The closing of a downtown Bishopville business makes room for others

After six years in downtown Bishopville, underwater logger Alec Blalock has closed the business. A new retail store is opening soon in its space.

BISHOPVILLE, SC — One business closing in downtown Bishopville doesn’t mean a vacancy for long. Swamp Log Artisan Gallery is a popular craft gallery on Main Street that was brought to town in an effort to revitalize the area. Although now closed, the space will soon be occupied.

“The danger is that many times it’s dark rather than cold,” Alex Blalock explained about underwater logging. “And it’s absolutely dirty work. But it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.”

Blalock and his team use scuba gear to search the wetlands in South Carolina’s riverbeds.

“We’re recovering logs that were lost 100 to 200 years ago, when old swamp loggers cut them from the original lowland forest,” Blalock explained.

For six years, she has been selling crafts made from that wood at Swamp Log in downtown Bishopville. It was part of an effort by the Greater Bishopville Committee to revitalize downtown Bishopville, so it bought two buildings, renovated them and leased them to Blalock for five years.

Now he has decided to close that store and focus on spending time with his family. But that doesn’t mean the buildings will be empty.

“Construction will continue and I think it will continue in a way that will help downtown Bishopville,” Blalock said.

Lee County resident and former Swamp Log employee Luke Giddings purchased the two spaces.

“We have so many buildings and homes in town,” Giddings said. “They just need a bit of work and I’m young and have a bit of energy so I figured I’d give it a shot.”

One building is now being leased to the church for office space and the other will be used for a new retail store coming up in the next few months.

Resident Debbie Kirvin comes downtown every day. She’s excited to know they won’t be empty

“I have kids and grandkids and I wish they had something or someplace they could come to other than a grocery store or a drugstore,” Kirvin told me. “We have so many vacant buildings in Lee County and in the city of Bishopville…and I would love to see more small mom and pop businesses.”

“We’re at a tipping point. I think we have two options for A or B, and I think A could be harmful,” Giddings added. “I think we could turn around and fall…but we’ve seen a comeback in the last four or five years that’s slowly ticking away. But I think we’re right at that tipping point where we can either continue with the old and continue to regress or we can start looking at fresh new ideas and move forward.”

While Giddings is focused on helping develop the core area, Blalock tells me he’s not giving up on logging.

“As long as I’m kicking, I’m going to kick in the water a little bit,” he smiled.

Blalock says that while the shop is closed, it will still offer custom-made work, including mantle pieces, tables and furniture

As for the future of Bishopville, Mayor Grady Brown says there are other exciting projects coming to town, including a pool. Funding for the project has been allocated, according to Grady, and a groundbreaking is scheduled for April.

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