Once upon a time, Clements Ferry Road was mainly frequented as a trucking route. After multiple phases of widening and lane additions that will eclipse $100 million, the 10-mile corridor is becoming a bustling strip for commerce and residential development.
With Phase 2 of expansion of the road underway, some businesses are experiencing growing pains with an influx in traffic and congestion to the area. But cars bumper to bumper, bottlenecked due to construction, is a silver lining for small business owners.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) reported an average of 14,200 vehicles travel Clements Ferry Road on a daily basis. SCDOT estimates by 2024, when Phase 2 is slated to be completed, there will be approximately 34,000 vehicles per day.
This boom in transportation infrastructure and population translates to more potential customers and perhaps even a new clientele that now live and work in the Cainhoy area.
In 2019, the City of Charleston issued 24 business licenses on Clements Ferry Road. In 2020, that number grew to 31. This year, in less than three months, there are 23 newly licensed businesses with the city and that list is likely to get longer if feedback from some of the latest newcomers is positive.
“There is no doubt that when all this housing happens you’re going to have a lot more demand for business services,” said Christopher Morgan, City of Charleston’s Planning and Sustainability manager and director. “… I don’t know if the critical mass is there right now but it will get there eventually.”
INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE PROVIDERS
Historically, Clements Ferry Road has attracted a variety of service providers and heavy to light industrial companies. There are plenty of heating and cooling providers, equipment providers, household services, medical offices and technology companies that are headquartered here, with numerous open office suites ready to house new tenants.
One such space is the Beresford Creek Executive Center at 2265 Clements Ferry Road, which is already home to insurance companies and other professional service companies. Made up of two main buildings, the center provides nearly 58,000 square feet of executive office space and expansive parking.
But the largest employers are the manufacturing and distribution companies, such as Gildan USA Inc. – an apparel manufacturer with a distribution center and regional headquarters located at 1980 Clements Ferry Road. Gildan has 1,500 total employees across all of its locations and generates $412.67 million in annual sales across its 260 companies globally. Producing socks, underwear, jackets, shirts and other knit clothing, Gildan sells its products in bulk to printers, brands or other companies wanting to embellish with its own designs for resale.
The Charleston Regional Business Center, located at 2200 Charleston Regional Parkway just off Clements Ferry Road, is home to expansive warehouses and distribution spaces, along with other industrial office space, and has been a local hub for companies such as Sam’s Club.
Atlantic Intermodal Services (AIS) in October 2020 moved its offices from a leased location at 2500 Clements Ferry Road to a free-standing facility the company purchased at 2516 Clements Ferry Road.
AIS provides drayage – the process of shipping large containers for a truck, ship or rail to fill the gap for intermodal shipping – for clients across the East Coast.
The company cited significant growth in business and its customer base as the reason for the investment and reported at the time a 35% growth in business in the Charleston market from January 2020 to October 2020.
Services in the healthcare field are increasing as well across the Clements Ferry corridor. One doctor who transplanted herself from Rhode Island a year and a half ago is helping with that shift in medical services.
Dr. Barbara Hess of Hess Performance and Family Chiropractic, located at 1937 Clements Ferry Road, decided to open up shop in May 2020. She still has belongings in bins ever since she made the move south.
Hess hails from Illinois, where she received her instruction from National University. She specializes in neurothermography scans, a new clinically useful method of detecting autonomic sympathetic peripheral nerve dysfunction.
After 25 years in the profession, Hess relocated to the Lowcountry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her grand opening was spoiled by the coronavirus and made it difficult for in-person exams.
At first, Hess wasn’t able to build that foundation with her clients, but she said she has begun to settle in and is getting her footing in a new environment. She has learned it’s important to be flexible enough to meet clients — many of whom are traveling from the opposite side of town — at odd hours in order to fit them into her schedule.
“I love it here. I love the people. People are much more health conscious here,” Hess said, and noted she expects the growth in residents to the area will only add to her clientele.
Over the past year, COVID-19 has been a cancer to all types of business, but especially the hospitality scene. The pandemic has made well-established restaurants rethink their approach, reinvent their brand and in some cases start over from scratch. Zavarella’s Pizza & The Veranda, 1937 Clements Ferry Road, Ste. B, is a chef’s kiss example of that.
