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Reflections by Sammy Way: Post-war businesses locate in downtown Sumter

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 5/2/20

Reflections remembers several businesses that opened in downtown Sumter following the conclusion of World War II. These companies helped shape the Sumter business community, and one became a focal point of the downtown skyline until its removal. The …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Post-war businesses locate in downtown Sumter

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Reflections remembers several businesses that opened in downtown Sumter following the conclusion of World War II. These companies helped shape the Sumter business community, and one became a focal point of the downtown skyline until its removal. The companies discussed are Neiman's Jewelers, The Dixie Life Insurance Company, Savage Drugs and Johnson's Cleaners. The information and photos used to prepare this article were obtained from The Sumter Item archives. Part 1 discusses Neiman's Jewelers and Johnson's Cleaners. Part II features The Dixie Life Insurance Company and The Savage Drug Store.

"It's Easy to Pay the Neiman Way" - Neiman's motto

Neiman's, Sumter's newest jeweler, held its grand opening on Nov. 20, 1945, on South Main Street across from the Cut Rate Drug Store. An excited crowd of more than 3,500 citizens eagerly awaited the opening of this attractive facility. The building was opened at 10 a.m. and remained open until 9 p.m. The prospective customers were anxious to enter the maroon-and-gray, all-glass front modernistic new store. The unique feature of the opening was that the merchandise was not sold, allowing those attending to view a wide variety of stock.

"Floral displays of white and yellow chrysanthemums, gladioli, carnations, roses and daises formed a spectacular beautiful background for the diamonds, silver, crystal and jewelry displayed in the sparkling glass and Filipino mahogany showcases." The visitors were very complimentary about the attractiveness of the displays and focused on the beauty of the store's interior. "The interior was done in two color schemes of white oak and Filipino mahogany with walls of light orchid and floors of black asphalt tile carrying out the tones of the walls. The pale blue background of the recessed showcases was reflected to give advantage to the many mirrors which gave the interior a spacious appearance."

The store was designed by Murray Pearlstein, a designer from New York. The entire building was air-conditioned and featured a florescent indirect lighting system in a central dome. The store was "cleverly departmentalized with the front part reserved for watches, diamonds, jewelry and leather novelties, while the rear of the store was devoted to glass, crystal and silver displays. Employees who opened Neiman's were A. B. Neiman, manager; Sam Briskin of Wilmington, North Carolina, who had just returned from overseas after receiving his U.S. Army discharge; Miss Ethel Kinsey; and Miss Doris Jackson of Sumter.

Johnson's Cleaners and Launderers

Mr. J. D. Johnson was associated with the dry cleaning and laundry industry during most of his adult life. He was well-qualified to handle any type of cleaning problem. Johnson's Cleaners was established in 1947 and was considered to be one of the model establishments of its kind in Sumter County. What was known as Johnson's Deluxe Cleaners and Launderers was located in a modern brick building constructed on the corner of Dugan and Sumter streets. The new business was said to employ the very latest methods in the cleaning business. The facility utilized some of the most up-to-date equipment and employed 25 well-trained and efficient employees.

Johnson's advertised that it picked up and delivered the clothing of its customers. The store was noted for cleaning and maintaining a number of household articles. Johnson's cleaned drapes, curtains and blankets, dyed selected articles, provided water storage, cleaned furs, hats, delicate fabrics and also provided curb service.

Johnson's Laundry also offered a unique "Bachelor Laundry service. Mr. Johnson personally supervised all operations of the plant and guaranteed satisfaction.

The second part of our research discusses The Dixie Life Insurance Company and the Savage Drug Store.