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H & R Sweet Shop observes 75th anniversary

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The second-longest continually operating business within Mount Pleasant’s “Old Village” observed its 75th anniversary on Thursday, April 2 (longest continually operating business is Pitt Street Pharmacy who celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2019). The H & R Sweet Shop, located at 102 Royall Avenue, started business one day after Easter on April 2 1945. Owners of the business were husband and wife, Harriet and Raliegh (Pat) Johnson Sr.

The building was divided into two sections. On one side Raleigh operated a barbershop and on the other side was a full-service ice cream shop and diner. For a while Raliegh was the only licensed barber in Mount Pleasant. In 1962, Raliegh Jr. (Coffee) joined in the business on the diner side. Neighborhood folks came in for ice cream, milk shakes, hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, pork chops, fried chicken, fried shrimp and flounder, hush puppies, fries, red rice and collard greens.

Years ago, the Sweet Shop brought in jazz performers to entertain patrons in the club room in the rear. All of this occurred when jazz was practically dead in this part of the country. Raliegh Sr. hosted Christmas parties, Easter Egg hunts and passed out school supplies. He sponsored Little League teams and bowling leagues. A faithful member of Friendship A.M.E. Church and Pisgah Lodge 169, Ralliegh Sr. was a pillar of the community and was known to help a lot of people out when they got into financial jams. Harriet was a registered nurse and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Lodge 219.

Though H & R Sweet Shop founders Harriet and Raliegh have passed on, their memory is preserved in numerous photographs hanging on the diner walls. Today the ice cream and milk shakes are gone from the menu, but the soul food, hamburgers and hot dogs are the same wonderful items that people two generations ago bragged about. Locals still come in longing for the taste of southern cooking that is so hard to find.

Because of the current COVID-19 precautions, a formal, full blown celebration of the Sweet Shop’s 75th anniversary was not held. However, myself being a life-long resident of Mount Pleasant, I persuaded the Town of Mount Pleasant to issue a proclamation proclaiming Thursday, April 2 as “ H & R Sweet Shop Day” and personally presented it to Raliegh Jr. at the Sweet Shop on that day.

I lived the first 14 years of my life just one block from the Sweet Shop and frequently visited to get some soft ice cream. This building/business is part of my personal history and I wanted the town to recognize the accomplishment with this proclamation so I persisted. I am honored to have been a small part of the anniversary.

Cecil Evans serves as president of the Marion Marauders Society.

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