Thursday, November 7, 2013
By Ashley DesMarteau
“I have never been so proud of the state of South Carolina as I am now” said Governor Nikki Haley of the support being shown to Georgetown in the wake of the fire that destroyed businesses on historic Front Street in September.
Following an update from local and state officials, Haley hosted an informal discussion with small business owners, listening to challenges and offering promises that her office would continue to work to make sure every need was met. “We will be here until you tell us you no longer need us,” said Haley. Since her last visit to Georgetown the city has hosted the Bridge2Bridge Run, the Wooden Boat Show, and the community has pulled together several fundraisers to support Front Street business owners and residents. But another very important event is happening on Front Street — rebirth.
Vacant buildings in the 900 block are coming to life again, one by one.
“In two years, we'll look back on this time — and despite how tragic it has been, I know we will be better for it,” said Brian Tucker, CEO and president of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. “We have some great established businesses moving down to the 900 block and they bring a loyal customer base with them.”
“Georgetown is a success story,” Haley reminds the group of business owners, one of whom is Ginger Gray, owner of Doodlebugs. Gray is an active part of the discussion with the Governor, but as soon as the event is over, she shifts gears from talking about the fire and the damage to focusing on her end goal — reopening. She is one of the success stories Haley speaks of and will be reopening Doodlebugs at 918 Front Street on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Ginger Gray takes a deep breath, looks around at a new floor, freshly painted walls, and with a smile says “Doodlebugs is reopening!” The space she chose at 918 Front Street after looking in the 700 and 800 blocks was previously a dog grooming business. She could see beyond the outdated fixtures, the dark burgundy walls and the floor that was in disrepair. Instead she focused on the great light, beadboarding on all the walls, a favorable layout and small area in the back for a private office and storage area.
Bill Wheeler is the owner of the building Doodlebugs called home for 12 years. He is a frequent visitor to Georgetown, but Concord, North Carolina is home. He and his wife fell in love with the area years ago and purchased the building, renting out the storefront, but keeping the upstairs apartments for personal use when they flew into the area.
“They love spending time here and I'm just so thankful that he and his wife were not here during the fire. It would have been so hard for them to safely get out of the apartments upstairs,” said Gray.
Ginger knew she needed to call the owners before they heard about it on the news, but was reluctant to call Mr. Wheeler, so she called his daughter who could deliver the news in person. “He is just the kind of person who would hop right in his car and drive down here to try to help,” she said of Wheeler.
The fire took Georgetown's favorite children's boutique, but Doodlebugs customer base reaches across the country. “We have been inundated with support from our customers on Facebook. An outpouring of support from Texas to Illinois to Tennessee has been pouring in,” said Gray.
“We have seen some great things come from this tragedy,” admits Gray. Her friends, family and local customers have been so supportive, and Gray credits that outpouring for her being able to open so soon. And her vendors have gone above and beyond to help get Doodlebugs ready for its next chapter.
Gray received her fall shipment from a company called Sticky Bellies the day before the fire, and upon hearing the news, they “offered to send us a duplicate order, free of charge” says Gray. Other vendors have offering support in other ways, so Gray would quickly be able to reopen her business.
“I can't imagine being anywhere but on Front Street” said Gray on the morning of the fire, and now just a month later, she won't have to; the new Doodlebugs opens November 9th.
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