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Pickens hopes for the right kind of "happening" downtown

Published: September 9, 2016

Greenville News - Ron Barnett

The city of Pickens, according to Wilson Perkins, has “good bones.”

It has good people, too, and a great location, he says.

It’s the kind of place that could easily develop into a destination like other towns along the edge of the mountains have – such as Travelers Rest, Landrum, Hendersonville, or Clayton, Georgia, said Perkins, the newly appointed director of the Pickens Revitalization Association.

“I just want to get more of the right kind of businesses downtown and make it more of a happening place,” he said.

There are plenty of available buildings – those good bones of downtown – that are ripe for being turned into businesses like a barbecue place, or a craft brewery, he said.

“With the Doodle Trail and everything we’ve got going, it could really be an awesome place in the next few years,” he said. “We can put Pickens on the map."

With his background in sales, selling prospective businesses on the virtues of the courthouse town on the edge of the Blue Ridge won’t be hard, he said.

Perkins grew up in the Lowcountry but has come to love the Upstate, and particularly the Pickens area.

He and his wife, Eleanor, bought a house on Scenic Highway 11 north of town a couple of years ago when they both took jobs in the area.

“I can see Table Rock from my porch,” he said. “I love it up there.”

The couple enjoys outdoor activities as whitewater kayaking and mountain biking.

“I just love climbing those hills,” Perkins said. “It’s just brutal, but when you get to the top you feel pretty good.”

His work history is as varied as his geographic background.

He’s been in farming, custom woodworking, made props for the Forrest Gump movie.

He developed his love for the Upcountry while a student at Clemson University. He finished his degree in history in 1990.

After that, he traveled the Southeast as a salesman in the carpet and commercial flooring business. He lived in Charleston most of that time, but felt like he needed some mountains in his life.

When his family, which includes daughter, Eliana, a fifth-grader at Ambler Elementary, moved to Pickens, he immediately got involved in community activities with the Rotary Club and as a volunteer for the Pickens Revitalization Association.

The association, an arm of the city of Pickens, gets most of its funding from a federal Main Street USA grant and other grants for special projects.

Perkins also will be helping organize and operate special events in the city.

“I recently found out that I’m in charge of the Christmas parade,” he laughed.

But his focus will be on recruiting businesses.

“I’ve got years of business experience and I’ve been a small business owner,” he said. “I know how it works and I know how hard it is.”

“If somebody comes and wants to start a business in Pickens, we’ll walk them through the process, we’ll give them some incentives. We’ll really make it easy for them,” he said.

Will it work?

The 48-year-old is betting his future on it.

“I’m planning to do this until I retire,” he said. “I’m all in on it.”