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Sears Gas, Columbia Mall outparcel: 1970s   11 comments

Posted at 12:36 am in historic,stores

By the time Sears moved from Harden Street to Columbia Mall, it was long past the catalog glory days of being the company you could by anything from, but it hadn't yet been so bloodied in the retail wars that it would reject odd ideas out of hand.

This concrete slab in the Columbia Mall parking lot by the Charleston Crab House (and still actually owned by Sears to judge from the tow-away signs) was one of them. Over this slab was a canopy, and under the canopy was an island with a number of Sears-branded gas pumps. I don't remember a whole lot about the place as we only filled up one of two times there. I'm pretty sure it was self-serve, but since there was no such thing as electronic credit card reading pumps at the time, there certainly would have been a cashiers shed with an attendant. You could pay with cash, or, of-course, with your Sears Card.

My memory is that the place was an experiment that didn't last too long. I don't know exactly what happened, but I can hazard some guesses. First, the location was not convenient unless you were already at the mall. Getting in and out of the mall parking lot was (and is) much more time consuming than stoping at a corner station. Second, in the 70s people actually had some brand loyalty to different gas chains, and felt that name-brand gas was a better product than generic. Now we tend to think it's like sugar, and there's no problem buying Domino's if Dixie Crystals is more expensive. Third, at some point in the 70s (I believe) there was a major scandal about Sears's auto repair operation ripping people off (that's why about all they will do nowadays is change tires or batteries). The opprobrium from that may have tainted their gas business in people's minds. Fourth, it is simply the fact that selling gas was not in the core retail market Sears was (is..) trying to serve. As their fortunes declined, they may have decided that selling gas was a distraction and brand-dillution. (Though I have seen Wal-Mart trying the concept recently..).

At any rate, the place closed after not too many years. The canopy stood for several years after that, but was itself finally torn down. I don't remember the tanks being torn out, and there are still some access points, so perhaps they are still there (though that seems like an enviromental cleanup bill waiting to happen if it really is the case).

Written by ted on October 13th, 2008

11 Responses to 'Sears Gas, Columbia Mall outparcel: 1970s'

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  1. The Sears on Harden Street had a full service auto center seperate from the main building. It was where the Hardees is now and it also sold gasoline.

    Though I have seen several Sears across the country that had it's auto center seperate from the main building, I have not seen one sell gasoline in years.

    Tom

    13 Oct 08 at 10:10 am

  2. Huh. Did not remember that about the Harden Sears!

    The new Sears at Coastal Grande (Myrtle Beach) does have a freestanding auto center.

    ted

    13 Oct 08 at 10:13 am

  3. Recent closing: The Keg on Rosewood closed last week.

    Comment:
    Nice site. May I suggest you setup a suggestion email address or perhaps a form or a dedicated thread. Just an idea to help your cause. Keep up the good work!

    Justin

    13 Oct 08 at 11:38 am

  4. Thanks! Someone mentioned that -- I'll have to go take a look.

    Yep, I want to get a page for general comments set up at some point.

    ted

    13 Oct 08 at 11:44 am

  5. The building on Harden Street will always be "the old Sears building" to me.

    I'm so old -- "How old are you?" -- that I remember when that Sears had separate bathrooms and water fountains clearly marked for Whites or Coloreds.

    What is now Office Depot, and was Peaches records, was Sears' garden center in the summer and Toyland in the winter. Santa was there, and I loved going in there and confirming my Christmas list that I had already put together using Sears' Wishbook.

    Dennis

    13 Oct 08 at 4:18 pm

  6. I'm "just" 47, so I knew the Harden Sears (bought my first camera there, and an el-cheapo enlarger), but think of the Columbia Mall Sears by default when I think "Sears".

    Of course the thing about the "Wishbook" was just "happening" to leave it lying out and open to the right page where your parents were sure to find it..

    ted

    14 Oct 08 at 12:44 am

  7. I can remember my Dad getting gas at this sears sometime in the mid 80s. I would guess around 84, don't think it lasted much longer than that.

    MR Bill

    17 Oct 08 at 12:21 pm

  8. Speaking of the Sears Automotive Store where you could have your car worked on while in Sears (5points)on Harden St. Do you remember the littls teenie weenie "Key House" that sat right outside of the Garden Center area in the parking lot where you could have keys made while you waited or inside in Sears killing time? the keyhouse sat there for years after Sears left and was still there in the 90's or later. I think it's been torn down since though. And speaking again about Sears, does anyone remembere the little small Colonial Grocery Store that sat at the very end of Sears about where Food Lion was/is/was? Too bad all that's gone. I wish I had pics. of all these old places. If anyone does, please let me know. I would like to get copies of them.

    Del

    12 Apr 09 at 8:22 pm

  9. I remember Jc Penny at Columbia Mall having a automotive center and Richway had a auto service center also. I used go there to get the annual car inspection sticker. Anyone remember that?

    jjt

    12 Apr 09 at 9:00 pm

  10. I remember the Penny's at Cola Mall having it's Automotive Dept. but it was short lived when a car fell off the lift for an oil change or something and it bounced right into the parking lot. They close it soon after I think because they were sued or something like that I think..but not sure. I dont remember the one at Richway though..the one at Decker or Bush River Mall?

    Del

    12 Apr 09 at 9:13 pm

  11. It was the one on Decker. You can still see the bays I think. They face Decker, kinda behind the old Taco Cid building and current Animal clinic. I remember going there to get my car inspected or really just paying the mechanic 20 bucks under the table to get the sticker.

    jjt

    12 Apr 09 at 9:19 pm

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