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Archive for June, 2008

Plato's Grecian Cafe, 810 Dutch Square Boulevard: 1990s   10 comments

Posted at 4:19 pm in historic,restaurants

Plato's Grecian Cafe was tucked into a strip mall across the street from Dutch Square; today it's a Personnel company. I went there several times over the years, but it never really clicked for me. I always thought of it mainly as a pizza place, and though the pizza was fine, it was not in the running for Best Pizza in Columbia.

The last time I was there, they had some sort of live music. I can't recall if it were a pop band or some kind of Greek folk thing, but anyway that seemed to be where their focus was that night, and I found the table service really suffered for it. Since my inclination to stop was never strong, I never got around to going back after that, and didn't notice for a while that the place was gone.

UPDATE 2 March 2011: Add full street address and ad from the Feb 1990 Bellsouth Yellow Pages

Written by ted on June 30th, 2008

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Sarge Frye Field, 1320 Heyward Street (USC Campus at Marion & Heyward Streets): 17 May 2008   8 comments

Posted at 2:05 am in attraction,landmark

I didn't know Sarge Frye, though I'm sure I must have seen him out in his yard from time to time. He lived just around the corner from my sister's house, and she mentioned once that she had spoken with him back during the great Forest Acres Flood of the 90s when his property was partly under water. By all accounts, he was a very nice, and capable man and was greatly missed after his passing in 2003.

Of the baseball field which bears his name, Bob Spears of The State says:

Weldon B. “Sarge” Frye, the Michelangelo of groundskeepers, carved the field that eventually would bear his name from an unkempt patch of real estate in the mid-1950s.

The park near the corner of Marion and Heyward streets evolved and so did the Carolina baseball program.

From that humble beginning, the field lasted half a century before being retired this year. I'm afraid I would be fibbing if I claimed to have seen ball games there. Sports are not really my thing, and I don't think I've ever actually watched a baseball game (and have listened to very few since 8 April 1974). Still, the talk of closing the place caught my attention, so I thought I would check it out.

I was afraid that the field might be locked down, but as it turned out, showing up on a Friday afternoon after 5pm, in the summer when all the college kids are on break was a perfect way to have it entirely to myself. I haven't been able to find anything more definite about the future plans for the park than this 2006 story from The Daily Gamecock which says:

The current Sarge Frye Field will be demolished, and in its place will be the athletics offices, a possible hall of fame, academic support facility, sports medicine offices and a new volleyball competition facility.

If that is still the plan, they don't seem to be any hurry to "turn the lights out". It's been more than a month since the final game, but the grass is still cut, and the area still seems kept up.

The sun was at a very awkward angle for many of these shots, so if you see my fingers in the frame, I was attempting to shade the lens a bit, and since the closing-cam isn't SLR, I can't really tell from the viewfinder if they're out of the way or not sometimes.

Oh, and that final game? Let the record show it was the Gamecocks over Tennessee 10-8!

UPDATE 24 July 2010 -- Here are some pictures taken about a year later (13 March 2010):

UPDATE 20 July 2010: Here's a video from The State of the demolition of Sarge Frye Field today.

UPDATE 1 June 2011 -- Here's some pix of demolition work at Sarge Frye and The Roost on 25 July 2010:

UPDATE 10 January 2012: More construction pictures, these from 16 July 2011:

Written by ted on June 28th, 2008

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Al-Amir, 111 Sparkleberry Crossing (Clemson Road at Sparkleberry): 2003   6 comments

Posted at 5:46 pm in historic,restaurants

After establishing itself on Divine Street, Al-Amir opened a second location on Clemson Road at Sparkleberry (near the I-20 interchange). At the time, I was working in Augusta, and living in Aiken. Since I spent the weekend in Columbia more often than not, I was very happy about a location I could drive straight through to from Augusta and hit while it was still open on Friday evenings. I really liked the fare at Al-Amir, but it could be a challenge getting to the Divine location if I were running late. In my opinion, the Clemson location was very slightly below the Divine location in quality. The Damascus bread seemed thicker, harder and less puffy and the seating was less quirky and inviting than the wraparound booths in the back of the Divine building. Still, it was completely acceptable, and somewhere I liked going. However, the last time I went there, they were in violation of Ted's Rules for Restaurants #1: Honor your posted hours. I got there at 8:30pm on an evening when they were supposed to be open until 10:00pm and was told: "Well, it wasn't busy, so we closed the kitchen". Shortly thereafter, they closed.

