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Sam Solomon / Service Merchandise, 3 Diamond Lane (Intersection Center): 1982 / 2002   33 comments

Posted at 7:08 pm in historic,stores

During the 1970s, Dutch Square was a major retail hub for Columbia. Columbia Mall in Dentsville had not yet been built, and Columbiana Center in Harbison was not even on the radar. While Dutch Square thrived, the surrounding area thrived as well. Cookesbury Books did a good business across the street, Boozer Shooping Center was at its peak, and Sam Solomon dominated nearby Intersection Center.

At the time, I always assumed that Sam Solomon was a national chain, but I have since found out that it was a Charleston based outfit. As I recall, it had something of a hybrid floor-concept. There were a few "catalog" stores which had only sample items on the floors as opposed to the current nearly universal "all our merchandise is on the floor" sales model. In these stores, you would look at items, and take coupons to the checkout at which point your items would be brought from the warehouse and rung up. At Sam Solomon's, larger items were displayed as samples while smaller iterms were taken by the shoppers themselves to the checkout. Sam Solmon had a little bit of everything, though my memory is that it skewed away from clothes and towards jewelry. I didn't care much about either. Whenever I came, invariably in the company of my cousins making a power-shopping trip to Columbia, I would concentrate on the electronics and gadgets (which I couldn't afford) and the paperback books (which I could -- sometimes). I remember in particularly getting a copy of Asimov's The Stars, Like Dust and a number of "Kenneth Robeson"'s Avenger books.

I don't know the story of Sam Solomon's demise, but have found a New York Times story dating its bankruptcy and takeover by Service Merchandise to 1982. By that time, the Dutch Square area was already losing its luster, and Intersection Center was particularly badly hit. Apart from the vacuum cleaner store at its entrance and Service Merchandise, the anchor, I think every store there turned over or went empty. By that time, I was driving and had a little money, but Service Merchandise never really had anything to interest me. For a while they billed themselves as "America's Leading Jewler", but they were already in decline when they lost that title to Wal-Mart. The last time I went in, it was rather sad. Most of the store was empty except for the central part where they were running a retail operation no bigger than a typical drugstore. I was a little surprised, googling later, to find that they had lasted until 9/11 when the retail crash took them out for good.

Intersection Center never even came close to recovering. I believe about the only operation left there is an ethnic grocery of some sort, and currently the whole tract is up for sale.

UPDATE 5 March 2010: Finally remember to add Service Merchandise to the post title.

UPDATE 16 May 2010: Added full street address, tags.

UPDATE 30 Sep 2010 -- Well, with the ongoing work at Intersection Center someone has (possibly unintentionally) got the Service Merchandise sign illuminated for the first time in 8 years:

Written by ted on February 12th, 2008

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33 Responses to 'Sam Solomon / Service Merchandise, 3 Diamond Lane (Intersection Center): 1982 / 2002'

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  1. Don't forget that almost directly across the street from Sam Solomons was Bojangles Delicatessen, founded by Hal Turner in the early 1970s. Hal's business was quite successful throughout the mid-70s before he closed up the shop in the late 70s. Hal ended up selling the name to a Charlotte, NC group of entrepreneurs who in turned used the name with their fast food chicken franchise that they were starting.

    Rob

    19 Feb 08 at 1:49 pm

  2. Interesting! I didn't know that.

    ted

    19 Feb 08 at 1:59 pm

  3. I remember walking around the "stereo room," and being in awe of the huge cabinet speakers. I bought my first "real" stereo from there, a Panasonic w/ the spectragraph! Also, my mom bought a copy of Steve Martin's Wild & Crazy Guy from there for me (I was seven). I don't think she knew who he was! I, too, loved the "gadget" aisle. I also enjoyed getting the catalogs in the mail.

