2017-05-03 / Front Page

Main Street Challenge winners could help breathe new life into downtown

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By ABBIE SOSSAMON
Lifestyles and Features Editor

Downtown Gaffney will soon become a lot sweeter.

The three winners of the city’s first Main Street Challenge were announced Tuesday night during a reveal party at the Gaffney Visitors Center and Art Gallery.

Sweet Life Creamery (fresh made frozen custards), Boston Annie’s (sandwiches, subs, soups and sweets), and D.C. Style Seafood Restaurant and Sweet Shoppe were chosen as the winners by a panel of judges made up of seven local business leaders.

Each winner will receive approximately $14,000 in startup costs, rent subsidy and in-kind services, including advertising, website design and payroll. All three businesses must open in a downtown location by Oct. 1.

Mark Chandler, Main Street Advisory Board chairman, introduced each winner, who then delivered a short pitch about his or her business. Following the pitches, attendees were able to sample products from each winner and vote for their favorite. Sweet Life Creamery received the most votes and was given the People’s Choice Award.

Mandy Gates had a dream to open a frozen custard parlor 20 years ago, but the dream didn’t become a reality until about two years ago when she began making the premium ice cream product and selling it from home.

“Sweet Life Creamery would have eventually opened (in a storefront), but the Main Street Challenge gave it the jump-start it needed,” said Gates. “The challenge was what pushed it to happen now.”

Frozen custard is similar to ice cream but contains eggs, which gives it a richer flavor, as well as a smoother and creamier texture, Gates explained.

In addition to the freshly made frozen custard, she plans to offer milkshakes, floats, banana splits and sundaes. She hopes to host occasional live music events, and wants her shop to become a place where students can host study groups.

“We (Sweet Life) want to be a part of the whole revitalization of the downtown area, and will do what we can to bring fun, safe and clean activity to the area,” she said.

Describing herself and her husband as “serious foodies” Boston native AnnMarie Yelton decided to enter the Main Street Challenge after her friend sent a link and encouraged her to apply. Ann- Marie wanted to create a place that sold coffee, local artisan products and served artisan beer and wine, while her husband, Stuart, had been playing around with the idea of opening a sub shop.

“We decided to combine our two ideas to create a fun, interesting spot,” said AnnMarie. “All we needed were the startup funds. The Main Street Challenge was the answer to our prayers.”

Boston Annie’s will serve subs, finger foods, salads and desserts in a comfortable and inviting setting. AnnMarie plans to host paint, trivia and open mic nights at Boston Annie’s and noted acoustic guitars are welcome to perform in the early evenings. She hopes to attract not only Limestone students and local residents but artists and local artisans as well.

“Boston Annie’s walls will be covered by the work of local ‘starving’ artists and there will be shelves holding jams, jellies and honeys, made by local artisans” she said, “all for sale to the public and rotated often to create and hold interest.”

Veressa “Ree” Monserrate has been catering for friends and family throughout the Upstate area for several years, but always dreamed she would be able to offer her cooking in a restaurant setting.

“The vision for my business was in place,” said Monserrate. “The Main Street Challenge allowed me to step out on faith and apply the work needed to make my dream come true.”

D.C. Style Seafood Restaurant and Sweet Shoppe will have more of a sit-down restaurant feel, with separate sections for the sweet shoppe, a bar and the restaurant. D.C. Style’s menu features a broad range of food from burgers to seafood, but the signature item will be all-you-can-eat Maryland style blue crabs.

“The blue crabs will provide all of Gaffney with a product that is not available in the Upstate or Charlotte area,” said Monserrate. “I believe individuals from all over the Upstate will visit the restaurant for the signature products, and while visiting, will take advantage of other downtown Gaffney businesses.”

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