Bela Family Dentistry Celebrates Opening in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Bela Family Dentistry of Florence joined ambassadors of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to celebrate its grand opening and its chamber membership. The celebration included a ribbon cutting with chamber ambassadors.

Dr. John DuRant, who was formerly at the Bela office on West Palmetto Street, and Dr. Liz Shelly from the Darlington office have moved into this facility to better serve the community.

They have seven dentistry rooms to serve patients. Bela provides general dentistry to children through adults. Services include restoring implants, denture services, gum treatments, filings, crowns and bridges.

“It is a great location with state-of-the-art equipment,” DuRant said.

Shelly has been in South Carolina for 30 years but is originally from Chicago. She attended Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago.

DuRant is a native of Gable. He received his undergraduate degree from Clemson University and his dental degree from Temple University in Philadelphia. He did a one-year residency at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“We are happy to be a part of this community,” Shelly said.

“I am very excited,” DuRant said.

Dr. Matthew Cook, the chief executive officer, welcomed guests to the ribbon cutting. He thanked the ambassadors for coming out and supporting them.

For additional information about the services, call 843-662-8413.

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Chamber welcomes Carolina Kickboxing Academy

by Ardie Arvidson

A ribbon cutting was held Monday at Carolina Kickboxing Academy, 1717 W. Palmetto St. to announce the opening and recognize a new member of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. Chamber ambassadors helped to celebrate the occasion.

Chief executive officer and head trainer Walker Vivian said his academy has been open for approximately three months.

He has been teaching kickboxing for roughly 12 years. Before opening his own establishment in Florence, Vivian taught in Las Vegas at Syndicate Mixed Martial Arts.

“I wanted to move back home,” Vivian said.

“I started when I was 17 years old in Myrtle Beach,” Vivian said.

He said he moved to Thailand for approximately five years between 2010 and 2015 to fight and train.

Vivian said he likes the competition aspect, but he started kickboxing for health reasons. He said he is a Type 1 diabetic and needs to stay healthy.“That is why I got into it,” he said. “It is a good challenge mentally and physically. You learn a life-long skill.”

He said it is a lot of fun, too.

Vivian has taught his 10-year-old son, Brody, to kick box. His son helps him teach classes. Vivian said his son is the West Coast kickboxing champion for his age group.

Vivian teaches Muay Thai, kickboxing, self-defense and anti-bullying classes.

“I have about 25 students, but I want 125 students,” he said.

He said he teaches ages 5 to 100.

“People can come and try their first class for free,” he said.

Hours are 10 to 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and 4 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

To sign up, stop by or call 843-380-3037.

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Swamp Fox Security Holds Ribbon Cutting in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Swamp Fox Security LLC held a ribbon cutting on Thursday with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce ambassadors participating.

Swamp Fox Security is in the Charles Gould Manufacturing and Business Incubator, 1951 Pisgah Road in Florence.

The business is owned by Annette Davis-Cantey. She has been in operation for about two years.

“I was in the incubator on Dargan Street,” she said.

She said there was an opening at the Gould incubator, and she took it.

Davis-Cantey said there are lots of advantages to being at this location. She said the business has seminars, networking and other opportunities.

Ashley Deaza, director of the Gould Incubator, said 21 companies are working out of the incubator.

She said the goal is to provide the space and tools needed to help a business get started on a path to success.

She said some of the benefits include being located next to the technologies of the SiMT center such as virtual reality, 3-D printing, events facility, manufacturing center, social media services.

Davis-Cantey said Swamp Fox Security is a private armed security company with five employees.

“I have been doing security since 2002,” Davis-Cantey said. She is also a private investigator.

“I am the first African-American-female-owned security company in the state,” she said.

She said her company provides security for businesses, industry, events such as graduations, reunions and parties and sporting events.

Davis-Cantey, who lives in Mullins, said she was unemployed and went seeking a job. She was hired to do security and loved it. She sought training in the field.

“I went to school and will soon complete my master’s degree in criminal justice,” she said.

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Couple Start Design-Build Service After Retiring to Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Owners Tommie N. and Gloria “Jackie” Thomas of TNT Rehab Consulting Services were joined by ambassadors of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon cutting on Wednesday at a home they built on Sumter Street.

Tommie Thomas, president/architect, said this is the first home they have built in Florence.

Thomas said he has more than 35 years of experience in the industry. He spent about 32 years as an architect for the government and retired from U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an architect project manager.

Before coming to Florence, he also worked in the private industry sector in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

His wife, Jackie, is senior vice president/operations. She is also retired after 38 years as an IT project manager with Verizon.

Tommie said they are part of the city of Florence revitalization efforts.

He said they built the modular home, and the city will find a buyer.

“We designed and built it from the ground up,” he said.

Jackie said the house took about 90 days to build.

He said they are working on other project in the Pee Dee region, but are waiting on the go-ahead from the city of Florence to start another home.

Jackie has joined her husband in the design-build business. On visits back to her hometown, Tommie was impressed with the revitalization taking place in Florence, according to their website..

