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Florence man's dream to open grocery store coming true

Florence businessman to build grocery store. (Tonya Brown/WPDE)

Tim Waters had a dream 18 years ago to build a grocery store in North Florence where he lived and grew up.

Waters said residents in North, Northeast, and West Florence communities didn’t have access to fresh, healthy foods.

The communities are in what’s considered a "food desert." This term is used to describe an area where people have difficulty or a complete inability to get healthy and fresh foods.

"Do you know some children in this neighborhood don't know what butternut squash is. Don't know what cauliflower looks like. Don't know how it tastes,” Waters said.

Waters said he was met with all sorts of problems along the way in trying to open a grocery store.

“24 banks turned me down. Business partners sued me. I mean all kinds of things went on. I just refused to give up. I refused to believe that my neighborhood can have something nice,” explained Waters.

He said he went to the City of Florence and Francis Marion University’s Innovation Center in Downtown Florence.

Waters said he learned how to develop a business plan and get financial backing for his lifelong dream.

He also attended a South Carolina Community Loan Fund workshop for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to increase healthy food access in their communities.

"You've got to swallow your pride now. Florence don't realize what that center can do. If you want a business, I mean look at me. I had credit issues. I had character issues. You name it, I had issues. If you work your plan, and plan your work, you'll be like me. You've got to surround yourself with people. Once people believe in you. I didn't let the lack of money. I didn't let the lack of experience. I didn't let anyone stop me. I got my tail in that innovation center and I went to class after class after class. And I taught myself how to be a better businessman. How to be a better business person," he explained.

Waters was able to secure $3.6 million dollars in grants to open Save-A-Lot grocery store through his company Elijah Craig, LLC. He got a $300,000 incentive package from the City Of Florence.

"All you have to do is believe. And you have to believe. 18 years that's a long time. In the scheme of the things, the Lord had to get me ready. I had to get ready. And now, I'll employ about 40 people,” said Waters.

He said the store will be built at the corner of Dargan and West Darlington Streets in Florence. Two properties will be demolished to make room for the store.

Construction starts in two weeks and the grocery store is expected to open in the Spring of 2018.

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