Museum Musings – May 11, 2016
A walk down Fort Mill’s Main Street today will excite connoisseurs of a variety of specialties from custom bow ties to children’s fashions to home décor to some seriously thermogenic hot sauce. Top off your shopping excursion at one of the local eateries and you’ve got a complete experience in just a few blocks. The goods for sale and the signs on the buildings have changed, but today’s Main Street has a lot in common with its historic roots.
Customers once flocked to the town center to stock up on supplies and shoot the breeze (and a few games of pool) in these same shops. Longtime residents agree there was little need to travel to Rock Hill or Charlotte; everything a person needed could be found behind the glass storefronts of Main Street. In fact, one well-known proprietor, J. B. Mills, famously told his customers “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”
Ardrey’s Drug Store was another frequent stop for locals. W.B. Ardrey stocked his shelves with dry goods and household wares, cures for whatever ailed you, and a collection of Indian pottery. Ardrey knew a good deal when he saw one, and was known to be a levelheaded businessman. That notion was put to the test one day when a salesman (known in those days as a “drummer”) came into the store with a proposition for Mr. Ardrey to buy stock in a new company that was marketing a new kind of syrup. After thinking it over, Ardrey politely told the salesman he’d have to pass on the offer because “You’ll never make any money with that.” It turned out the syrup was to be used in the making of a new product called Coca-Cola. Fortunately, Mr. Ardrey was a good sport as well as a good businessman with many successful ventures to his credit, and he could laugh about his brush with soft drink greatness.
If walls could talk, the buildings of Main Street would have a limitless supply of interesting stories to tell. Take a walk down there yourself and see what anecdotes, both past and present, you might be able to hear.