South Carolina’s South of the Border: Old-fashioned Americana

border_signUSA Today article
By Shirley O’Bryan Smith, Associated Press

DILLON, S.C. — What’s kitschy, glitzy and promoted by 175 giant billboards for hundreds of miles along Interstate 95?

The answer is South of the Border, in Dillon, S.C., a 350-acre roadside attraction with shops, restaurants, and some really odd concrete statues, including a collection of iconic Pedros, a cartoon mascot with a Mexican theme.

It’s highway Americana at its best, and if you’re driving I-95, you can’t miss it. But just to make sure, the billboards appear from the Virginia-North Carolina border to the South Carolina-Georgia border.

That’s fewer than in the past, when 250 signs ran from Philadelphia to Daytona, Fla.

Times have also changed the nature of the signs. They’ve become more politically correct by eliminating most of the exaggerated Spanish and broken English puns.

South of the Border has a history as colorful as its lights at night. It actually started as a beer stand. Alan Schafer and his father were in the beer and wine business in North Carolina, but when the area went dry, they moved across the border to South Carolina to set up shop in 1949.

Legend has it that when Schafer ordered building materials a few years later, they were delivered to “Schafer Project South of the (North Carolina) Border.” He thought that was kind of catchy and named his new enterprise South of the Border. From there it was a no-brainer to add Pedro and the Mexican theme.

These days South of the Border is a $40 million enterprise with nearly 20 shops, eateries, a motel, two gas stations, campsite, fireworks, a convention center, amusement park, a gigantic revolving Mexican sombrero, and the statues. In addition to the Pedro collection, there is a big gorilla, a huge golf ball, some sea captains, a few flamingos and a blue rhinoceros. The motel is even said to have a haunted room.

As intriguing as all that is, South of the Border is not generally thought of as a destination by itself. Millions of people have stopped there for food, gas, bathroom breaks or just to air the kids out. And millions of others have passed right by, wide-eyed and shaking their heads in wonder.

But to go there on purpose?

Susanne Pelt, who is public relations director and personnel director, says it happens more often than you might think: “People from up North and people from farther South sometimes meet here in the middle for their family reunions.”

Some people even have their weddings there. As a notary public — or “Pedro of the peace,” if you will — Pelt figures she’s tied the knot for about 500 couples.

She says one couple wanted to get married inside the towering sombrero with a Doberman Pinscher as an attendant.

“The bride said it was her baby,” explained Pelt, “and it wore a pink bow on its neck.”

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25 Responses to “South Carolina’s South of the Border: Old-fashioned Americana”

  1. Bob Pierson says:


    I am looking for a way to get in touch with the gentleman or anyone else responsible for the making of the film about S.O.B. If anyone knows, most importantly, how I can get a copy of this film, please contact me at or

    Thank You,
    Bob Pierson
    Monroe, NY

  2. admin says:

    Hi Bob,
    Below are a few links from the creators of this film:

    These were the 2 emails for contact from their website:

    Hope this helps!

  3. Gary says:

    Stayed at SOB on 1/1/10 – brought back many memories. Stopped there for the first time in 1969 when the family traveled to FL from MA. Every time I travel 95 I have to stop in and see if anything has changed and I’m glad to see that nothing does.

  4. Susanne says:

    Hi, Gary … glad to have you stop in for another visit at pedro’s South of the Border! You’ve been our guest for 31 years and counting! That’s a great compliment!

  5. Joan Burdick says:

    My husband and I stopped at SOB on our honeymoon in 1955 when it was only a small motel but a very nice one. I still have the menu that was given to us. Hope to visit again though I know it is quite a bit bigger. We are now married 55 years.

  6. Hey i come to south of the border all the time and everytime i come thu there i stop and get some of JOHN’s Boiled Peanuts I love them some much i wanted to know if in anyway if can he would ship some to me of i ordered some. if u can email me at

  7. Mary McQuillan says:

    Me and my family first came to see Pedro and SOB in January 2010, I live in Tampa and have never seen snow, there was a big storm (or so we thought) so we were going to drive north until we found some, by the time we to SC, we were exhausted, but were so intrigued by the SOB signs so we kept driving until we got there. Glad we did, we stayed at the Hotel, we were going to only stay one night but we had such a good time, we stayed a second night. I’m excited to say that in 2 days 2/10/2011, we are headed back!! Can’t wait to get there!!

