Better get a good look at State and Meeting streets.
With the groundbreaking earlier this week on a $40 million project at this intersection overlooking the Congaree River – including apartments and condominiums, stores and restaurants – the area could be poised for big changes over the next many months.
City leaders hope the project will bring renewed interest to this West Columbia neighborhood. But even still, there’s plenty to entice folks to State and Meeting streets for an afternoon or evening of entertainment. So go ahead: Cross the bridge.
Culture: Ed’s Editions
Selling books started out as a hobby for Ed Albritton. Having rented space in antique malls to sell his finds, he eventually came upon the location in 2001 for his Ed’s Editions bookstore on Meeting Street. His selection has expanded from 20,000 books to 40,000 books, with its customers as varied as its findings.
“We have everybody from parents bringing their children in to get kids’ books – for as little as $1 – to higher-priced collectors who will drop $1,000 on a book,” said Eric Albritton, Ed’s son. “But then we also have a lot of college students that come here because we’re cheaper than buying a brand new book.”
Adam Bryant is a former employee who has been a customer for the past 10 years.
“The thing I like most about Ed’s is the sheer amount of high-end books, as well as the mass market paperbacks,” he said. “There is something for everyone. I cannot think of an independent book store that even begins to compare when it comes to not only the inventory but also the level of expertise that the employees have to offer.”
As far as location, Albritton said it may not be as “flashy” as a Five Points or Main street business, but those who want books will definitely want to head to Meeting Street to check out Ed’s Editions.
“The bridge is a pretty big psychological barrier to getting a lot of people from downtown, but we’re a destination,” Bryant said. “And you can’t beat the building. This was made for a bookstore.”
Music: Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor
Bill Wells moved from Chicago to Columbia in 1984. A die-hard, traditional bluegrass musician, he wanted a place to “pick” for himself and other like-minded musicians. Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor opened in 1987 on Meeting Street and is now regarded as the bluegrass epicenter of South Carolina.
“My dad opened up the storefront selling acoustic instruments, and then on Friday nights, it was open for pickin’,” said Willie Wells, who has run the family business since Bill passed away in 2011. “Everything was based around acoustic instruments and acoustic music.”
Under Willie’s ownership, the pickin’ parlor has become home to more than just acoustic musicians.
“My background is country rock, but I understand the bluegrass community,” he said. “I’m a little more liberal because I appreciate good, electric music. So I’ve tried to add a lot of different things to draw in a younger crowd.”
Current offerings include classic country music and dance, a songwriter’s night, big band performances, shag dancing, line dancing and “slow jams.”
“It’s evolved quite a ways from what my dad wanted to do,” he said. “My customer is anybody who has a love for music, community, other people and who likes to enjoy a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere. They can come socialize, get their guitar fixed or buy an acoustic guitar.
“I reach out to everybody who wants to enjoy music. That’s what this place is all about.”
Jim Graddick has been going to Bill’s since he began playing the violin about 15 years ago.
“I was really surprised to see what a vibrant musical community there was here,” he said. “And not just old people, but young people, beginners and experts alike all playing in the same bands.”
Food: Cafe Strudel
Since opening its doors in 1997, Cafe Strudel has given foodies more than enough reason to cross over the bridge. Now in its third location on State Street, the restaurant famous for its “hangover hashbrowns” continues to grow, attracting young and old customers alike.
“We serve college students, young business professionals, nurses, senior citizens, World War II vets … everybody,” said Kyle Turbyfill, son of owner Tripp Turbyfill. “Governor Haley has been here a few times; she gets the spinach salad. Jessica Biel has been here. Kenny Chesney’s been here before – he wasn’t wearing his hat, so nobody really recognized him. Alex English, Senator Nikki Setzler; Dawn Staley comes in pretty often; Cal Ripken Jr. has been here a few times. We’ve had a lot of good people here.”
And good food, from hot and cold sandwiches and wraps, to Southern specialties like shrimp and grits and more.
