Area becomes community

Vickie Waller, president of the Coosaw Pointe Business Association, stands at the intersection of Ashley Phosphate and Dorchester roads. Coosaw Pointe officially is bounded on the southeast by the Charleston-Dorchester county line, on the southwest by the

Drive down Dorchester Road near the Charleston-Dorchester county line and you might say to yourself, "There is no there there."

But a group of area businesses is trying to transform the heavily traveled, and somewhat nondescript, area of fast food restaurants, grocery stores and small businesses radiating from the intersection of Dorchester and Ashley Phosphate roads into a community.

And they're calling it Coosaw Pointe, after the Coosaw Indians who once inhabited the area.

It's the brainchild of the Coosaw Pointe Business Association, a group of 29 businesses that wants to bring an identity and a sense of community to the area. And it has the support of Dorchester County and North Charleston officials — the area straddles the part of North Charleston that falls in Dorchester County and an unincorporated part of the county — and members of the county's Legislative Delegation. On June 9, signs declaring "Coosaw Pointe — A Family Community" will go up along Dorchester Road.

Vickie Waller, the association's president, said she grew up in the area and watched as "so many businesses started and died." But association members don't just want their businesses to thrive, she said, they want to be part of a community. They've already coordinated community activities, including sponsoring a trash pick up day, a Halloween celebration and many activities in the area's five schools. A weekly farmer's market also is in the works, she said.

Waller, who runs USOBE.com, an online service for booking charter boats, and also teaches entrepreneurship classes, said the association started more than a year ago when two businesses asked for her help with marketing. The conversation turned to the area's lack of identity or a "brand." That, in turn, led to bringing in more businesses and community organizations in hopes of giving the area a name and a personality.

More than 55,000 people live in the area, which is as big as Summerville, "but people don't think about it," Waller said.

"There's no reason we can't be a strong community. We have to start somewhere," she said.

The business association hopes new members continue to join, Waller said. There area about 175 businesses in the area.

Dorchester County Councilman Larry Hargett said the county passed a resolution a year ago designating the area as Coosaw Pointe.

And Rep. Annette Young, R-Summerville, filed a bill with the state Legislature seeking the designation.

That bill, which passed during this year's legislative session, also allowed the Coosaw Pointe signs to be erected on land controlled by the S.C. Department of Transportation.

Thad Schmenk, an assistant principal at Fort Dorchester High School, said he sees the association "as a huge plus for schools." Local businesses already do a lot for education, he said, such as offering students rewards for achievement and giving school leaders a non-parent community perspective. But the association will likely bring in more business partners, he said.

Waller said a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for June 9, to unveil the new signs and officially designate the area Coosaw Pointe.

"If you don't build something good, bad comes in," she said.