By VICKI BROWN
Annette Bradley, part owner of Consignment Envy, has a bright red pennant in front of her business. On April 8, a City of Walterboro code enforcement officer warned her to take it down or she would be fined.
Bradley has owned the unique consignment store for six years. In that time, Bradley said she has enjoyed business from local shoppers and visitors from all over the United States. When the pandemic hit, her business had to close for a while.
“I had to close for several months and lost a lot of money,” said Bradley. “I am not the only person who lost money. Everyone who puts items in my store under consignment needs money, too. For some of those people, it means putting bread and milk on the table. With such a huge loss in revenue from my business, I have been doing everything I can think of to draw people into the store,” she added.
Bradley’s store sits at the intersection of Robertson and Bells Highway. “I get quite a good bit of traffic coming off the interstate. People see my billboards, or they stop in town for food, and want to come to my store,” she said. “But they have a terrible time seeing it from the highway and pass it by.
“The flag draws attention to the business and shows people where we are,” said Bradley.
However, the city’s code enforcement ordinances state the flag is against the city ordinances.
Ordinance Section 5.4 under ‘Signs That Require a Permit’, subpart G refers to pennants/inflatables. The ordinance states that those signs that require permits are “Flexible advertising material for special sale or event designed or capable of being moved in the wind. May include pennants, feather flags, streamers, or inflatable signs including inflated balloons having a diameter of greater than one (1) foot. Limited to two (2) permits per year for a period of no greater than 7 consecutive days each. The fee is $30. For Bradley to fly her pennant for a year would cost her $1,560, and she would have to reapply weekly.
While the ordinance is there to keep the city as attractive as possible, employee James Bunds finds it ridiculous. “The problem is that this sign has been here for a year and no one has said anything. Now, suddenly, there is a problem with it?” he said.
Bradley says that is true, but that is not the only reason she is frustrated. “I pay over $6,000 in taxes a year to the city of Walterboro, and during the pandemic, those taxes were not deferred. I still had to pay them. I received no break from the city regarding paying those taxes even though I was closed. City employees were able to work from home….I could not. Now, while still under pandemic mandates, I put up a pennant to draw in business, the city wants to fine me $1,000 until I take down it down. Where was the city when I had to close my store?” said Bradley. “If we are still under a pandemic, I should be able to advertise as best I can. All I am asking is for the city to allow me to leave my pennant up until the pandemic is over without having to get a permit every week or being fined $1,000,” she added.
On Monday April 12, Bradley received the $1,000 fine.
Meanwhile, Bradley pointed out flags and pennants within the city limits that are still flying and are being used to draw customers. Some of those flags and pennants are for sales and hiring, and may or may not have permits. But some just welcome flags on Washington Street that are there all of the time. The S.C. Artisans Center even has three pennants that have been hanging in front of the property for years.
“This just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s only right that businesses within the city be left alone during this pandemic so they can work to create revenue that ultimately goes back to the city,” said Bradley.