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Uptown Greenwood attorney entering mayor’s race

Brandon Smith

March 11, 2018

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

As a fifth-grader at Greenwood’s East End Elementary School, Brandon Smith wrote an essay about one day becoming mayor.

Decades later, the 38-year-old attorney is preparing to put his dream into action, formally declaring himself as a candidate for the top municipal position.

“I believe it’s an exciting time to be a Greenwoodian, and I believe it’s a time in Greenwood’s history,” Smith said. “When we look back in 30 or 40 years, decisions we make today are going to have a lasting impact. I’m extremely excited about where this city is going.”

Smith, who maintains a law firm in The Greenwood Building, becomes the second person to run for the seat. Greenwood Community Theatre executive director Stephen Gilbert announced his candidacy last summer.

Both are vying to replace Welborn Adams, who ruled out another term in November 2016.

A political neophyte, Smith said he’s opting to run for mayor because of the strong representation provided by the City Council.

“I look forward to coming in and working with these folks, because I don’t think the team we’ve got in place is broken,” he said. “I have zero interest in using this as a stepping stone, but I feel like a local election like this, you can make an actual difference.”

Smith and wife, Tara, have three boys: Jarratt, 12, Witt, 9, and Benjo, 6. They attend Main Street United Methodist Church. He’s also active in several local and state organizations, including the Arts Center of Greenwood, the United Way of Abbeville and Greenwood Counties, Greenwood Kiwanis Club and the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce.

Smith said his top priorities are working with county leaders to identify more opportunities for collaboration and advocating for a larger housing stock within the city to accommodate young families moving into the region.

“With so much growth here in the city, nothing drives me crazier than to see folks coming in from out of state and living 50 miles away,” he said. “I know how much we’re losing in terms of tax base when we have folks willing to drive out of town.”

Smith moved to Greenwood from Arkansas in the mid-1980s when his father, Dewitt H. Smith III joined the Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick.

“You’re never going to find a bigger cheerleader for Greenwood than me,” Smith said. “I grew up here and loved it, but I can’t imagine there being a more exciting time, we’ve just got so much going on that I want to be a part of the progress.”

Although running for mayor fulfills a lifelong pursuit for Smith, he welcomes an engaging race that provides voters choice, with praise for Gilbert and anybody else who seeks the office.

“I respect anybody who would take the time to run for mayor,” Smith said. “For whatever reason, if it’s not me (who wins), I’m willing to set aside any ego and help any way I can. Greenwood is a special place for a number of reasons.”

Trapped in glass: Glassblower blends art and memories

December 12, 2017

The Index Journal, Damian Dominguez

A silvery swirl cascades into a seemingly bottomless vortex — all contained within a marble that can fit in the palm of a hand.

Glassblower Andrew Lazenby shapes the spheres himself, melting glass down until it flows and shaping it into a sphere. Lazenby and his wife, Mary, are both artists based out of Rock Hill, and sell some of their pieces at Main & Maxwell.The smooth, featureless surface of the marbles show off the swirls of color inside perfectly. Lazenby said that’s part of what’s so appealing about glassblowing — it’s a 3D work of art he crafts inside of a sphere of molten glass.

“There’s the challenge of making something perfectly round,” he said. “Then there’s the idea that you have this small volume of space to decorate something with … How am I using heat and gravity, because those are our only tools, really, effectively?”

Lazenby demonstrated his craft Dec. 2 in front of Main & Maxwell in Uptown Greenwood. He took cylinders of clear glass, using a blowtorch to cut, melt and shape the glass into hollow spheres. A small speck of silver or gold, melted and vaporized in the heat of the blowtorch, colored some of the spheres a yellowish hue, before he shaped a hoop atop them and finished the ornament.

Hand-blown glass ornaments might be a seasonal item, but he said he has to work early and often to meet demand.

“I start making ornaments in June, to meet the demand at this point,” he said during his demonstration. “If I could only make marbles, I’d be a happy man, but ornaments pay the bills.”

