How It all Started
In 1949, Mr. Alan Schafer built a simple 18 x 36 foot beer stand known as South of the Border Beer Depot. As it adjoined the North Carolina counties, which were dry of alcoholic beverages, business boomed. A few years later a 10-seat grill was added and the business was re-named South of the Border Drive-In.
In 1954, Mr. Schafer added 20 motel rooms. Materials for the addition were shipped to “Schafer Project South of the (North Carolina) Border”. Mr. Schafer shortened the name of his business to South of the Border.
Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico. The site itself also began to expand to include a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop. In 1962, South of the Border expanded into fireworks sales, potentially capitalizing on the fact fireworks were illegal in North Carolina. In 1964 it was announced that the route for I-95 would pass right by South of the Border, and the facility would be next to two exits and within view of the highway. By the mid-1960s, South of the Border had expanded to include a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office an outdoor go-kart track complete with other outdoor recreational facilities and the 104 feet (32 m) tall image of the mascot, Pedro.
How Did Pedro Come About?
One may ask, “How did Pedro come about?” Well, Mr. Schafer went to Mexico to establish import connections and met two young men. He helped them get admitted to the United States, and they went to work at the motel office as bellboys for several years. People started calling them Pedro and Pancho, and eventually just Pedro.
What about those signs? They are all designed by Mr. Schafer himself. Around 175 billboards are north and south from the Virginia/North Carolina state lines to the South Carolina/Georgia state lines. (At one time there were more than 250 different billboards from Philadelphia, PA to Daytona Beach, FL.) Many of these billboards are on I-95. They are also north and south on Highway 301/501, east and west on Highways 9 & 17. There are a few billboards on I-20.
Around the Border
South of the Border Tourist Attraction in Hamer, SC is one of America’s favorite roadside attractions. For almost 70 years our Mexicanthemed attractions have tempted travelers along Interstate 95 to stop in for a visit. Our 100 foot tall statue of our mascot Pedro sports a huge sombrero, and you can find your own sombrero in one of many South of the Border gift shops. You can grab some quick Tex-Mex food like tamales and nachos at our 24-hour Hot Tamale Diner. You can also get a cold beer and some spicy Mexican favorites like burritos with re-fried beans and rice at The Sombrero Restaurant.
“The Border”, as employees call it, has become a little town within itself. It’s unique and one-of-a-kind. Who would ever have thought Pee Dee swampland would become a multi-million dollar a year business?