Jackie grew up in Florence and moved to Maryland to attend college. Once retired, the couple decided to move to Florence, where Jackie’s mother is still living.

To find out more about TNT Rehab Consulting Services, visit

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Palmetto Brick Celebrates 100 Years of Operation

by Ardie Arvidson

Palmetto Brick is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Family-owned and -operated since 1919, the brick manufacturing plant is in Wallace with retail showrooms in Florence, Myrtle Beach and locations near Charlotte, North Carolina.

To celebrate its anniversary, the company is hosting events in all of its retail stores. On Thursday, in conjunction with a ribbon cutting for its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, Palmetto Brick served lunch at its Florence retail store on Melon Street.

The company was founded by J. L. Anderson in 1919.

Andy Rogers, vice president and a fourth-generation family member to work in the company, said the company was started in Wallace on the Pee Dee River by his great-grandfather.

Rogers said the company is built on “good fortune, good employees and loyal customers.”

Without any one of them, he said, it wouldn’t have lasted 100 years.

“My father or I have been buying brick from Palmetto Brick for over 70 years,” said Bill Segars of Segars Construction Company in Hartsville, who stopped by to congratulate Palmetto Brick on its success and 100 years in business. “From the family ownership, though management, sales and service to the truck drivers; Palmetto Brick has always been a first rate vendor with a quality product. They have a product that we need. We order it, they send it, we pay for it. This type arrangement makes our job in the field much easier.”

“The company continues to learn and grow,” said John Sanderson, Carolina Sales manager. “It takes the whole ball of wax to make a company grow.”

“We have supplied brick for a lot of offices and homes in the area,” Rogers said. “We sell brick in 31 states and Canada.”

The company has 107 employees with six in the Florence office.

The company offers 40 different varieties of brick.

“The most popular right now are the lighter shades of brick,” Rogers said.

For commercial buildings, he said, their best seller is a “true white” brick. He said very few companies can make it.

“We are a green product,” he said. “We take clay out of the ground and burn it with natural gas.”

He said one-third of the company’s electricity comes from a solar farm.

“It is awesome,” he said. “We have been operating with it for close to a year.”

According to the company’s website “Palmetto Brick is the largest family-owned brick maker in South Carolina with a capacity to produce more than 150 million bricks a year. It remains one of only a handful of American-owned and -operated brick manufacturers in the U.S.”

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Southern Safety Looks to Grow in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce ambassadors joined Southern Safety Group LLC on Tuesday to celebrate its new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting at the chamber office.

Jody Lynch, CEO, her daughter, Grace Lynch, and Ellen Mitchell, Director of Development, were on hand to cut the ribbon.

Lynch said she is excited to be a part of the chamber and to form a great partnership with its members.

“Florence is very important to me,” she said. “It is where I prefer for us to grow.”

The company provides business and individual security, logistics, risk management and private investigations.

Other key members of her team are Jeff Chamblee, training; Alison Lynch, logistics; and Andrew Patterson, director of finance.

The business is based in Florence County. Lynch said she started the security part of her business in September but has been in private investigation since 2013.

She moved here in 1992 and has worked in law enforcement with both the Florence Police Department and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

Lynch said her team has a combined 120 years in law enforcement and military service.

Lynch is a veteran.

“We give veterans first priority,” she said.

Lynch said she was introduced to the security world during Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“I was there for eight weeks,” she said.

She also worked in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina during Hurricane Florence, responsible for more than 200 workers here to help out with the recovery.

Lynch was recently in South Korea scouting for contracts and is now looking at a contract in Alaska.

She has worked for MTV and reality television shows doing logistics.

“We do security assessments for businesses,” she said. “We utilize drones for our overall assessments.”

Lynch said she went from law enforcement, a male-dominated industry, to another industry that is predominately male dominated.

“I feel like we will be a leader in our field,” she said.

For more information, contact Lynch at

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Hyatt Celebrates its Downtown Florence Grand Opening with Ribbon Cutting

by Ardie Arvidson

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce welcomed Hyatt Place Downtown Florence as a member of the chamber with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday afternoon that included the grand opening of the newest hotel in downtown Florence. The event included music by Prettier than Matt.

The five-story, 103-room Hyatt Place was the 333rd Hyatt Place to open, said Ron Glancy, senior vice president of operations for Rains Hospitality. It opened its doors in February.

Owned by East Evans Hospitality LLC, the hotel is managed by Raines Hospitality, which manages several hotels in South Carolina and Florence. The property was developed by Springbridge Development. The hotel represents approximately $20 million investment in downtown.

Glancy said this is Raines’ third hotel to open since July.

“We are opening a lot of new hotels,” he said. “It is our first partnership with Hyatt Place.”

He said Hyatt Place was great to work with and it gave Raines Hospitality a tremendous amount of support.

“This is not our last Hyatt Place,” he said. The company will be opening one in mid-May in Mt. Pleasant and looks to have others.

Glancy said the hotel is situated on what was once part of Evans Street. He said the street was straightened for the hotel.

He said the view view of downtown from the upper hotel rooms is amazing.