He usually makes 1,000 ornaments by the holiday season, he said. He’s also started to make stemware and goblets, but his main passion is still crafting marbles.

When a friend of his made a special request, Lazenby was tasked with making a marble with a special layer of emotional value. He was asked if he could incorporate cremated remains into a marble.

“There’s a responsibility with that,” he said. “You don’t really want to mess it up.”

Since then, he’s been commissioned to make other memorial pieces, including pendants. With each, crafting it takes on an air of ceremony.

He cleans his workshop thoroughly, to ensure the remains aren’t contaminated. As he incorporates the ash into the glass, any leftover glass is kept separate and given back to the client, so all of the cremated remains are returned.

Some clients give him the remains with little instruction, while others give him pictures of their loved one, the titles of songs they loved and lengthy letters describing the person. He’s had clients come and watch him make the marble, and has had others ask to work with him while making it.

“It’s soul-satisfying, but it’s also incredibly nerve-wracking,” he said.

More information on Lazenby and his wife can be found at, and their pieces can be seen and bought at Main & Maxwell.

Partnership Alliance joining forces to grow Genetic Center’s campus

October 8, 2017

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Students from Augusta, Georgia learn about genetics during an April field trip at the Greenwood Genetic Center in this Index-Journal file photo. Ariel Gilreath

As Greenwood County officials prepare to convert a north-end parcel into a multi-million dollar business park, one of the region’s top research institutions is hoping to add a similar function to its campus.

The Greenwood Genetic Center is finalizing a memorandum of understanding with the Greenwood Partnership Alliance, using its recruitment and marketing experience to build out its 170-acre southside campus on the heels of a recently completed strategic plan.

“The concept is to build off our strengths and start attracting additional partners,” Genetic Center Director Steve Skinner said. “We realize we don’t have the expertise to develop property or a park, but the Partnership Alliance does.”

The efforts got a boost in February when Clemson University opened a 17,000-square-foot Center for Human Genetics.

Greenwood Partnership Alliance CEO Heather Simmons Jones said last week that fostering growth on the Genetic Center’s campus is a top priority for her organization over the next year.

“When we finished the strategic plan last year, it became even more obvious that the success and future of the research park depended largely on the Genetic Center and the Partnership working closely together,” she said. “With the assistance of the GGC on the technical side, we believe that we can take the campus to the next level and provide high-paying opportunities to the residents of our community.”

The plan, conducted by Louisville, Kentucky-based Point A Consulting, imagines a campus that integrates residential and commercial units with biotech and other advanced science companies that complement the Genetic Center’s mission.

“The campus will become the location of choice for companies and organizations seeking a quality-of-life environment focused on promoting connections and collaboration. To accomplish this, the new land plan provides an intentional framework for transforming GGC’s consolidated properties into a dynamic, harmonious environment — one that serves as both an anchor of Greenwood’s emerging Medical Innovation District, and also a vital, connected hub within the broader Greenwood community,” a draft version of the plan states.

The document lays out a broad vision for the Genetic Center’s future land use plans.

“Everyone in Greenwood has a stake in the success of GGC and its Partnership Campus. In turn, the Campus will be developed in ways that leverage and complement its surrounding medical and healthcare partners, and ultimately the health and wellness of Greenwood, of South Carolina, and of the world,” it said.

Uptown Greenwood named one of America’s great neighborhoods

October 4, 2017

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Greenwood residents Pete McKibbon and Heidi Hoogstraal ride their bikes through the City’s Uptown district.


For the core group of city planners, economic development officials and merchants who have built Uptown Greenwood into the vibrant destination spot it is today, that’s an adjective that is frequently deployed.

Now, it’s no longer a matter of opinion.

On Wednesday, the American Planning Association named Uptown Greenwood one of five “Great Neighborhoods” for 2017, joining an exclusive list of places across the country honored for creating a unique cultural identity using sustainable practices that foster economic growth.

