More construction for downtown Florence: Splash pad and traffic circle coming

By: Rosalia Fodera, WPDE

Construction cones and signs have taken over downtown Florence.

“I think downtown has come a long way and it’s something that Florence really needed,” Myranda Clark said.

“We see that footprint of downtown expanding and hopefully that coincides with expansion of investment downtown and businesses and others,” Mayor Stephen Wukela said.

The city started street and sidewalk construction on West Evans Street and will continue it to Baroody Street, and North and South Dargan Streets.

“Brick the whole width it really gives you a sense of a wider sidewalk and of course those beds are redone,” Wukela said.

With the new hotel coming and more traffic expected, a traffic circle will go at the intersection of Baroody and East Evans Streets.

“Changing in the stripping of Baroody Street to allow for some more parking there and a bike lane,” Wukela said.

A pocket park with a splash pad is coming and Clark’s niece approves of it.

“I would totally use it. We really need one in Florence because a lot of them are in like Hartsville,” Emory Clark said.

“It’ll cool the area. It’ll sound nice. It’ll attract young and that’s something we’ve heard a lot and we feel that we really need to do to have some access to young children,” Wukela said.

The roughly $2 million project is funded with a TIF (tax increment financing) so there’s no additional cost to taxpayers.

“Tax dollars from the growth downtown funding improvements downtown,” Wukela said.

Myranda Clark is excited for all the changes.

“I think downtown is a great place for it’s very kid friendly very family friendly,” Clark said.

Mayor Wukela said the projects should all be completed by spring 2019.

Mayor Wukela said the plans for Baroody Street are designed, but construction won’t start until after the hotel is built.

Minister reflects on year as Florence Chamber chairman

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Rev. Merritt Graves says he wants to be remembered a lot less for what he did and a lot more for what God did through him.

Graves, the pastor at Mt. Zion AME Church, served as the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Board Chairman during the 2017-18 term.

During that time, Graves said, he was able to build valuable relationships.

“If you’re going to do anything in the community, you have to build relationships,” Graves said. “I got to meet a lot of different people as part of the chamber and on the chamber board that are just awesome. There are a lot of great people in the city of Florence and it gives you an opportunity to really get to know folk and for folk to get to know you.”

Graves was named to serve on the Chamber board by the nominating committee. During his time serving on the board, he was nominated to be the chairman-elect. That’s when he took over as the 2017-18 Chamber board chairman.

On Sunday, July 1, Graves rotated off as the chairman.

“When this all began, the individual who approached me was a person that I had a lot of respect for,” Graves said. “My membership with the chamber is going to remain. I love what they’re doing. They’re a great organization and I really like what they represent and what they’re trying to do for the community in Florence.”

Mike Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said Graves was able to help the chamber improve as a result of his leadership.

“Rev. Graves was a pleasure to work with,” Miller said. “The staff also enjoyed his input and backing throughout the year. It was clear he is a man of integrity and character. The chamber is better off today for having his influence and support. We will carry that inspiration forward into all of our programs and projects.”

Graves said serving with the Chamber is something he has enjoyed doing.

“You get to learn that, as people, we really aren’t as different as we think we are,” Graves said. “You get to tear down that keeps us from getting to know one another.”

Graves added that the success of the Chamber couldn’t be possible without its staff members.

“The Florence Chamber is great because of the staff they have there,” Graves said. “Mike Miller and his staff make being part of the Chamber easy. They carry out the mission of the Chamber and work hard every day. The Chamber can’t be what it is without the full-time staff there that put all of this together. They guide us and do an excellent job.”

Graves has been serving in the ministry for 30 years. He said that he served in the Pamplico area for 14 years before being moved to Mt. Zion AME Church in 2008.

He said he appreciates his family’s support and the sacrifice that they make serving in the ministry.

“It [ministry] was not something I sought to do, but was truly what I was called to do,” Graves said. “I believe that if you’re not called into ministry, you won’t be able to stay in ministry. While God does not always call those who are equipped, he equips those he calls. My family has been crucial to my ministry. They’ve always been supportive and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than pastoring.”

Graves said he will continue to pastor his church and work in the community through the ministries of his church. He also is excited about partnerships with other churches and organizations to make the city of Florence a better place.

“I want to be remembered for taking an active part in the community to better the lives for generations to come,” Graves said. “Not just me, not just any particular group, but for everybody. I’d like to think that I made a difference in the community through the things that I’m involved in for years down the road.”

Burger restaurant coming to Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — The folks who brought the Florence area Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish Co. and King Jefe Taco Bar are looking to bring another delicacy to local residents, this time in the form of an American burger.

Business partners Steve Toniolo, Kyle Hardee and Travis Miller told the Morning News that they plan to open Revival Burger, a quick-serve restaurant, specializing in Americana cuisine.

Toniolo said the new burger restaurant is an opportunity for the partners to give Florence something a little different.

“Our business model has always been to look at what other great cities have and see what Florence doesn’t currently have,” Toniolo said. “That’s how we got King Jefe. Lately, you’re seeing a lot of great burger QSRs [quick service restaurants] pop up, and Florence doesn’t really have many of those. We thought it was a great opportunity for us to deliver a home-grown version with our spin on it.”

Hardee said the partners are eyeing a September opening.

He said the location, at 846 S. Irby St. is in a place with a high traffic count and the building — which previously was a Bojangles’ — provides them with the perfect layout to have an efficient restaurant.

“It’s a big leap,” Hardee said. “We put everything on the line every time we do this. I can promise we’re going to deliver all the things about Tubb’s and King Jefe that the customer likes. One of the things that is missing in many QSRs is the service. Why shouldn’t there be a warm, Southern hospitality spin put on getting a burger? That’s what we’re going to try to provide: A unique Southern atmosphere with great service and great food.”

Toniolo echoed Hardee’s sentiments.

“It’s about creating a unique customer experience,” Toniolo said. “It’s not about the type of food that you’re serving, it’s about us delivering the best customer experience that we can. When we opened King Jefe, we learned things about the business that we didn’t know with Tubb’s. We were able to circle back and make Tubb’s better as a result. With the opening of Revival Burger, we’re going to be able to do the same thing. It’s really exciting for us.”

The restaurant will offer a variety of burgers with a special Revival house sauce and many other items, including hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. The partners said that they will create burgers using many of their unique products, including their pimento cheese and Tomato Bacon Jam that are both used at Tubb’s.

Hardee said Tubb’s is offering the Florence community a chance to try some of their burgers every Monday for lunch as part of “Moo Mondays.”

“We’ve used Tubb’s as our breeding grounds, not just for this, but for King Jefe, too,” Hardee said. “We sell a limited amount of burgers, and we sell out every Monday. We do the classic ‘Revival Burger,’ and we also do one of the signature burgers. Through that, we get to perfect our recipes and get feedback from our customers. It’s been widely received, and when people eat them, they say that this is the best burger they’ve ever had.”