SMALL BUSINESS WEEK: Columbia mayor celebrates transformation of Soda City with local owners
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Small Business Week recognizes the local owners here in Columbia.
Monday morning, Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, a proponent of local business, celebrated the kickoff of Small Business Week.
“Look, we have empty storefronts in every community,” the mayor said. “I don’t care if you’re in the northeast, down in the Vista, out on Rosewood, North Beltline, or down Farrow Road. We have opportunities everywhere.”
Since taking over as mayor, Rickenmann has celebrated local business openings on a weekly basis. While Columbia features a lot of hospitality sector businesses, the mayor says other industries can also call Soda City home.
“We’re not set up for manufacturing downtown but we can handle every other division of those businesses,” Rickenmann said. “So, our target is urban development.”
To help new businesses out, Rickenmann is working on cutting out red tape, whether it’s removing parking requirements or waiving water expansion fees.
“So it’s easier for a business to get started and get going,” the mayor said. “One step at a time. Every day, we’re trying to open a new business.”
He says he has seen the city grow since he first arrived for college.
“When I first moved to Columbia South Carolina, Main Street was where you could bowl on it at 5 o’clock every day,” Rickenmann said. “I mean there was nobody here.”
One local entrepreneur noticed the same thing when he moved to Soda City.
“I lived down here for a couple of years in the Tapps building. I found that to go somewhere to eat on a Sunday night, the closest place was Five Points,” remembers Scott Middleton, local business owner.
Now, Middleton owns the Main Course, The Grand, Good Life Cafe and that’s not all of his local business projects.
“My family and I are developing this brewery that’s 65,000 square feet. My daughter and son are actually going to be running it,” Middleton said. “They also just opened up Smoaked on this side of the street. That’s a microbrewery.”
Despite having several businesses, Middleton says getting the word out for a new establishment is hard. He has also faced recent issues such as supply chain problems at the brewery and rising cost of food at his restaurants.
“Don’t believe you’re going to make money on your first day. You better have enough money set aside or saved or you might have to work another job to support it,” the business owner advises. “If you stay with it over the long haul, you’ll be successful.”
Of course, not every business decision is based on profitability. Middleton says it would have been cheaper to replace the building the Grand is in right now, but he decided to keep the original structure due to its historical nature.
The Small Business Week Celebration will take place on Thursday at the Medallion Conference Center. The event begins at 11 and last until 2 in the afternoon.