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: