Archive for December, 2008
I wrote recently how Peaches often crossed my mind at Christmas, but there was another place in town which had an even stronger holiday association for me. Probably because my mother was a gardner, I spent my share of time at Taylor's Garden Center growing up.
The buildings and yard space have been torn down, but Taylor's Garden Center occupied the pace now held by Forest Lake Fabrics, next to Frans and Forest Lake Park. Like Gaul, the place was divided into three parts. In the front, on the right, was the salesroom. This room was filled with all the paraphernalia of gardening: hoses, nozzles, sprayers, stakes, gloves, clippers, chemicals, you name it. I liked it because it was almost like a hardware store, and all the chemicals gave it a unique smell. I believe that if you had taken me in blindfolded, I still would have been able to identify where I was.
Also in front, but on the left was sort of an auxiliary, room. I think this was more seasonal, and most of the year I recall it having lawn statues, paving stones, fountains and the like.
Behind this room, and also on the left side was the greenhouse. This was where all the actual plants were, and had its own distinctive, loamy smell. You could go out there, and with the warmth, the smell, the sound of the fans running, the sounds of the plastic sheeting walls bowing in and out in the breeze and the rows of green plants, it was like stepping into some other world. Perhaps the "plant ship" from the film Silent Running. We kids liked to wander around out there while our mother was picking things out in the front room.
But here's the best thing about the place. The auxiliary room that I called seasonal? Well winter is a season, and one where a garden center isn't going to have a lot of business -- So each winter they set up a Festival of Christmas Trees there. Now they may have sold live trees, I don't recall (we always got ours at the Optimist lot), but the festival was all artificial trees, and very fancy ones. I can particularly recall trees which had a little pump system which recycled poppy-seed sized grains of "snow" from a catchment basin at the base of the tree to a nozzle at the top, providing a constant "snowfall" over the tree. And of course there were trees with all manner of fancy lights, trees that turned round and round, and even trees that made their own music.
I suppose they did sell some of them each year, but really it was more like an area attraction, to come to the Garden Center and see the trees.
I'm a little fuzzy on why the Garden Center closed. It wasn't part of any chain, so it might just have been a matter of the proprietors wanting to retire, or it could have been the rise of Wal-Mart (though the Forest Drive store was till in the future) or the superstores like Home Depot & Lowes. I think I was already living out of town when it happened. I recall reading an appreciation piece in The State, then the place closed and the building was torn down. I guess you could say they took over from the nursery that was on Trenholm Road behind the Gulf station, and now Forest Lake Gardens has kind of taken over from them. But it doesn't smell the same.
UPDATE 27 Mar 09: Finally fixed the title of this post, changing to to Taylor's Garden Center from the (incorrect) Forest Lake Garden Center.
UPDATE 1 October 2009: Finished changing all the Forest Lake Garden Center references to Taylor's Garden Center. Don't know why I didn't catch them earlier.
This building more or less on the corner of Trehnolm Road and Beltline Boulevard, was for years, I believe, a florist. Then the "espresso craze" hit the country.
Remember how in the awful 1991 Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk Willis had to keep explaining to everyone what a Cappuccino was? Well, shortly thereafter, all of America knew, and coffee houses were something of a hot market item. I believe it was about this time that Cool Beans started on College Street (under another name), as well as Ibby's in Myrtle Beach, a place on King Street in Charleston whose name I'm blanking on and several others started. Most of this first wave of independant coffee houses located in shabby buildings and affected a very casual and laid back demeanor and their attitude was very much "we are real coffee houses, and you should get used to us and continue to support us because Starbucks is coming". However, I think that was something of a put on, like having a "real" Irish pub in a South Eastern city. The whole coffee-house "culture" was really indigenous to other parts of the country, and the local places weren't anymore "real" than Starbucks, though the survivors have become so over time.
