Much of the city of Columbia was burned during the Civil War, including the 1600 block of Main Street. The original building, circa 1870s, was a two-story structure. One of its first occupants was a grocer, G. Diercks. In the mid 1890s, C.H. Baldwin and Sons, previously located at 187 Richardson St., moved in. They also were purveyors of groceries.
Photo courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
In 1915, Efird’s moved into the building. The building was enlarged in the 1910s, including 100 feet to the western side, and a third story. A basement was added in the 1920s. The post-World War I economic explosion and the migration of the population to the city made more space necessary.From 1901 to 1912, Girardeau and Marshall Clothing inhabited the building. Next came a short-lived furniture store, followed by D.B. Miller Co., a meat market. During this time frame, the building housed a saloon, a print shop, a tailor, a shoe and boot store, boardinghouse on the upper floor, and an undertaker’s parlor.
Efird’s, a major rival of the Belk chain, expanded to include 50-60 stores in three states. It carried many items featured in larger stores and offered “one price for all.” In their local advertising, they called themselves “Columbia’s Greatest Department Store.” The store’s 21,000 square feet of space utilized the first floor for silks, dress goods, dry goods, piece goods, shoes, men’s and boys’ clothing, and men’s furnishings. A central staircase led to the second floor, where women’s ready-to-wear clothing, muslin underwear, corsets, and rugs were kept.
Efird’s faced heavy competition from larger national retailers and suburban malls, and the family’s next generation was not interested in taking over the business. In the late 1950s, the Efird brothers decided to sell their store to Belk. For a brief period, a Belk Annex occupied the building.
Lourie’s was founded in St. George, South Carolina by Louis Lourie, one of many Eastern European Jews emigrating to the United States seeking religious freedom in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Lourie’s was known for quality merchandise at a fair price, and keen attention to detail, stressing service and courtesy. Solomon, the eldest son, and A.M. “Mick”, brought the store to Columbia in 1948. Business grew quickly and they expanded in 1950, rapidly outgrowing the new location. In 1960, they began utilizing 42,000 square feet in the store at the corner of Taylor and Main Streets.
The principles on which Lourie’s was established continued to be good business practice: quality merchandise, good fashion sense, and outstanding customer service. In a time before credit cards were available, the store extended credit to its customers, experiencing great customer loyalty, even through difficult economic times.
In the 1960s and 70s, many stores left Downtown Columbia for suburban malls. The Louries, demonstrating a strong commitment to their community, remained, hoping to maintain the downtown area as a viable retail destination. The store closed its doors in 2008, after 48 years in this location.
The Mast Store in Columbia opened in 2011.
*Photo courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.