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Archive for January, 2011

If It's Paper, 2429 Main Street: Late December 2010 (open again)   7 comments

Posted at 1:55 am in stores

When I started Computer Science at USC, we submitted "jobs" to the central campus computer on punched cards. These cards had 80 colums and were created on a "keypunch" machine, which was a typewriter-like keyboard affixed to a rather imposing and noisy machine about the size of a large gas grill. The punch would print what you had typed across the top of the card, and punch out chads underneath each letter or number to create a digital representation of the symbol. This was a very mechanical process and with lots of paper chips flying around, the machines tended to jam with some regularity -- so much so that the computer lab operators kept special tools (hacksaw blades carved into curved hooks) to unjam them. Obviously, since you were actually punching holes in the card, there was no way to "undo" a mistaken keypress. Once you got your cards punched correctly (or what you thought was correctly) you took them to a "card reader" which was sort of a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a las-vegas card shuffling machine, and assuming it didn't jam as well, it sent them down a leased line to the Amdahl at CSD (it had been an IBM-370, but the rumor we heard was that the guy who authorized buying it got sent on an all expense paid vacation by IBM and so the State required it to be re-bid).

I am going somewhere with this, and I'm starting to get there now: When your "job" was processed, the output was printed at the computer lab on a band printer with green fanfold paper, and it was printed entirely in upper case (and usually with a fading ribbon). So here's what I'm driving at: The whole process was more difficult than using a typewriter and the output looked worse. The idea that using a computer would make writing easier or look better would have sounded pretty stupid to me in 1980.

That's why it was a real revelation to me when I got access to the PDP-11 minicomputer at the CSCI department and discovered a non-IBM environment called Unix (the spirtual ancestor of Linux). Apart from its many advantages as a platform for programming, the first commercial sales of the system (which had been developed for internal use by then monopoly AT&T) had been driven by its documentation tools, including the text processor troff. Not only did the system have tools that made formatting documents much easier than typing -- the department actually had a printer which would print both upper and lower case!

I was hooked, and even though troff is now considered obsolete, I use it to this day for any significant document I have to do unless I'm specifically told I must use Word. (Or as I put it: If troff won't do what I want -- I change what I want). Thus, when it came time to do my thesis, I knew I wasn't going to type it on a typewriter. By that time, I had a daisy-wheel printer (remember those?) at home and a stripped down PC version of troff that would do for proofing when I couldn't access the department mini. The only fly in the ointment (aside from actually writing the darn thing) was the fact that the University required that all theses be submitted on 50% rag paper.

First of all, I didn't even know what that meant. It certainly sounded weird. How would I even know such paper? As it turned out paper with a high rag (cotton) content lasts longer, or as Wikipedia puts it (not that I could look it up there then!):

Certain cotton fiber paper is known to last hundreds of years without appreciable fading, discoloration, or deterioration;[1] so it is often used for important documents such as the archival copies of dissertations or theses. As a rule of thumb, for each percentage point of cotton fiber, a user may expect one year of resisting deterioration by use (the handling to which paper may be subjected).[2] Legal document paper typically contains 25% cotton. Cotton paper will produce a better printout than copy paper because it is able to absorb ink better.

OK, that sounded good, except for the part where I wanted to feed my thesis through a daisy-wheel printer in fanfolded, sprocket-driven form. Was my box of fanfold paper 50% rag? It was not. Was any box of fanfold paper at Softek 50% rag? Nope. Was any box of fanfold paper at any office supply store in Columbia 50% rag? Apparently not.

Enter If It's Paper. What I was looking for certainly was paper, and the implication of their name was If it's paper, then we have it. So, to bring this in for a landing -- the one time I walked into If It's Paper, looking for something I had never heard of until a few days previously, and which apparently not only did not exist anywhere in Columbia, but did not even have anyone who understood what I was asking for anywhere in Columbia, they knew exactly what I wanted and had a shelf full of it. Mission accomplished.

