Traffic circle planned in Florence


FLORENCE, S.C. – The city of Florence will soon have something it has never had: a traffic circle.

A one-lane traffic circle is planned to be placed at the intersection of N.B. Baroody Street and East Evans Street as part of a redesign of the intersection funded by tax increment funds from the city of Florence. The redesign will also include some on-street parking and beautification efforts.

N.B. Baroody was a Lebanese-American business and community leader in Florence.

City Manager Drew Griffin said the traffic circle would create a more continuous flow of traffic through the intersection to and from the McLeod hospitals nearby.

The intersection would also allow hospital workers easier access to downtown for lunch and dinner, which should increase the viability of the downtown market and create more growth in that area of Florence.

Currently, traffic flow through the intersection is awkward and made difficult because of the nature of the intersection as it is “off center” in the words of Griffin.

Tax increment funds arise from the downtown development district. When a business opens downtown, the tax revenue in the district increases in increments, and those tax revenues are used to fund infrastructure building in the redevelopment area including road paving, parks, and plazas like the planned Cultural Gardens Plaza that will feature a fountain.

Griffin said the project either was out to bid or was about to be out to bid. He added that the city had budgeted $450,000 in tax increment funds for the project.

Traffic circles, also called roundabouts, are circles of roadway placed at the intersection of two or more roads designed to allow continuous flow through the intersection as no stop signs or traffic signals are needed for traffic control. Instead, a driver yields then enters and exits the interchange.

The traffic circle is expected to be complete around the time of the opening of the Hilton downtown.

Junior Leadership Florence

Junior Leadership is off to a great start with our opening retreat at the beach for the 2018-19 class. This year’s group of 24 high school students from around Florence County will participate in this great community program to explore leadership skills, successful team work, community awareness, business and industry, agriculture and natural resources, history and art as well as education and healthcare availability in our area.

The Junior Leadership Florence County (JLFC) Program is presented by The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, the Florence County Extension Service and 4-H Office and Francis Marion University in collaboration with the JLFC Advisory Board and community sponsors. The program is offered to high school sophomores and juniors from each private and public school in Florence County, as well as home-school students who qualify.

The Emerging Leaders Summer Institute class starts Government and Civic Engagement Day

The Emerging Leaders Summer Institute class starts Government and Civic Engagement Day hearing from Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela.


City prepares new home for Florence City Center Farmers’ Market


FLORENCE, S.C. – Things are looking up for the Florence City Center Farmers’ Market as it looks to a future with a permanent home one block west, two blocks north and across the tracks.

Demolition has started on an old warehouse on Sanborn Street just north of the rail line that runs west from the CSX rail yard to Vulcraft – a line that previously ran to Sumter and supported a warehouse district along its length.

It is one of those former warehouses – part of the city’s warehouse/food/artisan district – that is in the process of being transformed.

“A very important aspect of the market is to create accessibility to local food, healthy foods, locally grown foods to the area that is immediately north of the farmer’s market,” Florence City Manager Drew Griffin said.

It is part of a series of developments designed to serve an area of Florence defined as a food desert, Griffin said.

The new market will work with the Sav-A-Lot going in at the corner of North Dargan and East Darlington streets to ensure that residents of that area of town have access to a grocery store as well as a full spectrum of fruits and vegetables.

Both developments will serve to help further develop downtown and improve the community’s wellness, Griffin said.

The plan was developed with views from the community, current vendors, food truck operators and catering companies, said Adam Silverman, market manager.

“There are two overall goals,” Silverman said. “There is the goal of the individual building that houses the market space, the commercial rental kitchen, the walk-in and dry-storage or commissary space that will be caged sections so people running catering companies or food trucks where you need to have a DHEC-licensed facility will be able to rent space in that building.”

Principals in the project met recently to score the proposals that were submitted, Silverman said. Most of the proposals came from Florence-area firms, with a few from Columbia and Greenville.

