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Charleston’s Board of Zoning Appeals will take up David AvRutick’s request to expand the seating area and allow on-premise consumption of beer and wine at Burbage’s Self-Serve Grocery at 157 Broad St. when it meets at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at 75 Calhoun St.
For more than 65 years, Burbage’s Self-Serve Grocery has served the lower peninsula of Charleston with food staples, fresh meats and, in recent years, prepared soups and sandwiches.
Now, Al Burbage, 59, son of the late Robert A. Burbage, the store’s founder who died in November 2011, wants to retire to enjoy his later years in life. He is looking to sell the long-standing enterprise at the corner of Broad and Savage streets by month’s end to Charleston resident David AvRutick.
“I didn’t have anybody to carry on for me, so I decided to sell it while I was still able to do some of the things I want to do,” the apron-clad Burbage said from behind the meat counter. “I wanted to make sure it would be something that would carry on and serve the community.”
AvRutick, the founding president of the American College of Building Arts who lives nearby on Gibbes Street, said he intends to do just that.
“He is retiring, and a change is going to be happening one way or another,” AvRutick said. “The idea of losing Burbage’s struck home with us. We want to preserve the past, keep what he has going on there and take it into the future.”
Even the name will reflect the past: Burbage’s Legacy is what AvRutick plans to call the shop that Robert Burbage bought in 1961. Burbage’s was located elsewhere nearby before that, first on Tradd Street in 1946, one of three leased sites before its founder bought the current store with upstairs living quarters.
Al Burbage, who lives upstairs with wife Myrtis, doesn’t plan to sell the building, just the business, and that’s fine with AvRutick. AvRutick wants to double the current two-table seating area over a checkerboard floor and allow on-premise consumption of beer and wine.
Burbage’s already sells beer and wine, but AvRutick wants customers to be able to sit down and enjoy a glass of chardonnay or a cold brew with their sandwiches or other prepared items.
A wall carrying shelves loaded with staple items such as mayonnaise and crackers in front of a storage room will be partially knocked out to allow for the extra seating area from 496 square feet to 960 square feet. AvRutick plans to upgrade the kitchen and refresh the building, too.
“It will continue to be a grocery store,” AvRutick said. “We are committed on the prepared food side and the grocery side.”
Burbage, who bought the store from his father in 1987 when his father was thinking of selling it, is hopeful the city approves the changes AvRutick wants to bring to what many consider a Charleston institution.
If not, he said, “I might just close it.”
AvRutick believes the city will OK his request for more dining space and in-store alcohol use, but he acknowledges some neighbors aren’t happy with his plans, concerned that Burbage’s is going to become a late-night hangout for revelers. That’s not his intention, he said. AvRutick’s planned hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“We think what we have asked for is minimal and essential to carrying on the business,” he said.
AvRutick, a former owner of folding kayak-maker Folbot of North Charleston, is currently the executive producer of Eyeland Productions of Kiawah Island and a partner in Peregrine Group LLC, a diversified investment firm, in Charleston.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.