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Archive for November, 2008

Dodd's 5 & 10 / Von Henmon's / Monterrey Jack's / Agave / Hannah Jane's / Nacho Mamma's / 5 Points Pub, 733 Santee Avenue & 2020 Devine Street: 1990s   17 comments

Posted at 7:59 pm in historic,restaurants

Monterrey Jack's was an Americanized Mexican restaurant on Santee Avenue behind Yesterday's. Actually that's a bit inaccurate: While Santee was the "main" entrance, there was also an entrance on Devine Street. The main entrance debauched into the bar area while the "back" entrance led into the non-smoking section.

It was also the case that, even if you were a non-smoker, you wanted to sit in the bar area since a) the waitstaff actually checked those tables from time to time, b) the lighting and decor were much better, and c) the bar had possibly the largest CD collection of any Columbia restaurant, and the music there was always interesting.

The food was, in retrospect, not that good. This place was one of the ones that started in the era when jokes about the spiciness of Mexican food were a staple of comedy and commercials, and it was thought that Mexican food had to be toned down and domesticated for American (and especially, I suspect, Southern) patrons. I don't disagree with tampering with authenticity as I've said in a number of posts on Mexican restaurants. Authenticity for it's own sake is not necessarily a virtue (for instance, while American pizza is only loosely based on the Italian model, that's not a flaw) but in general I like going the other way -- adding much more spice. As I recall, the chips here were always burnt tasting and the beans were especially bland and gloppy. Still it was edible, and the atmosphere was interesting. We usually ate lunch there, but I think the main draw for the college crowd was the bar in the evenings.

After Monterrey Jack's closed, there was another "Mexican" operation in the location: Nacho Mamma's. This was an Yo Burrito / El Burrito type place that, I believe, started as on Broad Street in Augusta. Or at least there was one that opened in Augusta while I was working there, and the local press made it sound like the first, so I always assumed the Five Points location was the second, and their attempt at becoming a chain. I can't speak for the Five Points one, but the one in Augusta struck me as severely sub-par. They had only shredded beef (no ground beef) as your cow option, and the chips and salsa were not very good. At any rate, the Columbia Location did not last long. I believe there were a couple of other short-lived eateries/drinkeries in the storefront before the current tennant, The Pub on Santee moved in. I haven't paid close attention, but I think that operation has been there several years now.

UPDATE 26 May 2010: Added a lot of former names to the post title. Also note that 5 Points Pub is gone now too. This will continue on the entry for The Elbow Room.

Written by ted on November 17th, 2008

Martin's Coffee House, 4459 Devine Street: 11 March 2000   16 comments

Posted at 6:56 pm in historic,restaurants

Well, I wasn't going to do a post on Martin's Coffee House mainly because I don't remember it at all. However judging by the comments left about it on my post about the neighboring IHOP it seems to be very fondly remembered and to have a strong constituency.

Martin's was a 24 hour restaurant which like the IHOP, was torn down to make way for the Walgreens at the apex of Devine Street and Garners Ferry Road. I have copied the comments about Martin's from the IHOP post to this one.

Written by ted on November 17th, 2008

Campbell's Drugs: Forest Drive: 1980s   8 comments

Posted at 12:41 am in historic,landmark,stores

Campbell's Drugs was the anchor store for the old Forest Lake Shopping Center at the corner of Trenholm Road and Forest Drive, across from Trenholm Plaza.

Originally, Forest Lake Shopping Center was kind of a "double" strip mall with Campbell's on both the front (Forest Drive) and back (parking lot and cut-through over Gill's Creek). On the front with Campbell's were a 7-11 (later a Majik Market), a barber shop and a hardware store. (The hardware left early, and was replaced, possibly, with an ABC store). On the back were Dodd's, a fabric store of some sort, a formalwear store and some others that changed from time to time, and never really sparked my imagination.

Campbell's was an old-school drugstore, not affialiated with a national chain as far as I can recall, and boasted a soda fountain and short-order counter. If you came in the front door, the lunch counter was on your left leaving a corridor of general merchandise on your right which you walked down to get to the perscription area which was in the back of the store. I don't recall much about the store's stock aside from the usual Whitman's samplers and greeting cards, but it did have a paperback spinner rack from which I once talked my mother into buying me an Arthur C. Clarke short story collection. I do recall that there wasn't much about the stock to strike a kid's interest, so waiting to have a prescription filled could be kind of boring. Past the pharmacy area was a back door, with a sidewalk going down the hill to the back side of the shopping center.

