Jonathan Bazinet, owner of Sam Kendall’s restaurant and president of the Camden Business Alliance (CBA), wants to have a culinary school established in Camden.
“Almost two of every three first jobs in America are in the hospitality industry,” Bazinet said during the CBA’s first Breakfast Before Hours Thursday at TenEleven Galleria. “So think about all of the young people we have that don’t have a job. How do we fix chronic unemployment in certain segments of our population? So getting people to work young is so vital to our community. It will make Chief Floyd’s job a lot easier if kids have jobs.
“It is just one of those things where they learn for the first time that it is not someone at home, it is not someone at school, it is not someone at church, it is someone who can fire you immediately. It is somebody who can go ‘you’re done,’ it is like ‘yeah, I want you here at this time, I want you dressed in this way, you are going to pass this test, you are going to get these things done, and you are going to do it right now!’ And guess what all of those other things that I just said, they try to do that but they don’t have that ultimate weapon of ‘you’re fired!’”
Bazinet said young people have to get to a point where they are on their own, learning “lessons of life” they can’t learn at home, school or in church.
“So, bringing our kids a career path -- they don’t have to go to USC, they don’t have to go to these other colleges -- but it will bring people here to spend money to go to school and our kids that are here will have a place right here to work and the vision for downtown, and I know so many people have talked about how do you make downtown successful? And I have been saying this for the six years that I have been here, the future of our downtown isn’t new shoe stores, furniture stores, but they would have to all be boutique, but the future of downtown is dining, entertainment and boutique type shopping. That is what the futures of downtowns are,” Bazinet said.
He added that he would be willing to invest up to $50,000 of his own capital toward a culinary school in Camden, in increments, along with the use of hospitality funds.
“That is why I think we should take $250,000 of the hospitality money … and by the way it would be legal,” Bazinet said.
Camden Mayor Tony Scully served as the breakfast’s guest speaker. Scully spoke about the possibility of partnering the city with its businesses and then asked for input on how to improve the city’s economic climate.
In opening the meeting and introducing the mayor, Bazinet highlighted what he said was the importance of cooperation between the city and local businesses to create and identity that builds and maintains commerce.
“We really want to be an alliance with businesses large and small that will strive to build a better community which will attract the interest of others and provide commerce that will provide prosperity for everybody,” said Bazinet.
Scully followed up by saying, “We are one community and we are in this together. We are not an authoritarian body. How we vote will come out of a community discussion.”
The mayor then listed a number of ideas he said had been presented to him for city development including sports tourism, a west “pocket park” with fountain, an equine village in Dusty Bend and other suggestions. He then stressed that the missing component to moving forward with any particular idea is the question of who is going to manage it. Scully then suggested increased involvement in the process by members of the community.
“I would like to start with a committee to educate ourselves with the financing. Camden will not be vanquished. We are now at the point of transformation,” said Scully.
City councilmen Walter Long and Willard Polk, KershawHealth President and CEO Donnie Weeks and Books on Broad owner Bill Funderburk also presented ideas to the group.
Polk emphasized building on the existing equine niche for development, mentioning a North Carolina county as a successful example of such a strategy.
“Polk County’s anchor was Tryon, N.C., as well as Saluda, N.C.” Polk said. “Tryon’s anchor business is the equine business, and their antiques and their arts. A little town called Landrum -- a poor little town 10 years ago which was nearly shut down, boarded up -- because of the equine business and their development of an equine park in Tryon, that little town now is very prosperous. And folks travel from all over to visit Tryon and at the same time. What I am saying is they found their niche. We have a similar niche here to build upon.”
Funderburk suggested moving the Ross Beard weapons collection, recently loaned to the Camden Archives and Museum, to a location downtown. Museum Director Katherine Richardson said it would be difficult to provide adequate city staff at another location.
“I don’t feel that we are very far from the downtown. We are just right up the hill. We are very proud to have it where it where it is because we have a professional staff that the city can provide to take care of it. That would be pretty hard to duplicate in two locations,” Richardson said.
Weeks mentioned the healthcare organization’s commitment to the community through recent property purchases which would be available for expansion.
Other ideas mentioned by breakfast attendees included increased parking, a virtual town (an Internet address liking to online business presences), and suggestions for a city billboard.
Long noted the overwhelming support for a city billboard and the need for input from the CBA before moving forward with a final decision.
CBA membership is open to all businesses in the city and meets quarterly using the Breakfast Before Hours format. Membership fees are $20 a year. CBA organizers can be contacted by phone (803) 432-3283, or email email@example.com for more information.