The Appling property that was once occupied by the J.D. Howell & Co. store has been sold, ending almost 100 years of ownership by the same family.
The general merchandise store was opened at White Oak and Ray Owens roads in 1919 by John David Howell.
But it was not just a place people went to buy things they needed, it also served as a social center for many of the residents of Appling and nearby areas.
Margaret Buhl, a granddaughter of the Howell, said she remembers visiting the store as a little girl.
"I'd stand there and listen to them tell their stories," she said. She said the customers often didn't buy anything but would "drink a Coca-Cola and talk."
She said the store sold a wide variety of merchandise, including produce, several types of tobacco products, tools, hardware, cloth, rugs, clothes and makeup. The store even had changing rooms for trying on clothes and had five or six clerks to help customers.
Frances Yelton, a great-granddaughter of the original owner, said Howell went to New York City to buy the clothes to be sold in the store.
The store also helped during the Depression by buying produce from area farmers, Yelton said.
"It helped get Appling through the Depression."
Howell ran the store until he died in 1945, when Walter E. Morris - Howell's son-in-law - took over.
Buhl said the store also was known for its hamburgers, hot dogs and cheese.
"I have people tell me to this day that they've never had any cheese as good as that," she said.
The store also sold fatback from a large wooden box, Buhl said. Some local residents "would buy a big slab, and that would be their main meat for a while," she said.
Becky Simon, another granddaughter of Howell, said she remembers highway workers coming into the store to buy lunch. They would usually buy bologna, Johnny cakes and pork and beans.
Buhl also worked in the store for a time and recalled that customers did not retrieve the items they wanted to buy from the store .
"They'd come and give you a list, and you'd have to go and get it," she said.
She also recalled that her legs would hurt after walking on the concrete floor all day.
The store remained pretty much unchanged until the 1950s, Buhl said. "That's when everybody got cars and started going into Augusta."
Morris ran the store until 1980, when he retired. He died in 1983.
John Morris, his son, ran the store until the early 1990s, when it finally closed.
"The store began to see its demise in the early '80s when all the chain stores began coming into the area." Buhl said.
John Morris never gave up hope of reopening until his death in in July, however.
"He always said he was going to reopen," Buhl said.
The property was recently purchased by Columbia Exchange Inc. for $200,000, according to records filed at the courthouse. Robert Pollard, who said he purchased the tract, said he has not decided what to do with the property.
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