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Archive for August, 2008

USC Burger King, 1211 College Street: 1990s   12 comments

Posted at 10:11 pm in historic,restaurants

I was rather surprised when I learned in the 90s, that all of the Burger King restaurants in Columbia were run by the same franchisee. I know Columbia is not a huge city, but it's not tiny, and I just assumed that a chain like Burger King would have a number of local franchisees. Of course, the only reason I know this at all is because the local franchisee had a complete falling out with the Burger King corporation itself during the 1990s. I don't remember the details now, and I'm sure there was a lot of finger pointing on both sides, but the upshot was that all the Burger King restaurants in Columbia ended up being shut down -- all of them, and for a long time. It was kind of an unprecedented situation in my experience.

It didn't matter much to me becase a) I was living out of town at the time, and b) I was increasingly disenchanted with fast food places at the time (this was before outfits like Moe's and Five Guys made fast food fun again) and especially with Burger King. Nonetheless, it was odd to drive past all the Burger Kings and see them stitting empty. This particular Burger King was on College Street between Main and Sumter Streets right by Cool Beans coffee shop. I had eaten there a number of times over the years, and they always seemed to do a good business with the college crowd.

Eventually, corporate found new franchisees for most of the BKs in Columbia, and made an event of the general re-opening, even getting South Carolina's "Blues Doctor", Drink Small to cut some celeberatory commercials. By then though, the University had already bought the USC BK, and it never reopened. The building has since been razed, and the land is now yet another offical USC parking lot.

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce!

UPDATE 22 March 2010: Added full street address to post title.

Written by ted on August 31st, 2008

Ye Olde Comic Shoppe, 519 Meeting Street (West Columbia): 1980s   20 comments

Posted at 10:53 pm in historic,stores

I didn't read a lot of comics as a kid. I had a stash that was left to me by an older neighbor friend when he moved out of town, and those I read over and over, and when we went to the beach, sometimes I would buy a copy of The Rawhide Kid or Sergeant Rock from the rack at Lachicotts if I had the money, but in general I didn't have the money. Besides, when I got my $3.00 from mowing the lawn, I wanted to spend it on Tom Swift, Rick Brant or Doc Savage.

All that changed in the 80s, when I finally had a little money coming in. Coincidentally, this boom time for me happened about the same time comics went into a major boom. DC was shaking things up with The Crisis on Infinite Earths and Alan Moore was proving with his incredible run on Swamp Thing that comics could be the vehicle for well-written adult horror.

As comics boomed, the distribution model changed from drugstore spinner racks which were indiferently stocked by magazine jobbers and always seemed to miss crucial issues to dedicated comic book stores. At the peak of the boom, Columbia had at least four first run comic stores. There was one on Forest Drive near the Fort Jackson gate, Heroes & Dragons at Boozer Shopping Center, Silver City on Knox Abbot Drive (not at its current location however) and this store, on Meeting Street.

I can't recall now what it was called, but I often checked it on new issue days (I think comics shipments arrived on either Wednesday or Thursday at the time) to see if they had anything I hadn't seen at Silver City (which I considered my main store).

Of course with every boom there is a bust. Comics were hit by a one two punch, first the "black & white" glut and implosion where the market for "indie" (non Marvel/non DC) black and white comics completely collapsed. (Just as an aside, The Teenaged Ninja Mutant Turtles started as an indie b&w comic which was an obvious parody of Frank Miller's work on Daredevil) then second, the industry was gripped by a speculative frenzy based on varient covers for each comic (one comic might be issued with 4 different covers, including gimmicks like embossed or 3-D covers on the theory that that made them "collectible"). Well, of course it turned out that nothing collected by the thousands is worth anything (Action Comics #1 is worth a lot because nobody collected them and almost all of them were thrown out) and the twin busts took out a lot of comic shops. To this day the industry still hasn't fully recovered, and with competition from video games and the Interenet likely never will.

