New names have been popping up on Five Points marquees in the past six months with eight new businesses opening.
Both new and established Five Points business owners have opened the doors to new bars, restaurants and boutiques.
Merchants said they see support for the Columbia hospitality district a year after concerns mounted over violent crime.
“The only negative part has been the media down here, and I think that scared a lot of people away,” said Ryan Kay, owner of Harden Street bars Pinch and the soon-to-open Attic. “The core business owners have a lot of faith in the community, and students continue to have faith. There’s also been some new clientele down here, young professionals and that type.”
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Among the eight businesses that have opened in the past six months:
• Three bars – Lattitude 22, the Cotton Gin and the Horseshoe, which are on Harden Street in spaces that had previously operated as bars under other names and management.
• Three dining establishments – Fast Eddie’s Calzones and Rio’s Pizza & Bagels, which both cater to the late-night college student’s tastes, and Sizzle, a bacon-themed restaurant.
• And a pair of retailers – Wildflower, a women’s boutique, and Tomahawk, a fishing store.
Five Points’ location and the camaraderie of its business owners are major draws for entrepreneurs, said Debbie McDaniel, a 34-year Five Points veteran and owner of Revente and Sid and Nancy consignment stores.
“When I opened Revente, I knew I only wanted to be here. We’re like a family,” McDaniel said. “If we don’t have something a customer is looking for, we know who to refer them to in the area. We all work as a team.”
Merchants have banded together to fight negative publicity about the district after a USC freshman from Greenville was paralyzed by a stray bullet last year.
But they need some business savvy to stay open. Some Five Points locations have changed owners and identities multiple times in recent years.
The key to being successful in any small business, especially those in areas like Five Points that might be “microbusinesses” with only a handful of employees, is having a clear business plan, said Marianne Bickle, chairwoman of the University of South Carolina’s retailing department.
Businesses without a plan fail at a rate of 90 percent, Bickle said, and when she talks to entrepreneurs, more than half of them lack a business plan.
“Five Points is a really terrific place to have a business, but you really have to consider what type of business is it and you have to have a plan” Bickle said.
Social media engagement also is key for a business’ success, Bickle said, especially for businesses like Five Points bars, which market themselves towards college students and young adults. Many of the new businesses in Five Points, including Sizzle, the Cotton Gin and the Horseshoe, engage with customers through Twitter by posting nightly drink specials and events.
For John Sears, the Cotton Gin is his fourth Five Points business venture. Sears also owns Jake’s Bar and Grill, Pavlov’s and the Bird Dog.
Sears planned the Cotton Gin to be a venue for private events, such as sorority and fraternity parties, and live music, all with a 1920s twist. Sears, who is also a member of the Five Points Association’s board of directors, says the recent boon to business development in the neighborhood is encouraging.
“I think it’s great that a lot of private individuals are deciding to spend their money and improving the neighborhood drastically. Everyone’s doing a good job, and the spaces have really turned out well,” Sears said. “It’s a positive outlook for the future that people are willing to invest in the neighborhood. I’ve never seen this much growth at once since I’ve been here.”