelry, home goods and specialty foods, the gift shop Naomi and Warner had been a fixture in downtown Sumter for more than 60 years when Julie Herlong purchased it in 2013. Soon afterward, Herlong bought and restored a downtown
building and moved the legacy business into it. The building now also houses Ages Antiques as well as a kitchen and dining area for Brubakers Café & Bakery, as well as an art studio.
Herlong is a longtime member of Sumter’s downtown revitalization board and historic preservation design review committee. She has also served on Downtown Sumter’s promotion committee. Every year, she participates in some of Downtown Sumter’s largest fundraising events, including the Sip and Stroll and Microbrew Festival. She has also sold food and drinks during the Fourth Fridays Concert Series.
Contact Leigh Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803.436.2635.
Downtown Florence – SC Pecan Music & Food Festival Rebranding
Founded in 2003, the South Carolina Pecan Festival originally focused on encouraging visitors to come to downtown Florence and see firsthand the changes and improvements happening in the once-derelict district. Although the festival grew dramatically over the next 17 years, its brand identity began to make less sense. Florence’s pecan processing facility closed during that time, and attendees questioned why the festival was named for a nut not easily found at the event.
When planners and staff canceled the festival because of the pandemic in 2020, they took advantage of the downtime to assess the event’s purpose, strengths and weaknesses. This led them to completely rebrand the event as the SC Pecan Music & Food Festival for 2021. The rebranding, which included a modernized logo, website and a GIS-powered festival app, was funded by the Florence Downtown Development Corporation and City of Florence, leveraging existing festival revenue and accommodations tax funds.