Chamber’s Wings and Chili Festival Take Center Stage in Downtown Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

The aroma of barbecue permeated the 100 block of Dargan Street in downtown Florence on Friday night as the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce celebrated its annual “Kickin’ Chicken” wing and chili festival.

As Sideswiped performed on stage, the crowd gathered at tents where wings and chili were being served to sample and judge for the People’s Choice Award. Sixteen cookers competed in the wing competition and 11 cookers competed in the chili competition.

This is the sixth year that the Florence chamber has held the cook-off festival, which draws a larger crowd every year.

“We had more this year than last,” said Jay Lavrinc. He estimated more than 3,000 people attended the event. He said he sold 1,600 pounds of wings and more than 100 gallons of chili.

This was Phillip Harrington Jr. of Nucor’s first time making wings and chili for the event.

“It is really, really good,” said Josh Herring of Florence. “This is an event everyone should come to.”

He was with Sloane Shank, who said it was their first time attending the “Kickin’ Chicken” festival.

Herring said he was not disappointed.

Everyone had a favorite chili and wings.

“I like Victors the best,” said Debra Hill.

Tawala Milling said her favorite was the chili prepared by Vulcraft.

Mike Miller, president of the Florence chamber, said this is the chamber’s major fundraiser. He said the cooks prepared 1,700 pounds of wings this year.

“We sold out last year,” he said. “We didn’t want that to happen this year.”

The winners of the wings and chili cook-off were announced at the end of the evening.

The judges top chili makers were Coastal BBQ and Hilton Garden Inn. Taking top honors in the wing category were Duke Energy, Bellamy and Victors.

This year’s event was made possible by Raines Hospitality and Carolina Bank along with support from Willcox, Buyck & Williams, Victors Restaurant and South Carolina Federal Credit Union.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Young Professionals of Florence Hosted Social with Seminar Brewing and Florence Area Humane Society for their “Yappy Hour”

The Young Professionals of Florence saw a great turnout for the Yappy Hour vvent last night at Seminar Brewing in Florence.

Thank you to Seminar Brewing for hosting the event and catering to the YP group. Wet Nose Dogs played all night while having fun with all attending.

Thank you to all who came out and brought your furry friends to support the YP group. Without our dedicated Young Professionals,this program would not be growing as fast as it is. Last night YP raised nearly $600 to help support Florence Humane Society.

Look for The Young Professionals of Florence tent at The Pecan Festival on November 2,2019.

The next event will be a Lunch And Learn on November 21st at The Hyatt Place hotel.

Doctor Makes House Calls and Cuts Ribbon with Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Doctors who make house calls are a rarity in today’s world, but Dr. Charles Louis Edwards wants to change that, at least in the Pee Dee area.

In mid-summer, Edwards opened My House Call Doctor. His office is at 650 Pamplico Highway, Suite C (in front of Food Lion).

“We bring primary care to you,” he told those gathered Thursday morning for the grand opening of his office. A ribbon cutting was hosted by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to announce his membership in the chamber. Chamber ambassadors, his staff, friends and family joined in the ribbon cutting.

Edwards said he makes house calls as far away as Conway, Johnsonville, Darlington and Hartsville.

“The number of patients we are seeing is increasing every day,” he said. “This is a better way to primary care.”

Edwards said patients receive the best of care in the comfort of their own homes. He said his practice has up-to-date technology available so patients can access their medical records online.

For about six years prior, Edwards said, he worked in the hospital emergency room setting and saw firsthand a need for doctors who make house calls.

Board certified, Edwards specializes in internal medicine.

Home services include flu shots, vaccines, diagnostic testing — ultrasounds, X-rays and lab work.

In-office appointments are also available.

Edwards said his way of doing medicine is embraced by the homebound, mobility insecure, those who shouldn’t be around sick people and people who don’t want to spend a half a day in the doctor’s office.

Charlotte Hanna, PA, and Tammy Huckabee, nurse practitioner, work with Edwards. There five people on the staff, but Edwards said more doctors will be joining him soon.

Born and raised in Dillon, he earned his undergraduate degree from Francis Marion University and his medical degree from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

His wife, Christena, and children, Madison, Paisley and Chase, joined him for the cutting of the ribbon.

Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other times are available by appointment.

To make an appointment or for more information, call 843-619-2280 or visit

To view the full story on SC Now, click here.

Wholly Smokin’ Downtown Holds Ribbon Cutting

by Ardie Arvidson

A ribbon cutting to celebrate Wholly Smokin’ Downtown’s membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce was held Tuesday afternoon at the restaurant. Chamber ambassadors, family, friends and staff joined Jackie Travis, the owner, for the celebration.

The restaurant of “barbecue, ribs and a whole lot more” is located downtown in the 100 block of South Dargan Street.

Travis said she has been open since December 2014 and hers was one of the first restaurants to open in the revitalized downtown.

