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Archive for May, 2008

Vacation, Spoleto   no comments

Posted at 6:02 pm in commentary

Well, I'm heading off for "Phase I" of summer vacation, so posting will be light, if any, for the next week or so.

If you've never gotten to Spoleto in Charleston, I recommend it. I had always thought of that as something I would do one day until a few years ago it occurred to me that I'm not getting any younger and if not now, when? Actually, I find the main festival a bit stodgy (and I can hear classical music any time), but the Piccolo Spoleto festival, and particularly the Piccolo Fringe run by Charleston's national quality comedy troupe The Have Nots is a good bit more interesting.

I've updated a few posts in the last couple of days, most notably, the one on WIS Radio where I have located the old studio and taken a number of new pictures.

Written by ted on May 30th, 2008

Key Catalog Wholesalers, Bush River Road: 1970s   20 comments

Posted at 4:34 pm in historic,stores

Actually, I'm not 100% sure this is the old Key Catalog Wholesalers building. My memory says that it was in Boozer Shooping Center first and then moved out here, but I could be wrong. (I'm sure someone will let me know :-)

At any rate, Key was an odd store that we visited infrequently. I think they were one of that vanished breed of stores where they had a catalog showroom with sample merchandise on the floor and when you picked something, they would go in the back and bring one out. (There were also catalog items which were not kept at the store).

I also think, and remember this as the only reason we went, that they had some sort of arrangement with Greenbax trading stamps (before Greenbax had their own store) such that your books of Greenbax were usable to get certain items for free or at a discount (depending on how many books you had). My memory is that when I started Boy Scouts, we went to Key to get sleeping bags and used trading stamps.

Contrary to appearances, there is a tenant in the building now. Apparently it is not a retail operation at all, and doesn't care if drivers-by see their name or not, but looking in the front door establishes that there is a nice looking reception area. Some of the parking signage suggests that they might be called Spherion, but that could also be left over from a previous operation, of which I think there have been several since Key.

UPDATE 10 June 2010: As I say in the comments, I think it's pretty clear by now that I was completely wrong about this being the place Key moved to after it was in The Boozer Shopping Center. At some point, I need to fix this entry by adding some Boozer pictures, and changing the text, but it will be hard to do without messing up all the comments about this building..

Written by ted on May 30th, 2008

Woolco, Landmark Square, Garners Ferry Road: 1970s   19 comments

Posted at 3:02 pm in historic,stores

Woolco was Woolworth's discount department store. These were big buildings, much bigger than a standard Woolworth's "Five & Ten" and had a larger selection of merchandise.

In Columbia, we had two. The one shown here on Garners Ferry Road, now a "Save-A-Lot" (I think this is the right building -- it's been remodeled), and one at Dutch Square. The one at Dutch Square was kind of torn down, and the space was used by what is now the suit store and Office Depot. At the time, Woolco was an anchor store, and had an entrance to the mall interior. Even though the Garners Ferry location was probably a bit closer, we usually shopped at Dutch Square since it had more going for it than just Woolco.

As you might expect from a Woolworth's "discount department store", stuff at Woolco was not top-of-the-line or name-brand. I didn't particularly care -- it had two things I cared about.

The first was the book "department". I put it in quotes because it was mainly just a bunch of bins with "cut-out" stock. I had much more patience (and much less cash) then than I do now, and I was willing to go through evey book in every bin to find ones I wanted. For some reason, they got a lot of Grosset & Dunlap series overstock, and I was able to nearly complete my "Rick Brant" collection there up through Rocket Jumper as well as finding a number of "Tom Swift, Junior" & "Space Eagle" books.

The record department was a similarly mixed bag. I think they did have shelves with the current hit albums, but again, for me, the cut-out bins were the big draw. I can't remember many specifics of what I found there, but I do recall finding an 8-track Bette Midler live album which had her semi-risque first-radio-hit, "You're Moving Out Today" as a bonus track:

So pack your toys away
Your pretty boys away
Your 45's away
Your alibis away
Your Spanish flies away
Your old tye-dyes away
Your one more tries away
You're moving out today

Your nasty habits ain't confined to bed
The grocer told me what you do with bread
Why don't you take up with the baker's wife instead of me, fool!

For some reason, Woolco didn't become "Wal-Mart before Wal-Mart", and they were in big trouble by the end of the 70s. My memory is that the Columbia stores actually closed in the 70s though wikipedia says the chain struggled on until 1983. Interestingly, the smaller Woolworth's stores lasted a good bit longer, and the one at Richland Mall even survived the Richland Mall/Richland Fashion Mall transition.

