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Burndale’s history filled with tenants

Posted: April 17, 2017 5:32 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Camden Archives & Museum/

This clipping from the a 1966 edition of The Camden Chronicle shows the interior of the Rowlarena, the bowling alley at Burndale Shopping Center operated by John Rowland. The caption reads: “Rowlarena. Fun for the entire family, features 12 Brunswick A-2 automatic lanes and meets the American Bowling Congress standards.” Burndale’s second owners, Burndale Associates, sold the bowling alley to Royal Z Lanes in 1992.

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Contractors are now in the process of removing asbestos from and demolishing the old Burndale Shopping Center. Even before work began -- currently focused on the old bowling alley at the center’s north end -- people started talking about Burndale, which has been an East DeKalb Street landmark in Camden for 60 years.

According to John Burns, whose family owned the property until 1988, Burndale was Kershaw County’s first-ever shopping center. His father, Julian H. Burns Sr., built the center in 1957. Unfortunately, his son said Burns Sr. died only a few years later, in 1965.

“He never really got to see it succeed,” Burns said. “He had a great vision. There wasn’t a shopping center in Kershaw County yet. It was risky at the time.”

But DuPont had just come along; the timing seemed right.

After Burns Sr.’s death, the property was held by a trust bearing his name. John Burns said his mother ran the center until the trust decided to sell it in 1988 to a group calling itself Burndale Associates LLP, a partnership made up of Alfred L. Saad III and David Jordan.

A short February 1988 story in the 

Chronicle-Independent mentioned the sale and that Saad planned to “totally renovate the center,” which was 30 years old at the time. A drawing of what the renovated center would look like accompanied the article. The renovation never took place.

Burndale Associates sold the bowling alley to Zavakos Enterprises S.C. LLC (Royal Z Lanes) in 1992.

Thirty years after Saad and Jordan purchased the center, on April 2, 2008, Burndale Associates dissolved with Saad retaining a 55 percent interest in the shopping center in his own name and Jordan retaining the other 45 percent under Savannah Construction Services LLC. In separate deed transactions recorded on the very same day, Kershaw County Medical Center (now KershawHealth) bought those 55 and 45 percent interests in the property for a total of $1.3 million. It also bought the bowling alley and an outbuilding that used to house an insurance agency (which is not part of the demolition).

The plan was to convert the property into an outpatient center focused on women’s health. Unfortunately, the recession that hit later that year forced the hospital into indefinitely suspending those plans.

In 2015, KershawHealth and Kershaw County sold nearly all the hospital’s assets to Capella Healthcare. What remained, including the shopping center, ended up staying in the hands of the old public KershawHealth board, which became the Health Services District of Kershaw County.

For the moment, the health district’s only plans are to complete the asbestos removal and demolition of the large, 60-year-old structure.

Burns said the real story of Burndale isn’t who owned it, whether it was his family then or the health district now, but the tenants. Along with Piggly Wiggly, all the tenants were local merchants as opposed to national chains.

“Many of them were World War II vets. One was a volunteer firefighter. A lot of their children and grandchildren are still living here. It was a small-town shopping center,” Burns said.

A 1961 Camden City Directory listed the following businesses at Burndale Shopping Center, 96 DeKalb Street:

Piggly Wiggly

Melton-Stuven Hair Stylist

Taylor’s Barbershop

Burndale Drug Store

Doar-Glover Hardware Co. Inc.

The Fashion Post

Hinson’s Liquor Store

Day-N-Nite Laundromat

Elizabeth Thomas Restaurant

Elizabeth Thomas Snack Bar

Rowlarena (the bowling alley)

Burndale Gulf Service

A telephone directory from three years earlier, in 1958, also listed most of these same businesses.

Burns said he remembers Dave Parker running the laundromat and “Mr. Blalock” at the drug store. He said he went to school with Parker’s son and knew Blalock’s son as well. H.S. Glover, of Doar-Glover Hardware was the volunteer firefighter. Rich Taylor ran the barber shop. Ruby Hornsby took over one half of Melton-Stuven Beauty Salon when Stuven stepped away.

“The bowling alley was managed by John Rowland … Rowlarena,” Burns said. “I went to school with his sons, too, and he’s related to the folks at Mulberry Market.”

Burns said nearly all of the tenants who started with his father in 1958 were still tenants when his father’s trust sold the center in 1988.

“That, to me, is amazing -- that they would stay on 25, 30 years,” he said. “It was very community-oriented. I was talking with my sister and I agree with her: These were just good, nice, outstanding people.”

One of those people came along in the late 1960s: Julius Gause. Now 82, Gause said he came to oversee operations at Camden’s Piggly Wiggly in 1967. He had been working for Winn-Dixie in Columbia for 13 years when he met Harold Adams who owned a Piggly Wiggly in West Columbia. Adams wanted Gause to help with that store. At first, Gause declined, but Adams convinced him three weeks later.

Sometime after that, Gause learned Adams also owned the franchise to the Piggly Wiggly in Camden, which dated back to when the shopping center opened. Adams “owned” the store and paid rent to the Burns family.

“He asked me to see what I could do with it,” Gause said. “I was told we should be taking in $25,000 a week. I brought in a store manager from Aiken and we took in $35,000 in the first week.”

Adams was so impressed, he offered to sell the franchise to Gause for $100,000. He said Bob Royall helped him get a bank loan to cover the cost. Gause would eventually hire Steve Jackson as the store’s manager and said he thought of his employees as family.

“I hate to see it go,” Gause said of the demolition. “I have a lot of good memories from there.”

Burndale Shopping Center’s success may have inspired a company called Earth Inc. That company announced plans in April 1959 to build The Shoppes at Mid Towne across from the then new Camden City Hall on Lyttleton Street to be anchored by A&P Tea Co. The store’s new home would be built to replace A&P’s former home at 408 DeKalb St., near Bethesda Presbyterian Church.

Gause said he could not remember the year, but when A&P announced plans to close the Mid Towne store, he bought them out and turned it into another Piggly Wiggly. Jackson also managed that store for Gause.

“I only kept it about a little more than a year,” Gause said, due to the proximity to the Burndale location.

Mid Towne later became home to Big Lots, which, during more recent years, moved to River Oaks Center on West DeKalb Street.

Gause finally sold the original Piggly Wiggly to W.R. McLeod in 1979. The store moved across the street in 2005.

“My sons didn’t want to be in the grocery business,” Gause explained.

Looking over the work being done Monday, Gause remembered where many of the business were located in relation to the Piggly Wiggly.

“The restaurant was there,” he said, pointing just to the right of the bowling alley’s remains, “the laundromat was next door to that. The liquor store was just past my store and then the hardware store and the pharmacy on the end.”

Gause also remembered two changes he made to the business during his years of operation. Sometime after he took over operations, Gause added 2,600 square feet of space to the back of the Piggly Wiggly. Up until then, the store -- and most businesses in Camden, he said -- closed on Wednesday afternoons.

“But I’d have people knocking on the door saying they needed bleach or some kind of cleaner,” he said; so, he started keeping the store open on Wednesday afternoons.

Similarly, when he purchased the A&P, he also began opening on Sundays.

He called the Burns family “fine landlords” and remains friends with John Burns and his brother, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian H. Burns Jr.

Gause went on to be Kershaw County’s zoning director and is currently on the Cassatt Water Co. board of commissioners.

 

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