“The city was very specific with what had to be included in the proposal, and I don’t think anybody nailed every single item perfectly that they wanted,” Silverman said. “There were some really good proposals.”

The plans also call for three rooms that could accommodate businesses that need processing space or retail space.

“We have people in town who do coffee roasting, and they’d like to have space where they can do that,” Silverman said. “They can bring their equipment in and do coffee roasting.”

Another business does honey extraction and also would be a candidate for one of the spaces.

When the new market opens – sometime in 2019 – the plan is to increase the hours of the market from the current Saturday morning operation to a Wednesday through Saturday operation, Griffin said.

“We think we do have the demand,” Griffin said.

The development

The site was, at one time, a warehouse that consisted of two Quonset huts, a shelter that was built over them and an addition to the back, Griffin said.

“In the demolition of that old warehouse building, we’re trying to preserve elements and put them back into the farmers’ market architectural structure,” Griffin said.

Much of the old wood of the structure has been preserved and will be put back to use.

Portions of the development will be covered, but with what will depend on which proposal is accepted, Griffin said.

When completed, it will have space for 20 to 40 vendors. It will serve as what Silverman described as a “food oasis” for that area of Florence and as an urban farmers’ market for the rest of the area, Griffin said.

The design also will allow for use as a performance venue and feature water-permeable, low-impact parking areas, Griffin said.

Its location will be walkable for many residents in the area, and it will have Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority service for those who cannot walk or drive to it, Griffin said.

The initial build, which will run from Sanborn Street east toward downtown Florence, might turn out to be just Phase 1.

“If we’re successful, and hopefully we’ll continue to be successful, there is a second phase where we might try to put in an expanded commercial facility, and that expanded commercial facility would have a teaching kitchen and more cooler and storage space,” Griffin said. “If we do create a local food industry, then folks who want to do a food truck could use that kitchen as their home base.”

Not just the market

The development will anchor the west end of what the city would like to develop as the warehouse/food/artisan district that is already anchored on the east end by Red Bone Alley’s sauce manufacturing facility, Griffin said.

“The idea there is to take some of the older buildings, the warehouse buildings, the ones that look like they don’t typically serve a downtown environment and create an area where artisans and people interested in food service can go in there, take these buildings and work within the context of the building,” Griffin said.

The city would work with developers on uses and codes with an eye on solutions that could include live/work arrangements with loft space above artisan space.

“Goes to how millennials and entrepreneurs like to work,” Griffin said.

The city also is looking at North Dargan Street for development.

Funding for this development is being paid for out of the city’s tax incremental funding district for the downtown area, Griffin said, essentially letting ongoing development pay for upcoming development.

Real estate market showing gains in Pee Dee

Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — The real estate market in the Pee Dee is trending upward at the midyear point of 2018.

The market saw increases in new listings and median sales prices for the year to date, as well as a decrease in days on the market.

Keon Aldrich, president of the Pee Dee Realtor Association, said she was excited looking at the overall body of work and statistics thus far in the year.

Pee Dee Real Estate
A look at the real estate statistics for Florence in June and year-to-date in 2018.

“It’s really exciting to see how good the numbers look,” Aldrich said. “We’re really seeing growth, and it’s a great thing for the entire community.”

In June of 2018, new listings for Florence were up 8.9 percent from 2017, and the days on the market decreased from an average of 135 in June 2017 to 106 in June 2018. The inventory of homes for sale was up to 654, as opposed to just 460 in 2017, creating a 42.2 positive percent change.

“Normally you get a lot of agents saying they’re not busy during the summer, but that hasn’t been the case this year,” Aldrich said. “It’s been a busy time for the entire Pee Dee area.”

In Florence, year-to-date numbers show good signs for the future, Aldrich said.

Pee Dee Real Estate
The Florence market saw increases in new listings and median sales prices year-to-date, as well as a decrease in days on the market.

New listings have increased from 870 in 2017 to 895 in 2018. The median sales price has increased from $157,950 to $163,800 and days on the market until sale have dipped from 139 to 120.

