By ST. CLAIRE DONAGHY, Index-Journal
GREENWOOD, SC (AP) – Alvin Rankin jokes that office supplies are the reason McCaslan’s is also part of the bookstore. One effort supports the other.
âOffice supplies are the reason we have a bookstore and more than one employee,â Rankin said. “It would be difficult to be just an independent bookseller.”
It’s not just any bookstore. This is Greenwood’s first. The McCaslan name has been working well for 100 years this month and even longer as a Greenwood company.
Rankin, a major shareholder in the company, is part of McCaslan’s longevity. He has been working there since August 15, 1966, first as a clerk and delivery man.
During his 55 years at McCaslan, Rankin said, âI saw a lot of changes, I remember back then as Gus McCaslan was buying greeting cards for the store from a card seller. When Hallmark just sent retailers what they had, instead of buying individually from a vendor, Mr. Gus replied, “No.” We haven’t sold Hallmark since then.
âI remember when we used to be visited by book sellers from all the big publishers – Doubleday, Random House,â Rankin said. “We started ordering from a book distributor in the 1970s.”
McCaslan’s was incorporated in 1967 and Rankin subsequently acquired shares of the company. Over the years, renovations have been carried out. Cats from bookstores have made their home there for about three years.
âCotton the cat was in an alley outside and I cuddled her inside,â Rankin said. âI didn’t know she would have kittens. We kept two.
Rankin said that even in the days of the online bookstore giants and big box bookstores, he can get just about any title a customer wants, in two days.
âIf it’s printed, we can get it, including the used books,â Rankin said. âWe also order our office supplies online now. We are blessed. Our business is very, very good.
Rankin said McCaslan’s averages $ 500,000 in sales per year.
âWe sell all kinds of books and a lot of children’s books,â Rankin said. âOur customers want real books in their hands. They often pass on children’s books. You can’t do this with an e-book. Customers say they like the smell of books.
Anne Clegg, who has worked at McCaslan for 33 years, said she takes pride in McCaslan’s continued book sales.
âMost of our business these days is office supplies, but we get a lot of people from out of town looking for books by local authors,â Clegg said.
Jack Jennings is another longtime McCaslan employee.
âPeople come here to visit those who came here when they were kids, to buy school supplies or textbooks,â Jennings said. âAnd then they bring their children and grandchildren. It’s surprising, and truly special, the number of generations that continue to come here.
The business opened in 1898 as a county book depot, a source for purchasing state-adopted textbooks. It was organized by FM Sheridan, a former superintendent who came to Greenwood in 1896. Sheridan organized a bookstore in 1899 and the company also sold school and office supplies. In the 1980s, McCaslan’s added a supply center for teachers, which is still a bustling part of the business.
âFrom bulletin boards to exercise books to lamination, the teachers’ room downstairs is always popular,â said Clegg.
Much of the company’s long-standing history has been compiled in a spiral-bound book by John Robert Young, in recognition of 2021 being the 100th year of operating under the McCaslan’s name.
Prior to 1921, it operated under the Sheridan-Hart name for more than a decade after FM Sheridan and his brother-in-law, George W. Hart became business partners in 1902. In 1915, Sheridan sold its tickets and is now Hart’s Book Store.
Then Gus McCaslan took over the management in 1919, followed by Gus and his brother, Foster, changing the name to McCaslan’s in 1921.
He was initially housed on the second floor of what was then known as the “Syndicate Block” on the west side of Greenwood Square. He moved to Main Street in 1907, occupying space in the Barksdale building on the north side of the plaza. In 1930, the McCaslan brothers purchased the building at 208 Main Street and moved the store to its present location.
In 1947, the McCaslan brothers’ nephew, W. Bartram “Bart” Robeson Jr., joined the business and became the owner in 1973. Robeson lived to be 91 and died in 2004.
With a busy holiday season, Rankin said he and the other McCaslan employees had yet to officially plan how to mark the 100th anniversary, but he noted that the new local interest books and bestsellers are making great gifts.
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