The restoration of the first Harold’s Cabin location at the corner of Congress and President streets is likely to take at least six months, giving one of the forthcoming restaurant’s owners plenty of time to immerse himself in the legendary food retailer’s archives at the College of Charleston.
“I’m going to bury myself in them,” says John Schumacher, who’s overseen the Charleston RiverDogs’ food-and-beverage program for 16 years. “We’re kind of bringing back the history as much as we can.”
RiverDogs pals Bill Murray and Mike Veeck, along with builder Ben Danofsky, are Schumacher’s partners in the project. “They’ve known I’ve always wanted to, at some point, open my own place,” he says.
The planned restaurant won’t be an exact replica of the gourmet shop, which got its start more than a century ago as a mercantile. “They used to sell really odd things,” Schumacher says. The founder’s son, Harold Jacobs, added snowballs to the mix; Schumacher vows the icy treats will surface on the remade Cabin’s dessert list.
Thus far, Schumacher has obtained only one picture of Harold’s Cabin interior. He guesses it was shot in the 1930s: “There’s a sign that says ‘please serve yourself’, bananas on one aisle and tools on the other.”
The younger Jacobs in the 1950s relocated the store to Wentworth Street, which is where most contemporary Charlestonians remember scanning the cheese selection that Schumacher describes as “50 years ahead of its time” and plucking pickles from a barrel.
“There was a lady who came up to me and said ‘I had my first pastrami sandwich at Harold’s’,” says Schumacher, who’s been making the neighborhood meeting rounds.
Neighbors shot down an outdoor seating proposal, but are generally enthusiastic about the chance to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables so close to home: In addition to two-story restaurant seating for 60, the venue (tentatively called “Harold’s Cabin”) will include a rooftop garden and a small produce market.
Jacobs died in 2009, leaving no immediate survivors. Schumacher has tracked down one of his relatives, but hasn’t yet gotten in touch with him.
“It’s just a really exciting project,” Schumacher says.
Although opening day is still months away, Schumacher isn’t waiting to settle into the neighborhood: He just purchased a home on the block.