Business owner: Tryon a ‘ghost town’

Published 5:34 pm Thursday, June 21, 2012

High rents and high utilities such as the town’s water, sewer and garbage bills were also  mentioned as some of the issues for downtown business owners.
Patti D’Arbanville said if people can’t pay the rent for a store, they can’t stay open. She said when she came to Tryon as a little girl, “it was booming.”
But councilman George Baker said people come to the businesses they want to patronize.
“I don’t know how government can solve the problems of businesses,” Baker said. “I can’t force (landlords) to lower their rent.”
Baker said he’s been in Tryon for 26 years and seen businesses come and go in Tryon, Landrum and Saluda. He said right now Saluda is booming, but six years ago you could “write your own ticket” in downtown Saluda, and it was the same in Landrum.
He also mentioned that downtown Landrum is benefited by having businesses on both sides of the street, where Tryon does not.
Prioleau said what helped Landrum rejuvenate years ago was obtaining a grant for a woman to help with economic development. She said a needs assessment was done and businesses were brought in.
John Calure said he’s made the same suggestion for Tryon several times over the past decade but Tryon’s niche is art. Landrum’s is antiques, he said. He suggested that Tryon invite artists to display their works on the sidewalks of downtown anytime they want.
“Put them on the sidewalk,” Calure said. “Make it a little Paris.”
Councilman Doug Arbogast agreed, saying artists could be in every empty storefront.
Tryon has been known for more than a century as a town to visit, with famous people riding the train to Tryon and staying in the former Oak Hall Hotel. Vineyards were also a draw in the past, but since I-26 was constructed and bypassed Tryon the area has slowly stopped being a main tourist draw.
The Tryon name still has good associations for many people, however. In recent years, developments located as far away from Tryon as Gowensville, S.C. (the Links of Tryon golf course development) have used “Tryon” in their name in an attempt to draw people.
In Tryon’s tourist days, visitors and residents did their shopping downtown, which offered places to buy groceries and clothing. Most of Tryon’s retail businesses in recent years have been gift shops, with the only stores primarily dedicated to clothing sales being Tryon House and the St. Luke’s Thrift Store.
The Shops of Tryon building was formerly Cowan’s grocery store, and Peebles clothing store used to occupy the building where La Bouteille and 10 North Trade Café and Bakery are located today.
Misseldine’s Pharmacy used to occupy the former Tryon Federal building, which has been vacant for years. The former St. Luke’s Hospital Thrift Store building also remains empty and for sale.
Business owners who attended council’s meeting this week agreed to begin discussions on what can be done to rejuvenate downtown.

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