Written by ted on May 29th, 2008

Columbia Athletic Club, 4502 Forest Drive: 1 June 2008 (ownership)/April 2009 (building)   20 comments

Posted at 4:32 pm in business

I had heard that Gold's Gym was coming to Forest Drive, and wondered what effect it would have on Columbia Athletic Club.

It appears from this story that the owner decided, having been handed a pig, that he'd better put some lipstick on it and do a Kent Brockman "And I, for one, welcome our new Gold's overlords". Actually, I agree. Realistically there's no way they could compete in the long-term with Gold's and this is a win-win by giving Gold's an early entry into the neighboorhood and giving a leg-up to current members and employees. Of course, since I've never set foot in a gym, it's all pretty academic as far as I'm concerned...

Presumably, this means that Woodfield's Barber & Beauty will have to relocate even after dodging the bullet of having the plaza featuring their sign demolished.

UPDATE 30 January 2010: Well, Gold's Gym moved in and out, now open in their new digs at the old Forest Drive Church. The building is vacant and for sale now. I took the opportunity of the empty parking lot to get a good number of additional pictures, including some over the back wall -- this is the first time I have ever seen the pool there. It appears that one of the second story picture windows is out for some reason.

UPDATE 5 April 2012 -- I thought I would get some more pictures before work on the conversion for Trader Joe's commences:

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UPDATE 1 June 2012: Trader Joe's is coming, see the comments for details. Meanwhile, asbestos removal and interior demolition have started:

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6 June 2012:

17 June 2012:

UPDATE 26 June 2012 -- Work progresses in these 24 June pix. Half of the silhouettes look like reverse atomic shadows now:

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UPDATE 18 July 2012 -- Really, I don't see why they didn't knock the whole building down. Apparently they are using absolutely none of it other than the walls themselves. Given that none of the rest matched what they want, it's hard to believe the walls just happened to be 100% perfect! The pool persists as a water filled hole in the ground for now (pix 15 July 2012):

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26 August 2012:

23 September 2012:

21 October 2012:

The pool:

UPDATE 30 October 2012 -- The Trader Joe's sign went up today:

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1 December 2012:

5 January 2013:

20 January 2013:

29 January 2013:

17 February 2013:

17 March 2013:

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UPDATE 6 January 2013: Added 6 June 2012 photoset.

UPDATE 6 March 2013: Added a bunch of photosets.

UPDATE 23 March 2013 -- And Trader Joe's is open:

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Photosets:

Photoset 6 June 2012

Photoset 7 June 2012

Photoset 12 June 2012

Photoset 17 June 2012

Photoset 24 June 2012

Photoset 2 July 2012

Photoset 15 July 2012

Photoset 26 August 2012

Photoset 9 September 2012

Photoset 23 September 2012

Photoset 21 Octover 2012

Photoset 30 October 2012

Photoset 1 December 2012

Photoset 5 January 2013

Photoset 20 January 2013

Photoset 29 January 2013

Photoset 3 February 2013

Photoset 17 February 2013

Written by ted on May 28th, 2008

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Piggly Wiggly, 7410 Garners Ferry Road (Garners Ferry Plaza): 8 July 2001   36 comments

Posted at 1:54 am in historic,stores

Lately the thing to do rather than remodeling an aging store is to simply build a bigger one right next door and move shop.

That's what happened to this Piggly Wiggly on Garners Ferry Road. The trouble with that, although it gives me something to take pictures of, is that it leaves behind a dead or dying strip mall as seems to be the case with "Garners Ferry Plaza". On the other hand, I would in general rather shop in a store like the new one (seen across the street in the last photo) than in a run-down store, and building a new store avoids a lengthy period of remodeling which can drive away customers. A remodeling store, even one open for business is like a road with ongoing construction -- you know you could get through, but you'd rather plan another route and avoid the hassle.

UPDATE 3 March 2010 -- some sort of work is being done on the old Pig and plaza:

UPDATE 9 March 2011: Updated closing date based on the comments (and added full street address).

UPDATE 16 July 2013 -- Garners Ferry Plaza has ben renovated now, including the former Pig site:

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Also, The Pig is closing at its new location.

Written by ted on May 28th, 2008

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Putt Putt Minature Golf, Percival Road at Forest Drive: 1970s   13 comments

Posted at 1:04 am in historic,stores

I'm afraid I went to take this set of pictures about 15 years too late. I think if I had taken them in 1993, you would be able to look at them and say "yep, I can see that was a Putt-Putt course". It not having occurred to me to do that then, you're just going to have to take my word for it now.

In the 1970s, the corner of Percival Road & Forest Drive was, if not a thriving retail hub, at least a viable one. The lot had a strip mall of sorts with a number of businesses. I think the largest was some sort of mini-grocery which was a size up from the 7-11 model, but not quite big enough to be the "country store" type. There was also a barber shop (which survived the longest, I believe). I'm not sure if the Carraige House strip-club had started then, or if that building (now Liquids) was some other retail.