After Al-Amir, there was a short-lived Mediterranean grill of some sort. Perhaps that was Mirage, or perhaps Mirage is the incoming operation which is now hiring. It appears they are keeping the nice fountain that Al-Amir installed. I wonder if the brick oven is still in there?

UPDATE 12 April 2010: Added full street address to post title.

Written by ted on June 26th, 2008

Krispy Kreme, US-17 Garden City: Spring 2008 (moved)   5 comments

Posted at 4:59 pm in grand-strand,landmark,restaurants

(7 Jan 2011):

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11 April 2011:

This Krispy Kreme on US Highway 17 in Garden City had been there since forever (although it was obviously converted from a gas station at some time in the past). We used to badger our parents into stopping there from time to time growing up. It had the interesting distinction of being the only Krispy Kreme store I know of which didn't make its own doughnuts. Honestly, what is the Krispy Kreme concept without the Hot Doughnuts Now! sign? Not that they were stale, there are at least three stores up the road in Myrtle Beach that make hot ones and could supply this store on a same-day basis.

From the note, it appears that the whole "dead plaza" area around this store is to be re-developed, which w accounts for the Krispy Kreme and the auto-parts store both losing their leases. I suppose you could say re-development started a few years ago with the new Walgreens in the same block.

I was a bit surprised to see that the new Krispy Kreme location (a few blocks North, still on US-17) still doesn't make its own doughnuts.

UPDATE 3 September 2012: Added pix from 7 January 2011.

UPDATE 26 Jan 2013: Add pix from 11 April 2011.

UPDATE 4 April 2012 -- The place is now open, completely remodeled, as a Verizon store:

Also, the first new Krispy Kreme location mentioned above (north of here on the west side of the road) has now moved across the street to the east side of US-17 and *does* now make its own doughnuts, with the requisite Hot Doughnuts Now sign.

Written by ted on June 25th, 2008

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La Quinta Inn, 1335 Garner Lane (I-20 frontage rd): 2000s   3 comments

Posted at 11:20 pm in historic,stores

I can't for the life of me recall what chain this motel belonged to, though I believe the closing is fairly recent. I'd have liked to walk on back into the property and get some more shots, but the place is "posted" to a fare-thee-well. I'm not sure what the deal is with the place. It looks like they have started a renovation, but there is also a "For Sale" sign, and I can't imagine anyone renovating it on speculation. At any rate, if you need a couch, I think you could get one here fairly easily..

Garner Lane is one of those odd and obnoxious streets that you can only get to by starting down an Interstate on-ramp (in this case the East-bound on-ramp for I-20 from Broad River Road), and to make matters worse, traffic leaving has to get back on the I-20 ramp -- going the wrong way! I don't think I have been down there since Julie's closed. I had never driven all the way to the end before; it stops at a driving range on the river flood plain. (Curiously, nobody was out when I was there). I also see that the Touch of India restaurant from the doomed Intersection Center has moved down there. I wish them luck, it seems like a difficult spot for a restaurant.

UPDATE 25 June 2008: Commenter "Ken" identifies it as a La Quinta Inn, which with that info I am able to verify via google -- I've changed the post title from "Unknown Motel" to "La Quinta Inn".

UPDATE 30 April 2009: It's now open as a Quality Inn

Written by ted on June 24th, 2008

Steak & Ale, 5143 Forest Drive: Early 2000s   20 comments

Posted at 11:09 pm in historic,restaurants

The only time I ever ate at a Steak & Ale was in Tampa Florida in the late 1980s. We were setting up a new office in Tampa at the time, and I had been seconded from the Fayetteville office to work on the software infrastructure down there. In the event, I ended up spending quite a bit of time in Tampa, but never really got to see much of the city because we were working such late hours.

