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G-E-X Membership Department Store / Intertec Data Systems / Home Gold Financial / Phar-Mor / Home Quarters Warehouse / Blue Cross Blue Shield / Palmetto GBH, 2340 Broad River Road: 1973   39 comments

Posted at 11:35 pm in stores

I never heard G-E-X pronounced Gee-Eee-Eks as the spelling here would imply. It was always just "Gex" to rhyme with "Vex". Not that I heard about it that often. Given the 21 Dec 1969 phonebook listing (ie: for 1970) above, it sounds like it was a Costco or Sam's before its time -- certainly we did not have a membership, and I never went with anyone who did. (There are some pictures of the membership cards here.)

The building (behind Applebee's just North of I-20) is certainly massive, and it seems to have had a department for everything, including groceries and meat, which really makes it sound ahead of its time. Wikipedia says G-E-X was another label for G.E.M the Government Employees Mart and that the electronics department eventually morphed into Circuit City by way of Ward's. The December 1972 phonebook is the last one to list the Columbia G-E-X which meshes with Wikipedia's claim that the chain went under "during the discount store shakeout of 1973".

After G-E-X the spot seems to have been a number of different operations including Home Quarters and Blue Cross. In fact, LoopNet says Blue Cross has a lease on the whole building that lasts until September 2012. Currently the building seems to be empty, with the last branding on the street sign as Palmetto GBH which seems to be some sort of Medicare related operation (their sign is still on the storefront in the LoopNet listing).

UPDATE 21 March 2011: Added "Intertec Data Systems" & "Phar-Mor" to the post title. Those apparently closed in the early 1980s and 3 October 1992 respectively. (Also fixed spelling of Applebee's..)

UPDATE 6 April 2011: Added the 1970 Bellsouth Yellow Pages ad for the pharmacy department (which apparently was open to the general public).

Written by ted on March 18th, 2011

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39 Responses to 'G-E-X Membership Department Store / Intertec Data Systems / Home Gold Financial / Phar-Mor / Home Quarters Warehouse / Blue Cross Blue Shield / Palmetto GBH, 2340 Broad River Road: 1973'

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  1. G-E-X was a forerunner of Sam's. I never visted this one, but I visted one in Charleston once. I am not sure, but I think it was based there.

    Tom

    19 Mar 11 at 5:52 am

  2. At some time perhaps in the mid to late '80s it housed a PC manufacturing company.

    Blue Cross uses the building to house staff during disaster recovery exercises which occur several times a year.

    Mike

    19 Mar 11 at 6:43 am

  3. The PC company, if I remember this correctly, was called Intertech (sp?).

    They rose pretty quickly and burned out sometime around 1985-86 I believe. I remember when they auctioned off everything over there. Apparently the guy who started and ran the company thought they were on a meteoric, non-stop rise based on how that company spent money.

    They had some extravagant furnishings and equipment. They even had a clean room where they did some custom work on disk drives.

    E.J.

    19 Mar 11 at 8:06 am

  4. GEX was short for the Government Employee Exchange. My late Father worked as a pharmacist there from 1969 to 1970. It was a membership club like a modern day Costco or Sams. The idea of buying a membership to shop never caught on in Columbia at the time.

    joel

    19 Mar 11 at 8:40 am

  5. I don't know if this particular HQ store held on to the end or not but according their Wiki page they went defunct in 1999. I don't remember the inside of this HQ but we still have some plywood boards somewhere with their logo. I don't recall the inside of this one but I do remember it being there.

    My mom confirms my validity that the Phar-Mor was here but it didn't last as long as my indication of the Harbison Phar-Mor lasting until 2001 and I don't have the memories of this one's interior the way I did with the Harbison one.

    Andrew

    19 Mar 11 at 12:04 pm

  6. Years ago..i guess 75-76 that building was a indoor flea market. Can't remember the name but I remember what i bought in it because i still have it hanging from my rear view mirror! Bent horseshoe nails wrapped with wire on a chain!