This particular store went into a kind of slow-motion, never acknowledged, bankruptcy. One week I came in to look at the new comics and was told "Oh, the truck didn't come this week", so I browsed last week's leftovers a few minutes and left. When I stopped by the next week, and those were still the only comics there, I understood what was happening: There was not enough money to pay the distributers for new issues, but they weren't going to admit that, and were going to try to sell a few back issues for as long as the rent and utilities were not an issue (which was, I presume, the end of the month).

After the final closing, I think a couple of different operations moved in over the years, but for the last 5 years or so, it's been a tanning store so you can look good in your own superhero costume.

UPDATE 3 Oct 2008: Changed post title to reflect the name "Ye Olde Comic Shoppe" given by "Jim" in the comments. Also changed "Cayce" to "West Columbia"

Written by ted on August 30th, 2008

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Taco Bell, 4716 Devine Street: 2000s   29 comments

Posted at 4:53 pm in historic,restaurants

I had noticed for a couple of years that this Taco Bell was gone, and kind of wondered what happened. The location seems pretty good, with easy access from both Garners Ferry and Rosewood, and the chain is in no trouble, so it piqued my curiosity a bit, though never until recently at a time when I both had my camera and could stop.

In the event, my question actually was answered by a sign that explained exactly what had transpired. It still seems a little curious in that I think there is enough distance between this and the new location that the market could have supported both stores.

Obviously no name-brand restaurant is going to take up residence in a building that is clearly a former Taco Bell, but I think the site would be nice for a local restaurant. It doesn't fit into the concept of a fast-food chain like TB, but Gills Creek runs along the edge of the property, and I think you could build a very nice creekside deck there for spring and fall al-fresco dining.

UPDATE 20 December 2009: Changed the address from "Garners Ferry Road" to "4716 Devine Street".

UPDATE 9 May 2012 -- After a prolonged zoning battle with the city (or it *seemed* long anyway) this place is finally open again, as an "Adult Superstore":

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(Also resized all pictures to 600 pixels wide, which I guess I wasn't doing consistently back when this was first posted).

Written by ted on August 29th, 2008

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Budget Tapes & Records, Sumter Street across from The Horseshoe: 1980s   31 comments

Posted at 12:54 am in historic,stores

Well, talking about The Record Bar brings another record store to mind, one I haven't thought about in years.

In the early 1980s, there was a record store just across from The Horseshoe, on Sumter Street. It was on the ground floor of the building next to the restaurant that was McDonalds, then Lizards Thicket and is now, I think, Tios. This particular building also had a Sandy's Hotdogs and a video arcade.

I liked to stop into the place from time to time since it was almost on campus, and was a shorter walk than going down to Five Points, and despite its small size, it had an interesting selection of music. I remember in particular, that they had an import copy of The Beach Boys "Stack O' Tracks" album, one of the oddest releases ever put out by a major rock group, and long out of print in the US at the time, and a Stan Kenton album I wanted. Despite the fact that I bought both, neither could have been hot sellers on a college campus in 1980..

I'm guessing that the owner must have been pretty plugged into the local music scene, because of one incident I remember in particular. I was browsing in the back of the store, and a guy walked in with a bunch of 45s. The owner put one on the turntable, and the store was filled with this incredible stripped down bass-heavy New Wave groove under a piercing vocal:

A-Bomb woke me up -- only thing alarming was the noise!

At the end, the guy who had brought the 45s in said he was still a little unhappy with the mix, but that they were going to go with it. I didn't know it at the time, but the guy with the 45s almost had to have been Jeff Calder and the song was "The A-Bomb Woke Me Up" off of the Swimming Pool Qs first album The Deep End. It was a little slice of history, and a band that should have been huge.

I'm pretty sure the store was gone by the mid 80s, and I can't even recall the name now. It was not New Clear Days. NCD was in the same building, but upstairs where this store was downstairs, and came in much later. Anyone remember what this place was called?

UPDATE 17 Sep 08: Originally this post was just titled "Record Store", but the consensus seems to be that it was "Budget Tapes & Records", and I have changed the post title accordingly. Thanks folks!

Written by ted on August 29th, 2008

Welsh Humanities Building Reflection Pool, USC: 1970s-2000s   7 comments

Posted at 10:20 pm in historic,landmark

I was on campus the other day, and noticed the final passing of a landmark that's been gradually disappearing since the 1970s.

