GEICO Joins Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Geico in Florence has joined the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. To mark the occasion, a ribbon cutting was held Tuesday with chamber ambassadors joining the celebration.

Roger Armfield is the local Geico owner. The insurance company is at 2151 W. Evans St., Suite D.

Geico has been in Florence for approximately 2½ years. Armfield said he was in Sumter for roughly 20 years.

The company offers auto, boat, motorcycle and ATV insurance. Armfield said it insures about anything that moves. He said it also offers homeowners, condo and renters insurance.

“Geico is the second-largest insurance company in the United States and has the highest satisfaction rating,” Armfield said.

There are five employees working in the Florence office.

“I want to be an active member,” he said.

Armfield is a South Carolina native. He lives in Sumter. He is married and has two grown children.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with family. His hobbies center on boating and fishing.

The Geico hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturday.

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

“Money Saver” Thrift Store Joins Chamber of Commerce

by Ardie Arvidson

Brenda’s “Money Saver” Thrift Store at 1553 W. Palmetto St. in Florence held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning to celebrate its opening and membership into the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber ambassadors joined owner Brenda Branham and her staff for the occasion.

It is a family-run business with Branham’s sister, Laurie Rutrough, as manager and a niece as her only other employee.

Branham started in the thrift store business in Easley and came to Florence from Pickens. She opened on Sept. 9.

Branham said she joined the chamber at the encouragement of her sister.

Rutrough said the chamber has a great reputation for helping small businesses.

“We also wanted to get involved in the community,” Branham said.

They buy and resales items. Merchandise is acquired from scouring yard sales and auctions. Items include clothing, shoes, antiques, collectibles, jewelry, furniture, wedding dresses, baby items, exercise equipment and more.

“We also take donations,” Branham said.

She said proceeds from donated items go to the Women’s Prison Fund and for a Christmas Party for special needs children through the Waccamaw Tractor and Small Engine Club.

Through Dec. 7, Rutrough said they are running a promotion to give away a television set to someone who purchases items totaling $20 or more.

“We do deliveries and pick up,” Branham said. “And soon we will have lay-a-ways.

For additional information, call 843-702-0061 or 843-861-5179 or visit their Facebook page.

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Restaurant Opens on East Palmetto Street

by Ardie Arvidson

A new restaurant has opened on East Palmetto Street, across from the S.C. Highway Department.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce took place Monday morning for Qulture Bistro at 3027 E. Palmetto St., which celebrated the restaurant’s membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. Owner Consuelo Casey was joined by chamber ambassadors for the celebration.

Casey said this was her first day of operation.

Casey said she is the” home of the “deep-fried deviled egg and the fat boy salad.”

Other menu items include Shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, grilled salmon, burgers, beef and turkey; wings and other daily specials.

Casey said she thinks she has a great location and great food.

She said there will be live music every Friday night.

Casey wanted to bring her skills in the entertainment business together with her cooking skills to provide a restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere that represents entertainment, art and food.

Casey said she has been in the entertainment business for approxmately 17 years as a booking agent. She represents all music genres, ghost writers and producers.

“I am a cultural person,” said Casey.

Casey has ties to the Pee Dee. She went to high school in Latta, and her mother, Lutherine Williams, is a judge in Dillon County.

Restaurant hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday.

For additional information, call 843-407-6302.

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

Wild Birds Unlimited in Florence Brings People and Nature Together

by Ardie Arvidson

Wild Birds Unlimited celebrated joining the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning with a ribbon cutting. Chamber ambassadors were on hand to help celebrate.

The Florence franchise is owned by Art and Lisa Martin and opened in November 2018.

The couple said they never set out to become part of the immensely popular bird-feeding and bird-watching population. Lisa said bird-watching is second only to gardening in the United States in popularity as a hobby.

Lisa, a pharmacist by trade, was making candles, soaps and lotions under their Carolina Wren label when the couple attended a gift trade show in Atlanta, trying to grow their Carolina Wren business.