    Lane

    19 Mar 11 at 3:00 pm

  7. Yes, Intertec Data Systems was here. Do a google of "Intertec Data" and "Broad River Road". Early '80s.

    Midnight Rambler

    20 Mar 11 at 2:29 pm

  8. Midnight Rambler,
    Thanks for the tip on the name. I did some googling per your suggestion and found some interesting information. Intertec's Superbrain microcomputer was pretty well respected.

    Here's something from http://csrc.lse.ac.uk/History/MicrocomputerChronology.htm

    1979 - Intertec Data Systems, of Columbia, South Carolina, produced several microcomputer systems.

    The SuperBrain microcomputer. The SuperBrain contained two Z-80A microprocessors running at 4MHz. One processor performed all processor and screen related functions. The other processor was utilized to handle I/O functions, although it could also be used for main processor functions.

    The Intertec SuperBrain was an 8-bit machine with 64k of dynamic RAM. The system included a full 12 inch CRT screen, and two floppy disk drives. It was a desktop unit with built-in keyboard. The whole unit weighed about 45 pounds. It ran the CP/M operating system. It sold for $2,995 (1980)

    E.J.

    20 Mar 11 at 6:37 pm

  9. Funny I've seen this place multiple times when I take my alternative route to work and always assumed it was a closed Lowe's.

    Dustin

    20 Mar 11 at 7:02 pm

  10. Ted, you might want to check your spelling of Appleby’s...it should read Applebee's

    Also, this backs my notion that there was a Phar-Mor here as well:

    State - September 19, 1992 - 6B BUSINESS

    PHAR-MOR TO CLOSE BROAD RIVER STORE
    Phar-Mor Inc. announced Friday that it will close its store on Broad River Road in Columbia as the company struggles to return to profitability. The Columbia store employs 65 full- and part-time workers. Phar-Mor spokesman Andrew Brimmer said that the store was unprofitable and that it would probably close Oct. 3 without a going-out-of-business sale. The deep-discount drugstore chain will close 63 stores in all, beginning with 36 unprofitable stores in early October.

    I was 4 years of age when the former Phar-Mor closed but I do remember it having Phar-Mor signage on it (for reasons that are beyond me)

    btw I checked the loopnet listing Ted linked and found it's 135,675 ft². This means that the typical Publix store could fit into it 3x.

    and here's the info for when HQ closed:
    January 12, 1995 - B8 BUSINESS

    HQ CLOSING UP SHOP IN CAROLINAS
    Even a little fix-up wouldn't bring HQ to the rescue. Citing declining profits in a saturated market, Home Quarters Warehouse announced Wednesday that it plans to close 14 stores, including the three in South Carolina. The closings, set to occur in the next six to 12 weeks, will affect 1,300 employees, including about 150 at the two Columbia stores*. Employees were told of the decision Wednesday morning, said Laurie Betz, spokeswoman for the chain.

    * not sure where the other location was but my late grandmother hinted they used to be at Landmark Square on Garners Ferry Road

    Andrew

    20 Mar 11 at 11:22 pm

  11. OK, added Intertec & Phar-Mor. CP/M was a decent system for its day. Columbia also had an NCR plant that made a well respected deskside Unix system called "The Tower", which AT&T had no idea what to do with when they bought and ruined NCR. We also had "Wells American" making very modular PC compatible machines.

    ted

    20 Mar 11 at 11:43 pm

  12. Circuit City was originally called "Dixie Electronics" based out of Charlotte NC back in the mid 70's. There used to be one on Broad River Rd where in the small store cluster right past "Pearl Vision". It was also where the Levie's store was. Dixie became Circuit City by 1974 or 1975 and they moved from Broad River to across from Dutch Square until they moved to Bush River Road.

    Del Bazemore

    21 Mar 11 at 1:58 am

  13. GEX was a great store in it's heyday for sure. It had a great toy dept. and a great selection of Hotwheels at the time back in 1969-1971. The Banana Splits also came to Columbia back then and played there..though it may have changed the name to "Bellas-Hess", but I'm not sure.

