Myrtle Beach’s ‘village by the sea’ is growing fast. What does it mean for downtown?

Broadway Street wakes up late.

Lined with locally run businesses that evoke a Myrtle Beach before strip mall discount stores and novelty gift shops, merchants here run on a rhythm of their own — sometimes not opening until the late morning, or maybe not all on certain days.

Roughly bounded from Collins Street to 8th Avenue N., the Broadway district comprises 88 parcels.

As of January 2023, 59 of them were in use — a 67% occupancy rate that’s responsible for 184 of the county’s total 139,941 person workforce.

“What we’re really looking at when we talk about a new way of looking at downtown is really a village by the sea,” said Amy Barrett, CEO and president of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance.

“On the total mid-Atlantic coast there really aren’t many opportunities to have a small town bring back this village lifestyle in the same way that it was bright and vibrant many years ago,”Barrett said. :This is a real downtown, and I think that just has all the elements of creating something very special here.”

Lisa Coombs believes so strongly in Broadway’s future that she’s getting to ready to open a second business there. The launch of her Jamaician coffee shop will add to a growing restaurant scene that includes the Brazilian Sabor Caserio Restaurante, several Mexican eateries and Vietnam House.

“This is the last little bit of historical area in Myrtle Beach, and I love to see it grow to bring in a lot of news businesses and foot traffic,” Coombs said inside her Diva’s Hair Design, a 406 Broadway salon she opened in 2016. “When I first moved here, it was a lot undeveloped businesses, empty spaces and now a lot of them are full.”

Next to Coombs’ beauty shop is Siliva Baldovinos’ 22-year-old Dicscocentro Latino Store, a corner market whose back wall is a rack of spices and herbs where customers can grab small bags of arnica, cloves, eucalyptus, marjoram and other seasonings.

“We see more customers, more people this year,” she said.

Last month, iconic Lowcountry barbecue joint Swig & Swine announced plans to open its first out-of-market location along Broadway. Pitmaster and owner Anthony DiBernardo said a conversation with landlord Ann LeMay convinced him it was the right move.

“Just hearing from Ann the stories of what it used to be and her desire and her vision to get it back to that and get it be a place where people gather again was all I needed to hear,” DiBernardo said.

A street scape project expected to bring more lighting and more pedestrian-friendly crossings to the area should be completed in the spring.

Broadway is also part of a newly created municipal improvement district - a special revenue stream expected to generate at least $6 million over a 10-year span for targeted improvements including business recruitment, aesthetic upgrades and special events between 11th Ave S. to 21st Ave. N.

Seeing Broadway bounce back is more than personal for LeMay, scion of the Brittains — a founding Myrtle Beach family whose hospitality company, Brittain Resorts & Hotels, today manages 15 properties and 4,000 rooms across the Grand Strand.

“We’re positive and hopeful we can give this area a second chance. We all deserve that in life, and I think it’s possible that it is going to happen down here. We’re going to make it happen,” LeMay said. “Myrtle Beach is worthy.”