“To receive a designation from the American Planning Association that recognizes Uptown Greenwood in the same class as 275 other great places in America, that’s a pretty significant endorsement,” City Manager Charlie Barrineau said. “To me, though, the validation has already been received with the many, many small businesses, eateries and boutiques that have opened in Uptown Greenwood over the last decade.”

Ten other locales were named a “great street” or “great public place” by the APA.

In all, the American Planning Association has singled out 260 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces during the past 10 years with its “great places” designation, with just five others in South Carolina: Broad and King streets in Charleston, the city’s Waterfront Park, the Beaufort Historic District and Main Street in Greenville.

“We take great pride that the American Planning Association has named Uptown Greenwood, South Carolina as one of the Great Neighborhoods in the nation. Uptown is the heart and soul of our community,” Mayor Welborn Adams said. “This award underscores Greenwood’s commitment to long-term planning, investment in cultural and historic interests, and a vision for our future.”

Uptown Greenwood as it is today has its origins in a 2003 City Center Master Plan that sought to transform the once-major railroad artery into a mixed-use enclave to support local business, new residential growth and tourism.

The 12-page application in support of Uptown Greenwood’s nomination describes an effort to keep the 100-acre district as much in line with its historic origins as possible while implementing modern tax incentives and planning tools to create a public art venue, social center and revenue stream for the city.

“Uptown Greenwood is now one of the most vibrant downtown areas in the South and one of the best success stories in downtown redevelopment in South Carolina,” the application said.

In March, the Uptown district expanded its borders for the since time since its 1984 creation when the Shoppes at Hampton Plaza were added to the 13-block district, which has a taxable base of $25 million.

And in September, Barrineau told the City Council that Greenwood’s hospitality tax — which launched in 2006 — has generated more than $15.5 million for community enhancement projects in Uptown.

This summer, the City Council unanimously approved a request by Arts Center Director Anne Craig to pursue a cultural arts district designation by the state Arts Commission.

Uptown’s two major summer events, the festivals of Discovery and Flowers, brought in more than $8 million in economic impact this year.

City/County Planner Phil Lindler, a member of the APA and past president of its South Carolina chapter, said being named a “great neighborhood” reinforces the decision by officials to focus on Uptown as a hub of commerce.

“This is the highest honor our professional organization presents to a community, street or neighborhood. It is important to note that this award is in recognition to those individuals throughout the number of decades that have worked for and with the city to make Uptown what it is today,” Lindler said.

Frank Wideman, a member of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance board of directors and president of the Self Family Foundation, said Uptown Greenwood’s proven success has made it easier to attract new and diverse investments over the years.

The foundation played a key role in bringing the Arts Center to the Federal Building with a $1.75 million grant.

“We knew that our investments were having a significant impact,” Wideman said. “The challenge was to get people to come to the town center, which led to things like the Mill House and the wine shop, and everything just built on each other.”

The application echoes Wideman’s assessment.

“The public has truly taken ownership of their Uptown,” it said.


Fat Daddy’s expanding brand into Greenwood with future grown on horizon

September 4, 2017

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Billy Ray Reeder, left, and his son, Chris, stand in the dining room of their second Fat Daddy’s BBQ location in Uptown Greenwood.

Over phone calls and text messages, Cross Hill’s Fat Daddy’s BBQ came to be.

Owner Billy Ray Reeder would exchange tips and recipes with his sons and implement their findings and advice into dishes that quickly made his eatery a go-to location for Lakelands barbecue aficionados.

This fall, his son Chris is expanding the family brand into a 4,000-square foot restaurant located in Uptown Greenwood’s Shoppes at Hampton Place — marking a $200,000 investment he hopes will lead to expansion opportunities.

For now, Reeder — a Lakelands native who spent the past 12 years in Charleston running Jim ‘N Nick’s and helping to open Rodney Scott’s BBQ — is focused on building upon his father’s creation.

“It was a great opportunity for me and my family to come back to Greenwood. I grew up here,” Reeder said. “We’re all in on this. Hopefully, this will be the second of three of four. We’ll take on local partners in different areas.”

