Historic grocery store in Beaufort robbed -- again

mmcnab@islandpacket.comSeptember 26, 2013 

James W. Pruitt didn't find it difficult to open his grocery store Thursday afternoon, just as he has done for the past 60 years.

It wouldn't have been hard to blame him for taking a day off, considering his store, Pruitt's Grocery, was robbed less than 24 hours before.

Despite Wednesday's robbery, Pruitt said Thursday was "just like any other day."

"You could go for years without thinking about being robbed or having it happen," he said. "I've been doing this for a long time. It's not going to stop me now."

Beaufort police are searching for a man who robbed the 93-year-old store on Greene Street in the Northwest Quadrant.

At 7:53 p.m., the armed man took an undisclosed amount of cash, according to a Beaufort Police Department news release.

Pruitt, who is 81, said he had gone to get a soda for a customer who had walked in, but when he turned around, a different man, who was holding a pistol, demanded money.

Wednesday's incident marked the fourth robbery for Pruitt in the 60 years he has run local grocery stores, he said. The first, in the mid-1970s, occurred while he was running a store on Ribaut Road in what is now a parking lot for the Beaufort County Government Center.

The other two incidents, including one in 2010, both came after Pruitt took over his family's store on Greene Street.

Pruitt was not injured in Wednesday's robbery, but the man fired the gun as he left the store. Pruitt said he wasn't sure what the bullet hit or whether the robber had fired blanks, as he couldn't find a bullet hole or any signs of damage.

At a previously scheduled medical checkup Thursday morning, he told his doctor what had happened the night before.

"The doctor told me, 'If you didn't feel any chest pains during that, you're fine,'" Pruitt joked.

He has been injured in robberies before. During an attempt in the 1990s, he was hit over the head, suffering a wound that required stitches.

Several regular customers came to the store Thursday to ask how he was doing, Pruitt said. Several others called to wish him well, including an old neighbor now living in Macon, Ga.

The robber was described as a black man in his 20s, wearing a black ski mask, a black long-sleeved shirt, dark work pants, and gloves. He was about 5-feet-7, 150 pounds.

Police surrounded parts of the neighborhood Wednesday night, but the suspect was not found.

The investigation continues. Anyone with information can call investigators at 843-322-7950.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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