Featured Businesses

“I think we’re at that perfect mark. We’re right here on the corners of the polo fields and the parks, yet we’re still within walking distance from downtown.

The best part about staying at the Willcox, besides the incredibly immense amount of history here, is the boutique-hotel experience that we really focus on. This experience includes everything from the moment you step inside the Willcox to check in, to giving you that glass of champagne. Even having these gorgeously designed rooms that you get to go into that are so much more unique than your usual corporate hotel. That’s what really sets us apart – our service. We also have a great new chef here, who just started a few months ago, around the same time as me. He comes from an amazing restaurant in LA with a Michelin Star, so we’re really striving to push the level of service we have here – not only from a guest aspect but from just our regular old friends that live around Aiken.

There are so many things people can do here at The Willcox. Of course, we have our fabulous pool. We also work very closely with a few different companies for horseback riding and trail tours. We also do our best to know all the ins and outs of what’s going on downtown every week. If you walk up to the front desk, they will give you that itinerary for the week of what’s going on – things like Amp the Alley. We even have a fully-functional Spa and Salon. Not a lot of people know that we have a very large list of things that we can do within our spa – anything from manicures and pedicures to facials, hydro tubs, massages, hot stones, and more.

Another fun thing here is the live music we hold every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday We’re known as the living room of Aiken. A lot of people come here in the evenings, whether it’s just to wind down from a long day at work or just wanting that great ambiance that we have in our dark wood lobby and the sound of a pianist playing in the background.

I think it’s fabulous for us to be right here, so close to downtown because some people will choose to start their evening here if they’re not staying with us or join us in the evening here with a drink. We stand out for being that middle ground because you’re either coming into downtown and staying with us or just stopping by on your way out of Downtown.”

-Nicole Hillman, Head of Guest Experience and Hotel Blocks at The Willcox



“My mom always called me her ‘busy bee’. I was always busy doing something. I was in school, cheerleading, and working multiple jobs. I was always with my friends and hanging out, going on trips, and stuff like that. Since she called me her ‘busy bee’, so when we started to think of a name, I took ‘busy bee’ with me. In addition, people have always called me ‘little red’ during high school and college, so I was always identified with my hair color. So, I was like you know what, I’m going to name it Ginger Bee. My mom owned her own business, so I had it in my mind that I would either open up my own business or go and work with my mom. I started to notice that when I needed an outfit for an event, I usually had to go to Augusta or to Columbia to find something for my age range and something that was trendy. So, I came in and I honestly thought I should just open a women’s clothing store. During my sophomore year of college I was like ‘alright, this is going to be pretty expensive to start out with’. I was like ‘I have to have some funds somehow or another’ so I worked two jobs throughout college which were both in retail and I loved them. Then on the side, I opened my own jewelry line – I handmade jewelry and it was called Ginger Bee Jewelry. I did that all throughout college and pretty much saved up my entire funds from that to eventually open this boutique. Once I opened, I knew I didn’t have enough time on my hands to make jewelry, so I just started buying jewelry and selling it. That’s kind of how it all transitioned from Ginger Bee Jewelry to Ginger Bee Boutique.

I feel like I was hit with challenges from the beginning. I signed my lease at this spot on March 1, 2020, and COVID broke out on March 13. So not even two weeks in of having a spot I was like ‘oh my god, here we go’. When all of that happened, I was still in college at the time. Around March 15th, all of my classes went online, which really put a lot of time on my hands and on my family’s hands which allowed us to renovate this entire space by ourselves. Honestly, my second challenge was just getting inventory in because I get a lot of my inventory from California-based vendors and they were shut down for a good two months, so their inventory, shipping, and everything was very delayed. I had planned to open up in June when everything slowly started opening back up, but I didn’t have enough inventory to fill a store because of the delays, so we pushed it to July. I opened on July 18th, 2020 and it’s been amazing ever since.”

Brooke Thomas, owner of Ginger Bee Boutique


“Lionel Smith Limited is a family business – I learned everything pretty easily from my dad.

