After Hugo took ‘everything,’ Garden City businesses take no chances with Florence

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Sandbags stood guard at the front door of Sam’s Corner, home of “beach burgers” and “World Famous Hot Dogs.”

Next door, workers hauled away heavy arcade machines.

Across the street, a sheriff’s deputy enforced the “closed” sign at the Garden City pier.

Twenty-four hours before Hurricane Florence’s anticipated landfall along South Carolina’s coast, the Garden City community was mostly emptied out.

“We’re moving out,” Georgie Martin, owner of Gigi’s Grill and the Garden City Pavilion Arcade, said Wednesday.

Some of the arcade’s game machines were stored on the building’s second story, but the rest were loaded onto a truck and hauled further inland.

Martin watched as three men carried a freezer from the small restaurant’s kitchen. The grill’s ice cream and burger neon lights still shone but would soon go dark.

“Pac Man” posters and “Super Mario Bros” posters still hung on the walls. Tickets won but not redeemed were strewn across the arcade’s floor.

This has been Martin’s business for 40 years.

But, she said, the threat of Hurricane Florence’s destruction moved her to clear out the business’ most-expensive items and temporarily leave town.

“We went through Hugo in ‘89, and we lost every machine and everything in here,” she said.

Garden City’s tourists, as in most other locations along the Grand Strand, left early in the week as hotels began shutting down and forecasts grew more ominous. North Myrtle Beach and southeastern North Carolina were, at the time, predicted to be hit the hardest.

By late afternoon Wednesday, though, many local residents — from Garden City to Murrells Inlet — were making last-minute preparations after forecasters warned that their area would see intense rainfall and would likely flood.