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Ed Robinson Laundry & Dry Cleaning, Trenholm Plaza: 1970s   12 comments

Posted at 2:21 am in business,historic

This corner space at Trenholm Plaza was most recently occupied by The UPS Store, but when I was growing up, it was Ed Robinson's, though I probably never knew it by name.

My mother did not believe in clothes dryers, opting for a clothes-line in the back yard. This was fine most of the time, but since rain is not unknown in the Columbia area, every now and then we would be faced with a need for clothes that were not yet dry. In addition to that, in the 1960s I had the impression that our washer was something of a lemon. There were fairly frequent calls to the service man, and more than once I recall the floor covered in sudsy water.

When we needed clothes washed or dryed, there were two choices: either the laundomat by what is now city hall on Trenholm Road, or the one in Trenholm Plaza. I think that when my mother had to deal with us children, we tended to end up at Ed Robinson since she could let us "free-range" around the plaza while the clothes were cycling.

As I recall, the staffed laundry was in the east end of the building with the laundromat area being in the west end. The laundromat area was filled with tables and wheeled hampers, and smelled of soap and hot lint. As I recall, the tables were some sort of plastic, or covered with plastic and hued aqua-marine. I would sit on them, and swing my legs back and forth (this must have been before I could read, or I would have had a book). As a boy I was fascinated by mechanical devices of all sorts, and I was particularly fixated on the gas dryers which lined the west wall. Not only did they have sort of retro-spaceship-control sliders for varying the temp from "warm" to "way too hot", but they were large enough (floor to ceiling) that I could imagine actually riding in one (this was during Gemini & Apollo) with more room to spare than the astronauts had. The start (or "blast off") process was particularly satisfying as you put your quarter in a slot way at the top of the machine (I had to use a chair), turned a knob which had a very satisfying action, heard your coin drop with a cheery plink, and then got to push the starter button which wound the whole thing up.

The washers were not quite as interesting, but did have a variety of little plastic tops you could put on the agitator for reasons which escape me now, and of course you could always play "open the lid -- washer stops" / "close the lid -- washer starts" until my mother would make me stop so she would get a full wash from her quarter.

I'm not sure when the cleaner closed. I know it was still there in 1970, but think it was gone by the time I left town in 1985. As for myself, while I agree with my mother that line dried clothes are nicer than tumble-dried ones, I don't have her patience. The line is still in the back yard, but the clothes go in the Kenmore. (And for all that I tend to be a "they don't make them like that anymore" guy, I don't think I've ever had to call service on a modern washer or drier..)

The original plan for Trenholm Plaza was to tear down the whole wing, and The UPS Store moved across the way in anticipation of that, but in the event the economy collapsed and management scaled their plans back to doing a remodel instead. Most of the spaces have been re-filled, but the old Ed Robinson space is currently still empty.

UPDATE 29 November 2011 -- It's to be a Cafe Caturra:

UPDATE 7 February 2012 -- The Cafe Caturra looks about ready to open:

Written by ted on January 28th, 2011

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Trenholm Plaza, then and .. then: 1964, 1970   16 comments

Posted at 2:02 am in business

As usual, I got to the library about 5 minutes before closing time, and was trying to look up several things. One of them was old City Directory listings for Trenholm Plaza. In the event, I got two, one for 1964, when I would have been three years old, and perhaps dimly conscious that we were going to the same places a lot, and one from 1970 when I would have been nine years old, and looking forward to Western Auto visits to window shop at all the "hobby batteries" and bicycles.

I'm pretty sure Trenholm Plaza was a golf course not too many years before 1964, so that wave of stores is probably pretty close to the original list:

While many of those stores lasted for years, the USPO is the only original tenant left.

There are a lot of hold-overs in 1970, but a good bit of turnover as well:

Interestingly (to me), I can't for the life of me recall a Gene's Pig 'n Chick in Trenholm Plaza at all, and I would have thought it would have stuck in my mind. I don't recall those dentists either, and in fact am a little surprised by seeing non-retail there.

