FLORENCE, S.C. – Blake Pate followed in his father’s footsteps on Tuesday when he was named the 2019 Small Business Person of the Year during the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Outlook Luncheon at the Florence Center.
The award, sponsored by Dedicated Community Bank for the past five years, was awarded to Pate’s father, David Pate, the first year of the bank's sponsorship.
“I miss my dad a lot every day,” Pate said. “He taught me so much.”
Pate said he and his wife are excited to be in Florence.
“I always knew Florence would be my home,” he said.
His father was in the business for about 30 years and died in 2018. He said his father received the award two years before he retired.
Blake Pate, owner of Chick-fil-A West Florence, has been a Chick-fil-A operator 10 years.
Pate said winning the award and following in his father’s footsteps mean a lot to him. He said there are so many others deserving of the award.
Announcing the award, Jim Ivey, president and CEO of Dedicated Community Bank, said “Blake Pate was not handed a restaurant — he had to stand on his own through the very difficult process of becoming a Chick-fil-A operator in Magnolia Mall. Then, he had to interview again to become the operator of the former drive-thru location, which was renovated last year into a beautiful free-standing restaurant.”
Active in the community, Pate supports all three public high schools and most of the private schools in Florence, Ivey said. He has been active in coaching. He is the Wilson High School boys’ soccer team head coach. He also holds leadership positions with the Boys Scouts, the Florence Symphony Orchestra and St. Luke Lutheran Church and is president-elect of the Florence Rotary Club.
“Blake was the perfect choice for the Small Business of the Year Award,” said Mike Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. “He does so much work for the community, but does it in a quiet and effective way. Humble might be the best way to describe his demeanor and generous might be the best way to describe his way of contributing to our communities.”
Chick-fil-A sponsors a host of events in the community. Among them are the Florence Athletic Hall of Fame, the Florence Little Theatre’s Children’s Workshop Program, the Florence Soccer Association, The Girls Scouts, Francis Marion University, McLeod Health and Fitness, the Florence County Museum’s Pee Dee Regional Art Competition, the Miracle League, Habitat for Humanity, the Pee Dee Coalition Againist Domestic and Sexual Assault, Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs and many others.
Ivey said Pate’s location is poised to reach the $125,000 mark in scholarships awarded to employees this year.
Pate said he has already presented scholarships this year to 28 team members, representing about $2,500 per scholarship.
Pate and his wife, Annie, are expecting their first child this summer.
“This is very special for us since his father was given the award a few years ago,” Annie said.
In addition to the Small Business Person of the Year Award, the chamber recognized the Ambassador of the Year.
Brian Davison, director of sales for the Florence Center, was named Chamber Ambassador of the Year 2018. He was one of the most active chamber representatives during the year. He attended ribbon cuttings and Business After Hours events and made member visits throughout the year,
The chamber has been busy this year, Miller said. It has conducted 13 difference business seminars. In the last 30 days, the chamber has presented a Legislative Breakfast with Drew Griffin, Florence city manager, as speaker; Business After Hours with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office; Young Professionals of Florence Social; Leadership Florence Legislative Day; Fellows in Education Day; Youth Apprenticeship Accelerator Meeting; Building Bridges Summit; and the Outlook Luncheon.
Coming up are the CEO Breakfast on March 21 at Hope Health; How to Start and Grow Your Business on March 21 at the Florence Chamber; Young Professionals “Nachos ‘n’ Networking on March 21 at King Jefe; Fellow in Education Gathering on April 2 at Carter Elementary; Jr. Leadership Education Day on April 4 at the Luther F. Carter Center for Health Sciences; Leadership Florence Local Government/Law Enforcement Day on April 9; Doing Business with Government on April 15 at Florence Chamber; Leadership Florence Class 2018-19 Oyster Roast on April 18 at the Florence Center; Administrative Professional Day Luncheon on April 24 at the Florence Center; Chamber Spring Golf Tournament on May 2 at The Traces Golf Club; and Leadership Florence Business and Industry Day on May 14.
Miller said the chamber has the highest number of social media followers in the state of any chamber of commerce with the exception of Myrtle Beach.
The Florence Chamber has about 650 members with more than 1,700 members associates.