The Welsh Humanities Building is just past the Pickens Street footbridge on the way to Capstone. It was built in the early 1970s, and when it was first completed, there was a reflection pool in front of it. In that pool were vaguely birdlike abstract sculptures which bobbed up and down as water flowed over them. As a kid, it reminded me of those toy drinking birds that keep dipping into a glass of water, and I always enjoyed watching them.

The motion of the birds was the first thing to go. I don't know if the orignal artist was no longer available to keep them up, but at some point, they apparently broke, and facilities people turned off the water running over them. After the birds sat motionless for a number of years, they were finally totally removed from the pool. The pool itself continued to be maintained at least into the 80s if memory serves.

That changed when the pool was permanently drained, and chairs and tables for students using the mini restaurant on the ground floor of the Welsh building were put in. This continued for a while, then the old pool itself was filled in level to the rest of the surrounding plaza.

Then finally since the last time I was in the area, probably 2003, a whole new building has been built on the plaza, including most of what was the pool. The new building appears to be a wi-fi coffee bar combined with a "light meals" type of lunch counter. On the whole I think I'd prefer the birds.

Written by ted on August 27th, 2008

Seaboard Air Line Station, Gervais Street: 1991   31 comments

Posted at 6:29 pm in historic,landmark

The first time I can remember going to the train station was when I was quite small. My father knew one of the Seaboard engineers, and arranged for us to see his engine one night while he was taking a train through town. Altough I was fascinated with big machinery at the time, I really can't remmber much about it, other than the fact the engineer told us how we could leave pennies on the track which would be flattened as he took the train out of the station. And although I suppose train traffic had been long on the wane even then, I also recall how active and noisy the place seemed to be, with idling engines and people bustling back and forth.

After that, we went down to the station about once a year, when my Aunt would take either the Silver Star or Silver Meteor from Jacksonville to Columbia. Often, this meant that she would arrive late at night, and I can remember that our ritual for going to pick her up would include a stop at the Krispy Kreme on Taylor Street (near the Big-T) to get hot doughnuts to eat while we sat and waited for the train.

I only took a train from that station once. When I was in elementary school, my mother arranged a "train party" for one of my birthdays (I suppose I was 7 or 8). Parents brought my classmates down to the station to catch the train to Camden. My mother rode with us on the train, and when we got to Camden, we were met by my father and some of the other parents who had driven over while we were en-route. We had a picnic with cake in a Camden park, then my father and the other parents drove us all back to Columbia. I don't recall much about the station itself on that trip except the for some 2nd-grade reason, a friend and I got fascinated by a stamp machine in the place and bummed some change to see it operate. In the event, it only dispensed half a stamp, which we thought was very noteworthy. (The train ride itself was noteworthy because the passenger car had a water cooler rather than a fountain, and it had neat conical paper cups).

If memory serves, the Seaboard Diner was also originally located at the station. After the station closed, it relocated down Gervais several blocks towards the river, and was finally torn down at some point during the vistafication of the whole area. I suppose that process is still not totally complete, as you have a bit of the old

left in with the new

I don't know if there is a word for the style of the building other than "train station", but it's a style that just screams train station even when you see it in small towns where the tracks have long since been pulled up. I think the current tenant, The Blue Marlin seafood restaurant has been in the main part of the station more or less since it closed. I believe the mix on the other side of Gervais has been a bit more volatile. My memory is not clear exactly clear on how the station originally worked. I guess that when a train was long enough, it was parked across Gervais during loading and unloading.

After 9/11, I got tired of how awful flying had become, and decided that the next time I had to go to DC, I would take the train. Of course I had to use the new station by then, but it was a nice experience. Riding the train is amazingly civilized. You can get up and stretch whenever you want to, or get a snack, and at mealtimes they serve real food in the dining car. I can see why my Aunt elected to take the train from Florida, especially before the Interstates were done. It is also, however, amazingly slow, and I can't see it ever catching on again. I was amused a few years back by the wrangle between the state government and I believe Wacamaw county about who was on the hook to fix the train drawbridge over the Inland Waterway at US-501. I think the county claimed that they had a "treaty" with the state dating back 50 years that said the state was responsible, and the state finally said OK, this time, but never again. That's been over ten years ago now, and there still hasn't been a train over that bridge and onto the Wacamaw Neck, and I fully expect that it is just as likely that one will pull up in front of The Blue Marlin first.