Across the parking lot from the grocery, a few feet further down Percival, was the Putt-Putt course. "Minature golf" is the generic name for the sport while "Putt-Putt" is a specific brand. At the time, it was a fairly famous name (always struggling to make sure it wasn't used generically like Xerox and Kleenex) and its orange bordered courses tried to put some seriousness into the sport. Putt-Putt branded courses tended to eschew most of the whimsy of minature golf. They concentrated on making holes tricky through banks, caroms, dips, plateaus and hills rather than shooting through windmills or around dinosaurs. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake. I think people like whimsy on a minature golf course, and since it costs nothing to come up with your own ideas for holes, it's unclear what benefit paying Putt-Putt for a franchise gets you and in recent years, Putt-Putt has seemed to struggle, with parks closing on Clemson Road and in Augusta.

I don't recall that this particular course was ever really popular, but it was close enough that I could ride my bike there, which I remember doing the only time I ever played the course. It was, I believe the longest bike ride I ever took in Columbia (not that it was far in absolute terms, but my parents were very against our riding on main streets, and this was the first time they had let me cross Trenholm). At any rate, I rode up with a school friend, and we played a few rounds, and I think had a coke at the store. No big story there, I'm afraid. This would have been around 1974, and the course folded a few years after that. At first, they left the greens pretty much alone, but at some point they came in and ripped up all the carpet and frames, just leaving the concrete beds. I'm not sure why, unless they thought the lot would be easier to sell that way. If so, it was unsuccessful. The strip mall was torn down several years after Putt Putt closed, and I'm sure the owners thought that with the Interstate coming through, they could get a good price for the lot, but nothing seems to have happened so far.

I think they would get more interest if it had had dinosaurs and windmills.

Here's standing in the mall parking lot looking over at the Putt-Putt parking lot:

Here's standing in the Putt-Putt parking lot looking at the back of Liquids (towards Forest Drive):

Looking from the Putt-Putt parking lot towards the old "greens":

Standing on one of the old greens (concrete base):

Another old green:

Standing on an old green, looking at what appears to be a wild pyracantha:

Standing on a green looking towards Percival Road:

Standing on the shoulder of Percival Road, looking back into the course:

Looking down into the course from just past Liquids:

UPDATE 15 Aug 2009: Added scans of Putt Putt matchbook provided by commenter Melanie.

Written by ted on May 26th, 2008

Jumbo Asian Buffet, 2701 Decker Blvd: early 2000s   7 comments

Posted at 3:49 pm in historic,restaurants

I said in another post that Asian Buffet is the last stage a restaurant building goes through.

I didn't mean that in any disparaging sense -- I have a lot of admiration for the folks who, often as a family effort, can take a marginal location and make a go of it. Unfortunately, as we have seen before, it doesn't always work.

In this case, the building was the former Red Lobster location next to the former Olive Garden on Decker Blvd. The Red Lobster closed in the general flight from Decker towards Sandhills which also took the neighboring Olive Garden. I'm not sure why Jumbo Buffett failed in this case. It could be that the established buffet on Two Notch by Lowes was too nearby, perhaps the Red Lobster building was just too large for an operation with less traffic to pay the utilities or perhaps people never got past the "jumbo shrimp" jokes. Whatever the reason, I recall this operation as rather short lived, no more than a year or so.

UPDATE 19 Feb 2010: Added full street address to post title.

Written by ted on May 23rd, 2008

Heads up for Trenholm Plaza   no comments

Posted at 11:22 pm in stores

Apparently the Holligan's wing is to be re-built. Holligan's and, if I heard correctly, the UPS store will be moving to the old Roger's Brothers space on the other side of the plaza, and the barber shop will be moving off-site to the former Wally & Crumb cookie store. I'm not sure when this is supposed to happen though.

Written by ted on May 22nd, 2008

Capitol Newsstand, 1204 Main Street: 29 April 2008   15 comments

Posted at 11:09 pm in landmark,stores

The same day I was driving down Main Street and noticed Lourie's closing, I saw a For Sale sign on the Capitol Newsstand building. Running a google on The State, I saw that, sure enough, it was closed for good.

I'm actually a good bit sadder about Capitol's passing than Lourie's, since it played a much larger part in my life. There was a time when downtown was a good place for books. There was the Paperback Exchange at 1234 Assembly Street (an easy address to remember, though the building has been long torn down), a fairly large selection at Belk's, and above all Capitol Newsstand.

