Morris Sokol Furniture to close after 94 years

Morris Sokol Furniture store on King Street in downtown Charleston is closing after 94 years.

A prime piece of downtown Charleston real estate is about to open up.

Morris Sokol Furniture, a fixture in downtown Charleston for nearly a century, is closing.

The 94-year-old business at King and Reid streets will begin a closing sale July 16 after shutting down for three days to prepare for the liquidation. The 37,000-square-foot store will close when all of the furnishings have sold.

“We have the store and two warehouses of furniture to clear out before closing,” store owner Joe Sokol said. “I have merchandise on order that hasn’t even come in yet, so it will be a while before we close.”

The business was started in 1921 by Morris Sokol, Joe Sokol’s father, “with a dream and a delivery cart.” In 1929, after years of peddling his wares on the streets, Morris Sokol opened a furniture store about half the size of the current operation at 510 King St. Today, the business includes a 10,000-square-foot storage room attached to the two-story showroom and two other 18,000-square-foot warehouses on East Bay and Meeting streets owned by the family.

“It’s the right time,” Sokol said. “Business has never been stronger. I wish I were 63 instead of 83 years old, or I wouldn’t even be considering this.”

No family members wanted to take over the business, he said.

Sokol started working at the store after graduating from The Citadel in the early 1950s. He said he has mixed emotions about closing the longtime operation.

“For 60 years, I have been coming to the same location, parking in the same spot and turning the keys,” he said. “Seeing a lot of the same people who work here for many years, it’s just like family.”

The store employs 25 workers.

“I have met so many great customers, many who have become good friends,” Sokol said. “I want to thank those who helped me so much along the way, especially my family and our loyal employees.”

The property is not under contract yet, Sokol said.

The building is in the middle of the rapidly changing Upper King corridor. Nearby, two Hyatt hotels are nearly completed at the Midtown site and numerous other development projects are in the works.

Values are climbing as well. In April, for example, a Georgia real estate investment firm that specializes in apartments paid $8 million for a former warehouse property measuring less than an acre near Woolfe and Meeting streets. The same piece of land fetched $2.7 million last summer.

Mayor Joe Riley said he does not expect the Sokol site to stay idle long.

“There won’t be any lack of interested parties,” Riley said Tuesday. “It’s a very desirable piece of land.”

Sokol declined to say who is looking at the site.

The mayor, who knew the store would close soon, said discussions already have taken place on what would replace it.

“Nothing has been finalized,” Riley said.

Patrick Price of The PrimeSouth Group, a commercial real estate developer on King Street, also declined to say who is looking at the site, citing a confidentiality agreement.

“If it all goes the way the intentions are, it’s going to be good for the city and a good reuse of that real estate,” Price said. “It’s a fairly large project.

“It’s a renovation, reuse and remodel of a building that’s been on King Street a very long time,” he said. “The group that is involved has the understanding that whatever ends up there is a reuse of the facility. It’s going to benefit everybody downtown.”

Riley said he was sad to see a longtime Charleston business close, but he added the Sokol family will reap the benefits of “an extremely successful business” for whatever they decide to do with the property in an area undergoing a redevelopment boom. “The land they own is of substantial value so when it closes, the family has the benefit of owning real estate that will be of great financial benefit to them,” Riley said. “There are lots of possibilities for the site.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.