"All Aboard!"

Written by ted on August 26th, 2008

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Friedman's Jewelers, Columbia Mall: August 2008   no comments

Posted at 6:56 pm in stores

I'm not a big customer of Jewelry stores. I have a watch battery that needs to be replaced about once a year, and that's pretty much it. The last time it needed changing, I used the jewelers outside the 2nd floor entrance of Macy's, and the time before that, the one that's a short walk down Two Notch from Very's restaurant. So, although I've been somewhat aware of the name, I've never been in Friedman's.

As it turns out, that was probably a good move on my part. The store seems to have been hit with a triple whammy lately. Apparently, from what I've been able to google, the chain went into bankruptcy once, came out in 2005, then went under again in 2008, and closed "all" of its stores by June 2008. If that weren't bad enough the following from Wikipedia seems to apply to the Columbia Mall store:

Any stores currently operating under the Freidman's or Crescent nameplates are currently owned by Whitehall Jewelers Inc, who had purchased these locations for about fourteen million dollars from bankrupt Friedman's. Whitehall went bankrupt and began liquidating all of its stores in August 2008.

I suppose you have to admire the optimism that makes the purchase of bankrupt stores seem like a good idea, but I sure wouldn't bet on that idea!

Written by ted on August 25th, 2008

Oreck Store, 4840 Forest Drive #18 (Trenholm Plaza): 1 September 2008 (move) / April 2012 (name change)   no comments

Posted at 6:50 pm in stores

Another casualty of the Trenholm Plaza renovations. (Have you noticed all the new palm trees going in?)

I've always been an Electrolux guy myself, except that I figured out a few years ago that I just don't have the cleaning gene at all, got maid-service and never looked back..

UPDATE 30 Jan 2009: This is their new location a few blocks down Forest Drive in the Forest Park plaza with the Piggly Wiggly.

UPDATE 14 May 2012 -- The store has now changed its name to All Vacuums:

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Written by ted on August 24th, 2008

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The Record Bar, Columbia Mall: 1980s   37 comments

Posted at 7:08 pm in historic,stores

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

I was just at Columbia Mall, a place I go very seldom nowadays. I couldn't help but be struck by how few of the original stores are still there. There's Sears, Waldenbooks, Radio Shack, and that's about it. (I suppose you could count Macy's since there was continuity with their purchase of Rich's..).

Anyway, The Record Bar was on the top level, right next to J.C. Penny's and above Radio Shack. It was not a large operation and wasn't "indie" the way Sounds Familiar and especially Manifest can be, but it performed its function of providing the current hit LPs & 45s with a comendable depth of back catalog for a chain store with limited space. They also had a constantly changing selection of "cut-outs" from which I bagged many a gem, especially considering my extremely limited finances in those days before I had a job.

They also were generally careful to pull out the "Hot 100" pages from the current week's Billboard magazine, and tack them up over the 45 bin. This was nice because in those pre-internet days, you might never know your favorite group had a new song out if it was still down around #60 and never showed up on the radio.

I don't know their hiring practices -- their staff was definitely not as tatooed and pierced as is the norm at Manifest, but someone there seemed to know a bit about music. I pretty much discovered rock music in 1976 as a result of being introduced to "Endless Summer" by The Beach Boys, and I would always check the Beach Boys section in the LPs. Of course by that time, Brian Wilson was still not living on Earth most days, and the Beach Boys glory days were long gone, so there were years between album releases, and even the back catalog was in sad disarray. I found though, that whenever some interesting Beach Boys artifact was released abroad, it would usually show up at the Record Bar. I remember I had to borrow a dollar from my sister to get a "Brian Wilson Rarities" record with stuff that didn't show up in the states for years.