Because of its location fairly near to our house, and on the way home from Dr. Harvin's Office, Campbell's was where we got all our perscriptions filled. Before Jack Rabbit set up in Trenholm Plaza, it was usually where we dropped our film off as well. They didn't have processing facilities, but would send your film off to a regional lab and you could pick it up a week or two later (color took longer, I think). I recall one time that we were dropping off film, and I didn't feel like going inside with my mother and sister while they took care of that and picked up a few things. Since it wasn't considered child abuse at the time, my mother let me stay in the car with my book and our dog. I apparently had strict instructions to roll the windows mostly up if I got out of the car, but in the event when I got bored and went inside, I couldn't be bothered and our dog (a sweet tempered Cocker Spaniel) took the opportunity to jump out of the window and make a run for the Cooper Branch. Since this involved crossing Trenholm, and since Trenholm was even then a pretty busy road, and since my mother had to go racing after her, I was in very bad graces for a while thereafter (she was fine though!)

Sometime, I think in the early 80s, Forest Lake Shoping Center was "remodeled", which in this instance meant tearing down the bulk of the original main strip. The auxiliary strip with the old Colonial store (now Coplon's), Sakura and Forest Lake TV remained, but Campbell's and all of the other main strip stores were torn down to make way for a new First Citizen's bank and Talbot's. I'm sure that given the trends in the pharmacy industry, Campbell's would probably have to have sold out to a chain by now as Cedar Terrace Pharmacy, The Big T and Parkland Pharmacy did. Still, I was sad to see it go.

Written by ted on November 17th, 2008

B. Dalton Books, Columbia Mall: 1990s   3 comments

Posted at 7:11 pm in historic,stores

I'm not currently sure which it was, but one of these two storefronts in Columbia Mall, at the top of the escalator in the Penny's wing, was the home of B. Dalton Books. In the beginning, Columbia Mall actually had three bookstores. There was (and is) Waldenbooks on the ground floor near Sears, Zondervan's Family Bookstore, I believe on the second floor also near Sears and B. Dalton.

Zondervan's was a Christian/Inspirational store while the other two were general market books. Of those two, Waldenbooks was always my favorite. I'm not entirely sure why that was. The two stores were about equal in size, but it seemed to me that Waldenbooks SF and humor sections (which were really all I was interested in for years) skewed just a little more to my tastes than did B. Dalton. Nonetheless, in those pre-Internet days, you had to keep hitting all the stores to be sure of finding new books, and I bought many there over the years. While I remember very little of the book itself now, one memorable purchase was one of Bill Baldwin's Helmsman books which had a binding error which repeated the penultimate chapter twice rather than printing the final chapter. Since everything was being set up for a grand space battle in which the hero might have to kill his lady love on the other side, this was frustrating to say the least!

Waldenbooks is owned by the Borders chain, and since 1987, B. Dalton has been owned by their (more successful) competitor Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble has been closing B. Dalton locations for years, preferring to concentrate on their big box stores. I was probably already living in Fayetteville and don't remember the timing, but I suspect that they probably closed this B. Dalton when they made their big box entrance to Columbia at Richland Mall. The closing of this store, and Zondervan's, leaves Waldenbooks as the only book store in Columbia Mall. Given the state of the Mall, and the state of Borders, I have to wonder how long they can last.

Written by ted on November 15th, 2008

The Basil Pot, Rosewood Drive / 928 Main Street: 2004-ish   18 comments

Posted at 4:45 am in historic,restaurants

The original location on Rosewood Drive:

The final location on Main Street:

I've already done one post on this storefront which was the former home of Tio's Mexican Restaurant before its move to Sumter street.

Before Tio's, however, 928 Main Street was the home of The Basil Pot vegetarian restaurant. There may have been other vegetarian places in Columbia, but The Basil Pot was the most prominent. The place was founded in 1973 by Basil Garzia and was originally on Rosewood Drive before moving to Main Street. I don't know the exact year it closed, but one 2007 Free Times article mentions that it was "more than 3 years ago".

I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn't like meat. However, while I enjoy many meatless dishes, going to an actual vegetarian restaurant is something I've never done. I guess that's because I've always had the feeling that while I might go there (if I actually went) to enjoy a meal, the rest of the patrons might be there for deep philosophical reasons which it would annoy me to hear them discuss. Yep, I'm shallow.

I really can't think of a vegetarian restaurant in Columbia after the passing of The Basil Pot, though the new tenant Which Wich can make a decent veggie sandwich..

UPDATE 17 Nov 08: Thanks to commenter Dennis for the black and white picture of the original Basil Pot (and staff) on Rosewood!

