Remembering Rowell's Variety Store: Moultrie News' earliest advertisers

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An ad for Rowell's Variety Store from one of the earliest editions of the Moultrie News

Small, family-owned businesses have come and gone over the years. But while in business, many of them relied on the Moultrie News as their advertising source.

Bryan and Betty Rowell were one such couple. They knew Moultrie News publisher Carl Meynardie and when they went into business for themselves, they knew just how to get the word out.

Bryan Rowell worked for Van's Fence Company. At that same time, Carl Meynardie owned Universal Contracting Company and the two did business together from time to time.

But by 1964, Bryan decided to break away from the supply company to open his own business. He and his wife Betty took their savings and bought McGinn's Variety Store on Middle Street on Sullivan's Island from Mrs. Buddy McGinn.

They quickly changed the name to Rowell's Variety Store and set off selling everything from sandwich meat and bread to penny candy. You could get fishing and crabbing supplies, clothes and hardware supplies all in one stop.

“We sometimes wonder why we went into business for ourselves,” Bryan joked. “But I had that entrepreneurial spirit. There wasn't a lot of money in it, but it provided something for our family to do together,” he said.

Their children grew up working in many of the Rowells' businesses. Their son David learned to count on the register at Rowell's Variety Store.

That same year Carl Meynardie had launched the Moultrie News. It was a shopper with community news peppered through its pages and Bryan Rowell was one of the newspaper's first advertisers.

He advertised cane poles for 58 cents and deck shoes for $2.25.

The famous hill on Sullivan's Island (now called Stith Park) was just across the street and kids would come to the store looking for cardboard, so they could slide down the hill.

According to Betty, there was a constant flow of customers. The townspeople frequented the business right alongside the summer vacationers. The hot-selling item was a slushy from the slushy machine.

After several years, the couple decided to sell the business. Bryan had worked out a deal with Ned Montgomery. They opened Montgomery Rowell Building Supplies and Hardware on Coleman Boulevard. At the time, the store was located beside the Red and White Grocery Store. Today, The Boulevard occupies the space.

Their new store was nestled in beside The Medicine Shoppe and Ocean Highway Grill, all early and continuous advertisers with the Moultrie News.

Their grand opening was in 1969 and the philosophy was “If we don't have it, we'll get it for you.”

“It was cheaper to advertise in the local paper and you knew it would be seen because the local people read the Moultrie News. It was about their community and local people,” said Bryan.

“Back then, most people just scanned the daily paper for the stories. We advertised in both, but the Moultrie News did the most good for us.”

Looking back, Bryan said the Moultrie News has grown and changed to meet the needs of East Cooper. “It's a different paper than what it was back then, but so is the community. The content is still local; there's just more of it.”

Bryan and Ned remained partners for 10 years until Bryan bought Ned out. As sole owner, he changed the name of the store to Rowell Home Care Center.

But then the chain store Lowes came to town and “wiped us out,” Bryan explained.

Undeterred, Bryan changed gears and went into business as a handyman. Rowell Handyman Services advertisements could be found each week in the Moultrie News as well, he said.

Meynardie had a small staff and in the beginning days of the Moultrie News, he sold the ads himself. He would go from client to client collecting the ad materials and then return back with a proof each week.

“It's like any small-business owner,” said Bryan. “You do what you have to do to be successful.”

For more updates from the desk of the Moultrie News editor, Sully Witte, please follow Sully's Scoop on Twitter @SullysScoop and like Sully's Scoop Facebook page.

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