    Jonathan

    22 Feb 08 at 9:30 am

  4. Heh. I think we bought our first stereo there as well, and it was also a Panasonic (with an 8-track player as well as the LP changer!)

    ted

    22 Feb 08 at 12:39 pm

  5. Should I be embarrassed to admit that my wedding band came from that store?

    Oldie

    14 Apr 08 at 3:33 pm

  6. Well, sounds like it worked out OK for you..

    ted

    14 Apr 08 at 5:48 pm

  7. My grandma bought me a gold (fake) arrowhead pendant necklace from the one behind Columbia Mall back in the 80's. For some reason I couldnt convince them to give me credit there, even though I could afford the $8 a month for a stereo. Maybe because I was about 8 or 9?

    geoff

    8 May 08 at 9:15 pm

  8. I bought my Atari 2600 there in 1980.

    I still have it. And the box, with the pink Sam Solomon price tag on it for $149.95

    Mike

    7 Jun 08 at 12:54 am

  9. Does anyone remember the italian restaurant that was in the other Intersection Center building, down from the vacuum cleaner store? It was a little family place called Mauro's (I think). My wife and I had our first real date there, back in 1986 or so.

    shannon

    19 Aug 08 at 3:21 pm

  10. I'm surprised to know that I wasn't the only one to enjoy walking around the stereo section and i also bought my first Pioneer receiver from there also with some Altec Lansing speakers. Its a shame that area has become such a ghetto

    michael

    20 Aug 08 at 12:09 am

  11. I remember when they were going out of business and we went to see what great deals we could find. I still have a silver bracelet from there. I may have even gotten my husband's wedding ring there!

    Debbie

    11 Feb 09 at 7:37 pm

  12. I grew up in the neighborhood behind that store(Belmont Estates). My best friend grew up in the house that looks onto the loading dock(his parents still live there). We saw the building being built, and played in it on the weekends when the builders were off. Before it was Sam Soloman, it was Key Catalog Wholesales.

    Eric

    8 Mar 09 at 7:36 pm

  13. Hmm. Are you sure about that? The way I remember it, Key was in Boozer Shopping Center and then down Bush River towards I-20 (though some folks say I may be wrong about that last part).

    ted

    8 Mar 09 at 10:54 pm

  14. Your're right Ted, Key was ar Boozer in the same are of the mall that Manifest is now. The Sam Solomon building was built for SS

    Tom

    9 Mar 09 at 5:33 am

  15. Opps, I am mistaken. Sorry about that guys. The memory just isn't what it used to be! But, this site is bringing back a lot of them. :)

    Eric

    9 Mar 09 at 6:38 am

  16. shannon - yes! I had been trying to remember the name of that place. Mauro's sounds 99% right. Ate lunch there with my gang about once a week when young and working on Greystone Blvd. We also hit Plato's and the Crow's Nest (GREAT food!) about once a week. This was in the early 80s before you'd get fired for coming back from lunch with beer on your breath.

    Dennis

    9 Mar 09 at 11:02 am

  17. Doing this site has proved to me many times just how bad my memory can be -- Especially for dates!

    ted

    9 Mar 09 at 11:25 am

  18. My very first Retail job was with Service Mdse. back in late 1981 or very early 1982. It had just been renamed from Sam Solomon and I worked there for just over 3 years before going to JC Penny's a Columbia Mall. The last time I was in Service Mdse was back either in 2000 or 2001 just to look inside to see what was still there. It was very sad to see that the ceiling was falling apart and looked to not have been cleaned since 1981, only half of the lights were on and the rest of the store was dark, there were fake walls up where the "Sight and Sound" Dept. was and the back side where the toy section was. It was falling apart then, and now it's even worse. It's been vacant for almost 9 years now and I can imagine what it looks like inside. Dutch Square and the surrounding area is an "Am-was" place where it used to be the happenin' place to go to then..but those days are LONG gone.

    Del

    12 Apr 09 at 8:31 pm

  19. My uncle was a manager there when the store housed Brendle's. He used to work horrendous hours; 16hrs a day, poor bastard.

    I also remember that in the little "strip mall" section of Intersection Center parallelling Broad River Road, there was a little computer arcade where you could pay a few bucks an hour to play games on an Atari 400 or 800 computer. This would have been in 1980. Later on, Fox-102 (WMFX)'s predecessor Go-102 was located either in the same space or adjacent to it.

    Jerry

    4 Feb 10 at 11:46 pm

  20. Can somebody help me out with some information relating to a slavery museum which I am almost certain I saw in 1978 in this store? I had purchased a Motorola casette deck and some casettes when one of my mates informed me of this museum extension to the store. I am not absolutely sure it was this very store, but would appreciate it if somebody knows of such a store. I know it was in Charleton somewhere.

