Downtown revitalization plan continues

Published 5:43 pm Friday, July 23, 2010

It’s been over a year since Greenville took action to revitalize Downtown Greenville by offering sales tax rebates to entice businesses to the area.

Grant organizer Francine Wasden said so far, the grant has been successful in fulfilling its objectives.

“We were trying to rev up downtown and get some businesses in those vacant buildings,” Wasden said. “With the economy like it is, we are feeling good about the renewed interest we’ve seen.”

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The revitalization project sets aside four cents of sales tax, three of which is returned to the business with one cent going towards the Ritz Theater.

Southern Treasures was the first business that used the incentives to open a new shop on Commerce St.

Lynda Spann, the shop’s owner, said her business just celebrated its one-year anniversary last Saturday.

“I probably could have opened without it, but it sure was a good incentive,” Spann said.

As far as business is concerned, Spann says she’s hanging in there.

“Things are slow everywhere, but I have had customers from as far away as Mobile and Pensacola and also from Georgiana and McKenzie.”

Some of this draw could be because the shop is the exclusive retailer of Miche Bags, Spann said, a modular purse system that utilizes designer shells to allow the owner to change the look of the bag in a matter of seconds.

Another source of business, Spann said, were customers that came to purchase homemade gift baskets, jewelry that she makes out of old silverware, and Hershey chocolate bars that are wrapped with folksy sayings she calls “edible greeting cards.”

Two other shops, Nancy’s Heirloom Shop and Gracefully Done have also used the incentives to locate their businesses downtown. McFerrin’s Jewelry also took advantage of the program to renovate its location near Confederate Park.

Wasden said the program would continue to run for two more years.

“We are hoping to build up the account at the Ritz so we can bring more events to the Ritz and downtown Greenville,” Wasden said.