CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Business leaders in downtown Conway say they are working to bridge the gap between Conway and Coastal Carolina University. While the two locations are only a few miles away from each other some students say they can feel like a world apart.
"I don't think a lot of people go there," Melanie Woods said. "Maybe once in a while they'll go to the Walmart in Conway maybe."
Woods and her roommate Kristin Aldridge love the small town, but like many CCU students, it took a few semesters before they even stepped foot downtown.
"All they ever hear about is the beach and Broadway and Market Common and the mall and stuff," Aldridge said. "So I'm not surprised that the students don't go there a lot."
Bridgette Johnson with the Conway Chamber of Commerce can understand.
"I think there is the attraction of Myrtle Beach," Johnson said. "There's so many things to do in Myrtle Beach, but the Conway appeal is a small town feel. It is a new hometown for our Coastal students."
She says the Chamber is working with other town business leaders to change students' perceptions and bring them into the downtown area.
"Conway is just ready," Johnson said. "We're not a sleepy town. There are great ideas out there. It's just getting everybody on the same page and working together."
Johnson says they are working to start up a weekly college night downtown during the summer that will be marketed especially for Coastal University and Horry Georgetown Technical students.
In storefronts along downtown there are signs of CCU popping up and a new Coastal-focused Restaurant and Bar, the Crafty Rooster, now sits off of Third Avenue.
One of the restaurant's managers, Brian Colosia, who is a recent graduate of Coastal himself, says as an undergraduate he rarely visited the downtown Conway area.
"I think that a lot of the students don't know about some of the restaurants that are down here and some of the activities like the theater up the street," Colosia said.
The Conway Chamber says they are partnering with some of those businesses to roll out the welcome mat.
"The majority of these students are away from home," Johnson said. "And they need someone to wrap their arms around them and we certainly are a very family-oriented city here in Conway, and we're very excited about being those that just wrap our arms around them."
Melanie Woods says she has yet to feel that all-embracing hometown welcome.
"It's good that they're trying to do it," Woods said. "I don't feel like it's that way now, but it would be great if it was."
At the Crafty Rooster, Colosia says like with any other relationship, it will take time to build bonds.
"It's kind of like when you get embraced by someone else's family, it takes a while for them to know you and bring you in," he explained.
Colosia says it likely will not take much, just a trip or two to experience the small town charm and they will be well on their way to bridging the gap between Conway and Coastal Carolina University.