Yes, it appears that we are in the process of witnessing the creation of a Downtown Florence “restaurant row” that will change many individuals’ perceptions of what is possible for the oft-maligned district of our fair city. Take a look at the photo below and think about it.
Not impressed? Then listen to my recent interview with with Ray Reich, downtown development manager with the Florence Downtown Development Corporation. He and I chatted for a recent episode of the Pee Dee Food Show. Still not impressed? Wow, you’re a tough sell aren’t you? OK, then allow me to make the case a bit further here and now.
Soon, Da Massimo, an authentic Italian eatery will open in the former Alchemy location. While this location has had its challenges in the past, the food that Da Massimo is expected to deliver has a built-in fan base. If you’re a Pee Dee foodie, then you already know why. Since Alchemy did not have a full kitchen – it was a tapas bar and night spot as you recall – one had to be built and that’s a big investment. I expect that Max and his team at Da Massimo plan to be there for some time.
Now, add to that knowledge the Clay Pot Coffee Shop‘s recent opening on Saturday, June 9th just down the block. It’s focus is local, free trade, organic, and delicious with a generous side of artistry for good measure. The Clay Pot also represents a sizable investment, including the purchase of the building it occupies. As best I can tell, it’s a labor of love for owner Peggy Brown and her husband, Frank. Such labors are not undertaken lightly.
Finally, next door to Clay Pot is Thai House 2. If you know Florence, you probably know Thai House 2. It’s authentic, well-loved, priced-right, and it’s been staple of downtown for many years. If you haven’t tried Thai House 2, you should. It’s difficult for me to judge which is better Ann’s Taste of Thai on Cashua Drive or Thai house, so I just visit both.
But wait, “three restaurants don’t make a row” you say? You must not have listened to that podcast episode I mentioned earlier. Now might be a good time to do so and then share it with your friends.
We have it on good authority that two, yes that’s “t-w-o”, more restaurants are in the works for that same area of downtown, along with plans for an adjacent expanded outdoor space that sounds as though it will be perfectly designed to invite al fresco dining, informal socializing, and scheduled events. I can hear it now. “Let’s meet down at Restaurant Row after work.” Can’t you hear it too?
For readers who know me, you know that my office is downtown. Because of that, and as a foodie, of course I’m excited about these developments. But you should be as well.
For a once vibrant locale which was literally the center city life, this area has suffered over the last few decades from neglect, derision, and downright ill will in some cases. I now can see that changing, in part, thanks to the efforts of some hearty and committed restauranteurs. In part, also, thanks to the vision of community leaders who know that this asset of our city has been underutilized and overlooked for far too long. More power to them. We’ll do our best to continue to share their stories here on PeeDeeFoodie.com and on the Pee Dee Food Show. Stories like these are why we’re here online and why we are thankful that you are as well.
A Downtown Florence Restaurant Row that draws in patrons from around the Pee Dee? Yep, and dare I say that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
You know what I think. Now, tell me what you think. Comments and corrections are always welcome.
About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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I can't wait to get back and try the Clay Pot I didn't know when they would open. Thanks for keeping me up to date even when i'm out of town.
@AnnKlein Happy to do so! We'll need to meet for lunch when you're volunteering at the Art Trail Gallery.