Nick Mead, owner of Zavarella’s, needed space for outdoor dining due to capacity and social distancing restrictions spurred by the coronavirus. His idea transformed from a concession stand, to an outdoor bar and then he added a stage for live music. Since its inception in July 2020, it’s been dubbed The Veranda at Zavs.
“COVID really made a lot of people think outside the box in different avenues, ourselves included,” Mead said.
This outdoor hangout that sprang up overnight as a means to accommodate patrons in a safe fashion has turned into so much more. The Veranda is now a kid-friendly, dog-friendly event space that also hosts bridal showers and baby showers.
Mead admitted that business is at its best when construction is at its peak. On several occasions, Mead has handed out menus to stalled drivers passing by.
Another member of the food and beverage industry who is relatively new to the scene on Clements Ferry is Indigo Reef Brewing Company, 2079 Wambaw Creek Unit #1. It’s also home to the only in-house brewery in the Cainhoy area.
When couple Chris and Nicole Ranere moved to Charleston from Madison, Wisconsin, where they began home brewing, they found the perfect fit for the operation in June 2019.
The namesake combines Chris’ and Nicole’s love for Charleston, where indigo used to be a cash crop, scuba diving, and brewing. Their logo, a seahorse with the barley tail, is now becoming synonymous with their craft around town.
Chris Ranere, the head brewer, noted that the plans for Clements Ferry’s expansion seemed very appealing. The four lanes of traffic without a stop light outside the establishment makes it difficult for customers to access, but he said the volume of vehicles is good for business.
“I would honestly welcome another brewery as long as the beer is good,” Chris added.
The first thing that businesswoman Mary Watters noticed is a lack of gift shops along Clements Ferry Road before opening Beachables Coastal Collection at 1941 Clements Ferry Road.
Beachables prides itself on its unique signature product — a beach towel, tote bag and chair cover all in one.
Watters’ 13-year-old son Carson, a seventh-grader at Daniel Island School, plays an integral part of the business. He helps with sales, demonstrating inventory and sewing products.
“He’s also our key spokesmodel,” Watters added.
The store that opened in September 2019 amid Hurricane Dorian is experiencing low tide business wise. Watters admitted the traffic cones and barriers on the roadside aren’t helping.
Lately, foot traffic in Watters’ store has been “painfully slow” but she remains optimistic with the area’s expansion from all angles.
That outlook is shared with another semi-new retailer, The Island Pawplex, one of the newest pet boarding facilities on the Cainhoy peninsula, 1090 Jack Primus Road. The timing of their opening too was not ideal in the slightest.
Owners Mark McLean and his wife Melody moved to Charleston a year and a half ago to open this business. When they first arrived and saw water bowls outside of shops on King Street in downtown Charleston, they knew they could make it work and were undoubtedly in “dog city.”
After celebrating their grand opening in March 2020, just eight days later it was closed for COVID-19.
The biggest appeal to the husband and wife duo is the promising explosion of residential units. “The resident side of me sees adding thousands of houses as a new level of congestion, but the business owner side of me says it’s great because it’s thousands of new clients that we’ll see coming in,” McLean said.
Initially, COVID-19 stunted the business because people weren’t traveling, which meant their pets weren’t being boarded on a regular basis. In the last few months, business has picked up and McLean said he is excited for the future.
Although Clements Ferry is still in the early stages of growth and there are a lot of untapped areas for businesses to sprout up, city planner Morgan noted there are currently no discounts or deals with the city for entrepreneurs seeking licensure.
However, as it pertains to business incentives with Berkeley County, this only applies to manufacturers who are taxed at a much higher tax bracket than other business types. Incentive discussions do not apply to other types of businesses that are already taxed at 6%, according to Berkeley County Councilman Josh Whitley.
In the county’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Clements Ferry Road was described and designated as a “manufacturing corridor.” The county is in the process of updating its comprehensive plan.
Stay tuned to OneBerkeley2020.com for updates and information about how to get involved in this important initiative that will play a role in shaping the future of this burgeoning corridor.