Raldex shows off new corporate quarters in Florence at Business After Hours

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

Raldex Hospitality unveiled its new corporate facilities Thursday evening with a grand-opening and Business After Hours event.

Starting at 5:30 p.m., business and community leaders began arriving at the group’s offices at 780 Woody Jones Blvd. for an evening of fun, food and networking.

Chad Patterson, vice president of Raldex Hospitality Group, said it was exciting to see the business community come out to support Raldex.

“We are so excited to have as many people as we do tonight,” Patterson said. “The Florence community has been great partners with us. We love being a part of it and being able to have this new office right here in the hospitality district. To see the support from the local businesses means a lot.”

The event featured live music, food and drinks as Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce ambassadors and members of the public toured the new facilities, including offices, a warehouse and meeting rooms.

Patterson said the company is invested in the Florence community and looks for ways to take care of its team members, guests and the local community.

The office will provide several services to its team members, including payroll, human resources, corporate sales, upkeep and much more.

Raldex Hospitality owns and operates the Holiday Inn Express, Hilton Garden Inn and two Hampton Inn & Suites, one near the Florence Center and one on S.C. 52 in Florence.

For more information, visit www3.raldex.com.

Florence Tax Service celebrates grand-opening weekend

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Gloria’s Perfection Tax Services celebrated a grand opening for its new office this past weekend with the hopes of helping the Pee Dee community get the best tax services and consultations as possible.

Gloria’s Perfection Tax Services joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to hold a ribbon cutting Friday.

Gloria Jones, a proud graduate of Wilson High School and owner of the business, said she was excited to join the chamber.

“I wanted to get familiar with other areas around the community,” Jones said. “It’s a great way to network and help out with my community. I wanted to be able to encourage black women and small business owners who may be on their own to be successful in their fields.”

The office, at 1509 West Evans Street, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will extend its hours during tax season.

For more information, contact Gloria’s Perfection Tax Services at 843-702-2593.

Hofler Law Firm holds ribbon cutting in Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine/Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Hofler Law Firm joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Wednesday afternoon to hold a ribbon cutting.

The Hofler Law Firm, at 183 S. Coit St., Suite C, was founded by Jack Hofler in Florence about a year ago.

Hofler said the law firm serves people in the areas of personal injury and family law.

“I enjoy the opportunity to work directly with the clients,” Hofler said. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the people that I interact with on a daily basis.”

Hofler said joining the chamber will help his business establish contacts throughout the Pee Dee area.

“I’m lucky to live in Florence because of the thriving business community we have,” Hofler said. “I think that being a member of the chamber is going to help my business by fostering relationships with other successful businesspeople. I feel lucky to be a part of this group.”

Hofler said he grew up in Florence and, after graduating from Wake Forest University School of Law, he began a clerkship with Circuit Court Judge William H. Seals, Jr. in Marion. He then spent years practicing law with an established defense law firm in Florence before deciding to open his own practice.

Hofler said he couldn’t be in business without his the support of his family.

“I feel very fortunate to have a close family,” Hofler said. “I would not have been able to have the success that I’ve had opening this new law firm had it not been for the support of my family. I want to especially thank my wife Laura Anne. She has been and continues to be one of the people that is really instrumental in helping the business to flourish.”

For more information, visit HoflerLawFirm.com.



Coronal Energy announces plans for the construction

Coronal Energy, a leading independent solar power and energy storage provider, today announced plans for the construction of a new solar project — the Rankin Solar Center — in Florence County. The new development is projected to bring approximately $15 million of capital investment.

The Rankin Solar Center will generate 10 megawatts of clean, renewable solar power, which is enough to power approximately 2,000 homes annually. With world-class capabilities in development, financing, engineering and construction, Coronal Energy owns, operates and manages a 333-megawatt portfolio with a multi-gigawatt development pipeline.

Located off Corrie Farm Road in Florence, S.C., Coronal Energy’s new development is expected to come online in the fourth quarter of 2019.


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.

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.