Fort Mill Times

What recession? Some Fort Mill Township businesses say they're booming

While the stock market is collapsing, local business is actually picking up in the newest commercial developments around the township.

Some existing businesses are also reporting strong sales.

"We've actually increased in sales," said Melissa Thomas, owner of L.A. East. "Word is getting around we're carrying the same stuff the malls are carrying and you don't have to drive as far."

Recently, Thomas had a customer who told her she spent four hours scouring the malls in Charlotte without success looking for a couple of tops. While the woman was getting her nails done in the new Stonecrest shopping center on Hwy. 160 West in Tega Cay, her nail tech suggested she try L.A. East just a few doors down. She bought two tops and some jewelry, Thomas said.

"People are looking to stretch their dollars further," Thomas said.

The rapid growth Fort Mill Township has seen over the last decade has made it a market big and diverse enough to sustain local retailers, she added.

"There's enough variety in the market," Thomas said. "We get the Baxter mom and the gal from south Charlotte looking for something to go clubbing in, we've got what both are looking for."

Business is also going well for American Cellular, a Verizon-affiliated store a couple doors down from L.A. East.

"People are still walking in and throwing down a few hundred dollars for a phone or a group of phones," employee Susan Powell said. "Everybody has to have their cell phones these days."

On the other side of the township, Julie Morgan, manager of Young Pecan Plantations, said her store is recording higher sales than it did this time last year. She attributes some of the increase to the three gas stations near by. Morgan said the gas stations draw customers from south Charlotte who are looking for the cheaper fill-up available on the S.C. side of the border.

"Now that they know we're here, they come back," Morgan said.

The Indian Land store is also a certified South Carolina Grown retailer, Morgan added, which attracts newcomers and tourists.

The recent gas shortage worked against retailer Sistare Carpets, according to salesman Carey Dry. The business, which sells and installs carpets and hardwood floors, was slow during those weeks but has picked up now that supplies are plentiful and prices are failing daily.

"Maybe everyone is feeling more comfortable now, with the Wall Street bailout," Dry said.

The paint business is going well too.

Rod Rudzinski, owner of Carolina Paint and Design in Graystone Crossing in Tega Cay, said his store recently had its best week since opening five months ago. Carolina Paint and Design is a Benjamin Moore Paints signature store and deals mostly with individual homeowners and in some cases, custom builders.

"We sell premium products, we don't really cater to new construction," Rudzinski said.

"The paint companies dealing with new construction are hurting."