Lisa said she was trying to turn a hobby into a business for her retirement.

While at the show, Lisa said, they were approached by several retailers who owned Wild Birds Unlimited franchises.

Lisa said the more they worked with Wild Birds Unlimited franchise owners with their Carolina Wren products the more they noticed how happy the owners all were and how much they loved their work.

Art and Lisa decided they wanted to open a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in the Florence area. In talking with Wild Birds Unlimited, Lisa said, they were told the company had been trying to get in the Florence market for about 12 years but hadn’t found the right fit.

It took less than a year for the couple to get their shop up and running.

Wild Birds Unlimited carries a variety of seeds and seed blends that have been specially formulated to attract birds in this region. Customers receive only the freshest bird food possible.

“Our food is extremely clean and extremely fresh,” Art said. “It is bagged when ordered.”

They order about every two weeks.

He said there are no fillers in the bird food they sell. He said every seed is edible by the birds.

They also carry bird feeders, bird houses, wind chimes and specialty garden and gift items, along with their Carolina Wren products.

Art said his favorite part of the business is going to people’s homes and setting up the feeders and establishing their bird-watching stations.

“We are all about bringing joy to your life,” Lisa said.

“We bring people and nature together,” Art said.

Wild Birds Unlimited is at 2151 W. Evans St., Suite E, in the West Gate Square.

The store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Rescue, Fire Station Dedicated at Florence Regional Airport

A dedication and ribbon cutting for the new Aircraft Rescue and Firefight Station at the Florence Regional Airport was held on Wednesday afternoon. The event was hosted by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and FBI Construction.

Chamber ambassadors, elected officials, community leaders and staff at the station joined in the celebration of their joining the chamber and dedicating the building.

Florence Regional Airport executive director Connie Anderson welcomed visitors at the dedication. She said the station was a long time in coming and the idea was started with the men and women in the public safety office. She said it was first a dream. Then it was envisioned as the facility that became a reality.

Anderson said it took roughly two and half years to build at a cost of $4.75 million.

The facility opened last October.

“A lot of people stepped up and went to bat for us” to make this possible, Anderson said.

Anderson said the airport didn’t have the money but had the resources to obtain that amount of money. She said approximately 90 percent of the funds came from the FAA, 5 percent from the state and 5 percent from the airport.

The building was constructed by FBI Construction.

She said some people have questioned why the airport needed such a large facility.

“We don’t plan to stay small,” she said. “We plan to grow.”

She said the new facility will allow the airport to purchase and house larger equipment needed for growth.

“We want to be able to help meet the needs of our surrounding communities,” she said. “We are a regional airport.”

Anderson said the new facility is a tremendous asset to the airport.

“It opens a lot of opportunities for us,” she said.

The station at full capacity has eight employees.

Public Safety Chief Robert Norton said his department is responsible for the police and fire protection at the airport. He has been with the department for about 15 years.

He said they answer a lot more calls on the police side than the fire side.

“We don’t want calls from the fire side,” he said, because that would mean “there was something bad wrong.”

Coming from the cramped facility of the past, Norton said, “It feels great to be here.”

“We are glad that we can be a whole lot safer for our traveling public,” he said. “And we are at a level where we need to be.”

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

G&W Equipment Joins Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

G&W Equipment Inc. celebrated its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday morning.

Chamber ambassadors joined the staff of G&W for the event.

The business, located at 2530 Melon St. in Florence, joined the chamber to become more involved in the community, said Lisa Whitney, the corporate ambassador for G&W.

“We have found that in our smaller communities, the chamber is very involved,” she said.

She said that is evident in Florence by the support shown for their ribbon-cutting ceremony.

G&W is a family-owned full service lift trucks and material handling dealer.

“We service, sell, rent and lease fork lifts,” Whitney said.

She said they also sell parts.

