Business owners focus on bringing more foot traffic to downtown Rock Hill

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Business owners flocked to downtown Rock Hill due to unprecedented growth and development in the area, but some said they are still struggling with a lack of foot traffic.

Channel 9′s South Carolina bureau reporter Tina Terry talked to business owners who are banding together and asking city leaders for help.

“When we first got here, there was, literally, nothing downtown,” said Joe Gulledge, owner of Hoppin’ RH. “There were several pushes -- it’s going to happen – it’s going to happen -- it’s kind of happening.”

Gulledge has seen growth in downtown Rock Hill over many years and has invested in the area.

He opened Hoppin’ RH, a self-serve taproom, in June 2023.

However, the small business venture has had its challenges.

“The foot traffic is not what we were expecting or hoping,” Gulledge said. “I think that’s a lot of inflationary issues. People lacking disposable income.”

Other businesses in the area have made similar complaints and have recently come together, forming a focus group to start a conversation and brainstorm solutions.

They have also asked for help from city officials to market and promote downtown.

“You know taxes, lease waits, social districts, how we plan events, and the different things we can do, wayfinding signage,” Gulledge said.

JP McFadden opened a men’s clothing store three years ago. He said business is good but linked up with the focus group to make things better.

“What’s parking like?” said McFadden, owner of McFadden’s. “Is it safe to walk? Is it clean? All these little things.”

Gulledge and McFadden hope that by working together they can unlock downtown’s full potential.

“Seeing there is a hunger for people wanting to increase, wanting a chance to succeed,” McFadden said. “There’s definitely opportunity here.”

“How does the city plug into that?” Gulledge said. “To promote what we believe is the very beginning of a very vibrant downtown.”

Officials with the city of Rock Hill said it is committed to supporting downtown businesses.

Leaders said plans are underway for a pedestrian bridge across Dave Lyle Boulevard to connect visitors at the Rock Hill Sports and Events Center to downtown businesses.

They said several new apartments have opened in downtown and more residential development is planned or in process.

The city of Rock Hill provided Channel 9 with the following information on downtown:

Rock Hill is committed to supporting downtown businesses and has a long history of bringing routine events and attractions to downtown to help draw customers to the downtown area, such as Food Truck Friday, the Founders Holiday Ice Rink, and the Old Town Farmers Market. The creation of Fountain Park was intended to provide open space in downtown for people to gather. Investments in murals, streetscape improvements and holiday decorations are examples of the city’s investment in the downtown area in order to make the Old Town experience more enjoyable to visitors.

The Only in Old Town social media accounts promote downtown events and businesses in downtown, while the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation’s social media accounts promote businesses in all areas of the city.

There’s a Visitors section on the City’s website with info about attractions and restaurants, which includes a drop-down to see what restaurants are within a one-mile radius of the Sports & Event Center.

Since the Knowledge Park redevelopment strategy began, the pledged investment is roughly $530 million in and near downtown. Over the past several years, we’ve seen a significant increase in residents downtown with the opening of many new apartments including 139 Main, The Anderson, and most recently The Exchange. More residential development is also planned or in process.

Plans are underway for a pedestrian bridge across Dave Lyle with the goal of making pedestrian access across Dave Lyle Blvd and the train tracks easier. The goal is connecting visitors at University Center and the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center to downtown businesses.

We’ve been fortunate to see many new businesses open downtown in the last few years. Here’s a list of some. We’ve also heard positive comments from Rock Hill Coffee and the Hickory Post about the level of foot traffic they’re seeing.

Recent Openings (or soon to open):

  • Rock Taco
  • Green Space Plant Company (opened this past weekend)
  • Elk Ave Tavern (coming soon)
  • Rock Hill Coffee
  • Gregory’s Formal Wear
  • Power House Food Hall
  • Everbowl
  • Dank Burrito
  • Draco-Dega

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