Cayce mayor discusses plans to revitalize city’s former downtown
When Stanton Scoma and his wife, Lindsey, were looking for a place to open a coffee shop, they didn't have to look far.
The residents of O Avenue in Cayce had often driven past the gaggle of empty or underutilized storefronts in what was once the river city's downtown retail district. So when Barbara Wright, the owner of the building at 2001 State St., began cleaning up the place, the Scomas decided to pull the trigger on their shop. They're going to name it Piecewise.
The Scomas will be pioneers of sorts in the newest of greater Columbia's emerging commercial districts. Following the lead of State Street in West Columbia, Main Street and North Main in Columbia and Main Street in Lexington, Cayce officials, building owners and merchants are trying to breath new life into their old retail hub.
Henry's Restaurant and Bar opened at the corner of State and Frink streets a year ago. And the Scomas' coffee shop, along with a new Kombucha tea bar and an art gallery, are the leading edge of what local folks hope is a new beginning for old downtown Cayce.
"Somebody has to be the first one in," Stanton Scoma said. "Henry's is there, so we won't exactly be the first, but we'll be in the first wave."
Capitalizing on the momentum
Cayce city officials, building owners and merchants hope to capitalize on the momentum occurring in some of the area's other older commercial districts by giving a little push of their own.
The “heart of Cayce,” as the old downtown is called, is at the opposite end of State Street from West Columbia's “Vista West.” It forms an “L” with Frink Street, but is hemmed in on the south side by the Martin Marietta granite quarry and the CSX railroad switchyard.
(State Street was closed at the railroad yard years ago because of frequently stalled trains.)
West Columbia’s commercial corridor began its revitalization efforts years ago and now features destinations such as Terra restaurant, New Brookline Tavern, State Street Pub and Café Strudel.
Cayce’s old downtown hopes to mirror that success.
The Scomas' coffee shop, gallery and Kombucha bar are going into adjacent storefronts Wright owns in the 2000 block of State Street.
Wright, who has operated the Helping Hands adult day care across State Street from the coffee shop location, also is moving her operations to make way for more retail development. She already moved her buses from an adjacent lot to make way for more city parking.
"We would love to have a restaurant in there," she said of the former Helping Hands location. "Something the community could get behind."
Getting the mojo back
To kick-start that effort, Mayor Elise Partin is encouraging a little "pre-vitalization," as she calls it. It's a concept she picked up at a recent conference of mayors.
Partin wants owners of vacant buildings to clean them up and open them up during the city's second annual Soiree on State festival to be held April 14.
"Pre-vitalization means the art of what's possible," she said. "We want owners to open up their buildings to artists and people like you would see at Soda City farmers market. It will help to give the mojo back and the energy back to these buildings."
The popular Soda City farmers market is held weekly event on Columbia's Main Street and features local growers, crafters, artists, merchants and restaurateurs.
She said the "pre-vitalization" concept already has worked.
After last year's Soiree, Swatch graphics relocated into a former dry cleaners at 1931 State St. Among other advertising, Swatch wrapped the utility boxes in Columbia's Vista and Five Points with signs, and plans to do the same in Cayce's old downtown.
"We live in Cayce, and we wanted to work in Cayce as well," said Tiffany Herring, who opened Swatch last year with her business partner, Dawn Cotner. "They are trying to revitalize the area, and we wanted to be a part of it."
About a decade ago, the area got new sidewalks, and matching grants of up to $4,000 for building improvements are available. A trail head for the Cayce Riverwalk is nearby.
There are also some other new developments.
Martin Marietta is moving its entrance to the other side of the CSX switchyard, which will eliminate quarry trucks from the area. There is an ongoing matching grant program of up to $4,000 for facade improvements for new businesses. And a new brewery, Steel Hands, is opening just down the street.
"Our goal is to enhance that area with art and food," Partin said. "We want people to be able to walk to a restaurant and meet up with their neighbors and friends. It's the perfect place to do that."