The company was started in 1963 as a “mom-and-pop” operation in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, Whitney said. It has been a part of the Florence business community for three years.

G&W now has 10 locations: four in South Carolina, four in North Carolina and two in Georgia.

The company services all makes and models of lift trucks and is an exclusive Cat lift truck distributor.

“We do rentals and have our own delivery trucks,” Whitney said. “We go out and fix equipment on site.”

She said they have eight technicians in the Florence location and 160 overall.

She said they do on-site technician training and operator safety training. She said the company is getting ready to connect with Florence-Darlington Technical College.

The Florence location has 12 employees, and the company overall has about 300 employees. Tim Thurston is the branch manager in Florence, and Blake Butler is the territory manager.

Whitney said they are growing fast and would like to say they care about their employees, customers and the community.

Chamber ambassadors were given a tour of the Florence facility.

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

Mercy Medicine Cuts Ribbon, Prepares for October 17 Gala

by Ardie Arvidson

Mercy Medicine Free Clinic celebrated its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning and held an open house throughout the afternoon.

Chamber ambassadors, friends, clients and staff participated in the event.

Angela Robinson, healthy options program coordinator at Mercy Medicine, said they wanted to commemorate their 25-year anniversary, which is in October, and celebrate their chamber status while acquainting the community with their services.

“We want to get the word out that we are open for services and here for the community,” Robinson said.

“Mercy Medicine Free Clinic believes that in supporting the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, the clinic benefits from its large network of corporate and nonprofit members,” said Wayne Jackson, executive director. “The chamber supports Mercy by always being willing to publicize our public relations and fundraising events and by offering various educational and networking opportunities for Mercy and its employees and volunteers.

“Also, the chamber officers are always willing to offer tangible advice on ‘how to get the word out’ and best ways to integrate into Florence’s corporate community. It is a great organization that strives to help our community grow economically and socially, and Mercy is proud to be a member.”

Robinson said Mercy Medicine is a nonprofit medical and dental clinic that serves the homeless and uninsured.

‘Unknown to many is that the Mercy Medicine Free Clinic does a very substantial amount of basic dentistry services for its clients,” Jackson said. “Mercy’s geographic focus for medical care is Florence and Williamsburg counties and several other counties in the Pee Dee area for dental pain or infection cases.”

The clinic operates without any funds from patients, insurance or federal programs.

“Mercy Medicine Free Clinic is funded solely by generous donations from individuals and local corporations and from various local and state grants such as the United Way of Florence County, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Department,” Jackson said. “The clinic also receives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in in-kind services and cash support from the two large health care systems in Florence-McLeod Health and MUSC-Florence.

“Mercy does not receive any funding from private health insurance reimbursement nor from any of the federal government’s health care funding programs. Most important is that Mercy never asks or accepts any payment from any patient regardless of the quantity or complexity of the services rendered.

“Mercy first and foremost is a Christ-based organization and accepts patients in the age range of 18-64 that must meet certain income thresholds and not have or qualify for any other health insurance to include Medicaid.”

Mercy Medicine has planned a 25th anniversary gala for Oct. 17. The gala is a major fundraiser for Mercy Medicine. It will be held in the Waters Building in downtown Florence.

Tickets are $75 each. Various sponsorship levels are available from $500 to $10,000.

There will be music, food and fun for a good cause.

For more information, contact Mercy Medicine Free Clinic at 843-667-9947.

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

Consider the Lilies Owners Join Florence Chamber, Snip Ribbon

by Ardie Arvidson

Consider the Lilies’ new owners, Angela and John Pecca, celebrated their membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday afternoon.

The business, located at 184 W. Evans St. in Florence, was packed for the occasion with well-wishers, chamber ambassadors and staff. A reception was held after the ribbon cutting.

The Peccas took possession of the business June 3.

The outdoor display windows are decorated with flowers, pumpkins and other fall accessories.

Those attending the ribbon cutting could be overheard saying how good the shop looks and smells with its flowers, candles and other fragrant items.

