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Jun 26, 2024

More Than a Store

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

M.Kat
"...as Bluffton has evolved into something a little more – dare we say – sophisticated, she has kept the porch light on for everyone who remembers when Bluffton dared to be different..."

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A Bluffton institution, The Store hardly needs an introduction. But even after 46 years, it still yields surprises with every visit.

Long before Babbie Guscio first came to Bluffton in 1971, the front porch of The Store she now owns had already been enshrined as a town landmark. With its history stretching back to the sepia-toned past of 1904, when Calhoun Street was less a street and more an ill-defined expanse stretching toward the river, this porch was the axle around which the town’s 700 or so residents spun.

Opening a store selling an eclectic blend of bric-a-brac and odds and ends in a town of a few hundred might have been a bold stroke in 1978, but 46 years later the business model has proven to have staying power. 

“When I moved here in 1971 … it was one square mile and everyone was local because, as they said, ‘If my feet won’t take me, I’m not gonna go,’” Guscio said with a chuckle. 

On this porch, patriarchs and matriarchs of the great Bluffton families – the Heywards, the Pinckneys, the Peepleses – would hold court, greeting all who passed with a familiar “hello.” After serving as the town’s post office, a barbershop, and a general store at various points, that porch drew people in out of habit, even after Luke Peeples had shuttered his general store.

When the bundle of energy that is Babbie showed up, looking to open an odd boutique of local art, antiques, rare finds, and curiosities, a few long-timers had their doubts. 

“People would always ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I told them because I was here, and this was what I wanted to do,” Guscio said. “I was an oddity, but everyone would come down in the afternoon and tell me stories about growing up here.”

Opening a store selling an eclectic blend of bric-a-brac and odds and ends in a town of a few hundred might have been a bold stroke in 1978, but 46 years later the business model has proven to have staying power. 

Babbie Guscio stands on the front porch of The Store on Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton. 

“It changes all the time because people’s tastes change. In the beginning, Bluffton had a lot of what you might call ‘itinerant’ artists, so I’d have some of their art with some antiques, and people gave me some really cool things to sell,” Guscio said. Today, there is still the same unrepentantly eccentric mix of this and that, sprinkled here and there with fascinating upscale items to reflect Bluffton’s changing character. 

And along the way, Guscio’s unconventional outlook proved infectious, defining Bluffton as a safe haven for expressing yourself how you see fit. From that front porch, she launched many a street festival – primary among them the celebrated Mayfest, cementing Bluffton as a State of Mind. And as Bluffton has evolved into something a little more – dare we say – sophisticated, she has kept the porch light on for everyone who remembers when Bluffton dared to be different. 

And she shares that light with everyone who stops by to browse her wares or simply share a story. 

“I’ve just enjoyed meeting people and seeing them,” she said. “I miss all the people who were here. I wish everybody could know them.”

If you want to meet them, or at least hear a few of their tall tales and remarkable stories, Guscio is more than happy to welcome you to The Store. 

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