CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) — Roughly two years post-COVID's entrance into our lives, it's a much different sentiment around downtown Conway these days.
Gone are the days of being conservative and holding off for some businesses. Already, several projects are in the works to expand the restaurant atmosphere for visitors and locals.
READ MORE: Conway stores face yet another hit to business as some reopen amidst the pandemic
In the next year, we anticipate five to six new restaurants downtown. And that really is just a testament to the overall growth that we are experiencing in Conway right now," said economic development director Devin Parks with the Conway Chamber of Commerce.
In 2021, several businesses put roots down in Conway from Myrtle Beach Games to Carolina Cheese and Provisions. Already in the new year, the old Salvation Army retail store on 3rd and Laurel Street is set to become the town's newest sandwich shop and bar.
READ MORE: Salvation Army store moves to new downtown Conway location
It was a no-brainer. When the opportunity came and we saw the building, we said this is it," said Chris Evans, who also co-owns The Grumpy Monk and The Sneaky Beagle.
Evans says the new location will be called Hop n' Which.
The idea will be to provide a twist from what patrons enjoy at their Carolina Forest locations.
"A big bar, a lot of beer, what we are going to focus on this way is a strong happy hour," Evans said. "Where Sneaky is primarily tacos, Monk is a little bit of everything, this one is going to focus heavy on quality sandwiches."
Evans says they also plan to turn the space into a live music setting for patrons as well. The building does house a commercial kitchen, but it will most likely see renovations throughout according to Evans.
READ MORE: Historic Peanut Warehouse in Conway to get renovations
"There's a balcony that wraps around the interior of the building and it's going to play up and over everybody as opposed to playing at people, which we thought would be pretty cool," Evans said.
Just up the street from him is another Chris making things happen. Chris Snyder and the crew at Crooked Oak Tavern plan to add to their space 5 fold after the acquisition and now undergoing renovation of the Abrams Building.
“Over time we just outgrew the spot we’re in and we started looking around for spaces, and Abrams just kind of fell in our lap," Snyder said.
What began as a family business for him has continued to grow and grow into one of the downtown staples for many locals. This week, he plans to have another hearing with the Community Appearance Board to make sure the outside work they want to do on the buildings will get the blessing of city leaders looking to still preserve the older façade.
"I think it's great that the hub of Horry County is starting to revitalize itself," Snyder said. "It's exciting again to help our community and take over an old building in downtown Conway. We get phone calls almost daily for banquet space and meeting space and that’s something that we’re going to add to downtown Conway.”
The revitalization also trickles down to the river as well. That's Tripp Nealy with Rivertown Ventures is hard at work with his team demolishing and recycling much of the old Cox Warehouse next to Bonfire Taqueria.
“We’re going to try and replicate this old building on the inside of a new structure," Nealy said. “I want to save every piece of wood that is in this building.”
Nealy like the others hopes to have work done and the space ready before the end of the year. He hopes to lease it out to a restaurant, but the blueprints will be tricky. He has to move the building off of the banks to appease city planners since it's a planned-use district and the city will provide parking for the business.
He said when it's all said and done, patrons will be able to enjoy an elevated view of the Waccamaw River.
Whether it's the nature or the growing artwork, the attractiveness of Conway is leading many to invest in the Rivertown.
“Downtown is almost at full capacity, I have a waiting list of businesses looking to come downtown," Parks said.
Parks attributes a lot of this to the town's resilience and that this is just another chapter in the book of Conway overcoming adversity and bouncing back.
The town has gone through multiple natural disasters, man-made headaches like the Main Street Bridge closure, and most recently the pandemic. Evans and his partner are a classic example of that, businesses treading the water lightly at first, but now seizing opportunity and Conway appears to have a bullseye on the downtown area.
"Everything just stopped so two years we really haven't done anything other than try to make our way through the uncertain times and now that things are lightening up a little bit and we can, it's fun and it's exciting. We are ready to get out there and keep growing," Evans said.
Snyder hopes to have the space ready to host the business's birthday in July. Evans said he plans to have the space ready by Summer or Fall and Nealy expects the construction to be done before the end of the year.