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3 local stores on same block of King Street to close

WCIV

Three locally owned businesses on King Street between Mary and Wolfe Streets are set to close.

Magnifilous Toy Emporium's lease will expire on May 15th. The store currently has a going out of business sale as well as prizes. Dixie Furniture will close its downtown location in the coming weeks after more than 70 years. George's Loan Company will also close. It's sold jewelry, musical instruments, and everything in between for more than 80 years.

"We really enjoyed having a place where the kids can come play," said Magnifilous owner Blane Sommer.

The toy shop has been open for five years and had become a favorite of Charleston parents.

"We're sad to see it close," said Amber McCann. "She loves to just ride the merry go around and look at all the little toys they have."

"As you can see most of our neighbors are in the process of liquidating or have already left, and a lot of that is attributed to lease rates that doubled in the last five to six years," said Sommer.

Sommer said he and his wife were mostly ready to retire but increased rent played a factor in their decision to close.

Rent wasn't a factor for Dixie Furniture because the family owns the building. Instead, owners said the increased cost of living on the peninsula has pushed much of their customer base away from the area.

Jay Rovick, co-owner of George's Lon Co., agreed.

"I think it's sad for the local people," he said. "The problem is it just got too far along with hotels, restaurants and bars. For retail people you need a lot of street traffic during the day. This is more of an entertainment district."

He said Athlete's Foot has signed a lease to rent the space.

"The people that can afford the rents are the bigger chains and the box stores, and it changes the character," Rovick explained. "It was great when it was local people. It was a different feel."

Sommer believes the impact could be devastating to Charleston's charm.

"We've realized it is the mom and pops that make Charleston unique," he said. "That's why Condé Nast has had us number one for years. Because this isn't like shopping in many downtown tourists areas."

Rovick and Sommer believe the Upper King district will look drastically different in the next several years, and they believe more big box retailers will soon take up residency.

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