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Town of South Congaree closes business, tows nearly 70 cars after repeated code violations found

South Congaree, SC 08/20/2021 (Paul Kirby) – The South Congaree Police Department closed a Main Street business this week after its owner neglected to obtain a current business license or bring the property into compliance with town codes for appearance and safety. According to South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert, Worldwide Automotive, located at 590 Main Street, had been operating in the town without a business license for the past four years. It was a used car lot and U-Haul rental facility.

Chief Shumpert said that Worldwide had been in business in South Congaree for about 10 years. In the beginning, the business seemed to be operate as it should. For some reason, four years ago, the owner simply stopped paying his business license fee and let his license lapse. Chief Shumpert said that the paperwork got overlooked at the town hall and when it was discovered, police officer went to the business in the late spring or early summer of 2021 to inform the owner that he would need to remedy the business license issue.

While on the property, Chief Shumpert said officers found many unsafe conditions and multiple town business code violations. At that time, the businesses owner, Gerald Wren, was cited for operating without a license and was told he would need to get one. In order to obtain that license, the business would also need to come into compliance with all town codes that govern businesses of this type.

Chief Shumpert said he was very concerned about the conditions officer found at the business. “The office was so cluttered you could hardly walk through it. There were just paths running through the stacks of papers and other things he had stored inside. It was obviously unsafe for any customers and for Mr. Wren himself. If any emergency occurred, I was very worried about first responders being able to get in and out of the business quickly,” Shumpert said.

“Likewise,” Chief Shumpert said, “there were so many derelict vehicles strewn around the property in a haphazard manner that it compounded the problem. This not only created an appearance issue, but it also added to the safety hazards. If the building or any of the vehicles had caught fire on that property or a bad storm had come through and knocked down any part of the building, the fire department had limited access to the building. It just wasn’t safe,” according to Shumpert.

Wren did try at some point to obtain a business license after being contacted by the police. The problem was he never made any attempt to clean up or come into compliance with the town’s ordinances. “We tried to work with him to help him understand that he had to meet the same standards that every other business in town follows before the license could be issued. He never did anything to change the conditions or remedy the violations,” Chief Shumpert continued. “We finally had to cite him three times for code violations and operating without a business license. The town is pro-business and we tried to work with Mr. Wren, but he showed no effort to work with us by remedying the situation.” Chief Shumpert said they gave Wren multiple options like screening the unsightly mess but he didn't avail himself of any of those. "These are common codes for businesses like this. He wouldn't have been allowed to operate in the county and keep his businesses' property in that condition. There's always going to be some rules businesses have to follow. Ours are not supper tough and most are common sense. Following the codes regarding appearance and safety can actually enhance a business and increase its sales," Chief Shumpert stated. "People are more wiling to do business with a place that looks professional and is clean and orderly."

Finally, this week Chief Shumpert went to the business that was still operating without a license and shut it down. He then called all the tow companies on the town’s rotation list and had them start removing the vehicles from the property. The Chief is granted that power by the town's codes. “It took a great deal of time for our department’s towing partners to get all the vehicles moved from the business to their impound yards. In total, they ended up towing 67 vehicle of various descriptions. Most of them were not in road ready condition,” Shumpert said.

Wren can go get his vehicles if he’d like to reclaim them according to Chief Shumpert. He’d have to go to each of the towing companies, pay the fee for hauling them in, and any storage fees that they incur. Then, he’d have to move them somewhere at his expense.

“We are serious in South Congaree about cleaning up the town and making things look better for our citizens and visitors,” Shumpert said. “This is what I’d call one of our gateway businesses. It was the first business you encountered on our Main Street when you entered town from the Cayce / West Columbia area. Often, the first impression we make is a lasting impression and I’m afraid to think about how many people saw that business and thought this is what South Congaree is like.”

Chief Shumpert concluded by saying, “Likewise, we simply aren’t going to let any business operate in a way that’s unsafe for its owner, employees, or patrons. I shudder to think what might have happened if someone had a medical emergency inside that business as it was. It could have been a real struggle to get them out quickly,” the Chief concluded. “Again, I’d say to prospective businesses that are looking to locate in South Congaree area please come, set up shop, and make a living here. We'll partner with you in any way we can. Just do so within the confines of the law.”


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