COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Known from the outset as the go-to Army-Navy surplus store and pawn shop named “Moe Levy” is one that most Columbia natives know.
“Levi’s piled to the ceiling” is how the shop’s owner, 88-year-old Harold Rittenburg, describes the store’s glory days. That’s when it sat at the corner of Lady and Assembly Streets. Today it sits on Laurel Street. And after nearly 100 years in business, the doors are closing, unless someone steps in.
At 88 years old, Harold and Gloria Rittenburg tell WIS it’s time to stop ordering more sizes and start booking some beach-bound cruises.
“I’m just too darn old,” Harold Rittenburg said. “I’m 88 years old. My wife is 88 years old.”
The Rittenburgs have run Moe Levy’s since taking it over for Gloria’s parents, the original owners, who opened the surplus shop back in the early 1900s. It’s been the go-to spot for Army-Navy surplus apparel since that time and at one point was one of the largest retailers of Levi’s jeans in South Carolina. Now down to closeout merchandise, it’s a shell of what it once was, Harold Rittenburg said. Over the years, they’ve served celebrities and politicians visiting the Capital City.
“We had Johnny Cash come in,” Rittenburg said. “He was bigger than you’d think. He bought a 48 long Levi jacket. Gives you an idea how long he was.”
He once sold a hat to Governor Caroll Campbell, who gifted it to former President George H.W. Bush. He sold a pistol to Roy Rogers and even says Michael Jackson’s crew once stopped by at a time when he sold “fur coats to hippies.” But outside of the big names, he says it’s about the everyday customer who comes wandering inside.
“They just like the store… they spend time in here just lookin’,” Rittenburg said.
And while the Rittenburgs’ retirement is non-negotiable, now they’re looking for a buyer. They’re seeking someone to keep the memories and the name alive. If you’re interested in being that person, you can call the store at (803) 252-7386.