With more than 15 years of restaurant ownership and managerial experience and a lifelong relationship with that granddaddy of all Southern cuisine, Reeder said Fat Daddy’s Greenwood location is primed for success.

“The city has made huge strides and continue to make progress,” Reeder said. “Really, all you’re ever going to be is your food and your people. So if you don’t bring both of those along at the same time, you can’t grow.”

Uptown Manager Lara Hudson said Fat Daddy’s addition to the city’s merchant district continues its momentum and validates investments made over the past decade to enhance the sector.

“We’re very excited about the addition of Fat Daddy’s in Uptown. Their investment, along with current dining and retail establishments will enhance the atmosphere of The Shoppes at Hampton Place,” she said. “We feel certain the streetscape projects and other revitalization efforts throughout the Uptown area play a vital role in generating both new businesses and expansion of existing ones.”

Reeder said he plans to be visible and accessible to patrons when Fat Daddy’s opens.

“Places where you can see the face of the business every day, those things thrive,” he said.

As host city for the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, Reeder believes Uptown Greenwood benefits from having a year-round barbecue.

It’s also going to provide a learning experience for Reeder that could lead to new menu items.

“In barbecue especially, you learn things from each other and those are the kind of things we’re going to add as options,” Reeder said. “There are different techniques and sauces that move as families spread out.”

He also hopes Fat Daddy’s has a ripple effect for his fellow Uptown proprietors.

“If the buzz is to come Uptown and eat barbecue on Thursday here, it’s also going to cause a buzz for people going to the Mill House and others places. It becomes a place to go, and that’s a big deal.”

Uptown Greenwood Seeing Business Surge

April 15, 2017

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Kim and Kevin Franklin are set to open Southern Soul on Main in Uptown Greenwood on April 21.

Two restaurants. A boutique store specializing in personalized stationery. A salon and spa. An acupuncture and natural medicine shop.

All have recently opened or will do so soon in spaces across Uptown Greenwood, responding to continued investments by city leaders to upgrade the sector’s arcades and promote its walkability and economic development potential.

“I think Uptown Greenwood has done a really good job in the last decade or so to prove that we have what it takes to be a thriving community,” said Lesley Lane, who manages space in The Greenwood Building.

On March 28, Golden Root Natural Medicine opened at 207 Waller Ave., just a few doors down from the former home of Asian fusion restaurant UchiE, which shuttered in mid-January.

But soon, the 217 Waller Ave. location will be known as El Maya, a family-run restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine.

Owner Mari Carmen Solis said they’re still waiting on permits and haven’t announced a grand opening date yet, but she said Uptown was an attractive site.

“There’s a lot of business in the area, and really nice space,” she said.

And next Friday, Kevin Franklin and his wife, Kim, will open Southern Soul on Main at 312 Main St.

“We figured the Uptown area was pretty unique and the environment here is versatile and will attract all types of different customers,” he said. “We’re going for a family-oriented vibe, and the atmosphere here is a whole lot different.”

Caroline Davis, a Greenwood native who moved back to the city two years ago from Savannah, Georgia, is slated to become The Greenwood Building’s second retail tenant when she opens Fig early next month.

“I just felt there was a void in the Greenwood market for this kind of store, which I remember from growing up in Greenwood as a little girl,” Davis said. “It’ll be a cozy little store, but we’ll fill it up.”

Fig, which stands for Fine Invitations and Gifts, marks The Greenwood Building’s second foray into the retail world.

Lane said Davis’ plan will complement the popular Main & Maxwell at 210 Main St., an art gallery featuring pieces by local and regional artists.

“As far as Caroline goes, her vision will really cater to a younger generation, which is going to be really important to Uptown Greenwood in the years to come,” she said. “We’re thrilled that Fig is going to be joining Uptown.”

So is City Manager Charlie Barrineau.