Of course, now I would google it and probably find someplace online within a few seconds -- I don't know if that was a factor in closing the store, but I do know I was glad to have it then.

(Hat tip to commenter BethB)

UPDATE 10 March 2011 -- Open again!

UPDATE 28 June 2011: I've been meaning to get some better pix of the store now that it's open again. The State also ran a nice story about the place. In essence, International Paper decided it didn't really want to be in the retail business despite the store making money and closed it. A local investor and the store manager got together to buy the name from International and re-opened as an independant business.

Written by ted on January 19th, 2011

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Been Hibernating?   no comments

Posted at 3:37 am in commentary

Well, it's half-way through January, so I think this is the last time I'll be touting the calendars (though you can buy them all year in the store), so: Get your Columbia Closings and Pawleys Island calendars here.

Remember, it'll be 2011 all year -- your 2010 calendar is now history, not current events!

Written by ted on January 18th, 2011

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Doc's Gumbo Grille, 3830 Rosewood Drive:   4 comments

Posted at 12:28 am in restaurants

I originally wrote a closing for Doc's Gumbo Grille when it moved from 1115 Assembly street to the old French Quarter Deli location on Rosewood Drive. That closing was on 31 October 2009. Commenter Barb says the new location closed 30 December 2010, meaning the new location lasted just a bit over a year. As I mentioned in my other closing, the menu at Doc's wasn't up my alley, and since this location didn't host any Swimming Pool Qs shows, I never dropped by.

I know the original Keg O' Nails lasted many years in this location, but I don't think The French Quarter lasted very long -- it may be that this is just not a viable location any longer, or it may be that the market is so different from The Vista that the Doc's concept just didn't fit here..

For now, the the Doc's web site is still up with a nice little thank you message.

(Hat tips to commenters Barb & Ben)

Written by ted on January 18th, 2011

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Hampton Pontiac Jaguar Inc / Elliot Close for Senate / Ware We Customize, 2024 Main Street: 1990s   16 comments

Posted at 3:45 am in stores

I don't think I can actually remember this vacant showroom on Main Street being Hampton Pontiac Jaguar, but that's how it's in the EPA database and it clearly was a showroom of some sort.

One of the follow on operations, Ware We Customize was apparently automotive also.

In 1996 the building seems to have been the headquarters for Elliot Close's unsuccessful Senate bid against Strom Thurmond.

Currently it's looking pretty delapidated, and is flagged as unsafe, but apparently the property has been bought by some sort of religious organization and has been flagged as Hope Plaza Campus, so I would expect to see some repairs, or perhaps a tear-down and new building in the near future.

Written by ted on January 17th, 2011

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Piggly Wiggly / Ace Hardwarehouse, 300 West Main Street (Lexington): 2010   14 comments

Posted at 2:01 am in stores

Judging from this LoopNet listing this property was sold in bankruptcy (or that's what I take "Onsite Auction- By Order of Secured Creditors" to mean) on 30 Aug 2010, so obviously the hardware store closed some time earlier than that -- certainly all the branding is gone in the LoopNet picture.

It's not a good time to be a non-big-box hardware store I'm afraid. This little plaza is really hurting as well. It looked like the only business still in operation was a restaurant, though judging from the curb sign Radius Church will be moving into the hardware space in the near future.

UPDATE 15 Jan 2011: Added Piggly Wiggly to the post title based on the comments.

Written by ted on January 15th, 2011

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Columbia Paint & Decorating, 2710 Gervais Street: Fall 2010   1 comment

Posted at 12:11 am in stores

I first wrote about this building back in 2008 when I did a closing for the Greenbax Redemption Center.

Commenter Chief Dan George pointed out recently that one of the follow-on operations in the building Columbia Paint & Decorating closed shop sometime in 2010.

Painting is one of my all-time least favorite activities (only actually scraping the old paint before painting is worse..) so I can't say much about the place, only that it seems to have been a Benjamin Moore paint dealer. (Which, it must be said has a much less cool logo than Sherwin Williams).

The place is currently for rent, and we'll see what ends up there next.