Aside from the "culture" there was simply a matter of competence. Brewing the espresso seems fairly straight-forward, but it is very easy to burn the milk for items like cappuccinos or lattes after which they become completely undrinkable. Books-a-Million still gets this wrong about two times out of ten, while I've never had it happen at Starbucks.
All of which is a lead-up for saying that sometime in the 90s, the florist shop closed and a coffee house went into the building. I'm afraid to say that I stopped once, got a completely undrinkable latte and never went back. They may have gotten better after that, but with the lot being rather hard to get in and out of, and with first Books-A-Million locating at Trenholm Plaza and then Barnes & Noble at Richland Mall, they were gone even before any Starbucks opened in Columbia.
The place is now a cat hospital. And that can keep you awake too.
Cornell Arms is a venerable apartment building on the corner of Pendelton & Sumter Streets right across from The Horseshoe. In addition to the apartments in the "high rise" section of the building, there has always been retail space on the ground floor. In times past, the space which now houses Tio's Mexican Restaurant has hosted McDonald's and The Lizard's Thicket.
The corner space which is now apparently a cafe & catering operation has also had a number of tenants. The most durable was probably a drugstore which was there for most of my childhood if I am recalling correctly. However the one which most interested me was a bagel operation which started in the 90s when what my father called The Bagel Craze finally hit Columbia. (This was the era which also saw Manhatten Bagel start in Trenholm Plaza). Anyway, after the bagel place that is now Greek Boys closed, the Cornell Arms bagelery was my choice for my bi-annual after-dentist bagel. At the time I was still living in Aiken, so when I had a dentist appointment scheduled, I would spend the night in Columbia, have my checkup and then drive to work in Augusta. I've never had any dental problems, but having my gums poked with small sharp objects always makes me feel I deserve some sort of reward, and so a bagel it is. Going back to Trenholm Plaza was too far the wrong way, but this place was close enough. I'm not sure what happened to it. Perhaps bagels became so common that students can get passable ones on campus. Perhaps it was the lack of parking. Maybe somebody picked the lox...
UPDATE 8 Jan 09: Turns out this place is still the same operation and still has bagels, they just changed the name and focus. (check the comments). Glad to hear it!
UPDATE 12 April 2010: Added full street address to post title.
OK, this one makes me doubt my memories. (I'm sure more of these closings should do that..)
This is the store where I bought my sister a vacuum cleaner back in the 1980s. I can't remember what kind it was -- some sort of off-brand canister model that seemed fairly solid, I think. It lasted more than ten years for her, and if that's not Electrolux longevity, it's not bad.
The thing is that I was dead certain the place was called Intersection Vacuum Center, which made sense because it was located at Intersection Center. However, clearly at the time this place moved to Lake Murray Boulevard (where it still is), it was called Vacuum Mart. Further, there is an Intersection Vacuum Center in Columbia, but it's apparently on Two Notch near Columbia Mall.
The only sequence of events that would make my recollection correct is if this building was Intersection Vacuum Center which at some point moved out and was replaced by another vacuum store. Anyone have a better memory about this?
UPDATE 16 May 2010: Added full street address, tags.
I don't know much about Gilligan's, which was beside the old Sears building and behind the old Punch Line on an odd little isolated segment of Senate Street. It keeps coming up in comments as a place fondly remembered though. I know they had sort of a big "sandbox" in front of the rather decrepit-looking building with a volleyball net set up, and "incentivies" to get folks there. Commenter Dennis notes:
Gilligan’s, A.K.A. Ribby’s, was a brilliant idea by Tim Peterson, but he could not get people there. He asked me once why the great BBQ joints never seem to sell beer (he did) and I’m still trying to figure that out. You’d think that alone would draw a crowd. Not to mention girls in bikinis playing volleyball on the sand, which he arranged to have happen from time to time.
When I took these pictures, I noticed a guy working on the roof (and who was giving me the evil-eye, so I didn't take many shots or get any closer), and commenter John says
Is my old hangout about to reopen?
