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Landmark Columbia bar for sale

Avery Balfours, 5, of Charlotte, cooled off at the Fort Mill YMCA pool at Baxter Village, Wednesday. After highs in the 90s several days this week, slightly cooler temperature

are expected through at least early next week, according to the National Weather Service. Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 87.
Avery Balfours, 5, of Charlotte, cooled off at the Fort Mill YMCA pool at Baxter Village, Wednesday. After highs in the 90s several days this week, slightly cooler temperature are expected through at least early next week, according to the National Weather Service. Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 87.

COLUMBIA -- Jaco's Corner is for sale.

The landmark Olympia mill village bar, ancestral family home, corkball field and Spit and Argue Club could give way to a hotel, modern shops or condominiums.

Asking price for the 1.35 acres across from the S.C. State Fairgrounds is $1.6 million.

The sale would mark the end of an era that began when Alberta and Harris Jaco opened a food stand at Rosewood Drive and Bluff Road in 1912.

But it's only with great reluctance that granddaughter Janet Jaco is testing the market. She owns the bar and co-owns the property with her brother Jake.

During happy hour Thursday, the thought of selling brings Janet to tears. Brother Jake isn't talking at all. Janet's husband, Walt Taylor, 70, has to weigh in.

"She's just put it on the market," he says, sipping a Miller Lite at a corner table near the Eat, Drink and Beat Clemson sign. "I'm not sure she wants to sell. But the money ... "

Jaco's potential exit is arguably the most surprising announcement in the stunning transformation of the Granby and Olympia mill villages and the area around USC's Williams-Brice Stadium.

It comes on the heels of the mills' redevelopment -- they closed in 1996 -- the rise of hundreds of condos in the past year and the renovation of the old Olympia community center, formerly known as Gallery 701.

"Jaco's is an institution," said Granby Neighborhood Association president Bob Guild, who notes he has never been inside Jaco's during the light of day.

"It's the heart and soul of the community. Sadly, some of what progress brings is the loss of some of those institutions."

Jaco's was a centerpiece in the close-knit mill community, where people referred to themselves as "lintheads" and considered their neighborhoods separate from Columbia, just blocks away.

Janet says there are only two types of people: those who are from Olympia and those who ain't. Lot of people feel that way. Jaco's is their temple.

Edge of the Village

Real estate agent Lee Marsha is handling the sale. He's having a Maker's Mark at the well-worn bar, resting his foot on a rail made from a section of the old Olympia trolley track.

Marsha said there is a lot of interest in the property because of the growth, much of it spurred by optimism over the Steve Spurrier era of Gamecock football.

More than 400 condos ring the stadium. The new "cockominiums" sell for up to $785,000. Game-day parking spaces go for $26,000. For Janet and Jake Jaco not to take the money would almost be irresponsible, Marsha says.

But there's more than a fair share of shock that Janet is even considering letting the place go.

"I've had more calls on this than any piece of property, ever," Marsha says. "I've got calls from people all over Olympia saying, 'Why the hell are you selling Jaco's?"'

But he said he also has had nibbles from a group wanting to build a hotel. "I think it's going to end up being a hotel and retail, with maybe a parking component," he said.

The hotel would be quite a change. The parking wouldn't.

The family has parked cars at the bar almost as long as there has been a State Fairgrounds and longer than there has been a Carolina football stadium.

In fact, according to "Lintheads," Alvin W. Byars' history of Olympia, Janet's father, Dillard Jaco, and his brother Doyle parked horses and buggies on the back lot for 25 cents a day, which included food and grooming.

Areas around the home and bar were passed down as inheritances. And the Jaco kids would hold competitions on who could pack in the most cars and make the most money.

"All my girlfriends would come by, all dressed up, going to the fair. And I had to park cars," Janet says, composed now that the conversation has turned to the past rather than an uncertain future. "When my Granny died, I swore I would never park another car and I would go to the damn fair."

Granny was Alberta Dunham Jaco, the clan matriarch.

She and her husband, Harris, used bootlegging money and honest cash from long hours at the mill to buy the corner in 1912. Rosewood Drive and Bluff Road at the time were both dirt roads at the edge of the village.

The couple opened a store on the corner and sold candy, cold drinks and ice. It opened at 6 a.m., before the first shift at the cotton mill began at 6:30 a.m.

A gas pump, the first on that side of town, was added in the 1920s. The house was built in the 1930s, and the gas station eventually became a bar and grill.

Granny, who died in 1992 at age 101, was the undisputed queen of the corner.

'Nothing but love'

The decor hasn't changed very much through the years. John Wayne looks down from a wall poster. Hemingway pulls on a lager in another. A sign warns that unattended children will be enslaved. And the jukebox is still full of Waylon, Willie and Merle.

"I remember when the first rock 'n' roll got put on there Pink Floyd, I think it was," regular A.J. Sexton says. "Never thought I'd see that."

And woe to the first-timer who stoops to pick up the quarter on the floor by the jukebox. It's soldered to the head of four nails.

Although it has mellowed through the years, Jaco's has always had, deservedly or not, a bit of a rough image. Now, the place is "nothing but love," says Janet.

And family. A message board has customers' names and birthdays rather than daily specials. Hugs come as fast as the bottles of Bud. And whether you park your Lexus at the front door or your Harley in the back, everyone is treated the same.

Even the hipsters at Group Therapy, Columbia's other iconic dive bar, give props.

"It's a legend," said 23-year-old Anna Angstadt while bartending at the Five Points watering hole Thursday.

"You almost can't say you're from South Carolina if you haven't been to Jaco's."

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