Florence man fulfills dream of owning an affordable downtown grocery store

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:24 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - A dream over two decades in the making came true in the Pee Dee on Wednesday.

Tim Waters looked like he was conducting an orchestra as he managed his employees and waved to customers during the grand opening of Downtown Florence Save-A-Lot. His dream of opening an affordable grocery store in downtown Florence began in 1997.

He grew up just down the street from his new business, a part of the city known for its food insecurity.

“When we were coming up you could only go to the store and get cookies and candy, you couldn’t get apples, oranges, and pears. I mean no one even knew how to cook a butternut squash. They just thought you put it on the table at Thanksgiving,” Waters said.

Waters’ journey saw plenty of obstacles, including being denied a bank loan 38 times.

“Let’s put it this way, Wachovia turned me down so many times it turned into Wells Fargo and they turned me down,” Waters said.

Waters said he quit several times, but never stopped believing. Things finally began to change for the better after he paid a visit to the Francis Marion University business incubator.

He wasn’t even looking for help at the time, and yet he found it.

“I went to the Francis Marion incubator to find out why they were turning African American people down,” Waters said. “But when I got there a funny thing happened. All of the sudden, they were like ‘Tim, this is a good project. Let me help you.’ Then the city wrapped themselves in and embraced me.”

Waters said city leaders spent many long days and sleepless nights turning him into a business owner. He believes without the community’s support, his dream would’ve never become a reality.

“There’s some young African American kids that live on Carver Street. There’s some that live on Pratford Street. There’s some that live on Rhodes Street. There’s some that live out there on Wilson Heights. You can put anything you want to be if you put your mind to it,” Waters said.

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