West Columbia’s State Street, part of The River District, has a history of vitality.
The area, on the banks of the Congaree River has been, at times, one of the most popular points in the city. And the energy, generated by the river’s rapids, is coming back.
The family of Randy Clark has owned Clark’s Beauty Shop at 130 State Street since 1946. He knows the history.
“There were grocery stores, banks, doctor’s offices and a movie theater here,” said Clark, recollecting the State Street scene from 50 years years ago. “It was full of life and activity.”
And recently, because of some high-profile projects, and a thoughtful plan by city leaders,
State Street is experiencing a renaissance.
The “Art on State” feature, new development and re-purposing buildings are driving the renewal.
Joe Taylor has refurbished a large building and created three storefronts on State Street. The work on the 100-year-old-plus site was done tastefully, and carefully to retain its historic integrity.
“West Columbia is the top spot for all of Columbia,” Taylor said. “As far as a location, it’s as good as it gets.”
Taylor is the former S.C. Commerce Secretary. He once had an office in Columbia’s Vista, but he moved to West Columbia and has an office in the building he restored.
“The taxes are lower, and there is just a lower cost to do business here,” said Taylor. He also said he feels safe in his new digs and there is not as much traffic.
“And I’m still 2,000 feet from the Vista and I’m closer to the State House than (the Columbia neighborhood of) Shandon.”
Taylor also said he is pleased to see that city officials have been proactive in addressing the issue of parking in the West Columbia River District.
The city has purchased the picturesque 1920s-era Brookland City Hall and Fire Department. The grounds of that structure have enough room for about 100 parking spaces. And those spaces are in the middle of The River District, Taylor said.
One of Taylor’s tenants is State House Rep. Micah Caskey, who opened his new law firm at 146 State Street.
“This is a cool spot,” said Caskey. I’m right in the middle of everything.”
Caskey also said West Columbia has “lot’s of great neighborhoods” and the location of his State Street office places him between his house and the State House. That is convenient when the S.C. House is in session.
“I’m in the heart of my district,” he said.
Caskey also said he appreciates the lower tax rate in West Columbia and Lexington County.
While Taylor and Caskey are relative newcomers to the area, Randy Clark’s roots go way back. His whole family worked for Clark’s Beauty Shop, a centerpiece business on State Street from 1948 when his grandmother opened it, until just a few years ago when his mother, Edia, retired.
“There was an area in the back of the store with a couch, a refrigerator and a cooking stove,” Clark said. When he got out of Brookland Grammar, Cayce Grammar and BC Grammar School No. 3 as a child, he would spend his afternoons at the store with his mother and father, who worked there. Clark washed towels from the beauty shop and did other chores.
Clark mentioned Brown’s Grocery, McDaniels Drug, a five and dime store, a savings and loan, and a pool hall as businesses that once thrived on State Street. He said he could go to the movie theater and watch the show, get popcorn and snacks, all for a quarter.
Because of his affection for West Columbia, Clark, who graduated from USC and spent his career at DHEC, respects the nostalgia and he said he wants to bring back the Clark’s Beauty Shop building.
“I grew up here,” he said. “I love this community.”
The shop restoration is about 50 percent complete.
“It will have exposed brick walls and decorative ceiling tiles,” Clark said. “My main objective is to preserve the building.”
No discussion of the revitalization would be complete without mention of Brookland. at the
end of State. Its a multi-million-dollar development that includes residential property, along with commercial office space and a retail center. Ground was broken on Brookland in late January.
“I look forward to it,” said Caskey. “It will bring lots of people to our side of the river.”
Clark said Brookland is just an opportunity to attract activity to State Street. “I’m excited about it,” he said
Because of the commitment to pay homage to the past, and embrace the future, the tenants of The River District have a lot to look forward to.
The entire story can be found here: http://westmetronews.net/west-columbias-state-street-rich-past-exciting-future/