Ashley Bundrick, who grew up in Cayce, remembers eating at Cafe Strudel as a high school student. Now, a recent graduate of the culinary school at the Art Institute of Charleston, she is the restaurant’s kitchen manager.
“They do great food here; it’s different than anything else around, and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said. “We have an eclectic style as far as atmosphere. The food on the menu is traditional, but you’ve also got more fun, adventurous things. That’s a draw for people.”
Nightlife: New Brookland Tavern
New Brookland Tavern is something of an institution, having been on State Street more than 50 years. It has been a pool hall, a local bar, a biker bar and for the past two decades, a music venue.
Mike Lyons took over ownership in 2004 with his brother. The venue has played host to all music genres, including indie rock, metal, punk, ska, hip-hop, folk and pop.
“The great thing about NBT is that we do many different acts and try to be as diverse as possible,” he said. “At the Gin Wigmore show, there were some schoolteachers from Charlotte who had never even heard of us but came to the show and had a blast.”
Deborah Adedokun, lead singer of Debbie and the Skanks, has been hanging out at NBT since she was 15.
“It wasn’t until I started going to New Brookland that I thought music was something that I could do,” she said. “The first time I played there, it was so awesome. You get really bad nerves before you get on stage, unless you’re surrounded by all these people that say, ‘Even if you suck, we love you,’ and New Brookland was definitely that for me.”
Shop: Old Mill Antique Mall
Margaret Causey has spent 25 years in the antique business. Her mother, Ellen Davis, opened the Old Mill Antique Mall in 1984. Causey, now owner, has been working there since 1992. The building is home to 75 dealers who sell everything from antique umbrellas to vintage clothes, dishes and vinyl records – like Dave and Megan Dutka.
“The first time I stepped in, I fell in love with the place,” Dave Dutka said. “We were at several different antique malls in the area, but the Old Mill was just the best fit for us. We’ve had the most success here with our style of vintage items. With us being in close proximity to USC, we get students buying vinyl records, even in this age of digital music.”
Causey said younger generations are getting into antiquing and shopping vintage now that they’re aware of the deals they can score.
“Our average selling price is under $10,” she said. “We’ve sold $2,000 pieces, but we sell a ton of $1 to $5 items. People are realizing that they can afford things in antique malls; it’s not all out of their budget.”
Dutka said he and Megan sometimes do their Christmas shopping there just because you never know what you’re going to find through the other vendors.
“A lot of this stuff, if it wasn’t in an antique mall setting God knows what would happen to it,” he said. “No two booths look the same so its unpredictable and there’s something for everyone. I recommend going just to see it for yourself. Its full of treasures.”
Did you know?
▪ West Columbia was incorporated in 1894.
▪ It was originally called “Brookland” – because of the number of clear-water brooks throughout the area – but since there was another town by that name, the U.S. Postal Service called the town “New Brookland.” Many businesses adopted the name. Numerous businesses, churches and even high schools still retain the Brookland and New Brookland names.
▪ West Columbia lies to the south of the Saluda River and west of the Congaree River.
▪ According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city is a total area of 6.3 square miles: 6.1 square miles of land and 0.2 square mile of water.
▪ The Guignard family built the first bridge across the Congaree River. The Gervais Street Bridge was built in 1927.
▪ The Gervais Street Bridge and New Brookland Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
About this series
This is the first in an occasional series highlighting entertainment and retail areas in Columbia neighborhoods.
More places to check out
State and Meeting streets and surrounding areas
Culture: Atlantic Institute, So You Want to Dance/Blue Moon Ballroom, New Brookland Railroad & Hobby
Entertainment: On Stage Productions
Food: @116 State, Terra, What-A-Burger, Odaly’s Bakery, Compton’s Kitchen, Zesto’s, Grecian Gardens, Mai Thai Cuisine
Shop: 763 Meeting St. Antique Mall, Army-Navy Surplus Store, St. Paws Thrift Store, His House Ministry Thrift