By Barney Blakeney
November 17, Fair Deal Grocery ”The Spot 47” held its grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the incorporation of its new commercial kitchen. The recently renovated neighborhood grocery store/internet café now will be serving hot meals at the homespun community gathering spot.
Established in December 1953, Fair Deal Grocery has been the core of one of Eastside Charleston’s oldest consecutively operated neighborhood grocery businesses. The unprecedented flood of 2015 caused severe damage to the structure that has served as the Powell family root for three generations. It closed in January of 2016 to make repairs. That was the first time the store had closed beyond normal operating hours since first opening for business.
During the interceding years three generations of Powells and their neighbors recognized the store as a hub for community engagement. Paul and Gladys Davis Powell opened the store. Paul, an ambitious entrepreneur, would go on to acquire other properties in the ‘Mexico’ neighborhood of the Eastside. His wife, Gladys, ran the day-to-day operation of the store while Paul, a taxi driver, pile-drove the family into commercial pillars of the community.
The store became the family’s home away from home. Paul Powell equipped the store with a kitchen and bathroom that facilitated the family’s personal needs. The store’s floor space served its commercial purpose and doubled as the living room/playroom for the Powell’s five children. Neighborhood children as well as the Powell’s kids grew through various stages of development at the store.
In 1968 Paul Powell died. Gladys Powell’s role as matriarch of the family expanded as neighbors began to look to her for the financial guidance her husband previously had provided. In the late 1970s the Powell’s’ second son, George, joined his mother as proprietors of the store. That left Gladys Powell free to serve as grandmother and babysitter to a second generation of Powells. Numerous Powell grandchildren took their turn in time, sleeping on the bottom shelf of a bread rack that served as a resting place for both children and cakes.
Although she had seen her 80th birthday, Gladys Powell worked at the store daily until nature forced its closing. After 25 years living in the metropolitan Atlanta, GA area, Gladys’ only daughter, Deborah with her husband Frank Anderson, returned to Charleston in January 2016 to care for her aging mother, now 86. She and Anderson decided to renovate the building and reopen the store. Deborah said it’s the best decision they’ve ever made.
The newly renovated store now has two bathrooms and a commercial kitchen. Deborah said gentrification has changed the neighborhood, so the business also had to change. In addition to a new sound system, televisions and lighting the new kitchen continues the home-cooking tradition begun by her mother, but expands the service commercially. The family friendly atmosphere remains intact.
“We want to build a brand that serves the community in every way it did before and more,” said Deborah Powell Anderson. “At the same time we will offer our customers a family atmosphere that allows us to maintain and forward our parents’ legacy.”