Beaufort News

Restoring a building and memories at Beaufort's Lipsitz department store

Chuck Vail, superintendent for Patterson Construction stands in the second floor of the Lipsitz building Thursday afternoon in downtown Beaufort.
Chuck Vail, superintendent for Patterson Construction stands in the second floor of the Lipsitz building Thursday afternoon in downtown Beaufort. Sarah Welliver

Lucille Lipsitz smiled as she recalled first seeing her future husband, Joe, roll down the Lipsitz store awnings six decades ago.

A graduate student in town for a holiday with friends, she stopped to chat with him. More than half a century of marriage followed.

She shared their story Thursday while standing on West Street with developer Steve Patterson, who was describing the plans for restoring and revitalizing the building at 825 Bay St., where the Lipsitz family ran its businesses for 107 years. The awning he has chosen won't be retractable, but the plan still stirred the happy memory for Lucille Lipsitz.

Pieces of family, store and Beaufort history are being uncovered during the restoration. The siding of the circa-1883 building was pried off this week. The building will be transformed into stores, art studios and apartments. Jeffrey Bisger, a Beaufort County resident and real estate investor, bought it a year ago and launched the restoration.

Most notable from the street is the removal of white vinyl siding installed about 40 years ago that covered a row of windows on the second floor where the Lipsitz family lived until about the 1940s, according to Lucille Lipsitz. Her father-in-law, Max Lipsitz, started the business in 1902, and generations of his family cared for it until it closed in 2009.

Removing the siding also revealed a sign for the Chero-Nehi-Bottling Co., on the far left of the Lipsitz property, which closed in the 1930s. Lucille Lipsitz said that when her husband was a boy, he had his own stool at the counter where he would stir cherry-colas for customers.

Racks and shelves used for decades to display everything from shoes and clothing to dry goods and hardware still line the walls of the main store and shoe department. Many have been or will be donated to local nonprofit organizations, according to Patterson, whose construction company is doing much of the restoration work.

The well-worn floor has buckled in several areas from decades of heavy goods, such as grain, being unloaded for sale, he said.

Patterson also found a 26-foot-deep dipping well, one of about 26 in the area, that had been dug so volunteer firefighters and a bucket brigade could access, by hand, water in case of fire.

Upstairs, several truckloads of household furniture, clothing and goods have been removed by demolition crews. The items that remained this week were reminders that it was once a family home. A short flight of worn, 5-feet-wide stairs recalls a busy family running up and down. After the Lipsitz family moved out, the upstairs often was used as storage for the family and store, Lucille Lipsitz said.

A photograph of her and grandson, Adam, laid on a shelf, one of many items Patterson is returning as they are uncovered. A 10-foot-long broom -- tall enough to sweep cobwebs from the ceiling -- was discovered in the bathroom.

Patterson said he already removed shelves of plate silverware the Lipsitz family had stored because they were not allowed to sell it during war. A mixing bowl, some plates and a cup remained on the shelves, along with a long-johns shirt.

The building has a long way to go, Patterson said as he walked around, but the plan is to restore it as close to its original appearance as possible, based on old photographs.


Other changes about town:

  • Wingstop, a national sports restaurant-and-bar chain, is coming to Beaufort this month at 272 Robert Smalls Parkway. Father and son team Richard Connolly Sr. and Rich Connolly Jr. have agreed to open several locations in South Carolina and Georgia, beginning with Beaufort. The restaurant will be able to seat 70 and have multiple TVs for watching sports.
  • Milling is wrapping up on Ribaut Road in Beaufort and Port Royal, and paving is expected to begin Sunday night. Drivers should expect construction and possible delays or detours at night. Paving is expected to take about three weeks.
  • Related content

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    3. Lipsitz: The long history and last hours of a Bay Street landmark