The heart of any city is its downtown, where restaurants, boutiques, lawyers, hair salons, theaters, and many more enjoy the bustling hum of commerce. On May 25, 2011, Main Street welcomed a new retailer to its growing chorus of Downtown Columbia institutions when the Mast General Store opened its doors in the historic Lourie’s Department Store building.

“The decision by the Cooper family to locate its store in the iconic 1870s building, commonly known as the Efird’s Department Store building, was a game-changer for our Main Street and City,” said Matt Kennell, president and CEO of Columbia’s City Center Partnership. “It was a moment when we knew large-scale retail was back in our city and has led to a transformation of the surrounding properties as a destination for shopping and fun.”

Revitalizing a city center is no easy task, and it doesn’t happen overnight. There are many fits and starts to find the right combination that works for each downtown.

“When we first opened, Main Street had a lot of empty storefronts and lacked attractions that would entice people to come downtown,” said Jeremy Becraft, Mast Store Columbia’s general manager.

“Now there’s an eclectic mix of businesses, entertainment venues, restaurants, churches, places to live, a great museum, and the popular Soda City Market on Saturdays. It’s turned into a real community,” Becraft said.

Parts of the building date back to the 1870s, when this part of the city was rebuilding after the Civil War. The edifice has been home to numerous businesses including a grocery, a saloon, a furniture store, and even an undertaker’s parlor, but its two longest-running retailers served the community for more than 40 years each. Efirds, a department store and major competitor for Belk, operated in the location from 1915 until 1958. Lourie’s, a men’s department store, moved in 1960; it was a staunch supporter of downtown retail until it closed up shop in 2008.

The Mast Store in Columbia is open seven days a week, 10 am – 6 pm Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm on Friday, 9 am – 8 pm on Saturday, and 11 am – 6 pm on Sunday. Hours may vary seasonally.

Photo: Mayor Benjamin, John Cooper (Chairman of the Board), and Ruth Smyrl, general manager on opening day, along with city council members and the Mast Store Leadership Team, cut the ribbon to open the doors of the Mast Store in Downtown Columbia May 25, 2011. 

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