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Moe Levy’s reopens in downtown Columbia

Moe Levy's, an iconic business in downtown Columbia for decades, has revived itself in a 2,200-square-foot building on Laurel Street.

The landmark Moe Levy's Reliable Loan and Pawn store closed shop at its Assembly Street location at the end of February. At the time, owner Harold Rittenberg, son-in-law of the late Moe and Florence Levy, hinted there might be something else on the horizon but did not release details.

Last week, Rittenberg opened Moe Levy's Army Store at 1727 Laurel St. across from Columbia Fire Deptartment Station No. 1.

"We're calling it 'The New Moe Levy's Army Store,'" Rittenberg said. "Twenty years ago I took 'Army' out of the name but now we've decided to bring it back."

The new store will no longer be a pawn shop, Rittenberg said, and will focus more on army surplus and work clothes for men and work shoes. Among the brands to be sold there is Dickies.

"We'll still buy and sell a few things if people are interested but we won't be selling ladies' apparel or Levi's and we won't be in the pawn shop business," Rittenberg said. "We're still going to have coins and hunting knives and pocket knives and some sterling silver but no more gold stuff like we had at the pawn shop. We just think people love an army store and so that's what we're going to focus on here."

Rittenberg, who is 85, said the new store will be managed by his son-in-law, Trent Grant, and Rittenberg's daughter, Eileen, who may join the store soon.

The Levy family made a name for itself with the establishment of several well-known and highly frequented stores downtown including Moe Levy’s Jeans, the iconic, family-owned men and women’s apparel store at the corner of Lady and Assembly streets that opened in 1920. That store closed two years ago after the death of Florence Levy at age 106.

The Levys also operated a liquor store on the Assembly Street property between the pawn shop and the apparel store. Rittenberg took over the pawn shop business in 1950 after marrying Moe and Florence's daughter, Gloria.

In 2013, Rittenberg sold the building at Assembly and Lady streets to Columbia developer Ben Arnold. The space will soon be home to North Carolina-based Famous Toastery, which will serve breakfast, brunch and lunch.

Rittenberg said when his friends Joe and Harvey Rosen of Rosen Appraisal Associates learned that Moe Levy’s on Assembly was closing, Harvey offered him use of the Lady Street building. He signed a two-year lease.

Although Trent Grant will manage the store, Rittenberg plans to stay involved.

"I'm trying not to work too much — I just poke my head in once in a while when he needs me," Rittenberg said. "I just don't think I could retire completely."

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