“I used to be a member of the chamber when we had Travis Jewelers,” she said. “I’ve seen a transition in the chamber. I can see they are deeply committed and involved with businesses and the community.”

Travis said, “It got me excited about being a member.”

Travis said she and her husband opened a little take-out business on Celebration on Boulevard after retiring as jewelers.

She said Andy Jeffords approached them by the invitation of Dr. John Keith, who owned the downtown building, about moving their business downtown.

“It was scary being one of the early comers to downtown,” she said. “But it has been an unbelievable experience. We look forward to the future.”

Travis said she loves being downtown.

“I love the vibe,” she said. “It has been an exciting ride.”

She said the name says everything about who they are. She said everything is smoked. The menu includes barbecue, pulled chicken, wings, ribs, brisket, sides that complement barbecue, and other items.

She said the restaurant is on the South Carolina BBQ Trail map and gets a lot of tourists. She said the events downtown also bring in business.

“We are one of the few barbecue restaurants where barbecue is full-service, order from the menu,” she said.

Wholly Smokin’ Downtown also has a bar with an extensive wine list, craft beers and cocktails.

“We have four flat-screen TVs for watching the game with friends,” she said.

Travis said they have a saying at the restaurant that Wholly Smokin’ is “a place where customers become friends and friends become family.”

The restaurant has a seating capacity of 99 and opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week. It closes at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday.

Travis said she has lived in the Florence area for more than 40 years. She has a daughter, Sarah; who assisted with the ribbon cutting; and a son, Andrew, who lives in New York. Her husband, Bill Travis, passed away in 2017.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Chamber to Host Economic Equity Roundtable October 29

The public is invited to join the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. for the Economic Equity and Inclusion Roundtable.

The event will take place in the Floyd Conference Center of MUSC Health Florence Medical Center. The event will feature business leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs sharing ideas and energy around advancing diversity, inclusion and equity in business and the workforce.

Attendees will learn about progress, share opportunities for making a difference in your organization and network with others who share a common interest in promoting inclusive practices across all sectors of business and community.

This event includes a panel discussion and a presentation from keynote speaker, Rhonda Midgette, vice president of Human Resources at TD Bank.

The cost of the event is $10. Registration is available online at www.flochamber. com.

To read the full article on My Florence Today, click here.

Downtown Florence Will Get Another Hotel; City Will Renovate Theater

by Ardie Arvidson

A third hotel is coming to downtown Florence.

The hotel will be a big part of a $65 million future mixed-use development project on the 300 block of West Evans Street. The development will include condos, an office complex and a parking garage.

This was among the news that city of Florence Downtown Development manager Ray Reich shared Monday when he spoke to the Florence Rotary Club.

The hotel will be part of a $65 million mixed-use project that will be developed across West Evans Street from the City Center.

The old Florentine building recently was demolished on the corner of West Evans and North Coit streets to make way for the project to begin, said Reich, who will retire at the end of the year.

Reich said he could not elaborate on the hotel other than to say it is in the contractual phase with developers.

Details should be forthcoming in the first quarter of 2020, he said, and while it won’t be completed in 2020, it will be started in 2020.

The hotel will join Hotel Florence and the Hyatt Place, which opened this year, in downtown Florence. Both hotels are managed by Raines Hospitality.

Private companies had considered renovating the Carolina Theatre, but talks went nowhere.

“We are going to do it,” he said of the city.

Reich said it will take a minimum of $2 million to renovate the theater.

He said the city of Florence has owned that building for a while.

Reich said the theater will be multi-functional with tiered seating on the main floor and most likely fixed seating in the balcony. He said they envisioned its use for things such as concerts for up-and-coming artists and dinner theater performances – entertainment that will appeal to young adults. Reich said the venue still will be configured as a movie theater.

Looking to 2020, Reich said there will be more public art initiatives, more restaurants and retail, and more apartments and condos, plus Francis Marion University’s transformation of the former Post Office Project into an additional health sciences building for which work already has begun.

In the past 10 years, Reich said more than $200 million has been invested in downtown projects; more than $135 million of that has been in the past five years, and more than $55 million in new projects have been completed in 2018-2019.

Downtown projects in 2019 have included the streetscape of the 300 and 400 blocks of West Evans Street, new downtown upscale condos, public art, the Griffin Plaza Splash Pad next to Wholly Smokin’ and in the near future a downtown walking loop with three routes.

Other 2019 projects, started or completed, include digital wayfinding, an FMU art gallery and the soon-to-open Leaf Lounge Cigar Bar and Lost Cajun Seafood, both on Dargan Street.

Reich said when he came to Florence, there were only two restaurants in the downtown area. He said several new restaurants have been part of the downtown’s growth. These include El Agave, Birds Nest, The Loft, Jazz on Dargan and Square Meal Market.