At any rate, most of the team working on the office startup would eat together every night, and one night I was dead tired and just wanted something simple and to go to bed. I recalled seeing what I took to be a Western Sizzling type steakhouse down the road, so during the usual "where do you want to go/I dunno, where do *you* want to go" scrimmage, I just piped up and said: "Steak and Ale". I figured there would be burgers and a salad bar and apparently beer so the guys who wanted a drink could get one. Well, it turned out to be a little fancier than a Western Sizzling. In fact it turned out to be a lot fancier, and I found to my regret that I couldn't get a burger at all. (In those rare situations, I can usually get a baked potato & French Onion soup -- my "too fancy" fallbacks).

I never went back to that Steak & Ale, and it fostered no desire in me to go to the one in Columbia. Nonetheless, it had always seemed something of an institution to me, and I was quite surprised when they closed up shop a few years ago. After they left, there was a very short-lived operation called Buster's Bistro (which I also never visited) in the building, and now the place is split between some kind of furniture shop and some sort of athletic shop.

It looks like the chain is still around, but the closest one is in Greenville.

UPDATE 25 June 2010: Added full street address to post title.

UPDATE 13 Oct 2010: Added yellow pages ad from the 1975-1976 Southern Bell phonebook.

Written by ted on June 23rd, 2008

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Capitol Loan Office, 1214 Main Street: 2002   3 comments

Posted at 4:47 pm in historic,stores

At one time, downtown had a lot of pawn shops. I seem to recall several on Assembly Street. There are fewer nowdays. Some of them got re-developed, and I think some of them got out-competed by shops in more logical places like Decker Boulevard. I never went into one until I was in my 40s. Though I can't recall either of my parents ever saying anything against pawn shops, I just always had the feeling growing up that they were sort of places of ill-repute. Perhaps that's because the classic n'er-do-well Andy Capp was the only character I associated with the shops.

I believe this shop on Main closed at about the same time as the Capitol Restaurant and that First Citizen's is supposed to do something with the property someday. Maybe they'll open it back up. I should think pawn-shopery is a lot less risky than mortgage lending..

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

Written by ted on June 22nd, 2008

Greenbax Redemption Center, 2710 Gervais Street: 1970s   33 comments

Posted at 4:04 pm in historic,stores

Once upon a time, housewives stayed home and did the grocery shopping. That was the theory anyway, and it had a good bit of reality behind it for many years. One of the corellaries to this theorem was the assumption that houswives would have time to fool with trading stamps.

Trading stamps are one of those things that is hard to explain because it just sounds ridiculous:

You mean they had these rube-goldberg machines with hundreds of round buttons sitting on top of the cash registers, and when you bought something, the clerk punched in numbers and the machine spat out a bunch of stamps!!??

But the machines were there, and you did take the stamps home and paste them into books. And when you got enough books, you could take them to the redemption center and exchange them for various household items...

There were several different, competing, brands of trading stamps. The name I can always remember is Greenbax (a week pun on the idea that "greenbacks" are dollars, and that you got something back "bax" from the stamps), but each grocery chain had their particular affiliation. I'm pretty sure that this building, at the base of Gervais Street (near the Trenholm intersection) was the Greenbax Redemption center. (It was definitely the redemption center for some trading stamp line). I can only remember going there once (it took a long time to get enough books for anything desirable), and I can't remember what we got, but my impression is that the shelves were not packed and the place was not crowded.

At some point in the 70s, things changed. For one thing, more women were working, and not willing to put up with spending hours pasting stamps into books. For another, several grocery chains decided to give customers a break by, you know, having lower prices rather than pie-in-the-sky redemption offers. Trading stamps were the old version of the modern rebate scam. Companies love rebates since it lets them offer what sounds like a killer deal, but they know half the customers will forget to fill out the paperwork and they will never have to make good on it. Trading stamps were the same thing. The store seemed like it was giving you something extra, but they knew most people would forget about the stamps.