The shop offers flowers, gifts, antiques, jewelry and accessories.

“I have been in and out of the floral business since I was 16,” said Angela, who recently retired from the Florence Police Department, where she worked for 18 years. She was the accreditation coordinator and grants manager and worked with IT.

“It has been fabulous so far,” Pecca said. “I come to work with a smile on my face, and I leave the same way.”

She said she is truly excited to be in business, serving the community. She said it is so different from her past job.

“We do weddings, funerals and other events,” Pecca said.

They deliver.

Pecca said she has a floral designer, Maria Anderson, who is very creative.

Other employees are Chandler McIntyre and Jordan Lochart.

“I have a best friend, Patti Wright, who said I had to have a ribbon cutting because I deserve it,” Pecca said.

She found out that joining the chamber was one way to do that. She said she also discovered there were other advantages to being a member.

One way she has been getting people’s attention has been sending complimentary flowers to various groups of people in town.

Consider the Lilies now offer classes every month. The first was how to make a simple bow. The next one will be how to make a bud vase.

Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information, call 843-472-5202.

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

Housing Authority Cuts Ribbon to Celebrate Joining Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

A ribbon cutting was held at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce office on Tuesday morning celebrating the Housing Authority of Florence’s joining the chamber. Chamber ambassadors participated in the ribbon cutting. The Housing Authority is located at 400 E. Pine St. in Florence.

The Housing Authority offers affordable housing opportunities for three counties – Florence, Chesterfield and Marlboro.

The Housing Authority serves about 1,500 families in Florence with a housing and vouchers program, formerly called Section 8.

Clamentine Elmore is the executive director. She said the authority also has vouchers available for homeless veterans and manages other housing properties for private partners.

Elmore said she wanted to join the chamber to bring awareness to the community about their services.

“I wanted to become an integral part of the community,” Elmore said. “It is important to align ourselves with others in the city to assist our residents.”

In 2018, the Housing Authority celebrated its 50th anniversary.

“We are quasi-government [agency] funded by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development),” she said, “And housing laws by the state of South Carolina.”

Elmore came to the Housing Authority from HUD.

“She is the best,” said Linda Becote, chairman of the board of directors. “We are so happy to have her here. She came in 2017, and she has been an asset to the housing authority, up grading programs and writing grants.”

Members of the board participated in Tuesday’s ribbon cutting.

“She has changed the whole real of things for the Housing Authority,” Becote said.

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

Home-Care Provider Gets Rebranded, Joins Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

All Ways Caring HomeCare is rebranding and to let people know more about its transition it joined the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. A ribbon cutting was held on Thursday morning at 960 Pamplico Highway.

Formerly ResCare HomeCare, All Ways Caring HomeCare is part of the BrightSpring Health Services.

Molly Hawkins, branch manager, said All Ways serves 11 counties in the Pee Dee area with nine branches in South Carolina. It provides home care in 24 states.

Hawkins said the health care provider offers private-duty, veterans, and community long-term care, as well as disability and special needs care, workman’s comp and family-support voucher care.

She said All Ways joined the chamber to work in the community and let people know it is in the community.

“The name change reflects the transformation of the home care organization which has been providing services for more than 20 years as ResCare HomeCare,” according to an announcement from BrightSpring. “All Ways Caring HomeCare will offer care for more than 20,000 individuals across the country, delivering quality, compassionate and highly individualized care and support that helps seniors stay at home – all while maximizing their dignity, privacy and independence.”

“We are so excited to introduce All Ways Caring HomeCare,” said Rexanne Domico, president of home health and neurotherapy. “As home health care needs evolve, we’re creating the best operating model in the industry to enhance the quality of care we provide.”

All Ways Caring has the capability to offer short-term care, seasonal help and long-term care, Domico said.

“We care about our patients,” Hawkins said. “They are like extended family.”

For more information, contact Molly Hawkins at 843-629-0794.

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