Improving the Poinsett Highway Corridor, also known as Poinsett Countyis a focal point for Greenville County following area revitalization initiatives started a decade ago.
Ten years and almost $4 million later, new and improved Greenville staples appear on the freeway in addition to successful existing businesses. This means new streetscape, sidewalks, lighting, paving, parking and marketing for the area.
Bob Mihalichcommunications and government affairs coordinator for Greenville County, said Poinsett County is an area that has received a lot of attention and resources from the county.
“We also have a facade improvement program to make the business signage and facade more attractive,” Mihalic said. “We have worked with the federal government to make the Poinsett District an Opportunity Zone and thus eligible for investmentmental stimuli. The goal was and remains to improve the location directly on the highway, but also to have a circular impact to reach the communities.”
Tommy’s Ham House has closed last year after nearly four decades as an iconic Greenville restaurant located off Poinsett Highway. Lewis Barbecue Greenville Owner and pitmaster John Lewis jumped at the opportunity to expand from Charleston and open a restaurant where Tommy’s once stood.
“It was a place where everybody knew everybody,” Lewis said. “It was a place where presidents and presidential candidates came to join the locals, a community gathering place. We hope to keep this tradition going with home cooked food and Texas style BBQ. There are many positive changes along the highway with more new businesses opening.”
Lewis Barbecue Greenville was officially opened on September 14, six years after opening their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Charleston. Despite being within the Greenville city limits, the restaurant signals the start of the corridor.
“Customers have told me they would make the trip from Greenville to Charleston just to eat here, and now we’re here for them and other residentsLewis said.
And there is a reason.
Lewis started the business by welding his own custom-designed smokers and waking up at dawn to tend the fire. Long lines are no stranger to Lewis Barbecue, which offers Texas-style smoked pork ribs, beef ribs, Texas hot intestine sausage, oxtail and Lewis’ signature beef brisket.
Raised in El Paso, Texas, Lewis moved to Austin at the age of 18 to begin his culinary career. Around that time, his parents gave him a New Braunfels smoker for his birthday, and he began tinkering with Austin’s long-standing backyard barbecue tradition, getting creative with both his smokers and his meat, giving himself free rein with the design and construction to try and yield a better result.
In March 2015, Lewis packed up his smokers and moved to Charleston to introduce the Lowcountry to his signature Texas BBQ. He opened the original Lewis BBQ in Charleston in June 2016 and has since been named one of the best barbecue spots in the country by Southern Living, Cond.it is Nast Traveler, Garden & Gun and more for chest,toned music and relaxed vibes.
“I don’t know of anyone else in Greenville that does it like we do, which is conducive to opening a restaurant here,” Lewis said. “It works, and that’s what people like.”
The initial of the county investment and continued support have helped bring about dramatic positive changes in the Poinsett neighborhood, Mihalic said. GreenCo Beverage Company moved its operations to the heart of the county, Spinx Co. made a big investment and Crescent Startup Community announced big plans, he addedas well as Greenville County Redevelopment Authority.
Owner of a recently added butcher’s marketBlock and Barley Market, David Carter also said he chose his location to open in April because he believes in the potential of the Poinsett neighborhood.
“We want to create the idea that the Poinsett Corridor is a destination,” he said.
Carter added that growth is slow but they have had a number of regular customers thanking him for seeing the area as a “worthy investment”.
“I think that’s what this area is missing,” Carter said. “There are a lot of generational businesses and I hope to see more growth and others will see it as a more investment-friendly area. We are delighted to have the support of the Greenville community.”
Travelers Taproom, which opened in April, has also become a Poinsett District staple after rebranding a previous bar that had plans to closee during the pandemic.
Jerry Davisco-owner of Travelers Taproom, said he and his business partner were regulars at Red’s Beer and Wine when they found out Red’s owners were closing last year.
“We didn’t want to see a neighborhood bar die and we wanted to keep that part of the community here, so we bought it and rebranded it,” he said.
Davis said the bar hasn’t had a road appeal before, so they aredecorated the exterior with a mural of Leonardo DiCaprio on the exterior wall and added an outdoor patio area. They also spent a large portion of their rebranding budget on art inside the bar and redesigning the entire feel of the interior to be more welcoming and comfortable for bar patrons and their families.
Davis and his partner see great potential for the Poinsett neighborhood, and they have it has already received positive feedback from customers about the changes they have made to the location.
“We wanted to do something different,” Davis said. “We have space for families and their dogs, kids can play games while parents hang out, dogs are allowed inside and we just want people to be able to relax and have a good time.” The main thing we try to convey to every person – regardless of their profession – is that this is a place forr each and every one.’
Mihalic said the county will continue to maintain the Poinsett neighborhood’s infrastructure and help partners whenever and wherever they can to ensure continued growth of the now-thriving commercial corridor that serves the surrounding communities in Greenville.
“And that’s key for us ‘communities,'” he added.
The county is too is working to expand the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail by connecting Poinsett District communities (via the Orange Line) to the trail. They have already secured an agreement with Norfolk Southern and are working with other parties to connect Poe Mill, New Washing Heights, North Main and Brutontown to the Green Line.
If you have a business story idea for Krys, contact her at [email protected].
Chris Merriman is a staff writer for SC Biz News.