He also announced a new downtown event coming in on Dec. 13 called the Chocolate Crawl.

Reich, a native of West Virginia, came to Florence in 2011 from Sumter.

Reich said this will be his second attempt at retiring. He said the first time he was too young and not ready.

“This time I’m ready,” he said.

Reich said one of the most gratifying things about his eight years on the job has been the level of support from many sources.

“We have a great community here,” he said.

Reich said the accomplishments have been a team effort. He said Florence is lucky to have had about 15 local people who grew up here, were successful and decided to give back to the community. He said they recognized the importance of developing the downtown, taking the risk and investing early on.

“That has been rewarding to me,” he said

Reich said he will stay in Florence and watch the progress as Florence moves forward.

Kinetic Media Productions Has Ribbon Cutting with Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Brad Jordan, owner/videographer of Kinetic Media Productions, celebrated his membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon cutting on Thursday. Chamber ambassadors joined in the celebration.

Jordan has been in business for about eight and a half years. His business is at 2023 S. Irby St. in the UPS store.

Kinetic Media Productions is primarily a video production company, Jordan said. He also does web design, logo design and branding.

He said he joined the chamber to network and grow his business. He said he knows other businesses that have benefited from chamber membership.

Jordan said he wants to become an active member and participate in community events.

A native of Florence, Jordan is a 1999 graduate of Francis Marion University with a degree in history. He took college courses in art and design. He did an internship in graphic design and web design and decided to pursue a career in video production.

He said there are ups and downs, as in any business, but he is looking forward to his ninth year in 2020.

He has recently made a music video for a local Christian artist. He does TV commercials, business corporate and training videos, as well as social and nonprofit videos.

Jordan said check out his website to view his work.

Hours are by appointment.

Florence County Sheriff’s Office Hosts Business After Hours

by Ardie Arvidson

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office hosted the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday night.

Sheriff Billy Barnes welcomed guests to the event by saying he hoped none of them ever needed their help, but the members of his office are good to know.

He said he was with the sheriff’s department for about 20 years prior to his recent return. Barnes was appointed interim sheriff by the governor when Sheriff Kenney Boone was suspended after being charged with crimes.

“I’ve been recycled,” Barnes said.

He said it is good for the community to get to know his team and to know they are real people just like them. Interacting with the community at Business After Hours helps people get to know them on a first-name basis, he said, and that is why it is important to host such events. He said the department wants people in the community to feel as though they can pick up the phone and call if they need help.

“It is building community relations,” Barnes said.

Chamber members attending the event enjoyed networking and a buffet of food.

To read the full article, click here.

To see more pictures from the event, click here.

Restaurateur Dale Barth is Florence Chamber’s 2019 Business Person of the Year

by Ardie Arvidson

Restaurateur Dale Barth is the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce 2019 Business Person of the Year. Barth is owner of Red Bone Alley and a partner is Town Hall restaurants, both in Florence.

The announcement was made before a sold-out crowd Thursday, October 10 at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Annual Membership Luncheon held at the Florence Center.

The Business Person of the Year is someone who has “managed a successful business with a record of responsibility toward employees, customers and members of the greater Florence community,” said Mike Miller, the chamber president.

He was introduced to the restaurant industry while attending the College of Charleston. After college, he went to work for a small eastern North Carolina based group, where he learned operational and management skills.

In 1992, he purchased PAs Restaurant in Florence. He honed his skills and developed a second restaurant, using his own concept, design and creativity. He took the old JC Penny department store at the Florence Mall and turned it into a restaurant that he named after his daughter, Alley, and her Red Bone hound dog. It is a recreation of an alley you might find in old Charleston.

Red Bone Alley has become a landmark in Florence and is popular with locals and those passing through Florence. The restaurant features locally sourced food and South Carolina cuisine.

Barth employs more than 100 people.

In 2001, Red Bone Alley was presented the South Carolina’s Job Creator of the Year Award.

Barth continued to expand his Red Bone brand and opened a manufacturing business of specialty spices and sauces.

“Red Bone Foods was one of the first private investments in the revitalization efforts of downtown Florence,” said Wells Fargo executive Robb Sasser, who introduced the Business Person of the Year.

Sasser said Barth converted an old abandoned building into an industrial kitchen and food packaging area that not only produces and packages Red Bone branded products but also products for other boutique food companies, supplying 6,000 grocery stores.

Barth also is an investor in New Florence Development, the partnership that redeveloped Kress Corner.

Barth and The Indigo Road Hospitality Group from Charleston developed and opened Town Hall Restaurant in downtown Florence. Operated by the Indigo Road Group, Town Hall has provided Florence with yet another unique dining option that has contributed to the rebirth of downtown, Sasser said.

Sasser said Barth is not one who seeks the limelight or accolades but has quietly given back to this area in many ways. He fed several hundred city and county employees free meals during hurricanes Matthew, Michael and Florence.

