Small business owner says Columbia County getting too big

By: Lynnsey Gardner
By: Lynnsey Gardner

September 23, 2006

Both businesses and people continue flocking to Columbia County. Just last year, a new Target, Kohl's, and even a Chick-fil-A opened there.

But are these bigger businesses hurting the smaller ones?

One Augusta restaurant has decided not to follow the crowd.

The 2005 census shows Richmond County's population went down two percent in five years, while Columbia County's had grown 16 percent.

While many local restaurants have capitalized on the growth, one landmark eatery, the Boll Weevil Cafe, has changed its mind.

Construction lines streets filled with traffic as business after business moves to Columbia County...but the Boll Weevil is no longer jumping on the bandwagon.

"When I first bought the land, Columbia County looked like it was going to shape up into a nice new little small town," owner George Harrison told News 12.

But the county is no longer a sleeping giant.

"The nature of Evans has changed so rapidly, and I just felt like we didn't fit," Harrison said.

George Harrison bought property in Evans, planning to clear it off and build the next Boll Weevil. But now instead of a restaurant, all the land will see is a For Sale sign.

Beside it, big box stores and chain restaurants have been built...exactly what Harrison didn't want.

"Big box stores are problematic for small businesses, because it's hard to get noticed," he said. "We would have had to do a bigger operation and lose some intimacy."

Christine Sweeney and her husband Chad know all about the restaurant's intimacy.

"The Boll Weevil will always hold a special place in my heart, because it's where my husband and I met ten and a half years ago," she said.

The family lives in Evans...and Christine says she's okay with coming to the restaurant if it won't come to her.

"I don't mind as long as this place stays."

Scott Hooker and his family drove a little farther. They were in town from Virginia, and he hadn't eaten at his favorite spot in eight long years.

"I think it's a good thing they didn't move," Hooker said. "It's unique to downtown Augusta, something you can't go anywhere else to find."

And Harrison says he's glad to be a part of downtown augusta's future.

"We are poised at the point of breaking through," he said. "We've got the opportunity now to make downtown very unique."

Harrison says even though he decided against the Columbia County location, he is not against growing the Boll Weevil altogether. He says he may look into smaller communities with charm such as North Augusta or Aiken.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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