My dad opened Lionel Smith, Ltd. in March of 1976 across the street from our current location. We moved to this location in 1980 or 1981 – it was all burned out. The man who owned it approached my dad and asked if he wanted to buy it and he did. We had a guy from Charlotte come in and designed the space for safety – where the registers and dressing rooms are and things like that. We’ve been in this space ever since – we’ve done a few renovations since then but nothing has really moved or changed.

The only hard part about being the only men’s retailer in the area is that we work hard to make sure we have a little bit of something for everybody. Keeping that in mind, we carry somewhere between 50 and 100 brands in house – but only a few items from each brand. As opposed to just carrying one brand and being their retailer, we like mixing brands. We like to call it the ‘Lionel Smith Look.’

We also pride ourselves on being customer-oriented. We try to be sure to stay with customers and get to know them. We want to be helpful and satisfy them. We hope that people come here not only for what we carry, but for the service. We also do tuxedo rentals, especially around prom. We also have trunk shows, which are really fun for us to do. The biggest thing that I don’t think people know that we do, though, is provide wardrobe-related advice. We even trach people how to fold and pack their clothes, specially with nice things like sports coats. Everything we do in here is for the customers. We do our best to accommodate them, and if we can’t we send them somewhere locally that we know can accommodate their wants or needs because we know that what is good for another business downtown is good for us. We’re a close knit network of small businesses working to support the community around us.”

Van Smith, Lionel Smith, Ltd.


“Working as a Mother-Daughter team works in our advantage. Most of the time, we’re on the same page. We have a lot of the same thought processes, but when we don’t, we balance each other out. We either have the same perspective or get to play the Devil’s Advocate. We have a deal where if we really feel strongly about something, we do it, or we take turns with ‘you got this at the last appointment, so I’m getting this at this one’.

I think we also have an advantage when working with families, especially this week. A lot of people are messaging us or coming in for Mother’s Day. They ask about gifts for their moms and I can say ‘yeah, my mom loves it’ and she can say ‘Oh yeah, I do. I think your mom would like it’. Or if someone is trying on a dress and is worried that it’s too young for them, I can confirm that I know my mom wears it. It is nice to have two age groups that can model the same things.”

-Catherine & Leslie Gouge, Caroline’s Boutique & Pitter Patter Children’s Boutique


“It’s a pretty cool thing when you love something so much that you’d like to keep it in the family.

My mom was a branch office administrator with Edward Jones for about 10 years before I got started. At the time, I was doing something different with my life – I was finishing up my degree and I just kept talking with her, and I learned about how much she loved the company. I honestly fell in love with the company before I fell in love with the industry. Edward Jones is such a great company to work for that we kind of kept it in the family. My mom worked for Edward Jones, my sister works for Edward Jones, my son is a senior in college right now hoping that he will soon be employed by Edward Jones, and I’ve been with the firm for 13 years.

I moved to Aiken and took over this practice seven years ago. It’s funny, my mom was actually the branch office administrator of this exact branch when I first moved here. The combination of being near my mom and advancing my career drew me to Aiken. I love it, and I love being Downtown. My favorite part of being here is definitely the shopping and eating – Downtown Aiken has such a cool vibe and I feel like I’m in the middle of the action.

Edward Jones has so much more to offer people than they realize. We’re a full-service brokerage firm – we offer anything from money markets and CDs to stock bonds, mutual funds, life insurance, annuities – the whole gamut. We specialize in helping investors take what they have and make the most sense of it. We help them know how to turn what they have saved into an income for themselves in their retirement.

What I love about my job is that I can take things that usually make people feel very overwhelmed and glazed over and put them into more basic, bite-sized pieces. We get to make relationships with people while helping them with their finances. People go to their doctors when they aren’t feeling well or for preventative care, they wouldn’t do that on their own. I think it’s the same thing here – we’re making it easier for them while allowing them to participate in the conversation throughout their investment journey.”

-Alicia Kough, Edward Jones Investments