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The River District Association revival begins with ribbon cutting Wednesday afternoon

West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) - A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday afternoon in West Columbia as a part of the relaunch of The River District Association. The event, that featured drinks and food from some of West Columbia’s many fine eateries, was held at Carolina Together, an event venue located at 803 Meeting Street in the city. 

The River District Association, more simply know as just The River District, is a nonprofit association that has existed for some time. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, The River District, like many other community and small business organizations, suffered and fell by the wayside for a short while. Wednesday afternoon was a ribbon cutting event as the new and improved The River District Association was introduced to the area’s leaders and the public. 

The River District is a group of businesses and businesspeople but is not a chamber of commerce. Steve Cohen, the owner of multiple businesses who has been instrumental in the revitalization of The River District, made that clear Wednesday afternoon. He pointed out that this organization is in no way competing with the local CWC Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the members of The River District tout the good works of the local chamber and encourage their member businesses to join and participate in the CWC Chamber and its events. 

Cohen explained that The River District is basically a nonprofit business organization that encourages people to visit and enjoy the City of West Columbia’s River District area, Then, the businesses that are located there will prosper. “We do focus on The River District as our primary geographical area. Most of the businesses there are small mom and pop operations and that’s what we are promoting,” Cohen said. “There are few large corporations in this area, but our focus is on the small businesses of the River District in the city."

The concept has received widespread support from the City of West Columbia, other area elected and appointed leaders, and many of the small businesses in the city because its purpose is to bring more people to West Columbia's beautiful River District. “Once people visit here and see what this area has to offer, we know that they will want to return and do business with our members,” Cohen said. “Our number one priority is promoting this geographical area. Then, the businesses will usually promote themselves because they are simply places that people want to be. We can also help small businesses in other ways like forming advertising cooperatives so that small businesses can join to support one another. If more people visit this area, we know that our members will see an increase in their business from just those visits.” 

The River District also plans to use events as a  way of drawing more people to the area. “If we make the events attractive and fun, events that will draw a lot of people who attend, those people will see what West Columbia's River District has to offer. Then, the attractiveness of the area and its many small businesses will sell itself,” Cohen continued. “We're not just trying to get more people from this community to enjoy the city’s River District, we're trying to get people who don't live or work here to come and enjoy it as well.” 

Wednesday afternoon's guest list showed the broad base of enthusiasm and support for this project. West Columbia's Mayor Tem Miles, Councilmember Joseph Dickey, SC Senator Nikki Setzler, Representative Micah Caskey, Lexington County Councilman Glenn Conwell, and many other elected officials were in attendance and enjoying the atmosphere. They were joined by business leaders like Bill Mooneyhan, whose auto repair business is now celebrating its 40th year of doing business in the City of West Columbia.  

Mooneyhan, known for his love of the area and his excited, rapid fire way of describing what is going on in West Columbia and who’s doing what, also was instrumental in revitalizing The River District Association. “This is so good for the area,” Mooneyhan said. “You're going to see more and more people come as we put on these events and do lots more things. My friend Steve (Cohen) is a master at organizing and is enthusiastic about West Columbia and he doesn’t even live here. People whose families have been here for generations like mine are now being joined by these new business owners that are excited about what's going on in West Columbia. We are going to meet, have social events, and share great resources and ideas. We’re going to let people know just how great West Columbia really is.”

Mooneyhan, who has been extremely active in the leadership of the West Columbia Beautification Foundation, the CWC Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other organizations and projects that have improved and promoted the city said The River District is a can’t miss opportunity. “Everybody's going to want to be involved because it's going to be so good for the small businesses that have really made this area thrive. Those businesses are the backbone of the area and as more locate here, things are only getting better.

After everyone had enjoyed food and drinks inside Carolina Together, they adjourned to the area in front of a row of small businesses for a ribbon cutting. The politicians and dignitaries in attendance made a few short speeches and then the ribbon was snipped. People quickly returned to the interior to enjoy more of the food and drinks provided for this event by the Primal Gourmet, Café Strudel, and others. 

“I just get so excited when I see things like this going on,” Bill Mooneyhan said toward the end of the gathering. “I've always loved this city; it's been my family's home for so long. Now, others are seeing what a great place it is too and they’re wanting to come enjoy it with us.” 

Being a member of the River District Association cost just $50 a year. You can learn more or join on their website at riverdistrictcwc.com.



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