I see that Greenbax is still around as some kind of Pig loyalty program, but in general trading stamps had all died off by the 80s. I don't know what the Greenbax building had been before that -- It looks rather like an old A&P, but I don't think it was one. At any rate, it seems to have found new stable tenants since then. I think the current mix has been there for at least ten years.

UPDATE 13 Jan 2010: Added full street address to post title.
Also, the followup operation Columbia Paint & Decorating has closed.

Written by ted on June 20th, 2008

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Coldstone Creamery, 101 Sparkleberry Crossing Suite 5 (Clemson Road at Sparkleberry Lane): 2007(?)   8 comments

Posted at 4:32 pm in historic,restaurants

I believe I stopped at this Coldstone twice, having ice cream once, and a milkshake once. Both times, it seemed to me that they were doing a good business. I noticed the other day, however, when I was taking pictures of the nearby former Za's location that they are now closed. I've put down 2007 for the closing date since they aren't listed in the 2008 Bellsouth phonebook, but it could have been 2006 I suppose.

When both Bruster's and Coldstone closed in Forest Acres, my thinking was that Bruster's had a bad location and business model, but I was puzzled by Coldstone, which seemingly had a good spot by Starbucks in a high foot-traffic area of Trenholm Plaza. Seeing the Clemson Road Coldstone closed got me thinking there might be something up with the chain itself, and lo-and-behold, I ran across an interesting Wall Street Journal article to exactly that effect last night. It seems that Coldstone franchisees must pay back to corporate on gross sales, and that they have to use suppliers with very high markups:

Even as they rave about the quality of the ice cream, numerous franchisees say the numbers in Cold Stone's business model didn't add up. The cost of running one of the shops was so steep that making a profit was daunting, especially in an economy where a $4 scoop was a pricey indulgence, they argue. They also contend the company cut their margins even further by offering two-for-one coupons and making them buy costly ingredients from a single supplier. Some argue that the company's rapid expansion crowded stores too close together -- and brought in too many inexperienced franchisees.

To quote from an even more interesting followup comment by a disgruntled Coldstone franchisee:

Another issue is Cold Stone’s agreements to receive kickbacks from the companies that it requires franchisees to use. This is over and above the 9% that they charge franchisees based on gross sales. These agreements drive up food costs for franchisees and forces them out of business. As an example, I recently purchased 24-24oz. Pepsi bottles from Sam’s Club for $14.21. Yet as a franchisee, I was required to buy 20oz. bottles directly from the distributor. I believe I was paying $21.65 for 20-20oz bottles of the very same product. Therefore I was paying more than $7 more for product from the distributor and receiving 96 less ounces. Shouldn’t a franchisor negotiating on behalf of nearly 1,400 franchisees be able to negotiate a better price than I can get walking into my local wholesaler?

There are some very sad stories at the second link. I do get snarky on this blog, but every failed store was someone's dream.

UPDATE 21 April 2010: Added full street address to post title.

UPDATE 28 April 2010 -- It's now a Subway:

Written by ted on June 19th, 2008

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Capitol Restaurant, 1210 Main Street: May 2002   14 comments

Posted at 5:08 pm in historic,landmark,restaurants

The Capitol Restaurant was supposedly where all the wheeler-dealers from the General Assembly hung out while cutting deals. I don't know how much truth there was to that -- it's certainly within easy walking distance of the State House, but when I would look in while in the area, the interior and patrons didn't scream power players! to me.

I say "look in" because this is another of the large number of closed restaurants in Columbia that were always on "my list" and which I would visit "someday". The nearby Frog & Brassiere was another.

Supposedly First Citizen's was going to do something with the building, but they don't seem in any hury.

UPDATE 2 November 2009: Added street address to post title.

UPDATE 24 February 2013: I have added as the first picture on this post one taken by commenter Thomas in 1997. It shows Capitol Restaurant in operation, and also Capitol Newsstand (and the now vanished building that was once between them). Thanks!

UPDATE 14 November 2013 -- After extensive remodeling, this space is open again as First Citizens Cafe:

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Written by ted on June 18th, 2008

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