Mon, May 20, 2024

Small businesses thriving in the CSRA

The struggle is real for small businesses, but many first-year additions to the CSRA are building a unique, successful footprint with bells and whistles, paint, prep meals, and sit-down dinners. ABD has interviewed many start-up businesses in the past year and 2024 looks to be a banner year for some of them.

We are spotlighting four small businesses, including their challenges and tips for success that have gotten them this far.

The Wildemount, located at 200 Park Avenue SW in Aiken, will celebrate its first anniversary on January 17.

“Learning while managing is the hardest. How to manage people better and balancing time spent on our business model to make it better,” explained owner, Samuel O’Lone.

His biggest key to success so far has been to create new dishes and add a unique themed wine dinner.

“For Thanksgiving, we served a Native American Heritage dinner that used ingredients served in dishes by the early settlers including rainbow trout, grilled venison, and seasonal succotash with a gooseberry tart for dessert. Our diners loved it and said they felt the warmth of the season when they walked in the door.”

The Wildemount has also added brunch on Saturday, from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, and takeout service. “It’s all about keeping people interested by providing an interesting dining experience.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Hughes is working hard to manage growth and quality of service for his Fresh Coat Painters of Augusta franchise. Since opening in May, he’s added two employees, an office manager and a project manager.

“The hope is I can give them some more responsibility and I can focus more on increasing sales, developing new customers, and follow up and follow through in a timely manner,” said Hughes.

The challenge in his small business is to stay ahead. One source of encouragement comes from other painters in the community who have not only welcomed him, but offered advice.

“I like how everything is going and will likely add more employees to continue our growth.”

Back in Aiken, the buzz you hear at 113 Laurens Street may be coming from Radioactive Pinball Arcade. Opening in late August, the business has already established a huge following.

Owned by Eric and Erin Edwards, the arcade is growing faster than the ball hit from a flipper can travel.

“In the past few months, we’ve had pinball lovers travel from Charlotte, Hilton Head, and Columbia to play here. Interest and support have exceeded our expectations,” according to Erin.

One of their recent customers was visiting to play golf, but ended up playing pinball games all day. “It’s really about making people happy and escaping to a younger time.”

Even after only four months, Radioactive Pinball Arcade is looking to expand, possibly next door to what is now 8 Count Dance Studio. “They may move to an upstairs location in the building which would give us another 1,200 square feet of space.”

A small business that offers prepped meals, a growing trend, is also off to a strong start. West Avenue Market opened at 512 West Avenue in North Augusta at the end of October.

Baylee Pruitt, the niece of owners, Michael and Kathy Webb, manages the market and says the first two months of business were great. They already have some regular customers, and the market is also still being discovered.

“Our biggest challenge is estimating the quantity to keep in stock and learning what customers favorites might be,” Pruitt said.

West Avenue Market works with several local vendors to supply an array of soups, salads, casseroles, and other freshly prepared meals.

“Social media has provided some good engagement for us and we think word of mouth is helping potential customers discover who and where we are.”

Small business is said to be the driving force of the economy. The CSRA has several that are rockin’ down the 2024 highway by creating new jobs, increased competition among businesses, and are a force behind innovation and efficiency.

Editor’s Note:
Mitzi Oxford is a veteran broadcaster and features writer who also worked at the same television station in Columbus, Georgia as Augusta’s Brad Means! If you have a South Carolina story idea for Mitzi, please email her at

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