Business

Three Bluffton shops back in business after arsons

Three Bluffton businesses are back in permanent homes after temporarily sharing space in the wake of suspected arsons.

Coastal Custom Carts and Pella Windows & Doors each have returned to their original locations in Plantation Business Park, and Dan's Fan City has found a new home next to its old shop in the same plaza.

Mark Kratochvil, co-owner of the fan shop, plans to stay in the new space rather than return to the old one, which suffered structural damage in a Nov. 29 fire that also damaged the golf cart, and window and door businesses.

He said his business might have closed if not for the assistance of corporate officials, his landlord, friends and customers.

"Things look much brighter today than they did on Nov. 29," Kratochvil said.

USA Rider Co., which sold and rented motorcycles from the same plaza and shared the temporary digs with the other three businesses, remains closed. It was the victim of a different suspected arson that burned all 10 of its bikes Nov. 11.

That space won't be ready for another six to eight months, and owners of the business plan to wait until then to make a decision about whether to reopen, manager Mark Davenport said.

The blazes were among four suspected arsons at Bluffton-area businesses within a month late last year. All were started when a flaming object -- usually a bottle filled with gasoline -- was thrown through a broken window, according to authorities.

The other suspected arsons both occurred Nov. 4 at Easy-2-Own Furnishings at 21 Simmonsville Road and Top Dollar Pawn in Sheridan Park.

Anthony Terrell Hamilton of Walterboro and Andre Leon DeCosta of Bluffton remain in the Beaufort County Detention Center in connection with the fan-shop fire, according to the jail log.

They are expected to soon face a Beaufort County grand jury, according to Daniel Brownstein, a 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office spokesman.

Authorities say the pair -- charged with second-degree burglary, arson and grand larceny -- set the blaze and moments later broke into Ligato's Fine Jewelry at 80 Baylor Drive in the Publix shopping center off U.S. 278.

DeCosta also has been charged with second-degree burglary, arson and petit theft in connection with the Easy-2-Own fire.

Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister has said he thinks others are responsible for a "copy-cat" crime at the motorcycle business. There have been no new leads in the investigation of that fire, Bluffton Police spokesman Capt. Bryan Norberg said Monday.

The status of a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigation into the Top Dollar Pawn fire was not immediately clear Monday afternoon.

Staff writer Cassie Foss contributed to this report.

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