Original Nye's Pharmacy sparks Conway controversy

Original Nye's Pharmacy sparks Conway controversy

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - People are fighting for the return of an iconic sign that stood tall on 10th Avenue in Conway for more than fifty years.  The historic Nye's Pharmacy sign was removed in January 2016 by a local non-profit organization to be refurbished.  However, the quick renovation job has turned in to a messy controversy for some in Conway, with the original sign likely not ever returning.  Instead, a replica is expected to take its place.

Since January 2016, the drive in and out of Conway hasn't been the same because of the sign's absence.  So the question is, what happened to the original sign and why can't it return to it's perch on top of Nye's Pharmacy? It's a question those involved with the sign's removal and renovation are hesitant to answer.

The Conway Cultural Development Corporation, a non-profit organization, raised money to repair the sign, and a permit to do so was first received from the city at the end of 2015, according to city planning director Adam Emrick.  The CCDC took the sign off of Nye's Pharmacy in January 2016.  The corporation's director, Dennis Stevens, said more repairs were needed than originally thought, so renovations were drawn out.  Then, as things were coming along, Stevens claimed the sign was left outside during Hurricane Matthew at the store it was being repaired at, and suffered minor damage during the hurricane.

While the original restored sign was ready to be installed, the problem came from the repairs done to the pharmacy's roof after Hurricane Matthew, Stevens said. The steel support stanchions were replaced with newly-fabricated aluminum ones, requiring the fabrication of a new sign.

Stevens said the CCDC decided to make a replica sign.  Controversy continues because replacing a historic, grandfathered rooftop sign with a brand new replica sign is illegal in Conway.

Conway planning director Adam Emrick explained why.  "We don't allow rooftop signage in the city of Conway...and actually, we're not alone in that...rooftop signage has a bunch of problems, it's sometimes unsightly...Nye's is the exception.  Because it had one historically ..the building was kind of built for that sign.  It's kind of a shame that we have to treat everyone the same...in this regard only," Emrick said.

The original permit Conway granted to remove, fix and return the sign is good for the original sign only.  Emrick said he'd love to see the original sign returned to Nye's Pharmacy, but he must treat every request the same when it comes to new rooftop signage.

Thursday night,  Nye's Pharmacy owners Matt and Tiffany Combs, as well as CCDC representatives, will appear before the city's zoning board of appeals to request a variance in order to put the replica sign on top of Nye's.  To be granted a variance, Emrick said several factors come in to play and must be proved.  One of those, legal hardship, he said.

Nye's Pharmacy owners Matt and Tiffany Combs told WMBF News the city has been their ally in getting a sign back on top of Nye's.  Although they want the original sign to return, they've accepted a replica may have to do.  Nye's Pharmacy patrons agree.

"It's part of Conway.  I mean that's part of the history of Conway...that sign.  It's always been there," patron Jimmy Shelley told WMBF News.  He and a group of three other men have been meeting at Nye's for breakfast every day for about three years, they said.  As lifetime Conwayites, they said their tradition hasn't been the same without the pharmacy's famous icon.

The meeting is Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.  It's open to the public.

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