Bob Bestler

Myrtle Beach now is light years away from the desolate days of 30 years ago

The Sun News file photo
The Sun News file photo

Well, there you have it. Myrtle Beach is the second-fastest growing city in the whole dang U.S. of A.

That fact may surprise people living outside our fair community; it was such big news to the people in Charleston that The Post & Courier put it on the front page, above the fold.

But for those of us who have spent the better part of the last 30 years around here, it only confirmed what we suspected: This place is wack.

That point was brought home to me a few weeks ago when my daughter bought a home in one of the many Carolina Forest subdivisions.

In the past, my visits to Carolina Forest never went beyond the Wizard and Man of War golf courses.

Now I realized there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of homes in this part of the Grand Strand - a part that was mostly forested when I arrived here in 1989.

I was reminded of something Mike Pate, the former publisher of The Sun News, once told me.

He moved here from Detroit in 1979, and planned to arrive on Dec. 31. He and his wife were celebrating an anniversary on that date and he had promised her they would have a great anniversary dinner in Myrtle Beach.

After checking into their hotel, they went out and looked for a restaurant. And looked. And looked.

Turned out there were a few bars open, but no restaurants. Ocean Boulevard? King's Highway? Both deserted - and this on New Year's Eve.

"You could have rolled a bowling ball down King's Highway and not hit anything," was the way he put it. (Eventually, they found a pizza place. Happy anniversary.)

Elaine and I arrived 10 years later to open a bookstore at the brand-new Barefoot Landing.

The Strand certainly wasn't deserted, but we soon realized that our best days were in the summer when tourists came by the millions.

The rest of the year, when we had to depend mostly on local customers, was always a struggle. Myrtle Beach just wasn't big enough to support our bookstore - and this was before Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

The local restaurant growth is another thing.

When Barefoot Landing opened, it had two restaurants - Umberto's and Damon's. Only Damon's served lunch and I always thought the lack of eating places affected our walk-in business.

That changed pretty quickly (mostly after we moved to another location), with several good restaurants, including Greg Norman's.

And last week, as I read The Sun News, I realized a restaurant explosion was really taking place at Barefoot Landing.

A restaurant called Lulu's will anchor a new Dockside Harbor, which will be home to no fewer than 10 more new restaurants.

It seems a lot, until your remember that all those people making this the second-fastest growing city in the whole dang U.S. of A. will have to eat somewhere.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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