Perhaps we'll see soon.
UPDATE 24 July 2010 -- It's now open as The Cock Lounge:
It's hard to characterize The Joyful Alternative. One commenter called it a "Head Shop", but I don't think that's quite right. "New Age" doesn't exactly capture it either. I guess "Eclectic" comes pretty close.
The Joyful Alternative started in 1970 and was located in the lower left side of what is now the Five Points Starbucks building. My mother liked to go there and browse the handcrafts from around the world, and look through the various prints, candles and statuettes. I liked the various humorous postcards and placards though in general the store didn't interest me as much as it did her.
However, there was always a rather odd assortment of books there, and I remember very well the day I found the old Ace paperback editions of Jack Vance's "Planet of Adventure" books there (City of the Chasch, Servants of the Wankh,The Dirdir and The Pnume). I get the impression from the overall series title that Vance was asked by his editor Why don't you just write a straight SF adventure for a change instead of all that weird stuff with the footnotes? Of course he wouldn't be Vance if he actually did that, but the overall meta-plot of the spaceman trying to get home provided the discipline to keep him from getting bored after he had described all the weirdities of his invented world, and the books are among his very best. (He was later persuaded to changte the title of the second book to The Wannek after being informed the meaning of wank in Commonwealth countries, and not wanting it to sound like a book about 15 year old boys :-)
Anyway, I don't know how that happened, but it was the only time I saw SF books there, and in those pre-Internet days, I never would have known of those volumes at all, not having seen them elsewhere. The store continued into the 80s, 90s and 2000s, but sales gradually declined, and the place finally closed in 2003 with Starbucks moving in fairly shortly thereafter.
So I guess in the end there was no alternative..
I believe this is the Zesto that was on Decker Boulevard. I don't have a lot to say about it other than it didn't last long after moving. I'm not entirely sure why as there should be lots of traffic back-and-forth past it as people drive out to the new retail areas of Two Notch. Spring Valley Commons, the strip mall of which it is part is not in great shape, but I wouldn't expect that to influence Zesto's traffic too much (after all, think of Rush's at Decker Mall). I find it a bit amusing that the space, now a matress store, still has a drive-up window with intact order board:
I'd like one Queen, extra firm, two Kings and a twin please!
UPDATE 6 Jan 2010: Added McDonald's to the post title, also the full street address.
UPDATE 3 June 2010 -- Hola Mexico Mexican restaurant is now in the process of relocating here. They finally have the name on the building:
When I was at USC, this space, on the second floor of the Russell House next to the fast-food area housed the student gameroom. I believe it had pool tables, but this being the 80s, what interested me were the video games of which there were a multitude.
I particularly remember playing Galaxian which was sort of a Space Invaders clone except that the invaders were space-ships and could dive down on you. Galaxian was quickly ousted from my affections however by Gorf a game which itself included a Galaxian clone as one of its levels. You almost never see these games anymore, but my next love (which I played much more at Robos than at Russell House) was another Galaxian follow-up Galaga. I still see and play this game today. (Though not until my hands bleed, I must admit).
I don't know when it happened, but on my most recent visit to Russell House, I found that the old gameroom had been re-purposed into a student government office of some sort, and that a new gameroom named after the old student bar, The Golden Spur had been established in the failed basement mall area of Russell House.
To me it would make more sense to keep Student Government out of sight in the basement, and have folks having fun in the daylight..
When I think of "real" pharmacies in Columbia, I have a little mental list. If you were born a bit earlier or lived in another part of town, your list is probably different, but on mine are Campbell's Drugstore on Forest Drive, Liggett's in Trenholm Plaza, Cedar Terrace Pharmacy on Garners Ferry, The Big 'T' on Taylor Street and Parkland Pharmacy.
