EDITORIAL: With opening of BB&T, CATO, plaza's rebound is now complete

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

It's always unsettling to hear about businesses closing their doors — and then pleasing to learn of businesses that are thriving and choosing to locate in Sanford.

Exciting news was reported this week with the ribbon cuttings held for CATO Fashions and BB&T bank, both at the Southside Plaza shopping center that had been devastated by the April 2011 tornado.

CATO is no stranger to the shopping center. The clothing and accessories store was in business when the plaza sustained a blow from the tornado.

CATO store manager Karen Whitaker was an assistant manager when the natural disaster happened.

"I didn't even know it was a tornado," she told The Herald. "I thought it was just a really bad storm — until I came around the corner and saw all the destruction."

Thankfully, CATO officials, just like other business that have since reopened, kept the faith and returned to the shopping center that was their home prior to the tornado.

While BB&T was not previously located at the shopping center, it has long had a presence in the Sanford community — with this branch office previously located in the Jonesboro area.

BB&T's new facility was built on the property that once housed a restaurant that was another tornado casualty. The damaged restaurant was eventually leveled and removed, allowing for the new bank.

Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Parks said during this week's ribbon-cutting ceremony that he was glad that images of the destroyed plaza didn't dissuade BB&T from expanding to the area.

It's now refreshing to ride by Southside Plaza, seeing the center that had become nearly dormant following the calamity now humming with renewed vigor and activity.

With the most recent ribbon cuttings, the plaza has now been made whole. Anyone who hadn't seen the shattered storefronts and damaged roofs, or witnessed the eyesore that much of the plaza became for months afterward, would know that anything had happened there.    

These developments are not only a plus for the local economy, but a boon for Lee County's collective psyche.