He supports many nonprofits and is the recipient of the Florence Building Bridges Humanitarian Award and The Clara Barton Award from the American Red Cross.

In 2016, he received an Entrepreneurial Award from Florence-Darlington Technical College.

The Barths’ daughter, Alley, is a Charleston attorney. And their son, Griffin, manages the RedBone Foods operations.

To read the full article, click here.

Mayor Delivers State of the City at Florence Chamber’s Annual Membership Luncheon

by Matthew Christian

Florence City Councilwoman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore said she felt like crying when Mayor Stephen J. Wukela announced he won’t seek a fourth term of office.

Wukela announced his decision at the beginning of the annual state of the city address at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Membership Luncheon held Thursday in the ballroom of the Florence Center.

He was elected Florence mayor in 2008 by one vote over incumbent Frank Willis. Wukela was re-elected in 2012 and 2016. During the 2016 election, Wukela received 14,108 votes or 98.4% of the total.

In Florence, the office of mayor and two at-large city council seats are up for election every four years on the same cycle as the presidential elections, such as 2012, 2016 and 2020. The four remaining members, three district seats and one at-large seat, are elected on the same cycle as the governor, as in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

“I’m very unhappy about it,” Gibson-Hye Moore said. “He did such a great job with the city of Florence during the past three terms he served as mayor. It makes me really just want to bust out into tears.”

Wukela is a wonderful mayor, Gibson-Hye Moore said, and a wonderful friend.

“Florence needs him so much,” she said. “We need him for at least another four years.”

She said she understood Wukela has other obligations to his family.

“Family comes first,” she said.

After announcing his decision not to seek another term, Wukela used his speech to outline some of the challenges facing the city as it moves forward.

Among those challenges are the building and maintenance of hard infrastructure like roads, water, sewer and stormwater public works.

The issue of funding to maintain city roads is something the mayor has frequently spoken of.

Basically, the city has accumulated an estimated 100 miles of roadway since the S.C. Department of Transportation stopped accepting streets into its maintenance system.

There is no current funding mechanism for the city to be able to afford to maintain those roads.

Wukela previously testified in Columbia about the city’s road problem in regard to a proposed municipal capital project sales tax.

There is some degree of frustration from the city that the county’s road maintenance fee and capital project sales taxes are mostly collected in Florence, but the city does not receive all of that revenue, which it needs to maintain the roads.

Wukela then transitioned into the issue of racial divisions, which he called the “single biggest threat” to the future of the city.

“We must recognize and practically address our history of division in this city, black from white, North from South,” he said.

He said that “ a great deal has been accomplished — a great deal remains to be done. We cannot succeed if we are divided.”

Wukela paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King: “We remain tied together in a single garment of destiny — an inescapable network of mutuality. The success of each of us is inextricably tied to the success of all of us.”

Wukela said he has been fortunate to lead the city “during a time in which opportunity met people of good will.”

“The partnerships — the dear friendships — that have been forged and tested made great success possible,” he said. “We will continue that work in my remaining year. …”

He said he thought it was important to announce his decision so that maybe some young upstart like he was when he first ran in 2008 could have the chance to run.

Other community leaders said they were sad to learn of Wukela’s decision but said they understand his obligation to his family.

S.C. Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. said he is saddened learn of the mayor’s decision.

“Look at downtown, what’s happened down there,” Leatherman said. “He believes in what he’s doing, and he’s done a great job.”

City Manager Drew Griffin said he had some inclination that Wukela wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term.

“It was more of a confirmation of what I had intuitively picked up,” Griffin said. “My feeling is I’m very disappointed. I think he’s done a fantastic job with this community.”

Griffin said he was quoting Francis Marion University President Fred Carter’s views on the community’s success under Wukela.

“I really hate to see him decide that, but I think that it is good for his family, and I know that he needs a little bit of time, a little bit of rest, but everybody will miss him,” Griffin said.

City Councilwoman Teresa Myers Ervin said she has been talking with Wukela for some time to try to change his mind about not running.

“I was hoping that he would consider another term,” she said. “I believe that with the council we have in place now, we have been so successful in developing the city of Florence.”

There are so many changes happening in the city, she said, that she really wished he would have considered another term.

“But, the long and the short, when it comes to your family and your family needs, your family has to be first,” Myers Ervin said. “We’re good because we still have him in the city of Florence. I believe that we can still continue to make progress as long as we have a council that will work together.”

City Councilman George D. Jebaily said he was appreciative of the mayor’s accomplishments and all that he has done for the city. He praised Wukela’s passion and his and his family’s commitment to the city.

“We all owe him and his family a great debt of gratitude and it’s been a privilege to work with him,” Jebaily said.

To read the full article, click here.

To see more picture from the event, click here.