One of the gifts of living in an expansive state like South Carolina are the peaceful and scenic drives one can take from town to town.
You know those trips I’m referring to — when you realize you’ve turned off your favorite music because you have instead become captivated by the gently shifting landscapes and glimpses at the lives of families residing in beautiful country homes.
Every structure is aesthetically unique and lovely in its own right — whether it’s architecturally, how it’s framed by surrounding pastures, the choice of crop worked by its residence or by the presence of livestock soaking up the sun.
Each of these South Carolina staples — fields, pastures, country residences or forests — extend a gracefully Southern greeting before they make an inevitable exit in your rearview mirror.
We’ve all been there and contemplated, “Should I turn this around so I can see that again?”
There is no denying that these back-road drives are a welcome break from the mundane of the “everyday.”
I expect many of us are guilty of inhaling deeply at these visuals and holding back that exhale … as if releasing that breath will sever the connection being felt with our surroundings in that moment. Reluctantly, we give in to our lungs’ demands and allow that escape while thinking “God, I love this state. I love living in South Carolina.”
Our shoulders relax and our bodies deflate slightly, but our souls have been filled and our minds are alive with excitement.
Yes, folks, it’s a journey similar to this that you may have when you choose to visit the next stop on our undiSCovered tour of the palmetto state. That’s because this rural gem sits beside a lone highway, between two S.C. towns.
Nestled against a family pasture and cradled by woods, STORE34 — as the name suggests — leans against Highway 34 between historical Newberry and the quaint town of Winnsboro.
As I neared my destination my anticipation began to build and I started to recall some of images I had seen on the STORE34 Facebook page. I was ready to discover the goodies that had not been pictured.
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When I walked in, I paused to orient myself and formulate a plan so that I wouldn’t miss anything. Everywhere my eyes landed appeared just as intriguing as the next.
This was going to be fun …
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My focus was broken by a familiar aroma and two friendly voices welcoming me in. I was meeting Catherine and Ed Asger for the first time and they were offering me freshly brewed coffee while I shopped.
Um, YES, PLEASE.
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Sipping coffee and getting to know Catherine and Ed a little, I started to feel right at home.
Caffeinated and curious, I began walking through the store and soon lost track of time. As I approached something with interest, the couple happily volunteered information without me even having to ask.
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In the past, antiquing has been a solo activity for me.
I typically only receive answers or comments from store owners when I pipe up with a question. This was different, though.
I had such a pleasant experience at STORE34 …
As I contemplated my visit later that evening, I realized that “the find” wasn’t inside the walls of STORE34 — don’t get me wrong, you will leave with something and you will be terrifically stoked about adding to your collection. What I’m saying, folks, is that “the find” is STORE34.
With that being said, here are Catherine and Ed to introduce themselves and tell you about their funky little shop ….
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Whitney Salley: First of all, tell our readers a little bit about yourself … (personal, family, where you’re from, etc.)
Catherine Asger: Ed and I moved back to Blair in June, 2020, to my childhood home and opened our business in August. We lived in Florence, SC, for over thirty years and when we retired it was time “to go home.” My brother and sister are also in Blair, so it is nice to be with family.
WS: What led you to open STORE34? Give us some background on the history of the business — how did it start?
CA: My mom and dad sold antiques out of the old Blair Store when I was growing up, so it is in my blood. I had a booth for years in an antique mall in Florence and knew I wanted to run my own shop one day. My husband has allowed me to live my dream through STORE34.
WS: STORE34 is located on Newberry Road in Blair, S.C. Tell us about this location and why people are driving from Columbia, Greenville and other far away locations to shop with you?
CA: Our little shop is right beside our home, so it has been so convenient and fun. Highway 34 is really busy so we get a lot of business from there — and also from our own advertising. I like to think that our customers appreciate that we try to get new items weekly and have something for everyone — antiques, vintage, farmhouse, new, just different things that are interesting and fun!
WS: STORE34 has been open for over a year now. What marketing secrets can you share that have helped sustain the business?
CA: We have gotten a lot of business from our online advertising but our best advertising is from our customers who tell others to visit our little shop.
WS: STORE34 is full of unique finds. I found something for myself on my first visit. How do you go about marrying the vintage antiques and new inventory you have on display?
CA: Our building is not very large, so we don’t buy huge pieces. We like to buy functional, attractive pieces that are fun, and small, unique items that you don’t see every day. It’s a job to find inventory and then create displays for them, but that’s a fun part of this business.
WS: Is all of the inventory in the store yours? Or do you sell on consignment?
CA: We do not do consignment, but we buy from individuals, from estates, from auctions, etc.
WS: Is this the first time that you and Ed have worked together, closely like this? What advice do you have for other family-owned or couple-owned businesses? Catherine, which parts of the business do you handle? Which parts does Ed handle?
CA: This is the first time that Ed and I have worked together, but it is very much a joint adventure. I do most of the “junkin” just because that’s the fun part for me. Ed is the “muscle” in loading and unloading, and working the numbers. We are enjoying our “retirement job” together.
WS: This is a tough climate for any business, but especially for new local businesses. Clearly, you and Ed have overcome this challenge. Do you have any advice for anyone considering opening a retail establishment right now?
CA: We are certainly not getting rich in this business, but we enjoy it very much. We get to run our business together the way we want. We get to meet new people, and visit with people who stop by. We have reconnected with friends we haven’t seen in a while.
WS: I see you are active on social media —specifically Facebook. What do you see as its primary benefit? Does it have drawbacks? And do you have any social media tips for other small businesses?
CA: Since we are really out in the boonies, Facebook has helped us connect with folks that probably would never have found us without seeing our ads. We find it very much worth the time and expense to advertise. I can post pictures of new items daily and bring excitement for our little shop.
WS: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
CA: We would love for your readers to visit us at STORE34. We think shopping with us would be worth the drive, and they get to see beautiful countryside, as well. Ed always has the coffee brewing, and we always have lots of treasures at STORE34. Come see us!
STORE34 is one of the stops at the Blair Spring Fling, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 14. Check out STORE34 and the other vendors participating in the event.
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OWNERS: Ed and Catherine Asger
EMPLOYEES: Just the two of us
FOUNDED: Aug. 12, 2020
LOCATION: 18438 Newberry Road, Blair, SC 29015
OTHER LINKS: Facebook
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Whitney Salley is the operations manager at the Columbia office of FITSNews. With a background in customer service operations, Whitney provides support to the FITSNews team and is editor of our UndiSCovered series, which focuses on small businesses around South Carolina. You can reach Whitney here.
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