Editor's Note: One year after new sidewalks were installed and trees planted, downtown Thomson is taking on a new, vibrant look. The town no longer looks ghostly. New businesses are moving in and old buildings are getting facelifts. This week, The McDuffie Mirror begins a two-part series examining the changes taking place in the Camellia City of the South.
The new appeal to downtown is expected to have an even greater significance once the new city/county government center is completed. The targeted construction date is about 18 months away.
The Big Dipper
They're sharing their love with the community.
Pete and Bridgett Paulson are opening the Big Dipper Ice Cream shop on Main Street. Mr. Paulson said his wife grew up in Thomson and has fond memories of Milton's downtown and wanted to create something similar.
"We're ice cream lovers," he said. "So, we thought it'd be a good business to add to the community."
Located between the McDuffie Museum and Cornerstone Bakery and Deli, the shop will offer 24 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes, hotdogs, sodas and coffee. They also will have Ittibitz, which is similar to Dippin' Dots or MiniMelts, but the palletized bits of ice cream are larger.
A former carpenter, Mr. Paulson said he was skeptical about opening a place right next door to the bakery. He felt more comfortable after visiting with the Cornerstone owners. Plus, he's received a lot of interest from Thomson Twin Cinema patrons while they are waiting for a movie to begin two doors down the street.
"We want it to be a good reflection of downtown Thomson," he said. "We're hoping to create an atmosphere that families and young people will want to come hang out. I'm nervous, but we've had really good, positive feedback and it's been good motivation to keep the project going."
The shop is tentatively scheduled to open on Friday, April 3 with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Chamber of Commerce. It will be open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 12:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The Y130 Center
The Thomson Family Y is expanding its services to an additional location on Main Street. Dubbed by the Family Y staff as "The Y130" because its address is 130 Main Street, the facility is for dance, gymnastics, art and martial art classes.
Thomson Branch Manager Dede Keir said people riding down the street honk their car horns and wave to her and the other staff members as they enter the building.
"I said to myself, 'gosh, we'll be bringing people downtown,'" she said. "Every time I come in here, I get excited because I know the possibilities. ... We're here to stay. We're not going anywhere."
The 4,000 square foot building has four rooms up front that will be used for pilates, tap dance, art and educational study.
The rear of the building has two large rooms, one with fully-matted flooring for martial arts and gymnastics; and the other with Marley dance floors for ballet. Classes will include, but are not limited to, ballet for ages 3-years and older, line dance, Irish dance, adult ballet and Tai Chi.
Corie Johnson, the activities coordinator for the Family Y, said they are trying to schedule classes so that parents can drop off their children for at least three hours to take multiple classes.
"That way they'll have lots of time to go to Wal-Mart," she said with a laugh.
Mrs. Johnson, Tyler Knox and Heather Brown, who majored in dance in college, will be the dance teachers. Amanda Long is the gymnastics teacher and John Pereda is the martial arts instructor.
"We've got a lot of talent in this town and our goal is to use those resources so that people won't ever have to drive to Augusta again for special classes," Mrs. Keir said.
Personal training sessions also will be offered, including dance conditioning classes and pilates reformer. Sports-specific personal training is becoming popular with teen athletes at the Family Y, and those opportunities will increase at Y130, according to Mrs. Johnson. She said many teens come in for brief sessions to increase their speed or learn how to do back springs.
"They're coming out of the woodwork," said Mrs. Johnson, who also is the activities coordinator for the Y. "It's really popular."
The downtown location that is across the street from the ice cream shop, movie theater and museum, and within walking distance of the other Family Y facility and the Watson-Brown Foundation will work perfect for summer camps, Mrs. Johnson said. Summer camps also will include sewing, art, comic book art, tennis, golf and rock and roll.
Member and non-member rates are available for all classes, as are pay-by-class rates for adults. Mrs. Johnson said scholarships are available for those in need.
"We feel everybody ought to be able to afford these classes," she said.
The grand opening and ribbon cutting for Y130 will be Friday, May 1. An open house will take place Saturday, May 2, with free trial classes and discounts for class registration during open house. For more information, call the Family Y at 706-595-5447.