Written by ted on November 15th, 2008

"The Big T" (Taylor Street Pharmacy), 1520 Taylor Street: 1994   22 comments

Posted at 6:26 pm in historic,landmark,stores

For most of my life, "The Big T" as Taylor Street Pharmacy was known was the only 24-hour drugstore in Columbia. That said, it was far from the closest drugstore to my home, and a 24-hour drugstore is something you (hopefully) don't need that often, so I was probably only there a dozen or so times over the years.

The store, which was on Taylot Street above The Township and below Baptist Hospital, was unaffiliated with any chain (not unusual at the time), and I recall it as having rather a hodge-podge assortment of merchandise aside from the perscription department. I think one of the times I went when I was a kid, it impressed me as Lachicotte's at Pawleys Island set down in Columbia (though without the floats and fishing tackle). I do recall that they had a spinner rack of paperbacks, something I would always check in any store we visited, and some toys. I can't recall if they had a soda/short-order counter, but I would suspect that they did given the size of the store and that it was a standard drugstore fixture back in the day.

"The Big T" monicker was not just a common nickname for the place -- it was embraced by the store and used in their advertising, to effect, I think, since even people who didn't go there felt friendly towards the store.

In the end life became more difficult for unaffiliated drugstores, and most of that era (Campbell's, Cedar Terrace, Parkland Pharmacy..) are now gone. With the decline of downtown, the Taylor Street location became something of an obstacle as well, and the store finally sold out to CVS, who continue to operate it today, under a much reduced schedule (it apparently is not open on Sunday at all much less 24/7). It appears to me that apart from a revamp of the corner entrance to add CVS branded architecture, the main building is pretty much intact, at least from the outside.

UPDATE 14 March 2009: Added 1963 Yellow Pages ad.

UPDATE 31 March 2009: Added 1970 Yellow Pages ad.

UPDATE 10 March 2011 -- Some of the original Big T signage is visible during the current work on the building:

UPDATE 15 May 2011: Changed to closing date in the post title to 1994 based on commenter Andrew's research. (Oops, set it to 19994 the first time..)

Written by ted on November 13th, 2008

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Computer Renaissance, Harbison Boulevard: 2000s   no comments

Posted at 5:27 pm in historic,stores

Computer Renaissance is a chain of used computer stores. I first became aware of them when I was working in Augusta, and there was one on the Bobby Jones Expressway where we would sometimes get parts, and where I bought a much beloved AT&T/NCR 386 laptop. (Which I still have, and which still works great, running FreeBSD 2.2, though I never could get X working). I say "used computer" store, but they also have new parts such as sound cards, video cards etc.

This particular store, which is now sells fitness equipment, is off of Harbison Boulevard in the Books-a-Million plaza. I got my second "main" home computer there while I was still living in Aiken. At the time, I was still convinced of the virtues of SCSI disks vs IDE (eventually the price differential just became too great however), and I was struck by a used SCSI tower system they had. It was just a 100mhz but it served me well as a DSL anchor box for years, and was still running fine when I retired it shortly after returning to Columbia (though I had switched out the SCSI drives for IDE by then).

Not too long after I got it, I noticed the Computer Renaissance store in Augusta went under, and the next time I checked Harbison, this store was gone as well. I think part of the problem was that new computers had just become so cheap that the used computer market crashed. There may also have been management problems. There is a new Computer Renaissance store out on Hardscrabble Road, and one of the guys there told me that the chain had completely changed concepts after its hard times. I believe he said they had switched from a company store model to a franchaise store model though I could have that backwards -- at any rate it was a big change. I have gotten some parts at the Hardscrabble store, and have seen some good deals on systems there, but in general, Hardscrabble is just to difficult for me to get to (it's obvious it's going to have to be a 4-lane road someday -- why not just bite the bullet and do it?) especially since I'm pretty comfortable with my computing base right now.

Written by ted on November 12th, 2008

Shealy's Sandwiches / not Stewart Sandwiches(?), 530 Devine Street: 1980s(?)   10 comments

Posted at 6:03 pm in business,historic

My high school didn't have a cafeteria, so you either brown-bagged lunch, ate off campus if you had a car, or ate microwaved Stewart Sandwiches from the canteen. These were universally acknowledged to be awful, but they had a strange fascination, and we ate them anyway even as we joked about them. I for one, never could tell the difference between the Stewart "Steak Sandwich" and the Stewart "Hamburger".

