By Charles Petty

It’s safe to say that downtown Sanford has seen a number of changes in recent years with regards to the businesses occupying its many historic buildings. A new trend, however, involves the renovations of the buildings themselves.

Will Scruggs and his father William represent one of the families hoping to help in efforts to physically revitalize downtown Sanford, with their ultimate goal being to turn a good bit of existing, unused retail space into apartments and office spaces.

Since last June, the Scruggs have been working on two buildings in the downtown area — one on Moore Street which used to house the Sanford Artists’ Colony, and another on Carthage Street across from the recently-renovated La Dolce Vita.

“Me and my father both have a love of historical buildings and historical objects, so we decided to buy historical buildings and refurbish them,” Will Scruggs told The Rant. “We decided to turn a hobby into helping the community with renovating these buildings as multi-purpose buildings so offices and stores can continue to thrive in downtown. So many people, especially young people, want more opportunities and things to do in town. We hope these renovations will help provide that.”

William Scruggs, who works in pharmaceuticals, started his hobby in his hometown of Baltimore, fixing up residential properties there. That continued when he moved to Sanford 15 years ago.

“I love history and historical properties,” he said. “With all of the recent renovations in the downtown area, it’s the place to be and to grow one’s business ventures.”

Pandemic aside, the last year-plus has allowed the Scruggs to begin work on transforming the two downtown properties thanks to a boost in the local economy. They’re hoping to open a clothing store in the Moore Street building’s ground floor sometime in 2021.

“It made sense to go with downtown,” William Scruggs said. “This place has much potential and it’s an up and coming spot for families.”

And in a time of national conversation about race and race relations, one factor has come into the public consciousness – minority-owned businesses. Nationally, black owned small businesses make up around 9.5 percent or 2.6 million of small businesses. The Scruggs family, which is African American, feel that their contribution to the community is great for minority-owned businesses, and for the senior Scruggs, it’s an honor to be part of helping foster that growth.

“We should continue to have mechanisms in place for minority businesses and start-ups,” he said. “It’s a positive for the community to see a diversity of ownership.”

Downtown Sanford Inc. has been an accredited Main Street, meaning the organization has to meet certain specific standards to earn the accreditation, since 2017.

DSI Director Kelli Laudate said she’s seen an uptick in business ventures of all types in the downtown area, noting that the organization makes it a priority to let the broader community knows about all the opportunities residents have to shop small.

“I have continued to meet with potential investors and developers in the last few months, and they’re all excited to come on board with downtown and help continue to make the community thrive,” she said. “When people shop local, that could mean several things – after all, we have a local Walmart. What we need to say is ‘shop small.’”