GREATEST HARDWARE STORE IN THE SOUTH
Off The Beaten Track Travels
THE STORE –
Newberry, South Carolina in not a big place. With a population of just over 10,000, it’s really a small town and, as such, welcomes visitors with that wonderful small town hospitality. It’s a great place to spend a warm Saturday wandering through the weekly craft market and exploring the various unique shops and businesses that line the streets radiating out from the central square. It was while meandering along Boyce Street that I happened upon the shop of Clarence T. Summer, Inc. I was struck by a rather curious sign in the window of the front door which proclaimed – “Warning – Children Left Unattended Will Be Sold To The Circus.” I have to admit – it’s hard for me to ignore an invitation like that. This sounded like my kind of place. I had to know more. I opened the door and entered what I soon found to be, The Greatest Hardware Store In The South.
I had barely crossed the store’s threshold than I noticed another sign -actually it was yet another warning as shown in the image below. Clearly, the proprietor of this shop was not a person to be trifled with. Duly warned, I proceeded with cautious step as I began my exploration.
Exploration is probably a good word for a visit to the Clarence T. Summers Hardware Store. And if you are not good with exploration type skills, well, watch out, you just might get lost – trust me. The store is a warren of maze-like tiny aisles, twisting and turning with no obvious structure or system. And each aisle is packed – totally packed – from floor to ceiling with items of every sort, type and description. Add to that the fact that the store occupies three floors and you begin to get a sense of the amount and variety of stuff that this Greatest Hardware Store In The South contains.
You’ll find bolts and screws and washers and nuts – standard fare for hardware stores – but in great quantity and variety.
You’ll encounter many and varied hardware items from the mundane to the unique.
Thing is – there’s just so much! So very, very much! There is stuff everywhere. Watch your step or you can easily trip or bump your head.
There’s more ……… everywhere you look.
And more ……….
And more…………….. There is so much that some of the spaces are packed to the point of feeling claustrophobic.
It’s a dizzying assortment of this ….. and that ……. and everything else.
No space is left unoccupied. Interesting and intriquing merchandise abounds everywhere.. These scooters and bikes are suspended from the ceiling. How about a coal bucket or two?
Or maybe you are in the market for an old gasoline pump.
Everywhere you look you’ll make new discoveries.
Perhaps you are in need of a fan belt? Or a horse collar? No? Well, maybe then a discourse on Murphy’s law and why Murphy was an optimist?
THE HISTORY –
The Summers shop is a great place to wander and discover stuff……lots and lots of stuff. But if you are looking for some item in particular – well, finding it might be a bit of a challenge. You could try to find it on your own. Good luck with that. My suggestion – seek out the proprietor, Mr. Bill Shull. Bill is the grandson of C.T. Summer who started the business in downtown Newberry around 1928. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on your own (high probability on that BTW), just ask Bill who will gladly help you find any item that you might desire in his store. Unbelievably, he seems to know where everything is located.
Bill Shull – Proprietor
Bill is a friendly and affable chap. He’ll happily sit and chat with you a spell as he shares with you the history of Newberry and the C.T. Summer hardware store. And, as it turns out, Bill himself has a rather unique history as well. You see, Bill has a degree in Nuclear Biology from Furman University and his older brother has an MS and Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering. His mother, Martha-Nuel Summer, finished her MA and Ph.D. degrees in History at Columbia University while his father, Clifford G Shull completed his MS and Ph.D. degrees in Physics at New York University, worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and was later a professor at MIT.. A rather scholarly family history for sure.
THE PRIZE –
Oh yes, and did I mention – there’s another little historical bit to Bill’s family history? In 1994 Bill’s father, Clifford G Shull, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his research on neutron scattering. Yep. THE Nobel Prize.
Bill displaying a mounted replica of his father’s Nobel Prize.
(I asked Bill if it was the real Nobel Prize Medallion and he reminded me that the genuine prize is solid gold – something not to be kept in a hardware store – silly me.)
Bill also has a variety of other memoribilia related to his father’s Nobel Prize.
Nobel Prize Program Page Listing Professor Clifford G Shull
Poster describing Shull’s Nobel Prize winning research
Clifford G Shull conducted his research at the Oak Ridge National Laboraty in Oak Ridge, Tennessee before accepting a professorship at MIT. His work at Oak Ridge is memorialized with the Clifford G Shull Fellowship Program at the Lab and with the construction of the Shull Wollan Center at ORNL which was dedicated in 2016.
You can view and order the Physics Mug as well as other items with this image by clicking
The Clarence T Summer Hardware Store is truly unique and the proprietor and his family history are amazing. I felt so lucky to have fortuitously stumbled upon this place – truly a hidden gem, basically undiscovered, in Newberry, South Carolina.
Alas, in the interest of full and honest disclosure, I must admit – my initial and immediate assessment was only partially correct. The hardware store and Bill are, of course, true gems in Newberry. But “hidden and undiscovered?” Well, not so much. As I was leaving the store I turned to take a few exterior photos. That’s when I saw the sign – big as life – painted boldly on one of the front windows.
Yes indeed, big as life the sign proclaimed that this was a World Famous hardware store, previously visited by and featured on The History Channel’s TV Series, American Pickers. The hardware store episode appeared in Season 2 as episode 23. It aired in March of 2011. The episode doesn’t seem to be available any longer on the History Channel website but you can access it on Amazon Prime (for a fee) – search for American Pickers, Season 2, Episode 23. The episode title is “Possum Trot.” Here is the link: Possum Trot.
The Clarence T. Summer Hardware Store is a fascinating place. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but if you ever find yourself near Newberry, South Carolina it is definitely worth a “stop and see.” And if you’re lucky, you will bump into Bill who will give you the tour. Set aside a bit of time to explore. The store is huge. I only wandered the first floor before my chat with Bill. The upper two floors will have to wait for my return.
Newberry and The Greatest Hardware Store In The South are located in Central South Carolina.
DISTANCES FROM NEWBERRY
Columbia, SC – 41 miles Myrtle Beach, SC – 190 miles
Charleston, SC -150 miles. Hilton Head, SC – 190 miles
Augusta, GA – 68 miles
Explore The Greatest Hardware Store In The South …………….
…………………………… And Enjoy The Adventure!
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© 2019, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.