Closed sales were down 7.9 percent from 569 in 2017 to 524 in 2018 while percent of list price received remained almost unchanged.

“People out there are seriously considering purchasing homes,” Aldrich said. “People want to buy houses. Though that ‘closed sales’ number is a bit down from last year, that doesn’t really concern me. People are continuing to move to our area, and everything is as good as it has been in quite some time.”

Pee Dee Real Estate
A look at the real estate statistics for Darlington in June and year-to-date in 2018.

In Darlington, new listings are up 4.8 percent from last year. The median sales price has increased from $92,783 in 2017 to $117,200, and the days on the market have decreased from 150 in 2017 to 138 in 2018.

“It speaks to the overall quality of houses we have on the market,” Aldrich said. “People are willing to pay more, and that also speaks to the health of our overall economy.”

Aldrich credited the growth in the Pee Dee to several things, including the downtown development in both Florence and Darlington, as well as the location of the area.

“We’re not a fast community, but we’re just right,” Aldrich said. “People are coming to retire here. I’ve found that a lot of people really like it in Florence, because it is the middle point for a lot of things. Downtown, not just residential, but also the new businesses that are coming to our area have really contributed to the growth.”

Pee Dee Real Estate
In Darlington, new listings are up 4.8 percent from last year. The median sales price has increased from $92,783 in 2017 to $117,200 and the days on the market have decreased from 150 in 2017 to 138 in 2018.

Aldrich said the outlook for the real estate market for the future looks bright and doesn’t see any reason that entire Pee Dee community won’t benefit from the continued growth.

“I think it’s going to continue to get better,” Aldrich said. “I don’t see us going back. I see growth. I love the fact that everything is changing for the better, and it’s just wonderful to see and be a part of.”

Hyundai dealership in Florence holds ribbon cutting

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Lee Hyundai of Florence joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to hold a ribbon cutting Friday morning.

Lee Hyundai purchased Florence Hyundai and opened a new facility in November at 2542 W. Palmetto St.

James Ervin, general manager of Lee Hyundai of Florence, said the business has enjoyed its time in Florence.

“We feel very blessed to be here in the Florence community,” Ervin said. “We look forward to serving the people in Florence and the surrounding areas. Our motto is ‘We do business the right way.’ Please come in and visit.”

Lee Hyundai sells new cars, and it is a CARFAX certified dealership with 75 preowned vehicles to choose from.

In addition to selling cars, the dealership offers several services for Hyundai vehicles, including oil changes, tire repairs and replacements, wheel alignments and brakes as well as specialized Hyundai part maintenance and replacements.

Georgia arena football team will relocate to Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – Arena football will return to Florence for the first time since 2009. It’s in the form of the American Arena League champion, Atlanta Havoc.

Make that, when next season starts: The Carolina Havoc.

Havoc general manager Josh Resignalo, who confirmed the move to the Morning News on Thursday, said the team has signed a one-year lease with the Florence Center.

“Everything is done. I’ve got all the turf and everything moved there this past weekend,” said Resignalo, who was offensive coordinator last season but will also take over as coach after the team relocates to Florence. “Ultimately, they gave us a great deal as far as being a tenant there with our arena lease.”

The 2019 campaign will be the second overall for not only the Havoc but the league. It has a 12-game regular season, from March until June, with a two-game postseason.

The Florence Phantoms (2006-09) were the last arena team to play in Florence, winning the American Indoor Football Association championship in 2008. And in 2016, a South Carolina Ravens American Indoor Football League squad tried to gain traction in Florence. But it never came to fruition. The team is now in Charleston and part of the Supreme Indoor Football League.

The Havoc made their championship run with their home field being the Buford City Arena, in Buford, Ga.

Resignalo said the team had two other new sites to choose besides Florence: Little Rock, Ark., and Pensacola, Fla.

So why Florence?