You have to remember that the Columbia market for books was radically different in the 60s and 70s. There was an independant bookshop (Chapter Five?) in Trenholm Plaza, Waldenbooks at Dutch Square, The Happy Bookseller at Richland Mall, and that was about it. There was no amazon.com, of course, and when a new book by a favorite author would be coming out was a total mystery. The Trenholm store had a very limited selection; Waldens and The Happy Bookseller were better, but each had its own idiosyncrasies about what they would stock. Capitol Newsstand seemed to be better about getting in new paperbacks each month on a regular basis, and displaying them prominently on a "just arrived" table.

In particular there was a science fiction series I was following called Perry Rhodan. The series is produced in Germany and is perhaps the longest ongoing series of any kind now -- the issue numbers are way into the thousands. In the 70s, Ace books got the US rights and would translate two issues a month, and they would hardly ever show up anywere in town except at Capitol Newsstand. (If they did show up elsewhere, they would be months old, and out of order). Every month, I would talk my father into stopping by Capitol "on your way home" (it wasn't really on the way) and he would invariably find the new ones -- I never missed an issue until Ace lost the rights. (Another company tried reintroducing the series to the US in the 90s, but the translators were a lot worse and it read like something translated from German).

Capitol also had the largest collection of magazines in Columbia, and newspapers from all over the country and the world. When you walked in, the comic books would be in the front right, the new paperbacks table would be in the middle just past the counter, the left back would have the shelved science fiction paperbacks and magazines (it was pretty much the only place in town you could find the magazines). The right wall midway back would have the magazines your mother didn't want you to look at, and the right rear would have all the foreign language magazines like "Paris Match"

Capitol once had a thriving set of outlets. There was the main store, another one downtown (somewhere near Kress, I think), one on St. Andrews Road, and one on O'Neil Court. I think the second downtown one closed first, I'm not sure whether the O'Neil or St. Andrews one was next, but they are both gone as well. The Main Street location actually was closed for a while a few years ago and there was some speculation about its future. When it came back, it felt like a shadow of its old self to me.

Why did it close? Well the owner cites health reasons in The State story, but I suspect that was just the final straw on the camel's back. The market has changed radically since the 70s. For one thing, the big box chains have come to town. A Barnes & Nobel or Books-A-Million store has many more books than Capitiol could ever stock, and they get the new books as regularly and display them as well as Capitol used to. Likewise, a big box store has so many magazines that Capitol didn't have an edge there either, and as for out-of-town papers -- well, if I, for some reason, want to see what The Cleveland Plain Dealer had to say about something, I'll check their web-site. Add to all those factors the location, which has metered parking, and not much of that and the mid-level possibility that you will be pan-handled on the way to the store or back to your car, and it's just a place that doesn't make economic sense anymore. I suspect that this didn't help either.

Still in its day, it was a Capitol idea.

UPDATE 4 May 2010: Added full street address to post title.

UPDATE 26 Jan 2011 -- It's now a botique-looking place called Uptown:

UPDATE 24 February 2013: I have added as the first picture on this post one taken by commenter Thomas in 1997. It shows the old-school Capitol Newsstand in operation. (And Capitol Restaurant too!). Note the missing building (at one time a theater, I believe) that was between those two spots, with longtime fixture Know So Servicemen's Center. Thanks!

Written by ted on May 22nd, 2008

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Greyhound Station, Sumter Street: 1987   12 comments

Posted at 5:16 pm in historic,landmark,stores

You get a very inaccurate idea of what bus travel is when you take class trips. When I was in middle and high school, our long class trips (Washington DC and Disney World were the most notable) were done on chartered Trailways buses, and the administration always requested, and got, the same kid-friendly driver. When the bus is filled with your friends and classmates, the ride is almost part of the attraction.

I've never actually ridden a scheduled long-haul bus as a party of one, but from seeing the Trailways stations and the people in them on rest-breaks during those class trips and from talking with aunts and cousins, I think I have a pretty good idea that, unfortunately, the "scum of the earth" passengers make life very unpleasant for the "salt of the earth" ones, and that the novelty of having a bathroom in a land vehicle is rather eclipsed by the horror of having it overflow.

What that adds up to saying is that I never took a bus at the Greyhound station downtown, but we did wait there once to pick up my aunt from Florida (she never did it again), and once to see off a cousin. I was fascinated by the Art Deco look, and by all of those glass blocks. I don't suppose it was any nicer than the more newly built stations inside, but sometime after this was built, US architects forgot how to design good looking buildings.

Wikipedia has a great very high-res shot here and says the station was built in 1938 & 1939 with Grehound moving out in 1987. That's about what I remembered. Apparently the building is a doctor's office now.

If you look up above the station, in some of these shots you can see another Columbia icon as well.

Written by ted on May 21st, 2008

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