1601 Main Street
George Diercks built this two-story, masonry structure about 1870, where he ran a grocery, wine shop, restaurant, and saloon during Reconstruction. The city had sixty groceries in 1875. A quarter of the proprietors were immigrants, like Diercks, who was born in Germany, and a tenth were African Americans. Diercks was one of the wealthiest. He reported owning $17,000 in real estate and $6,000 in personal property in the 1870 federal census, equivalent to more than $800,000 today. Diercks was active in the Schűtzenverein rifle club, and he was elected to city council in 1876 on a ticket opposed to Reconstruction. Grocers comprised more members of the city council during Reconstruction than any other occupational group, including lawyers, probably because groceries were important social centers.
The building housed a series of businesses at its two storefronts, 1601 and 1603 Main Street, until 1915, when Efird's Department Store opened at the former address. Four years later, Efird's undertook a major renovation, adding a third story and a 100-foot addition to the rear. From 1958-1960, Belk's Department Store briefly owned the structure, before selling to Lourie's, a high-end clothing retailer.
Lourie's was founded by immigrants Louis Lourie and wife, Annie Friedman Lourie, in 1912 as a junior department store in St. George, South Carolina. After attending college in Columbia, their sons, Sol and Mick, established Lourie's Department Store in Columbia at 1431 Main Street in 1948. Like most Jewish merchants, Lourie's had a better relationship with Black customers than other white-owned department store. In 1949, Lourie's was the only store willing to rent tuxedos to 50 male Allen University students serving as ushers during a performance of famed black soprano Marian Anderson at the Township Auditorium. One year later, the store moved to 1437 Main Street.
Lourie's expanded in 1960 with the purchase and dramatic modernization of this building that entailed enclosing windows, covering the brick exterior, and installing a large company sign on two elevations. The expansion to the 1600 block of Main Street allowed for the addition of a women's department, alteration shop, and fur salon. Lourie's opened additional stores in Dutch Square, Columbia Mall, Trenholm Plaza, and Columbiana Mall between 1970 and 1990 that were managed by the third generation of the Lourie family. The flagship store at 1601 Main Street closed in 2009.
This property’s rehabilitation in 2011 marked another chapter in Main Street’s revitalization. Through sensitive restoration of key features, Mast General Store re-established the essence of the building’s early 20th-century appearance as Efird’s department store. Notable aspects of the work included awning and window restoration--facets of the structure that were modified during the property’s time as Lourie’s. Inside, restoration work revealed the building’s original pressed-tin ceilings and wood floors, which were integrated into the décor of both Mast’s store and the Lofts at Lourie’s, apartments that occupy the building's second and third stories.