UNION — After nearly 90 years of serving Union County Graham Cash Co. is closing its doors due to a lack of business.
Since earlier this week, the store’s windows have been covered in signs announcing its going out of business sale which began at 10a.m. Thursday. When the doors opened, shoppers found themselves faced with racks and tables full of various clothing items that had been drastically marked down, with some items selling for as little as $1.
The store’s remaining staff — Sales Manager Joyce McDade and Sales Associate Nancy Culberton — assisted shoppers whose purchases were helping to liquidate the store’s remaining stock and with it the store itself.
Also present Thursday was Carolina Cash President Greg Graham. Graham Cash Co. is owned by Carolina Cash, a family business that dates back to 1886. Graham’s great-grandfather opened Graham Cash Co. in Union circa 1930 and Graham said the store was extremely successful for much of its existence before falling victim to a combination of factors that lead to its closing.
“We opened this store around 1930, my great-grandfather John Graham opened it,” Graham said. “We did phenomenal business for a long time and it was very profitable.”
Graham pointed out that the store’s current location at 127 East Main Street, Union, is its third since it opened its doors.
“We’ve been here since we purchased this building 20 years ago,” Graham said. “It was a good move. This used to be one of the best Main Streets we had stores on. Our local customers have been great. Union County has supported us over the years.”
Another factor in the store’s long run of success was its employees.
“We were fortunate to have long-time employees,” Graham said. “Wilson Lamb managed the store from the thirties until the nineties. We had Dupre Bogan, Leon Eaves, Mabel Fowler, Mary Adams, Monty Smith, Perry Haney,
Betty Gough, Roberta O’Dell, and Lillian Bentley ran the office. They knew everyone in Union County.”
In recent years, however, changes on Main Street and beyond caused the store’s business to fall off to the point where it was no longer viable.
“Lack of business on Main Street in Union, lack of competition on Main Street,” Graham said.
Graham pointed out that customers were drawn to Main Street when there were a variety of stores providing a variety of goods and services such as Harry From’s, Smith’s Drug Store, and Belk (Graham Cash Co.’s current location) large numbers of customers were drawn to downtown Union. This, he said is what made Main Street such a desirable place to do business and what enabled Graham Cash Co. to flourish there for many years.
Another factor in the store’s success were the textile mills whose workers and their families were the clientele served by Graham Cash Co. and the other businesses of Main Street. The closing of the textile mills and the resulting unemployment of their work forces brought on by the those closings was another factor in the store’s decline.
“Those were our customers,” Graham said.
Graham said that further deterioration of the store’s fortunes was brought on by the shifting of much retail business that had previously been located on Main Street to outside the city. This also had the effect of drawing customers away from Main Street and Graham Cash Co.
The going out business sale that began Thursday will continue, Graham said, as long as there are customers coming in the store to buy its remaining merchandise.
Once that is done, however, Graham Cash Co. will close its doors for the last time. Graham said the store’s remaining staff may be relocated to the company’s store in Spartanburg. As for the building itself, Graham said it is available for sale or lease.
“It has served us well,” Graham said.
While the logic of economics dictated the store be closed, Graham said it was not a decision made lightly or casually, especially given the great success it was for so many years for his family. He said the attachment to the store is a strong one and closing it, while necessary, is nevertheless painful.
“It’s a heart-breaker,” Graham said. “It’s almost like you’re burying a family member.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.