What started as a beer stand in 1949 eventually grew into a tourist mecca off I-95 in Dillon.
The stand did just fine as an oasis for travelers from dry counties in North Carolina, but Alan Schafer turned his thriving family business into much more. Schafer made South of the Border a must-stop for tourists traveling I-95 or U.S. 301.
The complex is famous for its billboards with a Pedro character, who encourages motorists from New York to Miami to come on by.
“You never sausage a place!” one billboard reads. “Keep yelling kids. They’ll stop!” reads another.
Business boomed for decades as travelers filled the attraction’s shops, restaurants and motel rooms. Video poker was a massive hit.
Schafer, who majored in journalism at the University of South Carolina but left his senior year to take over the family business, became a millionaire. He earned a reputation as a great marketing mind, entrepreneur and political power broker.
“Mr. Democrat in Dillon County” gave freely to Democratic candidates and the party itself, eventually getting himself into trouble in a vote-buying scheme that resulted in a sentence of about a year in a minimum-security federal prison.
Schafer died at age 87 in 2001, but 14 years later, South of the Border lives on just south of the North Carolina state line.
Avery G. Wilks