The bare concrete floors and the aging walls of one of downtown Rock Hill’s empty storefronts will be covered in flowers and works of art by the time a husband and wife team are finished with their project next year.
Kevin and Toni Brown plan to open a floral market and design shop at 107 Hampton St., an empty business spot between two other empty downtown buildings.
Downtown Rock Hill is on the brink of a revival, the couple says, and they want to help “jump-start” good things on and around historic Main Street with their shop, T.S. Design and Flower Market.
In recent memory, the Hampton Street location has been home to a few different hair salons and barber shops. Historians say it was built around the 1920s.
Toni Brown hopes she’s bringing something new and special to downtown – an area of Rock Hill that already has “charm,” she said.
The couple lives within walking distance of downtown. They want to see Main Street flourish, with more foot traffic and visitors to shops and restaurants.
With a four-story office building and parking garage already under construction near their store and a public park planned, the Browns say downtown is already seeing needed investments.
For nearly a decade, Rock Hill officials have toiled over development plans and used business incentives to attract private investment downtown.
The couple is in talks with the city to see what financial incentives or grants might be available to help their store open by April 2014.
The future store is more of a flower “market” than a florist “shop,” she said.
Brown wants to showcase her design skills through a store set to look more like a European floral market than a traditional shop with stuffed teddy bears, heart-shaped balloons and pre-made bouquets.
Already working from home as a floral design consultant and event planner, Toni Brown hopes her store will draw walk-in customers and those looking for her services to cater events such as weddings and corporate functions.
She works with exotic flowers and traditional flowers such as lilies, roses and hydrangeas.
Brown also plans to feature local artists’ work in her store.
“We want to make it really unique,” she said.
Floral arrangement and design talents run in Toni Brown’s family.
The Chester native remembers helping her aunt sell flowers at craft fairs held in downtown Rock Hill under the roof that once covered Main Street.
Many in Rock Hill refer to the construction of Town Center Mall in the 1970s as the city’s having built a “roof” over downtown. The project was similar to a shopping mall but was not the economic development catalyst many thought it would be.
In 1993, the mall and the “roof” were removed.
Since then, city officials have hoped to restore Main Street to the business hub it once was.
And while Toni Brown says that’s possible, opening a new business in an old building has been a challenge.
The shop is by-permit “under demolition,” but technically “under construction” as Kevin Brown tries to shape the building into his wife’s vision.
Eating lunch across the street from her soon-to-be business recently, Toni Brown was asked, “Was there nothing else for sale?”
Plaster and cement put up by previous owners cover the brick walls that the Browns want to restore and showcase in their shop.
White-painted siding with red-painted trim is peeling, and in some places siding is falling off the building’s facade. Behind the siding is brick, which may have been damaged in a fire.
The Browns will have to hire contractors to perform some electrical and other utility upgrades before they can open.
But, the work is worth it, the couple says, to open a place to showcase Toni Brown’s talent.
And downtown was their ideal spot, she said.
Others have pushed for years and had some success downtown, she said, “but until we get active and do it ourselves, we’re not going to see (more growth) happen.”
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068