    Del Bazemore

    21 Mar 11 at 2:00 am

  14. According to Wikipedia (here and here) Ward's operated G-E-X's electronics department. Ward's also established the Dixie Hi-Fi and Circuit City brands.

    The thing about the Banana Splits is that you could probably have them appearing at 100 different stores every Saturday -- as long as they were far enough apart, how would the kids ever know?

    ted

    21 Mar 11 at 2:23 am

  15. It was also APEC call center at one time.

    Alicia

    21 Mar 11 at 7:47 am

  16. G-E-X also had a camera/film counter run by Jackson Camera. The store was a great source for $1 and $2 8 track tapes in the early '70s.

    Terry Edwards

    21 Mar 11 at 4:29 pm

  17. Speaking of The Banana Splits, does anyone remember The Buggaloo's? They were "Parade Marshall's" in the Columbia Christmas parade I think back in 1970. They also had an Lp and a TV Show on Saturday Mornings.

    Del Bazemore

    21 Mar 11 at 7:45 pm

  18. It's on DVD and kids still love it. The girl is now a real estate agent in Spain, but they most fun part had to have been Benita Bizarre -- what a great chance to ham it up and go over the top every single scene!

    ted

    21 Mar 11 at 9:50 pm

  19. The Bugaloos were guests on the "Mr. Knozit" show at that time. I remember one of the kids asking them about flying, and one responded that they only had licenses to fly in their own forest.

    badger

    22 Mar 11 at 8:43 am

  20. Andrew, HQ was definitely in Landmark Square. I worked at the Broad River location. Before everybody had trucks, and people would come into the store and want me to tie a 4X8 sheet of plywood on the top of a Honda Civic.
    Between HQ and Phar Mor there was also a Hermann's (sp) Sports. Very similar to Dick's now, I guess. I also worked at Big Lots when they were across the street, where Palmetto Home Center originated and before Aaron's/Neville Broome's Carpet store was. Bad Times.

    Jonathan

    22 Mar 11 at 8:56 am

  21. I remember going to the Phar Mor and the HQ many times. I never could recall when the Phar Mor or the HQ closed. I guess the Phar Mor closed close to the same time as the one on Decker.

    Mr Bill

    5 Apr 11 at 12:09 pm

  22. There was a HQ in Landmark Square on Garners Ferry Road. I shopped there many times. Jeffers-McGill and Goodwill are in the building now.

    Rick

    1 Apr 12 at 6:36 pm

  23. I remember Jeffers McGill moving from Cedar Terrace to Landmark Square sometime in the 2001-03 timeframe

    Andrew

    1 Apr 12 at 9:31 pm

  24. How long did Bellas-Hess stay open after GEX closed and they took over the place? I know it was still there in 1975 or '76.

    Saturday's child

    1 Apr 12 at 11:17 pm

  25. Does anyone else remember the gas station that was on Broad River Rd next to McDonalds in the 70's? I think it was American Gas, but not sure or was it Mobile? I remember that enormously huge American Flag and the little teeny putt putt place there too behind I think.

    Saturday's child

    1 Apr 12 at 11:19 pm

  26. There was an American Gas on Garner's Ferry right in front of Columbia East. I *think* it was next to K-fried.

    tonkatoy

    2 Apr 12 at 6:56 am

  27. The station you're talking about was a USA on Broad River Rd. I went there often when I worked in that area back in the 70s. Tiny place with cramped access to about six pumps which were red, white & blue. White being premium as I recall.

    John R

    2 Apr 12 at 7:38 am

  28. After G-E-X closed, this building was occupied by Bellas Hess Superstore, a large discount retailer which had a huge stylized blue and white "B H" logo (which amazingly I cannot find an image of anywhere on the Internet). BH only occupied the main (larger right-hand) portion of the building. The grocery side (the smaller left-hand portion) was occupied by the first Bi-Lo grocery store in the St. Andrews area. This would have been in the early-to-mid-70's, but as a single-digit aged child at the time, I cannot tell you exactly what year(s) that would have been. After BH closed, Widewater Square was built, and Bi-Lo moved further up Broad River Rd. to their current location there.

