Hot Wheels Gone Cold

ISLAND INSTITUTION HOT WHEELS SKATING CENTER FORCED TO PULL UP FROM SOUTH FOLLY RD. ROOTS AFTER TWO DECADES

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Hot Wheels owner/operator Sheryl Benton (center) poses with husband Art (to her right), her daughter and son-in-law Terri and T.J. Halter (to her left) and the rest of the Benton/Halter extended family as the family was moving out of their 1523 Folly Rd. facility for good on Sunday.

If you look really closely, really closely you can still see the dull, faded outline of the letters that once graced the blue metal facade of the building at 1523 Folly Rd. that for over two decades has served as James Island’s home for roller skating. “Hot Wheels,” the outline reads defiantly, as if it will last forever. There’s no such thing as forever in the business world however. Hot Wheels Skating Center is closed for business, at least for the time being.

The business’ owners, Sheryl and Art Benton, along with Terri and T.J. Halter, who have managed the facility for their parents the Bentons for the better part of twenty years, were collectively informed late in the year that they would not have the opportunity to renew their lease, which was up at year’s end.

The family finally received word that hope was lost regarding their longtime home at 1523 Folly Rd. on December 10. Extended dialogue with the family of the property owner, James Island resident Wayne Lowe, and even some last minute legal wrangling by the family’s attorney, Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey couldn’t prevent the closure.

On the topic of their relationship with property owner Wayne Lowe and his family, business manager Terri Halter says that while they parted on good terms, the entire experience leaves a sour taste in her mouth.

“We were hoping we were going to be able to negotiate it out so that we could stay,” says Halter, who skated at the facility as a kid herself when the Lowe family ran Hot Wheels in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s before family matriarch Sheryl Benton took over the business. “But there wasn’t any room for negotiation.”

So Hot Wheels hosted their last New Year’s Eve All-night skate a little over a week ago and it was an emotional affair for all involved. “Tears were flowing,” comments Sheryl Benton in reflection. “And it wasn’t just the kids either. The parents, the kids, everybody was emotional … we certainly shed our fair share of tears.”

The news that the business would not be permitted to renew their lease left the family ‘shocked,’ according to Benton. For their part however, the Halter/Benton family has been nothing but gracious when it comes to shutting their
Folly Rd. doors.

Currently the business is looking at other options regarding a future home for Hot Wheels. The 1523 Folly Rd. facility is approximately 14,000 ft. sq., however the group is looking large for their new digs. The new Hot Wheels, wherever it is finally located, could fill a space exceeding 20,000 ft. sq. New rubber sealant technologies developed in the past few years have drastically cut the cost of installing a new floor in a facility too, so the move represents an opportunity for the entire business to get a fresh start.

For the moment however, everyone seemed to want to revel in the memories made and friends met at the James Island institution.

The future is bright for the families involved however. As Hot Wheels employee of nearly three years Lamar Carter (whose wife Ashley worked in the facility’s snack bar) states optimistically, “I don’t know where it will be, but it’ll be bigger and better.”

“T.J.’s mom was a school teacher (at Harbor View Elementary School), and his dad coached soccer so we were good with kids, but having these two native families owning and operating the business … that gave families a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling when they were dropping their kids off because … well,
they know us,” says Terri Halter, reflecting on the “glue” that held the business together all these years … her marriage to husband T.J. and the subsequent merging of the Benton and Halter families.”

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