Parkland Pharmacy was on the other side of town from us, so we didn't get there often, but the times we did made an impression on me. My memory is that it served as much as Cayce's General Store as it did a pharmacy, and the aisles were crammed with all sorts of general merchandise. Also, and this is what drew my attention as a kid, it was a "contract" Post Office, and the back wall was lined with personal Post Office boxes. My aunt in Fernandina had a P.O. Box rather than home delivery for all of my childhood, and I always associated them with exotic places. The idea that we had Post Office Boxes in Columbia, and at a drugstore! was very strange to me. I don't think the store had a lunch counter or soda fountain, though it was about the right vintage for that.
Eventually, the same factors that brought down all the other landmark pharmacies in town brought down Parkland. I recall going there a couple of times in the 80s and thinking that it was operating under diminished circumstances, and finally they took the plunge and let CVS buy them out (or at least I assume that's what transpired). I don't know what happened to all the people with PO boxes there. I presume they were let to keep the same box number at one of the Cayce POs. If not, it will have been a mess!
As I noted recently, it appears that the CVS in the old Parkland Pharmacy slot will be moving. I don't know what will take its place.
UPDATE 29 Oct 2010: The CVS moved some time ago, and to date the old Parkland Pharmacy slot in Parkland Plaza is vacant:
UPDATE 9 September 2011: Changed closing date from "1980s" to 1995 based on commenter Andrew's research.
As the Christmas season rolls round once more, I am put in the mind of Peaches Records & Tapes. Peaches was a record store chain whose "gimmick" was their easy-to-assemble kits of LP storage boxes. These were of wood and made to mimick retro peach shipment boxes complete with vintage appearing art. (Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks had an excellent album Orange Crate Art inspired by the same conceit).
Peaches had only one location in the Columbia area, a large space on the College Street side of the old Sears complex on Harden Street. The store had the not entirely positive distinction of having turnstiles, bag checks, and other theft prevention measures that were quite unusual at the time, but once you got in, it was quite nice. Although they did have a tape section (that's where the whole And Tapes thing came in), their main focus was vinyl, and they had quite an interesting selection. Possibly it was due to their Columbia location being close to USC, or simply that they had more floor space than The Record Bar or School Kids, but there seemed to be a higher possibility of finding something really interesting there than at those other shops.
They also had a large collection of "cut-outs" (new, but discontinued records) through which I loved to browse when I had the time and money (money was definitely in shorter supply than time..). I remember in particular finding an album by the German group Trio which had the killer songs "Da Da Da (I Don't Love You, You Don't Love Me)" and "Boom Boom" which as far as I could tell was available nowhere else in Columbia other than the studios of WUSC.
I mentioned up front that the Christmas season made me think of Peaches. That is almost entirely due to the fact that they were the only store in town which stocked Christmas 45s in depth. Then as now, Christmas albums started popping up everywhere, record store or no as the days turned to fall (though I think they usually waited at least until Halloween was over in those bygone days...). Christmas 45s were a bit more rare however. Of course you could find this year's Christmas songs at The Record Bar, but classic Christmas singles hardly ever. Starting in the late 1970s on cassette, I had been building a Christmas song program, adding and rearranging things a little every year as I found more of the music I wanted. Today we would call it a "mix tape". Anyway, I remember finding a number of tracks in their Christmas single collection that were impossible for me to find otherwise. The Temptations "The Night Before Christmas" for one, Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" / "Ho Ho Ho" for another and Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" for a third.
As far as I can gather, Peaches made a very bad business decision in the 1980s: They believed that the CD format would not catch on. As it turned out, this was very much not the case, and by the time they saw the writing on the wall, it was too late to retool and the chain went bankrupt. (Of course, even chains that bet on the CD have been killed by downloads, so Peaches would probably be gone now in any event).
After the chain folded, their (almost completely glass-walled) store stood empty on Harden Street for years. It stayed intact for longer than you might expect, then windows started being broken, and the thing became an eyesore. Finally when the old Sears strip was revamped for at least the second time, they knocked down the whole Peaches building, and put up the current Office Depot structure. I guess they shook the tree.