Summerville history steeped in tea
It may not be written in the Bible, but most Southerners would probably agree with the Southern rock band Cravin’ Melon’s assertion that on the eighth day the Good Lord did, in fact, make sweet tea.
However, few know that this much loved – and much imbibed -- staple of virtually every dinner table south of the Mason-Dixon is well-steeped, pardon the expression, in Summerville’s history. In fact, the first commercial tea-growing venture in America was in Summerville. Currently, one of three commercial tea farm operations in the United States – the other two are in Hawaii and Washington State -- is located on Wadmalaw Island, which was moved from Summerville in 1963.
In celebration of that history, and to bring awareness to a wider audience of travelers and tourists, the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce has embarked on a new marketing effort to get the word out about Summerville, its rich history, and its desirability as a travel destination.
The springboard for the idea came about from the cover article of the Spring 2010 issue of Summerville’s Azalea Magazine, entitled, “The Birthplace of Sweet Tea,” which chronicled Summerville’s very prominent role in the history of tea production in the U.S.
“The goal of this was and is to find something to present the entire town for tourism,” Tina Zimmerman, the Chamber Tourism Coordinator said. “Anyone in town can find a way to tie into the Sweet Tea Trail idea.”
A number of businesses are already starting to do just that, with the antique shops on board with their 2nd Sunday, “Shop Antiques on the Sweet Tea Trail.” Sweet tea cupcakes, sweet tea marinated fried pork chops and tea bars have also been offered on local restaurant menus as well, she noted.
The chamber immediately started working to secure a trademark for the tagline, “The Birthplace of Sweet Tea,” and upon being granted that trademark, launched a new advertising campaign featuring the tagline and showcasing not only the history itself, but the many shops, businesses, restaurants, and points of interest along what the chamber has designated as “The Sweet Tea Trail.”
In fact, thanks to a grant from SCPRT, several billboards advertising Summerville as the birthplace of sweet tea and the Sweet Tea Trail are now in place on I-26 and I-95 specifically at the I-26 177 mile marker, the I-95 82 mile marker at St. George and the I-95 103 mile marker at Santee, Zimmerman said. In addition, ads are also running in several national magazines, including “Southern Living and “Martha Stewart Living,” she said.
“Part of the grant requirements is that we have to spend the money on efforts outside of this area -- and that’s exactly what we need to be doing,” she said.
For example, the billboards had to be placed at least 50 miles away from Summerville, she said. However, the representative of the billboard company the Chamber worked with lives in Summerville and was able to work a deal to add an extra sign at the 177 mile marker on I-26, she said.
SCPRT has also launched a statewide promotion, “Off the Beaten Path,” that celebrates and promotes destinations that are located along secondary roads rather than just major highways, Zimmerman said. The Sweet Tea Trail and the Birthplace of Sweet Tea tie in very well with this initiative, she noted.
“Our marketing focus will broaden in variety and complexity over the next several years, presenting unique stories about undiscovered places and experiences in South Carolina,” SC PRT Director Duane Parrish noted.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to promote Summerville and the history of ‘The Birthplace of Sweet Tea,’” Zimmerman said.
A number of people and organizations worked on this effort, including the Chamber, which is the Designated Marketing Organization, the Chamber’s Rita Berry and Nancyjean Nettles, local attorney Mark Wise, Rodney Monroe of Marlin Billboards, and Kristine Morris of Drayton Hall, she said.