Major development on King Investors buy Sokol site for $22.5M, but plans remain a mystery

The Morris Sokol Furniture building at 510 King St. in downtown Charleston has a new owner.

In one of the biggest local real estates deals of 2016, an investment firm has purchased the Morris Sokol Furniture building in downtown Charleston.

But what will become of the prime property has yet to be revealed.

Vanderking LLC, managed by Frederick Simon and Michael Shuler, in partnership with Greenwich, Conn.-based Wexford Capital, on Wednesday paid $22.5 million for the King Street building through a company called Vanderking 510 LLC.

Simon, of Connecticut, owns other properties in Charleston. Shuler is with real estate firm King Street Commercial.

Simon declined to say what the plans are for the vacant building at King and Reid streets, saying more information would be released later.

“We are evaluating our alternatives,” he said Thursday.

Joe Sokol, the seller, said he was not aware of any plans for the site.

“It wasn’t the highest offer, but we felt it was the best offer for us,” Sokol said.

The 37,000-square-foot retail store closed last fall after 94 years in business when Sokol, 83, decided to retire and no family members wanted to take over the business.

The furniture store included a 10,000-square-foot storage room attached to the two-story showroom.

Sokol said Simon’s group bought the entire site, including a 24,000-square-foot vacant lot fronting Reid and Woolfe streets. Sokol said his family retained ownership of two 18,000-square-foot warehouses on East Bay and Meeting streets.

He said the business was started in 1921 by his father, Morris Sokol, “with a dream and a delivery cart.” In 1929, after years of peddling his wares on the streets, the company’s namesake opened a furniture store about half the size of the current operation at 510 King St.

The building is in the middle of the rapidly changing Upper King corridor. Just up the street, two Hyatt hotels recently opened at the Midtown site. Numerous other development projects are in the works, including a new five-story hotel on Upper Meeting Street, a 10-story apartment building on Woolfe Street and an eight-story hotel rising a few blocks south next to Marion Square.

Last July, city documents showed plans to build a 603-space parking deck on the Hughes Lumber site behind Morris Sokol to lure a “national retailer” to the former furniture store.

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Developers of the Hughes site petitioned the city last year for permission to demolish the 128-year-old lumber business, which operates a warehouse, True Value Hardware store and an equipment-rental operation off Mary Street. The plan was to clear the way to build the parking deck behind retail and residential units.

In December, the city’s Board of Architectural Review denied the request, saying it wanted to retain the oldest parts of the Hughes Lumber structure.

Hughes Lumber co-owner John W. Burn said Thursday, “To the best of my knowledge,” the Sokol property is no longer tied to the Hughes Lumber tract development.

“It is my understanding there was a time when the proposed use of Morris Sokol depended on the deck going onto our property, but that’s totally gone,” he said.

He called the BAR’s decision a “serious hurdle” that the developer is trying to work out.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or