I'm not sure exactly what happened to The Record Bar. They had two locations in Columbia, I always presumed they were a larger chain, but perhaps I was wrong. At any rate, both the Woodhill Mall and the Columbia Mall locations closed in, I believe, the 1980s. It may have been that they were unprepared for CDs to catch on as quickly as they did. It may have been that that made a good bit on 45 singles and those disappeared. It may have been competition from larger non-mall stores like Peaches, Sounds Familiar and Manifest. It could even have been in-mall competition -- I know that at one time there was a larger CD store on the bottom level near Sears (though my impression is that that came after The Record Bar was already gone). Whatever the reason, they packed up, and their stained glass window and wooden door are now long gone. Currently there's not even a storefront in the spot where they were.

The levee is dry..

Written by ted on August 23rd, 2008

Jackson Camera, all over Columbia (1326 Main Street, 405 Greenlawn Drive, 625 Harden Street, 3407 Forest Drive, Richland Mall, Dutch Square, Columbia Mall)q: 1990s   17 comments

Posted at 6:24 pm in historic,stores

When I was growing up, there were two kinds of photo-finishing. You could drop off your film at Campbell's Drugs, the Jackrabbit kiosk in Trenholm Plaza or K-Mart, but if you actually needed to talk to someone who knew something about photography, you went to Jackson Camera. At their height, they had stores all over Columbia. I can recall locations at Richland Mall (on the backside of the open-air corridor), Main Street, Five Points and Dutch Square.

The location I always visited was at Richland Mall. As a kid, I had gotten into developing and printing pictures. I can't remember exactly how, but I had already started fooling around with it when I "inherited" a bunch of (mostly hand-made) equipment from someone moving out of town to a smaller place. Originally I had no enlarger so I favored bigger-frame negatives like (the even-then archaic) 616 and slightly smaller 620 and 127 film sizes which made accptable contact prints. I'm afraid I pretty much ruined the finish on the kitchen counters with sloshing developer, stop-bath and "hypo" all over them -- the stains are there to this day. And really, there was no way to make the kitchen dark enough to be a "real" darkroom during the day (not surprisingly, my mother needed it to cook at night..), so my prints and negatives were always fuzzy, but I never hesitated to try again, and to ask for more advice down at Jackson Camera.

I'm sure the guy who was usually there, would look up, see me coming across the corridor and think Oh Lord, here we go again, but he and all the staff were always very patient and informative despite the fact that I took up way more of their time than my meager purchases of contact paper and chemicals would warrant. By middle school, I had more or less fallen out of the habit (and in high school, the darkroom had its own stock of chemicals and paper), so my visits to Jackson almost ceased.

Even as I moved out of town in 1985 though, the photo market was changing drastically. While the picture drop-off business had always (in my memory) been a chain dominated affair, in the 80s, national chains moved into the camera shop and specialty photo-finishing market. Wolf and Ritz were the big players, and when Ritz bought Wolf, they were the 500 pound gorilla that sleeps where it wants. Jackson kept on for years, but gradually closed more of their stores. The one pictured here is at the corner of Beltline Boulevard and Forest Drive, and is where, I believe, their Richland Mall shop moved when Richland Mall went to Richland "Fashion" Mall, driving out a number of stalwarts like Jackson Camera and The Happy Bookseller. Jackson finally sold out to Ritz a few years ago, and this location operated as a Ritz for a while, but with another Ritz just a few blocks away down Beltline, it didn't really make any sense to keep this one open.

Interestingly, as I went to take this shot, I saw that the follow-on business, some sort of beauty store is also closing up shop.

UPDATE 21 May 2010 -- Here's an ad from The State for 19 Feb 1979:

Also, I've added all the addresses from the ad to the post title.

UPDATE 3 December 2010 -- Here are two great shots of the Harden Street Store by Hunter Desportes on Flickr:

outside

inside

UPDATE 24 February 2013: I have added two pictures to the top of this post, above the one (of the beauty store) that the text of the post talks about. They come from commenter Thomas and were taken of the Main Street location in 1997. I love that huge marquee.. Thanks!

UPDATE 23 February 2014 -- The Forest Drive store is now Troy's Cutting Edge barber shop:

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