New Lowcountry businesses help to grow the economy

Updated: Sep. 4, 2020 at 11:12 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The economy is coming back. New employment data shows the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August and unemployment fell to 8.4 percent.

While that is slower job growth than last month, it still beat expectations.

Still, the coronavirus has taken its toll on Lowcountry businesses, especially restaurants. Over the last few months several restaurants like Jestine’s Kitchen, McCrady’s, and Minero, shut their doors permanently.

As some businesses shut down, others rise to take their place. Amid the economic collapse, the owners and managers at Tempest – a new seafood restaurant on Market Street – forged ahead with plans to open on Aug. 14.

“I am so happy we are open here,” said Patrick Whalen, managing partner at Tempest and 5Church. “We have a lot of people chomping at the bit to be busy.”

Tempest is just one of the business contributing to the economic recovery and finding success in the era of COVID-19. The Co-Op on Sullivan’s Island is another food and drink business expanding, adding another location on Isle of Palms.

“Anybody who owns a business that went through the coronavirus and says they weren’t nervous is lying. It’s a very scary time,” Whalen said. “It was scary but we tried to stay positive and now we are back open and doing pretty well.”

By no means has opening a new restaurant been easy.

“It’s been a little harder to get our products,” Whalen said. “Getting it consistently delivered and getting the right product delivered is diffecult, but everyone is trying to do the right thing. It’s just a touch and go situation right now.”

Product may be the most difficult part for Whalen and Tempest, but other businesses have found it difficult to find enough employees to keep the doors open. Whalen says he has been lucky to find robust, qualified employees and has not had any trouble getting workers or retaining them.

“We try to put ourselves in their position and think about how it would feel to be them going through this,” Whalen said. “If you can be empathetic and you can put the person’s feeling in the forefront of your mind you’re more likely to find common ground.”

The official unemployment rate in South Carolina has not yet been updated. Another way to look at the numbers are by looking the Insured Unemployment Rate for the state which is updated every week. That rate peaked at 12.9 percent in April. The latest numbers, reported on Aug. 22, show a drop to 6.87 percent.

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