Making it their Business - Up Front

  • Friday, November 29, 2013

First responders on the day of the fire in Georgetown included heroic firefighters and police officers, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many locals who quickly put together hospitality stations to serve everyone who was working or was affected by the fire. It was a day where everyone just put down what they were doing and stepped up to help in any way possible. One first responder team didn’t carry a hose into a burning building and they don’t even have a vehicle with a siren, but they are proving to be a small but powerful force, fighting for the Georgetown business community. These first responders are still very much on the scene at 531 Front Street, the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.

With the fire still blazing, Brian Tucker, CEO and president of the Georgetown County Chamber was on the scene, assessing the damage, talking to business owners, meeting with the Salvation Army and Red Cross, and helping to keep the media informed so Georgetown’s story could be told.

“Our message from day one was that Front Street is still open for business,” says Tucker.

“Brian took the reins. He is so capable at bringing the right people together and making good things happen. He was the calm and steady presence for coordination of resources for those affected by the fire. Georgetown is so lucky to have him at the helm of the Chamber,” said Linda Abate, Sly Fox boutique owner.

“There is a sense of urgency now that didn’t exist before. When your situation changes you have to be willing to be open to new ideas,” said Tucker.

One of the businesses lost that day was children’s boutique, Doodlebugs. Owner Ginger Gray said that usually the shopping slows down after Labor Day, but right up to the fire their business was very good. New additions like the Sly Fox, the Harbor Shop and Zest helped to attract new shoppers, but then after the fire, even those businesses who were left standing felt the pain in the aftermath. Gray is in the final push before she reopens in a different location, she and others are thrilled with the work the Chamber of Commerce is doing to help promote Front Street and are excited to have a collaborative effort for the holidays.

Celebrate the Holidays is hot off the press and will promote Historic Front Street as a shopping destination. In collaboration with the Georgetown Business Association and Front Street business owners, the Chamber has helped to produce a full schedule of events that will help to bring shoppers down to Front Street First. Some of the highlights include a Parade of Boats, Downtown Shopping Nights with extended hours and entertainment, Pictures with Santa and Sunday afternoon shopping throughout the months of November and December.

While Tucker and the Chamber of Commerce have been heralded for their efforts to pull together local efforts and drive collaboration, their large territory reaches up the coast. “Some people think that the Chamber of Commerce only serves Georgetown business interests, but we are actually a county chamber and serve from Georgetown, up the Waccamaw Neck to Murrells inlet.” says Sally Hogan, tourism manager and events for the Chamber. She adds that some of their members are in Myrtle Beach as well, including Inlet Square Mall, and many of the Myrtle Beach attractions.

Entering the charming visitor center on Front Street you’re welcomed by a volunteer who will help with local questions and provide resources on travel planning in the area. A kiosk filled with brochures from restaurants, museums, attractions and shopping provide visitors to the area endless choices. The Chamber produces the only map of the area that is a comprehensive listing of the entire county in an easy to use format — great for visitors and locals.

A chamber is only as strong as its membership, and being a county chamber means offering support, advocacy, lobbying and resources for a diverse group of businesses across the region.

The Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce serves all the needs of their members — networking is a big perk of membership. “Everyone connects differently, so have come up with different ways to do it so that everyone has an option,” said Hogan. While the Members After Hours is popular, other members prefer smaller settings like luncheons, or Connect Four. They just hosted their first Women in Business gathering at Wachesaw Plantation with 45 in attendance and have decided to make this a quarterly event. The Chamber is continually evaluating and working to serve the needs of their members.

At 531 Front Street, our busy neighbor who is serving the business community through collaboration, advocacy and building connections — the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. Make it your business to keep it local.

Editor’s Note: A fire in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 destroyed seven buildings in the 700 block of Front Street in Georgetown.

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