The beloved Ketchuptown Store and icehouse are on their way to being added to the county’s historic register after the current owners appealed to the Horry County Board of Architectural Review (BAR) for the designation.
John and Debbie Huntington, formerly of Maryland, frequented Horry County for years for Bike Week, and wanted to eventually come here after retirement. After a friend hooked them up with an Horry County real estate agent, they began checking out properties.
“I kept seeing this one on their site,” Mrs. Huntington said.
The Huntingtons live in the home on the property at the intersection of highways 99 and 23, and are working to restore the store building and old icehouse behind it to as close to their original condition as they can.
Their request passed through the BAR, but still must pass through the Infrastructure and Regulation committee, then be approved by County Council.
Mr. Huntington told the Board of Architectural Review that the store is in bad shape structurally, needs to be winterized and sealed to keep water from coming in through the windows. Some boards need to be nailing again and the overhang for the porch needs to be partially reattached and secured.
On the small icehouse building, Huntington said he plans to repair or replace damaged materials, secure the building, restore and re-glaze glass on the windows, and fix the deteriorating boards. He is also considering moving it over a bit farther on the property, closer to the store.
The BAR was excited to see it was going to be restored.
“You’re here to save it,” said BAR member Sam Dusenbury.
BAR member Bill Strydesky agreed.
“Hats off to you!” echoed Strydesky.
Huntington said he isn’t planning to open it back up as a store, and just wants to restore it to its original look to preserve some history, and possibly use it as a workshop.
BAR chairman Jamie Thompkins also commended the Huntingtons for their project.
“That’s a pretty noble venture to fix it up. It is part of Horry County, and has been part of Horry County for a very long time,” Thompkins said.
How it became Ketchuptown
The Huntingtons didn’t realize just how popular the store was when they first bought the property in 2016.
According to an article written by Ruth Ham and posted online by Horry County Historical Society, the home was built by her father Hub Small in 1927, when Ruth was 10-years-old.
It was occupied and run by different members of the family for 40 years.
The story goes that the Ketchuptown store was the closest one for farmers in the area, because unpaved roads made long travel difficult. It was the place farmers in the community met up to hang out and “catch up on the news”.
Ham loved to write the letter K in cursive, according to her daughters, and that’s how “catch up” became “Ketchup”.
“The spelling just seemed to conform,” Ham wrote.
Gayle Hayes, one of Ruth’s daughters, said on a public social media post on a Ketchuptown page that the store started out as Small’s Mercantile and sold gas and kerosene. “Big Daddy”, as the sisters affectionately referred to their grandfather, also sold cured meats.
Susan Buffkin, Gayle’s sister, worked in the store and helped run it when she was only 8-years-old, she said.
Buffkin even helped run the cash register, and after her father put in a grill at the back and began serving food, she said she got up at 5 a.m. to help ready all the bologna sandwiches for the farmers and tobacco hands that arrived early.
A neighbor across the street from the store, Marcia Johnson, said her husband Aubrey and his brother used to get a dime from their mother to run over to the store and get a hot dog and a drink.
Once the local roads were paved in the early 1950s, people started going to Conway, Loris and Mullins for their groceries.
Johnson said the store closed about the time she and her husband got married 46 years ago. Since then, it has housed a number of businesses including a video store.
When the store passed down to Buffkin, she said it was difficult to let it go, but had to due to health reasons.
“It was a big thing for me to sell it and move. We have a lot of good memories, a lot of birthdays out there,” Buffkin said.
Her sister shared her sentiment on her public social media post.
“It will always be a special part of our lives and history no matter who owns it. A story I will share with my grandchildren,” Hayes said.
Johnson is still amazed at the draw the building has for people in the community.
“I can’t believe a building that has been closed so long still has so many people coming by and taking pictures of it,” Johnson said, noting that even groups of bikers traveling through town will gather around it for a photo.
The BAR told Huntington that the store is eligible for a national register nomination, and said having it on the Horry County Historic Register is a good idea.
“It’s the best protection for it … for generations to come,” Strydesky said.
Strydesky encouraged Huntington to get a certificate of occupancy for the building so in case he ever wants to open it up he will be allowed, and it will be safe and usable.
“We want it to look as historically accurate as possible. If you’re willing to do that, I’m tickled pink that that’s what you want to do,” Thompkins said.
The Huntingtons are interested in seeing more old photos of the store and icehouse, and welcome stories and details about what life at the store used to be like. Those can be emailed to them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ham’s entire article about the store’s history and surrounding area via the Horry County Historical Society can be seen at http://www.hchsonline.org/places/ketchup.html