Laurens Thoughts on Downtown Revitalization

A National Main Street program for revitalization of commercial districts was explained before Laurens residents gathered in the Witherspoon Building of the Laurens County Museum Wednesday evening.

The top concerns noted from a survey in Laurens included buildings that need repair, a lack of variety in the type of stores open, the number of empty buildings, parking and inconsistent store hours. Positive comments from the survey noted favorite businesses such as Roma Restaurant, Verdins Too along with the Capitol Theater and Café.

The most desired businesses requested were pubs, fine dining, bookstores, entertainment venues, and children’s stores.

The survey indicated favorite hours for shopping are from 1:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon and perhaps other hours on Saturday. Most described themselves as cost conscious.

The average age of people who responded to the survey was 39.2 years. When asked for what future those taking the survey wished for Downtown Laurens, many noted the success Fountain Inn has had with their downtown revitalization.

In addition to reviewing highlights from the local survey, Kathy Plante from the national main street program discussed issues including housing opportunities for the community. One woman in the audience stated that after her college graduation, she found a job locally, but it took her a year to locate a place to live that she could afford as a single woman.

In discussing how to determine if a certain type store might succeed here, Ms. Plante gave examples of towns about the size of Laurens that had many requests for a candy store. She said when researching potential business owners in one such town, she found that to survive, the owners would need a greater population of customers to support a candy store. As an alternate plan for one town our size, she convinced a local greeting card store to add a display of good chocolates. She said this proved to be a big success.

The presentation for Main Street Laurens noted an important strategy of building on a community’s assets, such as famous hometown residents.