Of these TP stores, I've done closings for:

A&P (sort of)

Edisto Farms Dairy

Liggett Rexal

Standard (Federal)

Tapps Twig (sort of)

UPDATE 11 October 2013: Look at this great 1979 picture of Trenholm Plaza. Be sure to zoom all the way in, and pan around. Thanks to commenter Dennis for finding this!

Written by ted on November 2nd, 2010

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The Last Stage Before 'Going Postal'   1 comment

Posted at 9:53 pm in commentary

Written by ted on October 26th, 2010

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Rogers Brothers Fabrics, 2912 Devine Street: July 2010   5 comments

Posted at 1:02 am in stores

I first wrote about Rogers Brothers when they moved from Trenholm Plaza on 17 March 2008. I first wrote about the building at 2912 Devine Street in this closing for Columbia Photo Supply.

I see from the sign on the door that Rogers Brothers has another store in Florence, which I did not know. It seems this section of Devine Street has been volatile over the last few years, with Al Amir and Saffron closing next door and Birds On A Wire, Ben & Jerry's and Tiffany's closing across the street.

(Hat tip to commenter Matt.)

Written by ted on July 27th, 2010

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The Banker's Note, Trenholm Plaza: 1990s   8 comments

Posted at 12:42 am in historic,stores

OK, you knew you were going to be seeing these pictures again, right?

Frankly, until I saw the old pictures, I had completely forgotten there was ever a store called The Banker's Note in Trenholm Plaza, and even after seeing them, I had no idea what it was, or what it sold.

As you can see, the store was east of the A&P and more or less where the current Books-A-Million is. From this shot, it's unclear to me if it included the corner location where the plaza dips north.

Doing a bit of googling turns up this information:


Ten years ago last month Suchik opened the first Banker's Note store in Roswell, Ga., outside Atlanta. In 1981 he took the four-unit operation public to repay his manufacturer-partner, with profits. Two years ago there were 32 of the units averaging 4,000 sq. ft. One year ago there were 42 Banker's Note stores. At this writing, there are 72 units with 18 more planned by the end of the current fiscal year.

The five year plan, Suchik said, calls for year plan, Suchik said, in sales by the fiscal year ending Feb. 1, 1991. For the year ended Feb 1, 1987, sales hit $34.8 million. Wall Street sees the chain pulling in a volume of $47 to $53 million for the current fiscal year.

In the next five years, store expansion will be concentrated in the nine southeastern states The Banker's Note already operates in from North Carolina down to Florida and Westward to Tennessee and Texas. The chain possibly will invade adjacent markets in Oklahoma and perhaps Arkansas, Suchik added.
....
....
Its ambitious expansion plans, the proliferation of off-pricing and discounting by traditional stores continue to force constant adjustments. "In this business no one can afford to rest on his laurels,' said Suchik.

It appears that by 1997 the firm had renamed itself to VSI Holdings, Inc.. I'm a bit unclear as to whether a change of ownership happened then, but I don't think so, as the HQ was still in Smyrna.

It appears that VSI had wider ambitions than just clothing, and that in 1999 they made a move into the software business. Maybe that didn't go so well, because by 2001 the owners were shopping the company around, looking for a buyer. It looked as if SPX would do the deal, but the deal unexpectedly fell-through later that year. Apparently after that, the company tried to wind down in an orderly fashion, but in late 2002 a lawsuit by "recalcitrant creditors" forced them into an unplanned Chapter 11.

One thing I don't see anywhere is any mention of why they ever called themselves The Banker's Note. It's certainly not a name that suggests apparel. I'm not sure when this store closed, but it was definitely gone by 1998.

Written by ted on April 2nd, 2010

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Chapter Two Books, Trenholm Plaza: 1990s   7 comments

Posted at 2:44 am in stores

A while back I realized that I had over 30 years of 35mm negatives that were going to need to be digitized at some point, not to mention 126 Instamatic and 620 Brownie negatives dating into the 1960s. I figured I could nickle & dime myself to death gradually getting them scanned at Ritz or Photoworks.com, or I could bite the bullet, get a negative scanner and do it myself. I ended up with this Nikon negative scanner, and on the whole I've been quite happy with it. The resolution is much higher than I was getting from commercial scanning, though it also takes much longer to scan a roll of negatives than I was expecting.