“Success attracts success. With a growing mix of clothier, unique retail, hospitality, offices and a full-service boutique hotel, Uptown will continue to attract entrepreneurs,” he said. “The landscape and walkability of Uptown also lends itself to a positive visitor experience.”

Barrineau said Buffalo Grill owner Jeff Robinson also plans to open a salon and spa on the third floor of the Grier building.

In February, the City Council voted to allocate $530,000 in hospitality tax revenues to areas of concern at the 34-year-old arcades, including better lighting, pedestrian-friendly handrails and mechanical upgrades to its three elevators.

Lane said city leadership’s approach toward growing Uptown – from bringing in an urban farmers market to initiatives such as Bee City USA that requires ecologically sensitive planning – is directly tied to its continued growth.

“Our city leaders have done a phenomenal job over the last decade with coming up with some really progressive ideas,” she said.

Ongoing projects such as a major renovation at 206 Main St. – former location of Jay-Smith Clothing Co. – is bringing ground-level retail space and a business incubation center.

Gianpaolo “Geep” Bonaca, proprietor of The Mill House, is spending $700,000 on improvements to building at 233 Maxwell Ave., that will expand his business, add 25 employees and $500,000 in hospitality tax dollars to the city and allow the restaurant’s Good Times brewery to take on a statewide profile.

Uptown Greenwood is such a hot commodity that earlier this year, business owners in the Shoppes at Hampton Place plaza at 115 Hampton Ave., told their landlord they’d be willing to pay more taxes so they could join the district.

Last month, the City Council unanimously voted to annex the 6-acre shopping center into the district, expanding its borders for the first time since it was created in 1984. Spread across 13 city blocks, the district has a taxable base of $25 million.

A new social media and marketing campaign is under way as well.

Trio of economic wins being worked into Greenwood Partnership Alliance marketing material

James Bateman

James Bateman

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Three economic development wins that have come to fruition in the past year are being rolled into Greenwood Partnership Alliance marketing materials in a move officials hope will separate the county from its peers in attracting new investors.

On Wednesday, Greenwood Partnership Alliance Business Development Manager James Bateman said The Greenwood Promise campaign, adoption of a penny sales tax to pay for 27 capital improvement projects across the county and Teijin’s arrival are being viewed as catalysts for even more growth.

“Teijin’s consumption of utilities is now a factor in our response to these RFIs (requests for information), as is the capital project initiative and The Greenwood Promise and how it ties into other educational initiatives.” Bateman told the alliance’s board of directors. “We want them to hear that message.”

Bateman said the Alliance – which serves as the county’s economic development arm – has 53 total projects in the pipeline, up from 48 in September.

Bateman said several projects included in the capital projects sales tax portfolio – particularly construction of the Upstate Center for Manufacturing Excellence at Piedmont Technical College, the widening of Highway 246 and implementation of a fire services master plan – should have favorable, long-term benefits for the county’s economy.


“Whether it be the fire master plan to widening of 246 and improving that truck corridor for existing industries and prospective industries,” Bateman said. “On these prospect visits, (Greenwood Partnership Alliance CEO) Heather (Simmons Jones) or myself will be asked, ‘what’s the labor force like? That’s one of the first questions out of the gate.”

Jones said the alliance is also using its marketing resources to interface with site management firms and other entities that have direct contact with potential business leads.

“As much as we want to have that conversation with the companies and the prospects, it’s important to have that conversation with those that are meeting with those companies in that decision-making process,” she said.

Earlier this month, Teijin, a Japanese chemical technology company, announced it was making the largest single-day investment in the county’s history, spending $600 million to build a facility on more than 454 acres of land off Highway 246 that will create 220 jobs.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter@ABensonIJ.

Evacuees settle in at The Greenwood Building

Wednesday October 5, 2016

The Index Journal, Damian Dominguez


Swarming around a box of pizzas, a hungry group of international interns were settling in Wednesday night at The Greenwood Building after finishing an evacuation bus ride that lasted more than four hours.

“We had to leave everything behind — even our shoes, even my PS4,” Vhon San Miguel said with a chuckle. “But now I don’t care. My life is more important.”

