A storefront that has operated for more than 80 years and is practically an institution in Charleston will soon close its doors.The pawn shop and music store owned by Herbert Rovick on Upper King Street is just one of many locally-owned businesses unable to keep up with the rapid growth downtown.“Everyone calls him Mr. George,” said Jay Rovick, his son and the co-owner of George’s Loan & Music Co. “He’s Mr. King street now.”He’s a man with plenty of nicknames, and a lot of character. “I started this business when I was almost a child,” Herbert Rovick told News 2.But at 100 years old — the owner of George’s Loan & Music Co. says it’s time to retire. When asked, he’ll tell you he wants to enjoy life without the daily grind the store entails.“Those that were my age, well none of them are here anymore,” he said.
But Rovick and his sons said it’s really the changing landscape of King Street that is pushing them out.“I know we made a good financial decision, but it was out of necessity,” said Alan Rovick. “We’re sad and happy for our new beginning. We’ve got so many loyal customers around here and we have services nobody else provides around here.”Charleston’s main drag is steadily changing. Traditional mom and pop shops once lined King Street, and now as those stores disappear, major retailers and businesses that cater to the city’s busy nightlife are taking up space.“Down here there are changes. Nothing but bars, restaurants, pizza stores. It used to be all home goods, you could buy shoes, suits, dresses, everything,” Herbert Rovick recalls.The news that the doors will shutter isn’t what his loyal customers want to hear. Some in Charleston said they’ve known “Mr. George” since they were young. “You knew about George’s Pawn shop because this was the place to come and the place to be. You always got treated like family,” said S.C. Representative Wendell Gilliard, a Charleston Democrat.
A pawn shop with everything from guitar strings to watch batteries and electronics — it’s also served as a line of credit for those needing extra cash during rough economic times.“My father used to tell me he would come here, this was the bank. Guess what it served his purpose and it served it well,” said Guillard. The lawmaker said he is ready to see a moratorium on downtown development and that shops are turning over too rapidly.“We need to rethink this whole situation because right now we have businesses like this that are disappearing,” he said. “We need to hold onto things in our community that are about tradition, that would benefit our community, and gentrification is just out of control.”
The store at 516 King Street will become an Athlete’s Foot in the next couple of months, but that’s not stopping the centenarian owner from making plans for what’s next.
“I’ll just keep going just keep going. I can’t stop. I’m going to stick and stay ‘til they carry me away,” he said.