“It is an urban oasis in downtown Florence,” Glancy said. “It is a fun and exciting addition to the community. We are so happy with the finished product.”

The hotel offers a casual atmosphere with amenities such as free Wi-Fi and 24-hour food offerings in the Gallery Kitchen. Guests can also access the Gallery menu 24/7. A coffee bar is available day and night, and the cocktail bar is open late.

The hotel offers meeting spaces for guests and the community, a 24-hour gym, and an outdoor pool.

Guests staying at Hyatt Place Florence Downtown can enjoy the close proximity of the hotel to the arts and entertainment district downtown, Guests can also enjoy shopping within walking distance of the hotel.

Faith Rogers is general manager.

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Notch 8 Catering Company Holds Ribbon Cutting at Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Notch 8 catering company held a ribbon cutting at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce office on Tuesday with chamber ambassadors participating.

An off-site catering company, Notch 8 does everything from cookouts to caviar, said one of its chefs.

Shaina E. Bazen, marketing and sales director for Notch 8, said the business can do everything from a pig pickin’ to an oyster roast and every event from a wedding to a corporate lunch.

Notch 8 is a budget-minded catering company with a menu to match, whether it is muffins by the dozen, a full-service dinner with linens and servers or a picnic.

“We provide quick, easy and price-efficient menus,” Bazen said.

Bazen said the menus are flexible. She said Notch 8 can drop off boxed lunches, come back and clean up later or stay the entire time.

“I have really enjoyed the process of creating the menu, watching it start from something very small and blossoming into something amazing,” she said.

“One thing that excites us is how different and creative our menu is,’ she said. “We have taken the norm and tried to put a new, modern spin on it.”

She said that was also one of the biggest challenges, trying to make a menu that was different and putting a new twist on what was already out there.

Another thing she has enjoyed in the start-up process has been designing the boxes the boxed lunches come in.

Notch 8 is a railroad term for full throttle and many of the boxed lunches have railroad-themed names such as the All Aboard, High Liner, and Full Throttle.

To learn more about Notch 8 Catering, visit or call 843-507-9919.

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Texas Roadhouse Joins Florence Restaurant Scene

by Ardie Arvidson

A ribbon cutting for the new Texas Roadhouse was held at noon Monday with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and its ambassadors participating along with restaurant staff and management.

The restaurant officially opened for business at 4 p.m. Monday. It is located in front of Magnolia Mall at 2691 David H. McLeod Blvd., next to IHOP.

Texas Roadhouse is famous for its hand-cut steaks, fall-off-the-bone ribs, fresh-baked bread and made-from-scratch sides.

The atmosphere is lively and family-friendly. The wait staff is known to break out in a line dance without any notice. It makes a special deal of birthdays, too.

Florence’s community-themed western décor includes items representing the Darlington Raceway, first responders, local schools, a jukebox and more.

As does every other Texas Roadhouse, the new Florence restaurant has a painting of an American Indian, said Jackie Brown, LSM coach.

The Indian is a trademark, she said, and was started by Wayne Kent Taylor, founder and owner of the first Texas Roadhouse in Clarksville, Indiana.

She said one mural she is especially proud of is the one that features a local first responder taken from a photo.

Brown said the company is built on partnerships with the communities where they reside.

On Friday and Sunday, the restaurant was open by invitation-only to give their staff practice and to raise funds for two local charities, I Play Florence (Friday) and the Care House of the Pee Dee (Sunday). Money was raised through individual donations and drink orders during the evening.

On Friday night, the guests raised $1,988 for I Play Florence. And on Sunday, guests raised $2,802 for Care House of the Pee Dee.

Both organizations were represented at the ribbon cutting on Monday and were presented ceremonial checks. They presented plaques to the Texas Roadhouse in appreciation.

Managing partner Andrew Ivester said he is very excited to be in Florence, and he wants to have a successful partnership with the community.

“We are excited to partner with these amazing organizations and can’t imagine a more meaningful way to celebrate our opening,” he said.

“I am thrilled to be here.”

Larry DePasquale, a market partner with restaurants in South Carolina and parts of Georgian and North Carolina, said he has 11 stores and has been patiently waiting for a long time for the right spot to open up in Florence.

“When this property (on David H. McLeod Blvd.) came available, we grabbed it,” he said. “We love the people here. They have been very welcoming. I have met a lot of people in the short time we have been here.”

He said Texas Roadhouse is involved in the communities where they are located.

He said they have a full-time employee dedicated just to working with the community.

The Texas Roadhouse was started in 1993 in Indiana. The restaurant chain has more than 525 locations in 49 states and seven countries. Its headquarters is in Louisville, Kentucky.

Texas Roadhouse brings nearly 200 new jobs to Florence. The restaurant has a seating capacity of approximately 300.

Texas Roadhouse is only open for dinner during the week. The restaurant is open for lunch on the weekends.

Florence hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 843-536-4507.

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Carolina Havoc and Florence Chamber Celebrate Season Opener with a Ribbon Cutting

Carolina Havoc celebrated their season opener this past Friday, March 15, with a ribbon cutting to signify their membership with the Florence Chamber.