“It’s strictly business,” Resignalo said. “They were talking about raising our rent. And going into the second year there in Buford, we had already paid quite a bit of money per game. It did not fit the business model for the owners.”

The team’s owner when last season started was former XFINITY and Truck Series driver Tim Viens. But Viens resigned midway through the season, leaving the ownership to Heath Tate, Kelli Powers and Chris Duffy. Those three remain the co-owners as the team moves to Florence.

“When the new owners assumed majority ownership of the team, they found that remaining in Buford was not necessarily the best business decision,” Resignalo said. “So for them to keep operating a team, they needed a better city to go to that’s more in line with their business model, and we felt Florence is that in all aspects for us.”

Resignalo also explained why the team agreed to just a one-year lease.

“We wanted a multiple-year lease,” Resignalo said. “But we want to get situated and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Playing in Florence is also a treat for Resignalo, since he played against the Phantoms during the 2006 and ’07 seasons with teams based out of North Carolina. And he lives one state over.

“My home is right outside of Raleigh, N.C., in Garner,” Resignalo said. “So, it’s much closer for me to go to Florence than the other two cities we were looking at.”

The 2019 campaign will be Resignalo’s 13th overall in the league. After coaching the High Country Grizzlies in 2017, he resigned before the 2018 campaign and joined the Havoc under then-coach Gerald “Boo” Mitchell, a former Vanderbilt football star. Mitchell will remain an assistant at North Gwinnett High School, in Georgia.

Now that Resignalo will be the coach next season, as well as G.M., he thinks his team can quickly gain a lot of momentum.

“I think (being the league champion) will create a buzz in our favor in showing we’re not an expansion team,” he said. “A lot of our success in Atlanta came from the product we put on the field.”

And Resignalo thinks this team will make a bigger impact than the Phantoms did.

“It’s about our ownership group and the business model,” Resignalo said. “Arena football itself is entertainment. It’s about putting on a show, being involved with the community. On game day, it’s basically going to be a show, and then a football game breaks out.”

A youth arena football league and cheer team are among the team’s goals.

“We’d even like to start a reading program with the elementary schools,” Resignalo said. “We think if we can prove to the city and the Pee Dee area that we’re there for the right reasons, we’ll get the support we want.

“We won’t last without the support from the area.”

Company picks Florence location for computer-cooling products

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — ARCTIC, an international company specializing in computer-cooling devices, will locate its first American venture in Quinby with plans to convert the former IGA building in the Quinby Plaza into a combination of warehouse and office space, officials told the Morning News on Thursday.

ARCTIC, headquartered in Hong Kong with operations in Germany, will use its new facility in Florence County to distribute products throughout the United States. Employees have been hired for warehouse and marketing positions with more set to be hired for sales positions.

Denise Stein, executive team leader for ARCTIC, said Florence County’s location made it the best choice for the company as it expanded its operations in the United States.

“We considered other locations on the East Coast that would have suited our needs, but we had a gut feeling that Florence County was the best fit for us, mostly because of the overwhelming support we received from every point of contact throughout this decision process,” Stein said in an announcement.

Florence County discovered ARCTIC last year at a Select USA Investment Summit, where Lauren Stanton, assistant director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, met with ARCTIC representatives. The Gould Business Incubator, proximity to ports and business-friendly climate were key factors in ARCTIC’s decision to locate in Florence County.

Joe W. King, executive director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, said the Gould Business Incubator was significant in the company’s decision to come to Florence.

“We met them last year in Maryland,” King said. “They felt comfortable in the community, and it was important for them to have a place like the Gould Business Incubator where they could get started right away.”

ARCTIC operations are taking place at the Gould Business Incubator until renovations are complete at the Quinby facility.

Peter Jankowski, branch and sales director for ARCTIC, said the company looks forward to growing in the United States through its new Florence County presence.

“We look forward to growing our U.S. presence and expanding our brand awareness,” Jankowski said. “The Gould Business Incubator offered us the chance to get started right away, which is a unique opportunity that helped set Florence County apart from other locations.”