So anyway, my sister dug up some old negatives from a 1987 signing for her first book, and asked me to scan them. As soon as I saw where the signing was, I knew I was going to want to use some of them here. My second question to her, after asking if I could use the pictures was whether she wanted her name and face blurred, but on reflection that a pretty stupid one. After all, she is an award winning children's book author with her own web site who, as all authors do, would like you to know her name and buy her books, especially her latest one!

Chapter Two Books was in Trenholm Plaza most of the time I was growing up. It was a fairly small storefront on the Edisto/Holligan's side of the plaza next to the barber shop. In the days when I would get $3.00 for mowing the lawn, I would take the money down there and buy a new Tom Swift, Jr. book. Unlike Browz-A-Bit and Walden's at Dutch Square, science-fiction was not a major category here, and the selection of SF paperbacks (and paperbacks vs hardbacks in general), was pretty small, so aside from Tom Swift, I usually ended up spending my strictly limited funds at one of those stores rather than here, but I do distinctly remember that Chapter Two sold me the last $0.50 paperback I ever saw, a copy of Robert Heinlein's classic Young Adult novel Farmer In the Sky.

Although it was not the intention of any of these shots, if you look out the windows (on the click-through versions especially), you can see a good bit of the old Trenholm Plaza landscape: Tapp's Twig, The Banker's Note, A & P and Standard Federal. By this time the original "steeple" A & P had been torn down and replaced with a more modern design (which was itself torn down for Publix), and the current Books-A-Million location was several storefronts.

I'm not sure exactly when Chapter Two closed. If I didn't have this evidence that it was still there in 1987, I would have guessed then or earlier. In any event, I believe it was gone before Books-A-Million arrived, and I have the vague feeling that the owner decided to retire and close the shop.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ted on March 27th, 2010

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Gulf Station, 4760 Forest Drive: 1990s   3 comments

Posted at 1:38 am in business,historic,stores

This building on the corner of Forest Drive & Trenholm Road was a Gulf station during my childhood, and indeed well into my driving days. I believe it was officially identified by the owner's name (which I cannot now recall) but to us, it was just the Gulf station, or even the filling station, as it was the one where we most often filled our cars.

During most of this time, it was a full-service gas station which meant that when you pulled in, you would trip a compressed air bell by driving over the hose and a guy would walk out to take care of you. Not only would he fill your tank with Good Gulf, but would open the hood, check the oil, open the cells on the battery filling each with water if needed, check the anti-freeze and windshield wiper levels and at least eyeball your tires.

In addition to gas, this station also had a mechanic on duty and two lift bays where he could change fan-belts, hoses, thermostats, oil, headlights and the like. Over the years, we had many minor repairs done on our cars here (for more major work, we went to the dealer or Bob Andrews).

The area behind the station is very spacious, moreso than makes sense now, but during a lot of this time, Bell's Drive-In was back there in a building that is now completely gone.

The old air stations are still there (though inoperative), and always fascinated me as a kid. There was some sort of crank the attendant would work to bring up a specific PSI number on the (entirely mechanical) "display", then he would put the hose to the tire, and the machine would make a very memorable "ding" as each pound of air went in.

I'm a little fuzzy on all the details now, but the place changed character in a number of stages. First I think the mechanic went, with a drive-through carwash replacing one of the service bays then the Gulf brand went away after it was bought out by BP, then most of the Columbia BPs were changed to Union 76s. I believe that by the time it became a Union 76, it was already operating in convenience store mode with the gas totally self-service. Though the Union 76 signage is much more prominent, the store itself is a Circle-K. For some reason, they never did reclaim the space from the carwash / second service bay for interior space -- I suppose it's storage now. The building itself is still largely unchanged and if the light is right, and you stand at the right angle, you can still see the painted over Gulf logo on the outside wall above and to the left of the front door.

