Change: It’s more than a cliche, it’s a way of life

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Written by Steve Wong

As much as I hate to admit it, I hate change. I try to put on a good front as the kind of guy who can roll with the punches, but deep down inside, I love my well-worn ruts of life. Nothing will derail my day faster than waking up outside of my give-or-take-10-minutes window of 6 a.m. or brushing my teeth after my shower, rather than before, like normal people should do.

As someone once said, “If you’re not changing, you’re dying.” I tried to find out who actually coined that axiom, but it seems that every best-selling business-by-the-book guru claims this notion in one quotable version or the other. If you have a framed poster of this cliché with a camouflaged chameleon hiding in full view hanging in your office, please don’t tell me. The only thing I hate more than change is inspiring business advice cross-stitched in 70-point script type.

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But change is upon us here, dear readers, here in the Carolina Foothills, and roll with punches we must. During the recent holidays, I found myself on the streets of Saluda, Tryon, Columbus and Landrum often, and I noted (and I admit, liked) a great many changes that I saw. These towns have always been quaint and slow to change, qualities that money-spending tourists love. For those who actually live here and need to make a living, quaint and slow-to-change make for great brochure copy but they don’t always pay for the printing costs. On a deeper economic level, locals know the perception of quaint will bring people to town, but craft beer, fine food, authentic lodging, and upscale shops will bring them back.

Each of these towns has established and continues to hone its livable and marketable quality of life characteristics. At the top of the grade, Saluda is postcard picturesque, and on any given visit, Main Street is lined with cars with both in-state and out-of-state tags. The same can be said for Landrum and its bustling Rutherford Street. No-nonsense Columbus is perfectly poised off the interstate and benefits from travelers who need a latte and taste of locally sourced food. Probably the most notable changes for the better have been in Tryon, where last year’s disruptive street repairs have resulted in several new stores, art galleries, and eating establishments making the town much more walkable, a social trend that is gaining ground among Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers alike.

I applaud the artists, restaurateurs, bed and breakfast owners, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, brewmeisters, and behinds-the-scenes civic-minded worker bees, who risk so much investing their time, talents, and money to make life in the foothills a better place first for local citizens, second for visitors. This is a fine point of distinction catering to locals versus tourists I think these towns do better at than say some of our bigger neighbors, who seem to bend over backwards to attract tourists and ignore the wants and needs of the residents.

Some tourism consultant once had the gall to say that cities and towns that want to bring in new tourism dollars must first provide great quality attractions, shopping, and entertainment to the people who actually live in the community. Simply put: a great place to live is a great place to visit. I believe true progress is made when a substantial cart follows a workhorse, rather than forcing a painted pony to push a gussied-up little red wagon filled with hype.

As I reflect on the then and now, and anticipate what 2017 will bring, I am optimistic about the Carolina Foothills. I see change that is based on the true character of our communities. Evolution is change based on need and in most cases is subtle, painless, and leads to a better life.

“Change is the only constant” is another one of those phrases that people use when they have nothing original to add to the conversation. Enough said. •

Steve Wong is a writer and promoter living in the peach orchards of Gramling, S.C. who says, “Yes, my columns are all about me, but it is my hope that by reading them, you’ll find insights into yourself.” He can be complimented or ridiculed at