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December 2, 1977 Around Adair with Ed Waggener

The article below first appeared in the December 2, 1977 issue of the Daily Statesman. It includes reminisces of Coomer's Cafe, and then a lengthy recollection by Mrs. Coomer of the businesses that were on the Public Square in 1943 when she took the reins at Coomer's Cafe. Only a select few of the businesses that were on the Square in 1977 are still around today, but a lot of folks will remember when the local retail scene still included Holmes Men's Wear, Ben Franklin, Young & Wilson, and Firestone. --Pen

By Ed Waggener

Bob Cheatham owns up to it
Bea Beard at Coomer's Cafe says that the restaurant hasn't seen anything the likes of the times when Bob and Eva Cheatham ran the cafe just after they were married. "Sometimes Bob would come in here not acting right and Eva would get mad at him and throw saucers, cups, or anything handy. Bob would run out of here hollering," Bea says.

I asked Bob about it and he says it's true. "Sometimes I would be tending to other business and would be delayed in coming to work and Eva didn't like it too well," he admits, "and she sometimes threw things at me, but I don't ever remember her actually hitting me."

Coomer's is a landmark
Coomer's Cafe holds the distinction of being run under the longest continuous management in one location of any business in Columbia. Myrtle Coomer has been the manager of Coomer's Cafe for 34 years, since June 25, 1943.

That's a long time and a lot of stick-to-your-bones meals at reasonable prices. For several years she has been assisted by daughter Berniece Murphy and Bea Beard. Her husband, the legendary Haskin Coomer, claims a great deal of the credit for the success of the restaurant, but the ladies say that's some of Haskin's 'zaggerating.

It was the war years
It was in the middle of World War II when Myrtle Coomer took over the restaurant. Judge Hardwick was the county's chief executive then, and he ate there every day. But he wouldn't eat unless he could get the far end stool, Mrs. Coomer said. "If somebody else had his place," she remembers, "he'd wait until they got up before he'd eat."

Haskin was already trading
Mrs. Coomer's husband Haskin, who has always claimed to do the "heavy cooking, early in the morning, before Myrtle and Bea and Berniece come to work," was then in the used car business, with Tom Baldwin, who ran a grocery where Loy's Department Store is today.

"Daddy and Mr. Baldwin would park their used cars up and down here," Bea Beard says, pointing to the parking spaces in front of what is now the Style Shop, Jim's Hardware, Ben Franklin, and the Corner Arcade.

Mrs. Coomer doesn't remember all the businesses which were in Columbia on the Square in 1943, but she remembers most.

Next door, where Lany Bray is now, was then the establishment of a Mr. Roundtree, who sold general merchandise.

Lerman's was in the same location, but the manager at the time was Mr. Ben Green.

Jeffries' Hardware was then Davis Hardware, and Shreve and Fred Davis were the owners.

Mr. Bruce Montgomery was president of the First National Bank then.

Barger's Grocery was located where Nell's Variety Store is today. Mr. Eros Barger owned it.

Mrs. Coomer thinks that Mrs. Lula Jones had a store where the Dollar General Store is today.

White Cash Market was located where Holmes Men's Wear is today.

Next to it, was a jewelry store owned by a Mr. Whittaker. Hattie Lee Willis bought out that business to start her dress shop later.

Next door, Mr. Herb Taylor had the Men's Shop. Today, the latter two buildings are combined into the Men's Shop.

Tom Brown operated Brown Drugs where Lowe's is today.

Mr. James Ingram operated a dry goods store where the Firestone Store is today.

Across the intersection, Doc and John Lee Walker were running Russell & Company dry goods store.

F.X. Merkely ran the Rialto Theater where Columbia General Appliance is today.

The Bank of Columbia was in the same location, except it was smaller. John Flowers was president of the bank then.

Maupin's Barber Shop was located in the next building, now a part of the bank. The barbers were Hugh Thomas and Burley Young.

Paull Drug Company was in the building where Ed's Kentucky Auto is today. Garnett Young was the pharmacist. Today, the business continues as Young & Wilson Drug, but it has moved to the Greensburg Street Corner.

Julia Moore ran the Sweet Shoppe where Reed Brothers is today.

Mrs. Coomer believes that the buildings which house Marshall's Shoe Store and Hutchison's are on what was vacant lots then. She is unclear as to whether the Motor & Electric Building stands where the Young & Wilson Building is today.

The Hotel Miller was then the New Adair Hotel, and was operated by Kenneth Hughes.

Mrs. Coomer is unclear about the next few buildings around the square, where Barger's Insurance, Downey's Real Estate, and Grimsley's Jewelry is now. But the corner building, where Rollen & Bobby's Barber Shop and Dave Well's is located, was then the United States Post Office, Mrs. Coomer believes. Mr. Ray Flowers was postmaster then.

The Corner Arcade was then Corner Drugs. It was operated by Doc Lloyd.

Half of what is now Ben Franklin was the Kroger Store. The other half, Mrs. Coomer believes, was then Paul Marshall's variety store.

C.R. Hutchison & Sons was the name of the hardware store which is now Jim's, Mrs. Coomer says.

And Lany Bray had her store in what is now the Style Shop.

So far as I can remember at the time - I was much younger then - Mrs. Coomer's recollection is correct.

Ain't hardly anything like it was then.

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