Peggy Iverson said she hopes to be able to get business owners along Myrtle Beach’s downtown oceanfront excited about the area’s possibilities.
Iverson on Monday became the Oceanfront Merchants Association’s executive director, the organization’s first in its eight-year history.
“I see a lot of potential down here,” Iverson said, adding that she hopes to be able to get more local businesses involved not only by joining the group, but also by getting more current members to volunteer and sponsor events.
David Sebok, executive director of the Downtown Redevelopment Corp., said he was happy to learn that OMA had hired its own executive director.
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“We have talked with OMA for the last three to four years saying that they clearly had grown to the point where an executive director would help them be more successful than a handful of volunteers who had to [run the organization] while also running their own businesses and taking care of their lives,” Sebok said.
“With success comes the need for more commitment of time and resources and ideas to grow,” he said.
Iverson’s background is in marketing, working for several resorts along the Grand Strand during the ‘80s. She moved to Charlotte in 1991 where she opened her own small business, a women’s clothing boutique, which she said she operated for more than 10 years.
The Minnesota native moved back to the Myrtle Beach area this summer to be closer to family and help her sister run her business, Hawaiian shaved ice store Tropical Sno.
“I’ve always had a heart for this area,” she said of why she wanted to become OMA’s executive director. “After I moved back, I met [OMA President] Chris Walker and saw his passion for the success of Myrtle Beach and the downtown area, and how excited he was about growing OMA and getting to the next level. ... The success he’s had with the growth [of OMA] – I see the need for an executive director.”
Walker said her love of the area helped the board determine she was the right person for the job.
“Her passion for the area and ties with family and seeing the big picture is a big part of her working with this organization,” Walker said.
Walker has led the organization for the past two years, being in charge of event organization, marketing, the budget, and every other aspect of the job.
“She’s going to have to do a better job than I did with delegation,” he said. “As executive director, you’re in charge of everything, but if it’s too much, you have to be able to set up volunteers and committees and even interns to help. If you do what I did, you’re going to burn out.”
Part of the organization’s success has been fostered by several activities it holds throughout the year, including its annual St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest events. As those events have gotten more successful and grown, they’ve gotten more expensive to host.
Earlier this year, Walker said the association would have to scale back its events due to a decrease in the funding it received from DRC.
OMA received a $173,000 contribution from DRC this year, $90,000 less than it was expecting. OMA also receives $130,000 a year from the city’s accommodations tax revenue and another about $310,000 each year from memberships, sponsorships, business contributions and revenue from Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day.
Walker has said the organization needs to find another dedicated source for funding to run its events and says that is Iverson’s primary objective as the new executive director.
“The most important thing [Iverson will do] is developing funding resources,” Walker said. “We need to make sure we have enough money that the board needs to accomplish the things on its ‘want list.’”
Iverson said she will tackle finding those resources and that she hopes a focus on growing the membership base and getting more people involved will help increase the amount of money OMA brings in.
She said she and the OMA board are thankful for their larger, consistent sponsors – including the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, Bay View Resort and Boardwalk Coffeehouse – but also hopes other businesses will step up and get more involved.
She said she hopes to meet with every merchant in the association, as well as many along the rest of the Grand Strand, to talk with them about what those business owners and managers hope OMA can do for them, saying even those that aren’t members benefit from what the organization does.
“What happens here affects everyone in the area,” she said. “It’s really hard out here when you’re a little fish in the sea, but when you’re whole school of fish it’s harder to fail.”
Iverson said she also would like to create new programs and events in the next couple of years, including a beautification project and a “glory days” event where people can visit the oceanfront to shag and reminisce on what the area was like in the 1950s. She said she even hopes that merchants would dress up in ‘50s clothing to get in on the fun.
“I have some big ideas for the empty [former Myrtle Beach Pavilion] lots,” she said, mentioning the possibility of special events on the land, which is owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. “Some thinking-outside-the-box ideas. Thinking more on a national level than just a local level.”
But for now, Iverson said she is focusing on making OMA’s next event, Holidays on the Boardwalk, successful for both locals and any tourists who come to town.
The series of activities is scheduled to begin Nov. 29 with appearances from Santa Claus – who will ride up on his Harley-Davidson – and the Grinch, a lighting ceremony, live music and “Polar Express” train rides on the boardwalk. Events continue through December with activities each Saturday.
“I really want to get more community involvement,” she said. “We’re inviting schools with choirs, and church choirs, and other performers who want to be part of [Holidays on the Boardwalk] to perform on one of our two stages.”
Those interested in performing can contact OMA at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com for more information.
On Wednesday – her third day as OMA’s executive director – Iverson said she’s ready to learn as much as she can and hit the ground running.
“I care about the merchants,” she said. “I care about the success of the small businesses as well as the large ones. I want them to have a successful not just summer, but a successful year.”