    The "Flea Market" came afterward, which if memory serves correctly, simply had a large yellow banner with black lettering which simply read "FLEA MARKET" strung across the front of the building. I *think* the building sat vacant for a few years until the early-80's when Home Quarters (HQ) Warehouse and Phar-Mor simultaneously moved in.

    -=B

    Brian

    20 Aug 12 at 11:53 am

  29. I believe RBMG (which actually stands for "Resource Bancshares Mortgage Group" but I always called them "Really Big Money Guys") also had offices there prior to HomeGold Financial's occupation. That would have been late-90's or early-2000's. RBMG also had (or still has?) offices on Parklane Rd. near the SC-277 interchange.

    -=B

    Brian

    20 Aug 12 at 12:07 pm

  30. Sorry for the triple posting... I was re-reading through the comments, and I had completely forgotten about Herman's Sporting Goods, which *did* occupy a space between HQ and Phar-Mor. Again, I'm not 100% sure of this, but I *think* Herman's built and moved to a new location at 2916 Broad River Rd., which is now occupied by the St. Andrews regional branch of the Richland County Public Library.

    If that wasn't Herman's, it was definitely another sporting goods store that built that building there and opened right around the same time Herman's closed up their operation in the old G-E-X building.

    -=B

    Brian

    20 Aug 12 at 12:27 pm

  31. Does anyone remember the Payless gas station that use to be in Landmark Square?

    Rick

    25 Sep 12 at 11:51 am

  32. Yes, Rick. I used to buy gas there for 23.9/gallon.

    Terry

    29 Sep 12 at 9:54 pm

  33. tonkatoy

    11 Oct 13 at 8:40 am

  34. The GEX store layout was modeled on the old Sam Solomon wholesale-only store on East Bay Street in Charleston that I remember from about 1960. It seems that Sam Solomon gradually opened wholesale-price shopping to more of the general public. I'm not sure whether there was an actual business connection, but there may have been.

    Ed

    28 Oct 13 at 11:06 am

  35. GEX had one of the better selection of original Redline Hotwheels in the early 70's before they became Bellas-Hess, Bellus-Hess, Bellis-Hess. But I do remember the grocery store side of GEX where you'd pay for them, and then drive around to the side of the building and they would load the groceries into your car for you. I don't think that lasted too long though..

    CayceKid

    28 Oct 13 at 6:02 pm

  36. I noticed signage indicating that something called TPUSA is planning to take over all but approximately 50,000 square feet of this building...

    Andrew

    8 Feb 14 at 4:07 pm

  37. My family often bought groceries at GEX. You checked out and they would give you a wooden block with a number that corresponded to your buggy. They would then hold your groceries while you shopped the retail section of the store. When you were ready to leave, you gave them the block and your groceries were sent down a skate wheel conveyor to a drive thru area where they loaded them in your car. As a child it was my job to hold onto the number block. I remember one not so fun trip that I laid the block down somewhere in the store and my parents had to retrace our steps to find the only link to weeks worth of groceries they had already purchased.

    Danny

    23 May 14 at 7:20 am

  38. My family often bought groceries at GEX. You checked out and they would give you a wooden block with a number that corresponded to your buggy. They would then hold your groceries while you shopped the retail section of the store. When you were ready to leave, you gave them the block and your groceries were sent down a skate wheel conveyor to a drive thru area where they loaded them in your car. As a child it was my job to hold onto the number block. I remember one not so fun trip that I laid the block down somewhere in the store and my parents had to retrace our steps to find the only link to weeks worth of groceries they had already purchased.

    Danny

    23 May 14 at 7:20 am

  39. Teleperformance has now moved in here...

    Andrew

    6 Nov 14 at 10:28 am

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