Among those fleeing the coast as Hurricane Matthew approaches were interns who work for Greenwood Communities and Resorts at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resorts in Hilton Head. The parent company is housed in The Greenwood Building, and staff frantically worked to ensure the evacuating interns had a place to stay.

“They live on company property there, and all of their families are overseas,” said Lesley Lane, an executive assistant at Greenwood Communities and resorts. “Hopefully it’ll be more like a vacation than some sort of evacuation.”

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, they boarded buses provided and driven by volunteers from the Bradley-based company Wright Travel and drove for about 4 hours on country roads — avoiding the congestion on I-26. Aileen Acosta — from the Philippines — said she enjoyed seeing the farmlands and smaller cities they passed through. She, along with fellow Philippines-natives Audrey Tacaldo and San Miguel, were eating the pizza provided by staff at the temporary shelter.

Deborah Gould, corpor18446883-1ate director of human resources with Greenwood Communities and Resorts, gave the interns a rundown of the area — advising them that the nearby Mill House had plenty of beer if they wanted to grab a drink. She told them to stay within a few blocks for their safety, and let the group know they’d be driven around Greenwood in the coming days to get out of the shelter for a while.

Some in the group dined while others checked out their living quarters: rooms outfitted with donated air mattresses and bedding. Jovan Tanasijevic and the other four Serbian interns he was with Wednesday night had never had to evacuate an area before.

“It doesn’t seem real, you know,” he said. “We don’t have the feeling it’s going to hit us. Back home we don’t have any hurricanes.”

Contact Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.

Lander Journalism Professor Among Top 25 Named to National Communicators List

September 26, 2016

While delivering his State of the University address, Lander President Richard Cosentino said, “Our secret is our faculty, but they’re no longer a secret.”


Dr. Robert F. Stevenson, professor of journalism at Lander, has been recognized as one of the Top 25 Communications Professors You Should Know.

That sentiment is reflected by the news that Dr. Robert F. Stevenson, professor of journalism at Lander, has been named to the Top 25 Communications Professors You Should Know list.

The national listing is compiled by the editorial staff of the site, an online resource for communications students. Honorees were selected based upon their research, past and present teaching engagements, awards and published work.

Joining Stevenson on the list are Pulitzer Prize finalists, political advisors, social media experts, published authors, distinguished journalists and researchers.

“My teaching philosophy is learning-centered as opposed to teaching-centered,” said Stevenson. “I’m mindful of the fact that in today’s multicultural classroom, students possess vastly different experiences, values and attributes, which specifically affect their learning preferences, abilities and potential.”

Published Works at Lander
His published works have appeared in The New York Times, College Media Advisor Review, The South Carolina Historical Magazine, College Media Advisor Review and The Historian, among others.

Stevenson’s commitment to teaching is reflected by his being awarded three of Lander’s faculty awards; Faculty Scholar of the Year (2005), Distinguished Faculty of the Year (2007) and Monica Stranch Endowed Professorship (2008-2011).

Beyond the Classroom: Getting Students Involved
While serving as chair of Lander’s American Democracy Project (ADP), Stevenson urged all Lander students to become civically engaged in their communities and to make volunteering an integral part of their lives.

Because of his work with ADP, Lander was featured in the New York Times and recognized on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities website. Stevenson received an award for registering more students to vote than any of the other 77 participating colleges and universities.

Leading by example, Stevenson has organized a host of campus-wide events, including Lander’s tsunami relief effort (2005), a humanitarian campaign for providing supplies to victims of Hurricane Katrina, a mock presidential debate and Lander’s annual celebration of Constitution Day.

The Creation of Greenwood Calendar
In 2013, Stevenson created Greenwood Calendar, an online hub for upcoming Greenwood events, news and videos. He has produced a host of video productions for a variety of community offices for the site, including:

  • Mayor of Greenwood
  • City and County Managers
  • Sheriff’s Office
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Greenwood Humane Society
  • School District 50