Sumter Chamber of Commerce names People of the Year at annual gala

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 4/15/18

Just yards from construction cones on an old Main Street that is getting a facelift, Sumter's business leaders, community members, educators and industrial top dogs gathered to celebrate their year that was.Sumter has come a long way in the last 10, …

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Sumter Chamber of Commerce names People of the Year at annual gala

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Just yards from construction cones on an old Main Street that is getting a facelift, Sumter's business leaders, community members, educators and industrial top dogs gathered to celebrate their year that was.

Sumter has come a long way in the last 10, three and even one year in its revitalization of downtown, and Thursday's Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce gala, marking the 105th year of the group's annual meeting, was just the most recent cherry to top a sweet year of ribbon cuttings, construction milestones and looks toward the future.

"Sumter's downtown is going to get bigger," said Donny Hines, chairman of the Chamber. "Once this hotel is opened, you're going to see a lot of good things coming, even more so than what you see today."

A new Hyatt Place Hotel is set to open in the coming weeks across the street from La Piazza, downtown's most recent restaurant opening that played host to the gala in its open-air, event-friendly venue.

The street that connects the two, North Main, is getting its road replaced.

Changes apparent to anyone who has either lived in Sumter his or her whole life or who has visited only once before are owed to a host of people, but one in particular was honored with the Chamber's most prestigious award, the Phillip L. Edwards Business Person of the Year.

"She has been so integral to the revitalization of Main Street, starting back in, about 10 years ago," said Nicole Bailey, vice president of operations for the Chamber, of Danielle Thompson.

Thompson, whose opening of Hampton's fine dining restaurant spurred the continued growth seen today, also owns Sidebar. Hampton's opened in its new location less than a month ago next to La Piazza, which Thompson also claims.

Chris Hardy, president and CEO of the Chamber, said Thompson's award and others announced on Thursday, including minority or woman-owned business of the year, nonprofit of the year, young professional of the year, military citizen of the year and educators of the year, were chosen after a public nomination period and review committee made up of previous winners.

"Danielle was by far the winner. You look at downtown, what it has been, what it is now, what it's going to be, a lot of it is owed to her and her family and her work ethic and her vision for what downtown Sumter can be," Hardy said.

He said while the last three years have been especially noticeable in the shift downtown, the future looks even brighter.

"Main Street looks so different. There's more businesses here. There's more people walking the streets. More energy. And that's what you want to see in a downtown," he said. "Yes, we still have a lot of work to do, but where we have come in three years is absolutely nothing short of amazing. And where we're going to be in 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, people are going to be looking at Sumter and saying, 'Man, I wish I was there.' Or, 'Man, that's where I'm going to be.'"