THOMSON - City officials will get their wish when a new business, Huddle House, enters the downtown area later next month.
One of the restaurant's goals is to balance the amount of frequented businesses between the south side of Thomson, which includes the downtown area, with the north side, which is close to Interstate 20 and Wal-Mart.
As construction on the restaurant nears completion, business owners and city officials agree that the south side of Thomson is just as important to local residents as the areas near Wal-Mart and I-20.
"With the exception of the fact that the north side has the transportation facilities that lead to the interstate I would think the south side has probably as much potential as the north side," said Planning Board Director Fred Guerrant.
Guerrant went a step further to explain some perceived differences between south- and north-side businesses.
A new Huddle House restaurant will soon open near downtown Thomson, bucking the trend of new businesses opening only near Interstate 20.
Photo by Elwood Hamilton
"I'm not so sure it isn't just a matter of perception," he said. "I'm not really sure there's anything hindering it (the south side). It's just perception that the southern part may be perceived as a residential area as some locals supporting the retail establishments. I think people perceive the northern is almost exclusively commercial."
For Thomson to continue developing economically, it's going to need to grow in all directions and resist concentrating solely on the I-20 corridor, officials said. To start doing that, the city will need to subtlety change the local perception of the south side as a mostly residential area that lacks the strength to compare with the other side of town.
"I've heard people who were happy about the fact that Huddle House coming into town because of the fact that they wouldn't have to drive out to the two other restaurants," said Guerrant.
Because many residents are reluctant to make the drive to Wal-Mart or the I-20 corridor, many south side businesses continue to do well. The IGA grocery store is in the Thomson Square shopping center on Hill Street.
"Well, our business has been pretty good over here, and it's been steadily increasing," said IGA Store Manager David Taylor. "When we moved into this shopping center (five years ago), it was pretty much empty. But now this particular shopping area is doing pretty well."
Raymond Swann, owner of Thomson Carpet and Decorating Center, also has seen a steady growth in his business.
"We're pleased with our location and the amount of traffic we have," he said. "I think it's healthy. I know there's a lot of growth around Wal-Mart and all, but I think the south side of Thomson is still very viable."
Swann also noted that the south side has the benefit of having the hospital and several doctors' offices, which typically generate a large amount of traffic.
Customers also feel that the more the south side grows, the better it can serve Thomson as a whole.
"You can get everything on this side of town that you can get near the interstate," said local resident Betty Nichols as she was walking out of the Sprint convenience store. "It just makes sense considering that there are just a lot of residential structures out here that these businesses are still going to prosper."
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