(Hat tip to commenter Chief Dan George).

UPDATE 17 September 2011 -- It's now Cricket Newman Designs:

Written by ted on January 14th, 2011

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Myrtle Square Mall, Kings Highway (Myrtle Beach): 2006   18 comments

First let me note that although no description of Myrtle Square Mall would be complete without the famous clock, I did not take that picture. It appears in the Wikipedia entry for the mall, and has been explicitly released into the public domain.

What can I say about Myrtle Square Mall? For many years, it was the mall on the Grand Strand and the "general" shopping destination on any beach trip. To be sure, there were outlet and specialty malls like Waccamaw Pottery, but MSM was the "it" place.

As kids, of course, The Pavilion was first in our hearts and minds, but over the years we took many trips to the mall as well.

It had a different mix of retail than anything in Columbia, with anchor stores I never saw elsewhere like Peebles as well as standard stores like Sears and Eckerds. For me, the main attraction was the book store just off the clock court. I cannot now recall the name, but it was either completely independant, or part of a small chain that never opened in Columbia, and I found that it had an interesting selection of science fiction books that I didn't see elsewhere. Recall that in those days the only books you knew about were the ones you saw on the shelves -- there was no Amazon where you could search for any book in the world, or that would recommend books to you based on your previous purchases. I can particularly recall finding there a a Virgil Finlay collection I had never heard of, and had no clue existed. Finlay was an old-school SF pulp illustrator who had an amazing black & white line and stipple style that was unsurpassed (in my opinion) until Stephen Fabian came on the scene, and in retrospect I think Finlay's work has aged better than Fabian's. Anyway -- I bought the book :-)

The record store (whose name I have also forgotten) seemed to have slightly different selections than the Columbia stores as well.

Apart from the stores, obviously I have to say something about the clock. It sat above the central court, and was a marvel of conceptual design. The version pictured above is in fact one of the later versions -- the first version had 60 colored balls suspended from the ceiling in a circle with suspened numbers (similar to those pictured) at every five minute mark. The bulk of the balls were one color, with the ones at the five second intervals being another. As ever second passed, another ball would illuminate until all 60 were lit at which point they would all go dark and the next numeral would be illuminated for the current minute. Hmm, or maybe the numerals were for the hours and there were seperate balls for the minutes. At any rate, you could sit there and watch the time pass before your eyes so to speak. It was not a particularly easy clock to read -- it always seemed to take a minute to figure out just what was lit, but it was a fun clock to read.

I remember a number of interesting solo trips to the mall. The first was when I had just started to drive. My mother and I had gone to the beach to winterize the beach house, and having done that, she agreed to let me drive while she walked on the beach. Well, that's an always risky permission to give to a teenager, and I headed straight to the mall, despite it being a 25 mile drive one way. I had no particular goal other than I was, by gosh, going to drive, but I did end up getting some Trixie Belden books for my sister's birthday from Sears of all places. Needless to say my mother was not pleased at being ditched for three hours longer than she had planned to be...

Another trip to Sears years later (and near the end of the store's life) for dryer parts also yielded a trove of retro flashlights of the kind I grew up with, and which I thought were no longer being made -- I still have four or five.

I'm unsure why Burroughs & Chapin decided to deep six the mall. Certainly it was somewhat dated, but that could have been fixed by a remodel. I suppose access was an issue, but it's not like there's an Interstate in Myrtle Beach, -- the replacement mall at Coastal Grand may have slightly better traffic at US-17 bypass and US-501, but it's not a slam dunk.

At any rate, by 2005 most of the stores had made the transition, and in 2006 they started knocking Myrtle Square Mall down. The fact that B&C owned the replacement mall meant that Myrtle Square never went through the "death of the old mall as the new mall draws stores and traffic" phase. It was not in B&C's interest to eake rents out of Myrtle Square while firing up Coastal Grand.