UPDATE 6 Oct 2010 -- Apparently they have dropped the Union 76 affiliation:

UPDATE 19 July 2011: The building is gone! See the Circle K closing for pix.

Written by ted on May 14th, 2009

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The UPS Store, Trenholm Plaza: 2 March 2009 (move)   3 comments

Posted at 12:47 am in stores

The UPS Store at Trenholm Plaza made the move across the parking lot from the Holligan's wing to the Post Office side near the new Italian restaurant. It rejoins former neighbor Foilline Vision Center there, leaving Holligan's as the only business still operating on the outer edge of the plaza. At one time I had heard Holligan's was to move into the old Rogers Brothers spot, then I had heard it was going into the old Coldstone location. Unless the property owners have changed their mind about tearing down that wing, it will have to go somewhere.

I find it a little interesting that the UPS store is now so close to the Post Office. In theory, they are competitors, and strip malls often have "no compete" clauses that play into who they will lease to. I remember an interesting news story about a court forced to rule if a "burrito" was a "sandwich" to decide if a property owner had broken a promise to a sandwich shop not to allow another sandwich shop in. Of course Trenholm Plaza has always been weird that way. They have two grocery stores, and essentially two "Hallmark" stores.

UPDATE 29 November 2011: The old location is to be a Cafe Caturra.

Written by ted on March 5th, 2009

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Hair Cuttery, Trenholm Plaza: 31 Dec 2008   no comments

Posted at 11:45 pm in stores

Hair Cuttery is yet another casualty of the ongoing renovations at Trenholm Plaza which will eventually result in the entire wing of the plaza in which it was located being torn down. With its departure there are only two businesses still left there, The UPS Store and Holligan's. I've heard that Hooligan's is moving to the other side of the plaza though perhaps not into the spot they wanted. I'm not sure what is to happen to The UPS Store.

I couldn't get a really good picture of the informational signs at Hair Cuttery due to the morning light, but it appears that if you had a favorite stylist, you can still find her elsewhere in town.

UPDATE 11 Sept 2010 -- It's to be 32 ° a Yogurt Bar (32 Degrees a Yogurt Bar):

UPDATE 26 Jan 2011 -- 32 ° a Yogurt Bar (32 Degrees a Yogurt Bar) is open:

Interesting story here on why frozen yogurt stores are so popular right now.

UPDATE 5 Feb 2011: Replace the picture with one with the sign illuminated.

Written by ted on January 15th, 2009

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Optimist Christmas Tree Lot, Trenholm Plaza: 1980s   1 comment

Posted at 11:58 pm in business,historic

When I was growing up, going to get the Christmas tree was always a big event. We would all pile into the car and head for Trenholm Plaza and the Optimist Tree Lot.

The lot was set up yearly on the back side of the plaza (at the entrance which now has the traffic light) between the plaza proper and what I remember as then being woods, though I could be wrong about that. We would always get there after dark, and the place would be kind of a minature forest of Christmas trees standing in holes in the ground with white Christmas lights strung around the whole affair and there would always be a barrell with something burning inside around which the lot hands would warm themselves in between customers.

The trip would always play out as something of a contest between we kids, who wanted the biggest tree imaginable, and our parents who wanted a reasonably priced tree, and one, moreover, which would fit in or on the car for the trip back (we always had sedans or coupes growing up -- no station wagons). In the end, of course, our parents would get the tree they wanted while convincing us that it was the one we had picked out. The lot hands would always have plenty of twine on hand and would somehow get the tree secured for the 2 mile drive home. I believe we usually managed to get most of the tree in the trunk with the lid tied down rather than closed and several feet of tree hanging off the bumper -- I can't remember actually having the tree tied to the top of the car.

In the 80s, the lot beside Trenholm Plaza was developed, or further developed, and the space available to set up the tree lot was no longer sufficient. At that time, the Optimists moved the lot down Trenholm to its current location (pictured) by the Children's Home and the Methodist Church. In recent years, the garden center in the old First Citizen's Bank location in Forest Lake Shopping Center has added Christmas trees in season, so there is still a lot in the general area, but it's not the same.

Written by ted on December 21st, 2008

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