Like most areas under redevelopment, there is an ebb and flow to the process. This past year, downtown Statesboro has experienced somewhat of an ebb. Where some might see a downturn, others see an opportunity.
Local business owner Loy "Si" Anthony Waters, Jr. is one of those optimistic types. Recently, Waters and his son Loy Anthony Waters, III, purchased the 12,000 square foot Brannen building at the corner of Walnut and West Main Streets from the Sea Island Bank who had acquired it through foreclosure. Waters and his son are the owners of the L.A. Waters Furniture Company, Lawsons Home Furnishings and Rentown.
"We submitted bids on two different occasions before buying it," Si Waters said. "I wasn't sure that it would be us, but in the end it was."
Waters said that buying the building that originally housed his father's furniture company was very special, even though he never imagined that he and his son Anthony would ever actually own it. "It has been over 50 years since the L. A. Waters Furniture Company was in that building," he said. "We were in the corner part of the building that houses the Carriage House now. It seemed a lot bigger when I was little."
Anthony Waters said he and his father thought long and hard before offering to buy the building. "We crunched the numbers several times," he said. "What really made it work for us was the demand for the loft apartments on the second floor."
Si Waters said when the building was remodeled three years ago, three loft apartments were created on the second floor. Now, Waters is in the process of turning the area that was the upstairs portion of Statesboro Brews into two more loft apartments yielding a total of five.
"We really weren't quite sure what we were going to do with the Statesboro Brews space, but the demand for the loft apartments answered that question," he said. "We have rented out the remaining two that will have to be renovated. The tenants are willing to wait until it is done. We are hoping to have them finished by December."
Downtown Statesboro Development Authority executive director Allen Muldrew said the demand for downtown loft apartments appears insatiable.
"We have people ask all the time about loft apartments," he said. "They want that downtown, urban feel. I really feel like the demand is so strong, that any loft that is built would rent. That is a good thing, because people that live in a downtown area are what sustains it and makes it vibrant. We need to encourage that as much as possible."
Muldrew said he hopes that people will be patient as downtown seeks to recover from the disappointing closing of some local favorites.
"We lost the Blue Moon and Hugo's, as well as Statesboro Brews, and that was very disappointing, but right now there is a ton of interest by people interested in opening a restaurant in downtown," he said. "There is a lot going on, I know that if we keep working at it, things will begin to come back."
With the top of the Brannen building rented out, Waters is concentrating on the bottom. "We only have one area left to rent on the bottom floor," Waters said. "The L. A. Waters Furniture Company is has taken the section closest to it. We have already opened up the wall and are going to have a baby furniture section in it. That is virtually finished. Lynn Reeves, owner of the Carriage House, has the corner unit and the unit next to it. What is left is the bottom portion of Statesboro Brews."
Waters said he feels like a sandwich shop, deli type restaurant would be a perfect fit.
"I know that there is a tremendous demand for places to eat lunch downtown," he said. "We used to have a deli or two, and we do have some restaurants. I just think there is room for a sandwich shop. We are kind of holding out for that, hoping that someone will want to come and open one up."
When Waters talks about the Brannen building, his tone becomes very sentimental. "I remember when we had a used furniture business upstairs, over where the Carriage House is now," he said. "We refinished used furniture that we would buy in South Carolina. I literally grew up in this building. I have lot of wonderful memories of it. Interestingly, I never thought that I would own it."
Waters' father Loy Anthony Waters moved his family and furniture company from Twin City to Statesboro in 1944. Now, Waters and his son operate two L. A. Waters Furniture locations, two Lawsons Home Furnishing stores, and ten Rentowns. Since 1944, the L. A. Waters Furniture Company has been a fixture in downtown Statesboro, and some would argue a stabilizing presence.