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Lucille Lipsitz smiled as she recalled first seeing her future husband, Joe, roll down the Lipsitz store awnings six decades ago.
A graduate student in town for a holiday with friends, she stopped to chat with him. More than half a century of marriage followed.
She shared their story Thursday while standing on West Street with developer Steve Patterson, who was describing the plans for restoring and revitalizing the building at 825 Bay St., where the Lipsitz family ran its businesses for 107 years. The awning he has chosen won't be retractable, but the plan still stirred the happy memory for Lucille Lipsitz.
Pieces of family, store and Beaufort history are being uncovered during the restoration. The siding of the circa-1883 building was pried off this week. The building will be transformed into stores, art studios and apartments. Jeffrey Bisger, a Beaufort County resident and real estate investor, bought it a year ago and launched the restoration.
Most notable from the street is the removal of white vinyl siding installed about 40 years ago that covered a row of windows on the second floor where the Lipsitz family lived until about the 1940s, according to Lucille Lipsitz. Her father-in-law, Max Lipsitz, started the business in 1902, and generations of his family cared for it until it closed in 2009.
Removing the siding also revealed a sign for the Chero-Nehi-Bottling Co., on the far left of the Lipsitz property, which closed in the 1930s. Lucille Lipsitz said that when her husband was a boy, he had his own stool at the counter where he would stir cherry-colas for customers.
Racks and shelves used for decades to display everything from shoes and clothing to dry goods and hardware still line the walls of the main store and shoe department. Many have been or will be donated to local nonprofit organizations, according to Patterson, whose construction company is doing much of the restoration work.
The well-worn floor has buckled in several areas from decades of heavy goods, such as grain, being unloaded for sale, he said.
Patterson also found a 26-foot-deep dipping well, one of about 26 in the area, that had been dug so volunteer firefighters and a bucket brigade could access, by hand, water in case of fire.
Upstairs, several truckloads of household furniture, clothing and goods have been removed by demolition crews. The items that remained this week were reminders that it was once a family home. A short flight of worn, 5-feet-wide stairs recalls a busy family running up and down. After the Lipsitz family moved out, the upstairs often was used as storage for the family and store, Lucille Lipsitz said.
A photograph of her and grandson, Adam, laid on a shelf, one of many items Patterson is returning as they are uncovered. A 10-foot-long broom -- tall enough to sweep cobwebs from the ceiling -- was discovered in the bathroom.
Patterson said he already removed shelves of plate silverware the Lipsitz family had stored because they were not allowed to sell it during war. A mixing bowl, some plates and a cup remained on the shelves, along with a long-johns shirt.
The building has a long way to go, Patterson said as he walked around, but the plan is to restore it as close to its original appearance as possible, based on old photographs.
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