The idea of sisters teaming up always brings to mind Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in “White Christmas.” It’s a fun memory that some of us relive every Christmas season, but the real Sister Act is right here in Travelers Rest.
Edith Garrett and Mary Webb operate RetroMarketplace at 128 South Main, a wonderful place to get your vintage-antique fix. Joyce and Nancy McCarrell run the Café at Williams Hardware, where you can munch on an award-winning pimento cheese BLT biscuit, as well as some peanut butter pie that will make you beg for more. When you get through with lunch, you can pick out the perfect salt and pepper shakers for your table at home. Then, if you want to check out books, music and a whole variety of interesting collectables, you’ll want to see Pam Campbell and Phyllis Chandler at My Sister’s Store, Books and More. (Find out more about these businesses in our Town Guide.)
Three sets of sisters operating three different shops in Travelers Rest. You might plan to visit them all. You wouldn’t want to miss out!
There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to information to share. Our sisters, all three sets of them, are some pretty interesting people. Because of that, we’re breaking this blog post into three parts. Stay tuned for the next two segments appearing in the coming weeks.
Nancy and Joyce McCarrell grew up in Travelers Rest. They were the daughters of Dr. Landrum McCarrell and his wife Peggy. Those of us who’ve been in TR for a long time remember Dr. McCarrell being as dry-witted as they come. Peggy was sweet and kind. Joyce and Nancy call each other “sister” and their brother Landy is, of course, “brother”. Joyce told us about a time when they were in Charleston somewhere around 1960 and took the boat to Fort Sumter. “We have no real memory of our visit to the Fort, but we do recall the trip out to the Fort on the boat because of a ‘life-changing’ discovery we made that day. It was a sunny, warm day and of course all of us kids, me, Sister and Brother, were basically running all over that boat. We got some money from Dad to get soft drinks to cool off with. We thought it was the coolest thing that the Cokes we bought were sold in cans and not bottles. It was the first time we had seen Coke, or any soft drink, in a can. So, the three of us went back to show Mom and Dad and we covered the logos on the cans and tried to make them think we had bought beers! No pulling the wool over their eyes, although for a minute there, Mom might have been a little concerned.”
The sisters still enjoy Charleston, but they spend much of their time operating the first business in Travelers Rest to cater to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Joyce and Nancy never planned to work together; it just happened. They were looking at the corner of McElhaney and Main where the Swamp Rabbit Trail was due to be built. “We were concerned that there was nowhere at that spot to rest a bit or grab a bottle of water or a small snack, or go potty, if one had ridden 10 miles from downtown Greenville on a bicycle. ‘Somebody ought to do something’ we proclaimed. It turned out that the someone was us.”
Joyce and Nancy wanted to build something that had roots in the past. The Café at Williams Hardware is named so because, of course, it’s inside the old Williams Hardware Store. “We want our customers to enjoy an old-fashioned taste of comfort, community, conversation and good food! In the gift shop, we try to feature the work of local artists along with a mix of merchandise from commercial vendors. In the café, we offer homemade soups, sandwiches, salads and, of course, desserts! It’s all good! Our mantra is ‘simple food, simply prepared’.”
Sometimes working with your sister can be a challenge. Joyce says that sometimes they don’t always see things the same way, but their differences help them to work it out. “Occasionally,” she says, “I have to work extra hard to explain my position on something, but that is infrequent.”
Nancy adds that the challenges of sisters working together are a lot like they were when they were growing up. “We get on each other’s nerves sometimes. We get mad at each other over trivial things. Joyce does not like me to boss her and I don’t like it when she lets me know she knows more than me about something. All the things that drove me nuts as a child, growing up in the house and sharing a bedroom with her, still drive me nuts. The difference is we are mature now and deal with things on a more mature level. If we do get mad at each other it passes quickly, almost immediately. That is a McCarrell thing. We never stayed mad at each other or other family members growing up. It was petty and a waste of time. Plus, Mother and Dad would not allow it.”
They both agree that their differences enhance the business. “Sister,” says Joyce, “has the ability to organize and manage and plan but I did not get those genes. I trust her ability to take care of the business end of our business. Our strengths and weaknesses mesh neatly and where one of us excels, the other is maybe not so much. And I know, usually, what she is going to do so I don’t have to fret over that sort of thing too much.”
According to Nancy, “Joyce is better at merchandising the store with the displays.” Nancy handles the books and employee issues as well as purchasing merchandise for the gift shop. She says, “Joyce handles the public inquiries and the newsletter, Facebook, email and website issues. I think we are closer now than we were before we opened the store. I am rarely surprised by what she thinks on a subject because I have usually already guessed how she feels. I think we have enjoyed finding out about each other because growing up, with a three-year age difference, we really did not have much to do with each other. She had her friends and I had mine and while we still have our own friends, we now know we have a best friend in each other.”
Nancy says she doesn’t have any real hobbies right now but one day, when she’s no longer working, would like to spend more time traveling. “Hopefully do some things that I have failed to do over the last 10 years like clean house and cook a meal. Ha! Ha!”
Besides reading, cooking and traveling, Joyce enjoys riding her bike from Greenville to Travelers Rest.
When asked what they’d like to see for Travelers Rest’s future, they tell me, “That is hard to contemplate. At some point, we may just want the ‘young whippersnappers’ to take over and say ‘Gee, remember when those sisters opened up that restaurant right when the SRT was being built? Whatever happened to them?’”