Conway SC - Rumors, Ramblings, and Generally Untrustworthy Information Regarding Downtown

Conway Main Street USA News. The departure of Gail Alexander (Director) last week marks an important crossroads for the beloved program.  Let's look at some options, possible scenarios, and just ponder a few interesting angles.

Why did they let her go? The headline in the Horry Independent and CMSUSA board members are citing financial issues. Come on now, we're all adults here.  Saying that they let Gail go for financial reasons is like saying that you fired your Head Football Coach because there was not enough fans in the stadium.  I'm familiar with quite a few local nonprofits, all are facing extreme budget cuts, and none of them have released their director.  Support staff, program services, and general overhead are always the first to go.  Cancel the cell phones, find cheaper office space, let the paid assistant go; that's how you address a budget cut if you really want to keep your director.   They're just being nice, albeit, at the expense of reality.

The article references her as a "fantastic fundraiser."  Does anyone else see the irony in citing "financial difficulties" for why they are releasing a director who is a "fantastic fundraiser?"  Not to mention, one who was otherwise doing a "fine job".  For the record, a fantastic fundraiser will raise 10x their salary and a good fundraiser will at least raise enough to keep the program functioning in hard times.  Neither was the situation at CMSUSA.

Southern Drama Decoder: After two losing seasons, the CMSUSA booster club(membership) was getting upset and many had quit writing checks.  Game attendance and merchandise sales were drying up(customers/tenants).  With high profile players(see previous articles) getting in trouble, and bringing bad publicity to the program, team discipline was definitely lacking.  Recruiting was weak; with good local talent (too numerous to list) being completely ignored. Star players were disrespected and many switched teams or just quit. The athletic director (board) had no other option.

So now what? There is no official decision as of yet, but in the meantime Hillary Howard (Asst. Director) will be running the show.

My Take:  The CMSUSA Board doesn't exactly have a good track record of interviewing for good Directors.  They should give Hillary a shot at running the show for a while.  I'm not saying she's a guaranteed success, but she does have enough positive qualities to make her an exciting option.

1. She has no known enemies in Conway, SC.  Now that is quite an achievement, especially for someone who has been as close to the calamity as she has been.  She's just a very likable person, who avoids the gossip and immature alliances that have plagued the program recently.

2. She has a legitimate passion for Conway, SC.  She lives in town and her young kids attend school here.  She also has a short but strong volunteer record.

3. She has already begun the single most important step for a new director, reconciling broken relationships with downtown merchants.  Easy enough to say; but it takes courage, thick skin, and a legitimate desire for the CMSUSA Mission to actually try it.

4. She has been doing the directors job for the past year already.  Our previous director was so preoccupied with fundraising that she spent the majority of her time doing it.  If membership is up, and the City is happy, and you don't pay for an assistant; then the fundraising requirements are seriously minimized.  Talented board members should be able to generate some fundraising without too much help from the director.  If not, make some serious board changes.

5. She understands the value of the arts in the success of a downtown. It's a rare trait, but she has it.

6. She thinks outside the box.  She has an exciting element of creativity that could generate a little buzz in the historic district.

7. She is part owner of the coolest Jeep Wagoneer in Horry Co.  Okay, that has nothing to do with the job (but it is cool).


1. Missing Tech Talent - That last shopping and dining guide was a complete disaster.  Anyone who had a hand in that should not be allowed to touch another design job.  If it was an assignment for a 9th grade business class if would be a D+ at best. Truly a shame and waste of money.  Find talent, there's plenty of it out there for cheap or free.  The website is a wasted resource as well.  However the Christmas posters and  the I am Conway posters had good design elements, so there is hope.

2.  Meddling Board - I was told by a board member regarding Gail, "She's doesn't make the decisions, the board makes the decisions."  That is not good.  Legally and technically true, but a poor way to run an organization.  They need to appoint a strong director and let her/him run the show.  Support and guidance are key. The board should do a little research as to their role in this nonprofit organization.  A great resource is the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp Podcasts.  Look for titles relating to boards, and give them a listen.  Also, read the MSUSA Board Members Handbook.  If you don't like what you read...resign.

Final Note:

Give Hillary a raise and a chance to show her skills.  I've heard a few folks use the term chaos to describe the past few months downtown.  Rest easy, there is no chaos, but an irresistible plan by a few to right things in our wonderful little city.  About a year ago a quote was placed on this and another Conway website.   It was somewhat prophetic and worthy of consideration again.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Business - It's been like a roller coaster downtown.  The Bodega had it's best week of the year and it's worst in the same month.  June and July have been up and down for others as well.  Reading Forgotten Times facebook and Twitter posts tell us that Laurel Ave has been either full ON or full OFF as well.

The Thursday Night Crawl has turned out to be a pretty good promotion.  Not amazing, but merchants are happy with the results so far.  It is designed to be a tourism promotion, but the turnout is from locals.  I'm also hearing that there may be some "sale shift" involved.  It appears that while Thursday night sales are up, Thursday and Friday daytime sales are a little down.  It's speculation at this point, but it is part of the discussion.  The consensus is still for a Saturday promotion. Generally, the merchants appreciate the City's efforts.

Sidewalk Sale Saturday was a hit.  We should plan them quarterly.  I believe this was a Sassy Girl/CMSUSA plan, correct me if I'm wrong.  Good Job!  Good idea, Vicki and Hillary, inviting non-members.  That strategy will go a long way in making downtown more successful.  Farmers Market, Yard Sale, and Sidewalk Sale had the traffic backed up coming in to downtown conway Saturday afternoon.

The Music Spot is now open for all your music making needs.  Owners, Gary and Debbie Long are fantastically nice folks and we are lucky to have them downtown.  So you're probably saying "that's great, but I don't play music."  Well, let me offer you an idea.  I don't play either and I regret it.  Luckily my kids don't have to suffer the same fate.  If you are a parent, your child can learn a musical instrument while you shop or work downtown.  Seriously, tap dancing is cute, but what are they more likely to still be doing at 25, 45, or 75 years old.  For $20 per lesson you can teach your kid something that can benefit them for life.  Oh, so now your saying, "that's great but I don't have young children."  That's cool too.  I have this idea.  What if we sponsor a child that would never have such an opportunity?  Just kick in $10, $20, $50; whatever you can.  Contact me if you're interested.  There's no shortage of kids in need, just a shortage of people who care enough to do something about it.

Fat Fancy just opened too!  Yeah, a new artist!  Keep'em coming.  On Main Street next to People's Underwriters, this is one cool little shop.  My 10 year old daughter loves it.  Funny, because she loves Sassy Girl too and they could not be more different from one another.  What is it?  Not sure.  Their slogan is "funky art and talking salvage" and I'd say that is pretty accurate.  If I remember correctly, the owner is a theatre teacher at CCU.  Stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood.  If you see the shoes with the eye balls painted on them, keep away, my daughter has dibs on them. 

The shop on the corner of 4th and Elm is near opening.  I can't tell you too much about it.  I was in a hurry when I stopped by and the owner thought I was trying to sell him something.  Oh well, I'll try again soon.  I'll just say one word for now, VARIETY.

If I missed anything, feel free to add it in the comments section below.

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