When Barbara Taylor set out to open a country general store in Loris, she didn’t pick just any building.
She took on the task of upgrading and renovating a building at 4111 Meeting St. that was built in 1938 and needed a little TLC.
“As far as I know, I’m the first person that’s attempted to restore the place,” said Taylor, who plans to open Blue Trunk Country Store in September. “I was just going to fix the place up -- and it mushroomed.”
Work on the fixer-upper -- which while it’s old, isn’t on any official historic lists -- started nearly two years ago and is finally wrapping up.
Soon, the aroma of freshly popped popcorn, an ice cream parlor complete with a former fountain staple drink known as egg cream, local crafts, toys and antiques are what residents can expect to discover when they see the 76-year-old building.
Signs for the store are expected to go up next week -- signaling the final steps in a project that Taylor described as the most complicated one she’s ever done.
Taylor purchased the property from Pamela and Lowell Dorman in May 2012 for $38,000 and embarked on a journey to restore the building she described as “decaying.”
Demolition got underway on Aug. 8, 2012.
Two years later, and “way, way, way over” an initial budget of $90,000, Taylor said the renovation project is 90 percent done.
The building, built in 1938, has housed a number of different businesses including a hardware, dry goods and an auto parts store.
Eldred “Wink” Prince, professor of history at Coastal Carolina University and former 45 year resident of Loris, said he remembers his father buying him a white Schwinn bicycle with blue trim from 4111 Meeting St. in the 1960s.
While the location is considered old, it’s not listed on any register –national or local—as historic.
“Any building over 50 years old is potentially historic,” said Adam Emrick, a senior planner for Horry County and member of the board of Architectural Review.
And, while there’s no historic preservation ordinance in Loris, property owners are “always encouraged to preserve buildings with potential historical value,” Emrick said.
And that is what Taylor -- who became bored with retirement -- has done.
Taylor, 68, moved from New Jersey to Green Sea eight years ago.
After locating land nestled among the cotton, tobacco and soybean farms, she bought a John Deere tractor, cleared only four of the 15 acres purchased, and set out to raise chickens, bees and blackberries with plans to sell organic eggs from her farm named Strawberry Fields.
“She’s one tough little lady,” said Bill Worley of Worley and Sons, general contractor for the project. “I built her house for her, she’s not afraid to grab a shovel and start digging.”
She jumped right in with this latest project too. She stood on a ladder pulling squares of tin from the ceiling— one by one. Some of the tin was scraped, sanded and sold. “I shipped some of it as far away as Brazil and to places in Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Canada,” she said.
The old building “was in really bad shape,” said Brian Campbell of Summit Electric who re-wired the entire structure.
The floor had to be completely re-done and the foundation re-poured. “We eliminated the 2 foot crawl space that was a breeding ground for mold and mildew,” Taylor said.
But both Campbell and Worley said Taylor saw the potential of the building and “used her own hands” to help hang the 100-year-old light fixtures Taylor found to give the place “that rustic feel,” Worley said.
Worley, Campbell and a number of others including Loris Refrigeration have worked to ensure the building was up to date and in compliance with codes.
The building was stripped from the inside out, and Taylor and the all-local crew were careful to ensure the outside remained in its original state –although without guidelines in place, Taylor was technically at liberty to do what she wanted to do.
“It was just overwhelming.” Taylor said. “It was like the circus came to town, people sat on benches to watch.”
Taylor said the cause for an eight-day disruption in traffic came after they lifted off the ceiling and extracted 108 original 25 ft. hand milled beams.
“We had them laid out in the street,” Taylor said.
The beams were taken to Charlie Moore’s saw mill in Aynor.
Moore then milled the beams, which became part of the paneling, flooring, trim and stairs of what will soon be open for business as the Blue Trunk Country Store.
Taylor said her goal for the store is to become “the jewel in the center of town.”
“I love Loris, I just fell in love with the town and this place,” she said.