Meet the oldest businesses in Charleston

CT Lowndes

C.T. Lowndes & Company 150th anniversary | Photo provided by C.T. Lowndes & Company

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Meet the oldest businesses in Charleston

Charleston is one of the oldest cities in America, having survived crashing economies, blazing fires, the blasts of cannons, and natural disasters. A few keys to its success– the resilience of its residents + the businesses they built from the ground up.

Throughout the 18th century, Charleston’s population grew from 18,824 to 54,955, and with the influx of newcomers came a boom in business as locals searched for ways to support their families. During this time, the Charleston City Market was built in the heart of the city for meat, vegetable, + fish vendors – while other merchants sought property in the surrounding area to sell their products as well.

From apparel to pharmaceuticals, the Lowcountry has multiple family-owned businesses that have been around for more than a century.

Here are businesses that have been serving the Charleston area for more than 100 years.

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Beriln’s | Photp by Holy_city_lights

Berlin’s | Photo by @Holy_city_lights

Berlin’s for Men & Berlin’s for Women, 114 King St.

  • Est. 1883
  • Products/services: Men’s custom clothing, formal wear, + alterations. | Women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, handbags, + other accessories.
  • Brief history:
    The clothing store was opened at the corner of King St. & Broad on Sept. 20, 1883, by Henry Berlin – who came to the United States from Eastern Europe with $1.38 in his pocket. He started his business peddling + selling out of his car until he made enough money to open the store. To this day, the store is still run by the Berlin family. Ellen Berlin is the fourth generation to own + operate Berlin’s for Women.

Croghan’s Jewel Box, 308 King St.

  • Est. 1903
  • Products/services: Jewelry, appraisals, gifts, custom jewelry, engraving, + repairs.
  • Brief history:
    William Joseph Croghan, jeweler + engraver, opened his business on the porch of a Charleston single house on King St. Eventually, he expanded to take over the entire building. It is the oldest family-owned jewelry store in Charleston.

    Croghan’s was recently highlighted as one of America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores by American jeweler magazine INSTORE. The business ranked 2nd in the “Big Cool” division, which highlighted stores with 6+ employees. See their writeup here.

CT Lowndes

C.T. Lowndes & Company 150th anniversary | Photo provided by C.T. Lowndes & Company

C.T. Lowndes & Company, 749 St. Andrews Blvd., West Ashley

  • Est. 1850
  • Products/services: Insurance agency offering personal, business, + life insurance.
  • Brief history:
    Founded by Charles Tidyman Lowndes in 1850, it is the oldest fire insurance agency in the Southeast. Now, the company is a full-service agency with eight locations throughout the state. It is still owned + operated by a member of the Lowndes family. Read the full history here.

Doscher’s Grocery, 1133 Savannah Hwy., West Ashley + 1750 Remount Rd., Hanahan

  • Est. 1870
  • Products/services: Grocer
  • Brief history:
    August Doscher opened the family’s first grocery store at 171 Spring St. in 1886. Today, the family operates two IGA stores – one in West Ashley and one in Hanahan.

Fielding Home for Funerals, 122 Logan St.

  • Est. 1912
  • Products/services: Funeral services + embalming.
  • Brief history:
    According to an interview with his son, Bernard R. Fielding traveled to New York to attend a training school for embalmers in 1912. When he returned to open his business on the peninsula, most of the clients he started off with were from James Island, Johns Island, + the surrounding islands.

    Currently, there are third and fourth generations participating in the business in order to continue to carry on the family’s name. Fielding Home for Funerals is Charleston’s oldest black-owned business.

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Guerin’s Pharmacy | Photo by @mnswick

Guerin’s Pharmacy, 140 South Main St., Summerville

  • Est. 1871
  • Products/services: Specializing in hard-to-find items, gifts, + pharmaceuticals. Bonus: they offer snacks + a 1920s soda fountain while you wait.
  • Brief history:
    The oldest pharmacy in South Carolina, founded by Dr. Schwettman during the civil war. Dr. Henry C. Guerin eventually purchased the Summerville side of the business, leaving the ownership to his son, Dr. Joseph A. Guerin, upon his death. It later changed hands to Joseph’s longtime colleague, Dr. Herbert F. Dunning. Today, the business is owned + operated by Dunning’s great niece, Barbara A. Dunning.

Jantzen Lock and Safe Co., 276 Meeting St.

  • Est. 1864
  • Products/services: Locksmiths
  • Brief history:
    A family-run business for 150+ years, Jantzen Lock and Safe Co. is known for the sculpture outside its building at 276 Meeting Street. Look closely to see hundreds of keys embedded in the front sidewalk.
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McCrady’s Tavern | Photo by @loudhandleproductions

McCrady’s Tavern, 2 Unity Alley

  • Est. 1778
  • Products/services: Dinner, brunch, dessert, wine, cocktails, + private events.
  • Brief history:
    Built by Edward McCrady, McCrady’s Tavern has attracted numerous high profile guests – including George Washington himself – since having first opened its doors in 1778. At some point, the original McCrady’s Tavern closed, and throughout the years the structure lived several different lives – including as a coffee shop and a paper company – before reopening as the tavern in 2006.Sadly, the McCrady’s Tavern will be closing at the end of this month, and the owners are selling the building. Maybe it will reopen again someday – or some century – in the future as McCrady’s Tavern once again. In the meantime, McCrady’s Restaurant will remain open right around the corner on East Bay Street – and there, you can still find a tasting menu that’s comparable to what George Washington tasted at the original McCrady’s.

M. Dumas & Sons, 294 King St.

  • Est. 1917
  • Products/services: Men’s apparel
  • Brief history:
    In 1917, Mendel Dumas purchased a pawnshop + converted it into a men’s clothing store, specifically specializing in uniforms for service jobs. At that time, M. Dumas & Sons was the sole provider of naval uniforms in the port town. In 1947, Dumas’ twin sons, Abe + Joe, took over the business, relocating it to its current location on King St. in 1973, and expanding into sportswear – they were the first location in S.C. to carry Levi’s jeans. In 2003, Joe’s son, David Dumas, took over the helm + is still a third-generation owner today.Most recently, in 2015, the store underwent a $2 million renovation.

Nelson Printing, 100 Columbus St.

  • Est. 1844
  • Products/services: Prepress/graphic designs, printing, bindery, + shipping products.
  • Brief history:
    In the early 1900s, the company began under the name Southern Printing, publishing a German-language newspaper, “Deutsche Zeitung”, in Charleston + Savannah for the immigrants from Germany. After World War I, Louis A.R. Nelson began working for the company, eventually taking it over and changing the name to Nelson’s Southern Printing and Publishing Company. Today, the Nelson Printing Corporation is owned by Nelson’s grandson, Eric H. Nelson. Read the full history here.

Stuhr Funeral Home, 6 locations across the Lowcountry

  • Est.1865
  • Products/services: Funeral services + embalming.
  • Brief history: The business was founded by Henry D. Stuhr as “Stuhr and Bruning Cabinet Makers and Undertakers” in 1865. In 1894, Henry D. Stuhr and John A. Stuhr, sons of Henry D. Stuhr, took over the operation of the business. The firm became a corporation in 1923 with John A. Stuhr, the remaining son of the founder, serving as president.


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