For more information about ARCTIC or the various products it offers, visit

Family, art go together at new Florence framing shop

Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Art and family have always been two of the top priorities for Troy Cottrill. Now, he gets the opportunity to work with both simultaneously.

Cottrill’s Landmark Art joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Wednesday to hold a ribbon cutting to celebrate the new store.

Cottrill’s Landmark Art, at 1308 Celebration Blvd., is a family-owned custom frame shop and art gallery. The shop has now been open for a week.

The shop offers “view it before you buy it” technology in which the customers can scan their art piece or photo into a software program that will then allow them to drag and drop different frames and maps, showing them the finished product before they order it.

“We are able to frame and mat very quickly and get it back to the customer in a timely manner,” Cottrill said. “It was very important for us that prices were lower than that of what you’d normally pay and we wanted to offer the very best.”

In addition to framing and matting, the gallery showcases artwork from six artists, five of whom are local and one who is from Paris, France. Cottrill said he can also order other art pieces that may not be displayed in the gallery.

Cottrill, who was raised in Ohio, has lived in South Carolina for 19 years. As an artist, he specializes in pencil drawings of historical sites and other vintage objects. Cottrill said the idea to open a frame shop came when he and his wife, Melissa, started looking into buying their own art printers and framing equipment to avoid paying high costs when looking to sell and showcase their art.

“It was always a dream of mine to open a gallery and it just kind of evolved from there,” Cottrill said. “We began framing and printing on our own and started to do it for many other artists, as well.”

“My wife has been very involved with art,” Cottrill said. “This is definitely going to be family ran. My 23-year-old son will be one of our main framers. My wife is very techy and installed the software that we use to show our customers their product before they buy it. Our youngest is 10 years old and she is already looking forward to working here someday, but she made it clear that she will require a hefty salary.”

The store will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact Cottrill’s Landmark Art at 843-799-0328, or visit its website at They can also be reached via e-mail at

Champion for Youth: Boys & Girls Club honoring local banker

FLORENCE, S.C. – Tom Ewart, an executive with First Reliance Bank in Florence, will be honored next month as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area’s 2018 Champion for Youth.

The 15th annual Champions For Youth Tribute in his honor is scheduled for Aug. 28 at The Waters Building at 135 S. Dargan St. in downtown Florence.

The event will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. The award presentation will start at 7 p.m.

Sponsorships range from the $10,000 Hall of Fame sponsorship (including 12 attendees and a Carolina Classic sponsorship) to a $250 Booster sponsorship for two attendees. Individual tickets also are available for $75. The evening also will include a special “heads or tails” contest.

A longtime community leader, Ewart serves several local and statewide organizations. These include ScienceSouth, the Pee Dee Regional Education Center, the (BGC) State Alliance, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area, the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation, the Florence Rotary Club and St. Luke Lutheran Church.

In addition to his community service, Ewart is the market president for First Reliance Bank. Previously he served in various roles throughout the banking community.

Ewart joins 14 previous Champions For Youth honorees: Rob Colones (2017), Buddy Brand (2016), Tammy Pawlowski (2015), Boys & Girls Club donors and supporters (2014), East Florence Mission (2013), Rev. Dr. William P. Diggs (2012), Darla Moore (2011), Ralph R. Porter Jr. (2010), Allie E. Brooks Jr. (2009), Richard C. Harrington (2008), Rep. James E. Clyburn (2007), Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. (2006), Luther F. Carter (2005) and Frank Avent (2004).

The Champions for Youth Tribute supports Boys & Girls Club programs that help thousands of children throughout the Pee Dee grow into productive adults. Attendance and financial contributions will help brighten the lives of some of our community’s most promising children. The Boys & Girls Clubs serve youth every day after school and all day on nonschool days and during the summer. Clubs provide a safe place where young people can learn and grow while helping them become productive citizens.

Call 843-662-1142 for more information, or register online at