New businesses could boost local economy

Published 6:21 pm Friday, October 7, 2011

Brian Ross of Foothills Gun Gallery, which is expected to open later this month in Columbus, fills racks with merchandise. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

A handful of new businesses have popped up in recent weeks around Polk County and the Upstate, boosting optimism in community leaders thirsty to see a boom for the local economy.
“It’s putting more investment into the area,” said Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree. “Getting more people to come into town and spend money here will generate additional tax revenue down the road.”
A Better Deal, Brother Bill’s Barbecue, Ferrullo Fine Art and One Scoop at a Time have all opened in recent months in Tryon.
Other towns have seen new names and merchandise filling their storefront windows as well.
The restaurant Blue Gypsy opened in Saluda in late September, while Buy Way and Flex Fitness Center opened this summer in Columbus. A new owner also recently purchased the former Peruvian Cowboy in Columbus with plans to open a restaurant later this year.
Whether they are driven by necessity, grabbing opportunity or in pursuit of a lifelong ambition, these entrepreneurs said they are willing to take the risk of opening up shop in a sluggish economy.
“It was a dream I’ve always had – opening my own business – I figure if I can make it in a tough economy then I can make it in just about any economy,” said Brian Ross, owner of the Foothills Gun Gallery expected to open later this month in Columbus.
How do these new businesses plan to make it through?
Foothills Chamber of Commerce Director Janet Sciacca said the key to these businesses thriving is to find a niche that is not being filled.
“Yes, our economy is sluggish, and there are businesses struggling. But the chamber has seen 30 businesses join this year, and these businesses are enthusiastic and are succeeding in providing the services our local economy needs,” Sciacca said.
Ross intends to fill the need of outdoorsmen (and women) in the area by offering a wide selection of handguns, shotguns, hunting gear, archery equipment and more in his 2,400-square-foot building.
Ross already has expansion in mind with an idea to open up the 1,200-square-foot space next door in three to six months to offer fishing gear from Bass Pro. Once the final inventory arrives, Foothills Gun Gallery expects to open the shop before month’s end.
Sciacca said she thinks Ross’ business idea could work because it again fills a gap for the area. Until now, many hunting enthusiasts had to drive 20-30 miles to purchase equipment, she said.
The gun gallery, like several of the other businesses recently opening, fits into Polk County and the Upstate’s primary industry – tourism.
Sciacca said tourism numbers were up 6 percent in 2010, which is encouraging for restaurants, antique shops, gift shops and art galleries.
That’s good news for Brother Bill’s Barbecue owner Bill Larnder. Larnder just reopened his barbecue restaurant after about a year’s hiatus from the business. He said he just couldn’t stay away from something he’d longed to do all his life.
With handcrafted tables from wooden wire spools and personal memorabilia throughout the place, Lardner hopes people will get a special vibe when they sit down for a meal.
“I’ve been around campfire barbeque my whole life and have been working since I was 14,” Larnder said. “When my father passed away I basically had to decide whether to move to New York to the home he left me or sell the house and start a business here. This is what I’ve always wanted to do so I had to go for it.”
Larnder believes good food, good service and a unique atmosphere will pull Brother Bill’s through.
“We’ve put a lot of love into this place,” he said. “We hope people will see that when they come in.”
Other vital factors to success, Sciacca said, are having a viable business plan and possessing the capital to carry the business through its first year of business.
City and county leaders like Hembree said they need these businesses to succeed, as almost all local towns struggle with dwindling tax dollars. These stores, while they hire small handfuls of workers, do help put the community to work, Hembree said.
Polk’s unemployment rate increased from 7.8 percent in July to 8.2 percent in August, leaving 751 unemployed.

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