  8. maureen pata says:

    let me tell you back in 1996 , Me and my husband and our baby stayed in the Honey-moon suite late one night.We were traveling from florida to NewYork. We heard whispering in our ears,from the mirrored bed and we heard a load knock on our door at 3:00 am.We were so scared..We told the front desk at check-out about our experiances that night and they said they never heard any thing like that before…all these years i always wondered about that night and if there were other people who had similiar things happen in that room….well i found out there is! wow…now i know we are not crazy….room 305 is haunted…I will never forget what happened to us in that room…we didnt sleep a wink all night.

  9. Gilles from Canada says:

    weve been there in 1983 on our way to florida and we where exhausted about all the nice things we saw there also the ameneties and the so good services we did appreciate from the personnal, we planed to get back there for sure sure sure in next january 2012 with our small trailer and camp there for nearly a month on our way to florida.
    Congradulation to the owner and all the service personal.
    sorry for my english im french from canada. Gilles & Pierrette

  10. me says:

    I cant wait, Iam to excited for words I stayed there twice 15 years ago and I am going back down 95 to FL. in 20 days I plan on staying here and enjoying all the new things south of the border has I WILL SEE YOU SOON.

  11. kevin /karen hemmingway says:

    we r coming that way in november 2011.i have not been there in 15 years.

  12. HotSauceHunter says:

    I stopped by south of the border a few months ago, saw a bunch of awesome things, and bought some Hell’s kitchen hot sauce which was awesome. However my sister stopped by there today and couldn’t find it. Is there anyway to purchase the hotsauce online or over the phone? I am from northern Virginia so it would be very expensive to stop by unless I’m already headed that way.

  13. rs303909 says:

    Unfortunately we don’t have an online store yet, but hopefully in the future we can add one.

  14. Classified says:

    I hear they have great fire works .I’m going check it tommorow I know it will be good cause I love fireworks . =^.^=

  15. Becca L says:

    Ive taken ma kids to SOB since they were babies head in down again this weekend,lots of memories… daddy took me as a kid too. Denton,NC

  16. V says:

    On the way there now to get fireworks and who knows what else.. :) always just pass by on my way to myrtle beach.. Boiled peanuts and blenhiems spicy ginger beer are my favorite things to get…

  17. Mrs. Vickie says:

    Visited SOB in June 1972 returning from our honeymoon in Myrtle Beach. We purchased 2 round bamboo trays imprinted with the SOB logo w/Pedro. We have used these trays everyday since then. Would like to know if you still carry them. We’ve returned and couldn’t find them. Our son looked recently, without success. We now have a home at MB and would make the trip to SOB if you still sell these trays.

  18. Kathy Shoemaker says:

    South of the Border holds dear memories for me. From 1996-1999, we traveled I-95 from Ft Bragg to the MS Gulf Coast. We always loved reading the signs. We stopped a couple of times with my baby (he was around 2 the last time we stopped). In 1999, shortly after moving home from Ft. Bragg, my little boy died tragically. My husband has surprised me with a planned trip back to my son’s birthplace (Ft. Bragg), and of course South of the Border is one of the planned stops, as we now have 3 more children. Thank you for the memories!

  19. Rosa says:

    Hi Kathy – I am so sorry for the loss of your child, and happy that you have been blessed with 3 more. Pedro is pleased that you have fond memories of South of the Border and that you enjoyed our billboards. Thanks for making us a part of your trip.

  20. Donna says:

    Is there a way to reserve a campground spot online? We’ve stopped at SOB twice in the past 5 years on trips between FL and NJ. It’s a great place to walk around and stretch your legs after driving in the RV all day long. Always feel safe there, lots of shops with gift items and knick knacks. It’s not for everyone, but we enjoy our brief visits. Thanks for the old fashioned feeling!

  21. jeff miller says:

    Would really like to purchase some hells kitchen habenaro hot sauce online. Is that yet posdible

  22. Randy says:

    Not at the current time, but you can always give us an old fashioned call on the phone and Pedro will save you a place!!

  23. Deidra Skipper says:

    We bottled a hot sauce with Sauce Crafters in south Florida called Skipper’s Treat Sweet Jalapeno Sauce. I wanted to see if you carried items like that in the store and if we could share samples with you?

  24. Ella Roe says:

    My name is Ella Roe and would this be a great place to stop with my mother, it’s very hard for to do much walking…. What kind of places to eat and places to stay for the night, could u send some pictures, videos maybe … But I would really like to make sure I stop there in s few months !!!!

  25. Jamie Chenoweth says:

    Pedro ROCKS!! Stopped as a kid, took my kids there back in 05….The billboards are always fun….LONG LIVE PEDRO!!

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