The company was apparently originally called Stewart In-Fra-Red Commissary of Minnesota and their slogan was the dubious "Sold Almost Everywhere". After my encounter with them in the 1970s, they bought a couple of other companies, changed their name to Stewart Foods, Inc. then merged with Blevins Concession Supply, Co. and changed their name to Stewart Blevins, Inc.. That was in 1992, and I can't seem to find them after that.

Anyway, I was driving around off of Huger Street in the 1980s, and came across their local office. It was something of a revelation as in my mind, Stewart Sandwiches more appeared than were made and distributed on purpose!. The place now appears to be yet another barbecue restaurant: The Palmetto Pig. It may well be a great place, but while the location seems reasonable to me for a food distribution operation, I think it would be a bad place for a restaurant.

UPDATE 1 June 2011: Commenter Andy says this was Shealy's Sandwiches, not Stewart, and that Shealy moved here from the Assembly Street location (now TakoSushi).

Well, I'll try to verify that it was never a Stewart in old City Directories when I get a chance, but in the meantime, I'm leaving all the Stewart's memories here. (Similarly to what I had to do when I screwed up Krystal..)

Written by ted on November 11th, 2008

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Russell House Post Office Boxes, USC: 2000s(?)   9 comments

Posted at 1:17 am in historic,landmark

The Horseshoe Deli now occupies the space in the first floor Russell House foyer which used to house the student post office boxes for most (or perhaps all) campus residents.

The Post Office box facility was rather oddly shaped in that it was a rectangular block set in the middle of the current deli space. There was a door to the Russell House courtyard at one end while the other end was open to the foyer. The entire rectangle was covered with old-style (combination lock) post office boxes on all four sides except for a door allowing Postal personell access to the inside so that mail could be put into the boxes. (There may also have been a window, though no full service post-office-like functionality was provided -- you could not buy stamps or mail letters). I don't remember what my PO Box number was, but my box was on the side of the rectangle nearest to Greene Street, and was at a moderate height which involved no stooping or craning.

Since Russell House is more or less in the center of campus, and since I lived in Douglas, which was at the far edge, my practice was that if it looked like it might rain during the day, I would take my compact umbrella with me from my room, and if it wasn't raining by the time I got to Russell House, and if it was after morning mail delivery (which it usually was as I avoided early morning classes if at all possible!), I would put my umbrella in my PO Box and go on with my day. As I'm sure most of you have guessed, this worked well until the day the spring catch decided to release inside the mailbox, turning the umbrella (which was point-first into the box) into one of those objects that can only be pushed one way (like a cable tie or Chinese finger-cuff). I finally had to wait until the next day and ask a postal worker to retreive it for me...

I'm not sure when the PO Boxes were moved. It appears to me that some have been put upstairs by the old game room, while the majority have been put in the "Carolina Underground" basement mall.

Written by ted on November 11th, 2008

Redbone Alley / Corky's Memphis Barbecue, 5400 Forest Drive: mid 2000s   12 comments

Posted at 7:26 pm in historic,restaurants

Redbone Alley on Forest Drive in a Wal-Mart outparcel was the Columbia incarnation of a Florence based restaurant. While the Florence location apparently made clever use of a vacated mall anchor slot, the Columbia operation built a completely new building, which perhaps in the end was a bridge too far.

I believe I was still living in Aiken when the place opened, and only ate there once. Looking at their online menu, I'm pretty sure I would have ordered a burger. Whatever I had, it didn't impress me as either exceptionally bad or good. I do remember thinking that the atmosphere was a bit upscale to become a regular hang-out for me. Apparently a lot of people felt that way, as the place did not last long at all.

The next tenant in the building was some sort of Memphis barbecue operation. I'm not a barbecue person, and so had the burger again, and again it was fine, but nothing to write home about. I recall that The Free Times was not impressed with the barbecue, leading to an amusing letter to the editor from one of the Free Times rack jobbers saying that he should have been warned that the FT had just panned the food before being sent to restock the FT rack there!

That place had a very short run as well, and the next operation was a San Jose mexican operation. This led the San Jose up Forest Drive by the Rite Aid to put up a We Are Not Moving! sign as people just assumed that they must be the San Jose handling the new operation. I never ate at that incarnation..

The San Jose had, I think, an even shorter run than any of the other operations there, and the place got new management which changed the name to Pancho's. I believe it's been that way for a year or so now, and I have yet to eat there either.

UPDATE: Commenter Matthew identifies the barbecue operation as Corky's

UPDATE 20 November 2009: Added Corky's to the post title, also added the full street address.

Written by ted on November 9th, 2008

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