On the other hand, they seem not to have had any Plan B for the Myrtle Square Mall site. Currently the huge tract bounded by 23rd & 27th Avenues North on the north and south sides and Kings Highway and Oak Street on the east and west sides stands vacant (as does the other large B&C tract at the old Pavilion site). It's hard to believe that two such prime tracts in the heart of Myrtle Beach have sat vacant for so long. (Well, not completely vacant -- there's still an Office Depot which must have had a long term lease, and I saw signs of homeless presence in the bushes).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ted on January 13th, 2011

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Carolina Famous Hotdogs & Wings, 6303 Shakespeare Road: Fall 2010   2 comments

Posted at 12:00 am in restaurants

This building, on Shakespeare Road at the intersection with Humphrey Street has been a number of things over the years -- none of which stick in my mind.

Assuming the latest incarnation Carolina Famous Hotdogs and Wings started about the time this youtube video ad was uploaded (22 July 2010), then I'm afraid it didn't last long at all. In general it seems that the only things which survive on Shakespeare are industrial type operations.

Written by ted on January 12th, 2011

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Columbia Food Fresh Market, 2016 Harden Street: 31 December 2010   7 comments

Posted at 1:12 am in stores

I hardly ever drive down this stretch of Harden Street, so sometime last summer, I saw this place for the first time. My reaction was "Huh. Had no idea that was here -- looks pretty nice."

I think if I had read these stories from WIS and The State about the store opening on 14 November 2008, I might have had another reaction, like "Hmm, better take some pictures now..".

That's because, frankly, they show all the signs of a well intentioned Bad Idea about to be put into practice. In particular:

The housing authority tried to recruit a grocery store to the area for nearly five years. It courted large grocery store chains that already had a presence in the Midlands but couldn’t find anyone interested, Walker said.

That should have been a pretty big hint right there that the commercial prospects weren't that good. There's also this:

Plus, the housing authority’s shopping plaza offers a smaller space than what most chains seek for new stores, Walker said.

“All of the big chains that we have gone to want 30,000 to 40,000 square feet,” he said. “Our whole shopping center isn’t that big.”

Little IGA-type stores can be successful in small towns and rural areas, but not, I think, a mile from a full-sized Food Lion..

The State article noting the passing of the store also mentions that the pharmacy listed on the roadside marquee is also already gone:

A drugstore in the shopping plaza closed earlier this year after the sole pharmacist moved to Louisville, Ky.,

There's also this gem

The store had been a source of pride for Columbia City Council and the Columbia Housing Authority, two public bodies that worked hard to recruit a grocery to the neighborhood near the heart of downtown Columbia.

But the store became another victim of the Great Recession and was not making a profit, said Gilbert Walker, executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority.

“The grocery store business is a tough business, especially when you don’t have a name brand,” Walker said.

Well then, perhaps it was a bad idea to open one?

I don't want to sound too testy here, so let me be clear -- I'm sorry for the people who lost their jobs, and for the nearby residents who lost a grocery store -- that doesn't mean it was a good idea.

Written by ted on January 11th, 2011

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Colony House Furniture, 6033 Garners Ferry Road: Feb 2011   8 comments

Posted at 11:30 pm in stores

I actually had Colony House's going-out-of-busines circular given to me by my sister a few weeks ago and of course put it "somewhere I can't possibly forget it", meaning it has completely vanished for now.

As I recall, it was a bit vague about when Colony House would actually close its doors, but I believe it should be done by now. Apparently the store was founded in 1945, so that was a pretty good run. I can't actually say much about the store from personal experience as I've only bought one new piece of furniture in my life, and it wasn't from there. Colony House is across Garners Ferry from San Jose about where Pelham Drive comes out and it's a nice brick building though the parking lot is a bit hard to get in and out of.

As of now, the web site is still up, though it has no mention of the closing, and indeed seems not to have been updated since 2008.

UPDATE 2 Feb 2011 -- Well, I jumped the gun a little bit, as of 29 Jan, it's still open, though apparently winding down:

Updated the post title date to "Feb 2011" rather than "Jan 2011"

Written by ted on January 9th, 2011

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