    Dave

    12 Aug 10 at 10:47 pm

  21. Well, this store is 100+ miles from Charleston...

    ted

    12 Aug 10 at 11:12 pm

  22. Sounds like someone needs to start charlestonclosings.com.

    Jim

    13 Aug 10 at 2:15 pm

  23. I think it was the store in Ashley River Plaza, very close to Charles Town Landing. The name of the plaza is listed in a dead malls link somewhere on this site. I know this is six months past Jerry's posting, but Brendles was in Dutch Square, not Intersection Center.

    Jonathan

    16 Aug 10 at 7:42 am

  24. Jerry,

    That was called Bytes & Bits. Or Bits & Bytes. Either way it was one of Columbia's first computer store and they used to publish a paper from there on computer technology, I think for the Palmetto Computer Club. Man, that made my brain hurt remembering all that!

    Lane

    2 Dec 10 at 9:41 am

  25. I know why the Servise Merchandies sign is lit... it's because THE BUILDING IS HAUNTED!! If it isnt, can someone explane why after 8-9 years later the sign is on again?.. Inquiring minds wanna know.

    Del

    2 Dec 10 at 11:38 am

  26. Del needs to start a Haunted Columbia site, with all the notorious murders in the area.

    Could start with Gina Grant's place and Tally Session's place...

    jamie

    3 Dec 10 at 8:10 am

  27. meant murder/suicides....dang fast fingers....

    jamie

    3 Dec 10 at 8:11 am

  28. that Service Merchandise store was starting to fall apart by 2000/01 and they reduced the inventory to ¼ its original size. Plus my dad thought it wasn't much to it anymore. Back around 1998ish I had the idea that it was a mall of some sort and my dearly departed grandmother called it a "Service Merchandise Mall" when I said such at the dinnertable one evening. Be that as it may, Raymond Zimmerman decided to revive the name in an online version . I don't know what would be appealing to set up here due to the hidden nature of where it is...perhaps some apartments or condominiums...but only time will tell.

    Andrew

    3 Dec 10 at 11:10 am

  29. This area of St. Andrews used to be busy. I remember buying an lcd watch from SS back in 1975. It was a huge watch that I paid like 50 dollars for, a fortune back in that time. This was back when Japanese merchandise was considered to be junk. And junk it was since it broke after a month of wearing it. SS' wouldn't take it back put would send it in for repair. I never got it back but did get a refund when my Father boisteriously threatened to sue them.

    I bought many an item and magazine from Bits and Bytes and became a member of the Palmetto Computer club, one dedicated to the Atari computers. This was in the early to mid '80s. I regretted trashing the numerous magazines. They were worth more a few years after purchase.

    joel

    5 Dec 10 at 12:45 pm

  30. Ha! That reminds me: I bought a state of the art electronic calculator in 1978. A TI-59. That was some serious coin back then. Three weeks later, the calculator had a problem: The led for the decimal place for the hundredths location quit working. However, it did all calculations properly--so it knew that there was a decimal there, just that it wouldn't light up--and all other decimal leds worked, except that one. I took it back and they said that they would have to send it off to get it repaired. I thought about it and just took it back with me. I actually used that calculator for a number of years, and then the batteries would no longer hold a decent charge. By then, it was pretty obsolete anyway.

    badger

    5 Dec 10 at 3:15 pm

  31. My first calculator was from Lafayette Radio & Electronics. That catalog used to be as good as the Sear's Wishbook for me. Apparently we drove them out of business, as it took a year and a tart letter from my mother to get them to fufill the order..

    I kept that one until I left it on while the battery ran out, which drove it insane.

    I had a TI with RPN in college, and I can't quite recall what happened to it now. Somehow growing up I figured a computer programmer would need one all the time, but in reality, not so much.

    ted

    5 Dec 10 at 5:43 pm

  32. Those Lafayette catalogs were techno wonderlands, and they might as well have been a wishbook since I was earning around $1.85/hr back then. My circuits design professor recommended a 4 function calculator for his class that was around $100 (early 70s). I figured if NASA could send men to the moon and back using a $6 plastic slide rule and long hand math I could pass his class with one. A couple of the guys brought calculators and it turned into 'show and tell'. Lots of ooohs and ahhhhs and laughs, like when I learned the LCD display could cuss by reading 77340 upside down. Good times.

    Terry Edwards

    6 Dec 10 at 4:58 am

  33. HAHA S8008

    Ted, i didn't know TI made an RPN calculator. I've used the TI-30 and its many variants since 1979.

    tonkatoy

    6 Dec 10 at 7:40 am

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