City Directories and History: 1908 – W.M. Mivens
This corner lot on the Southeastern corner of Black Street and Railroad Avenue (Trade Street) was occupied by a single story commercial building as early as 1926, as shown in the Sanborn Fire Map of Rock Hill below.
In 1929, the building was leased by my Great aunt and uncle, Thomas Zahan and Sumela Moses Zadan, who were Lebanese immigrants. Tom came to the USA as a young boy and moved to Rock Hill in 1921 to work for The Hub, a dry goods business already located here. Sumela and her family came about the same time, and settled in Clover, S.C. It is not known how they met or the exact date of their marriage. We believe they married about 1926, and opened the business at 201 South Trade Street, called “The Barbeque Café” in 1929.
The café had food to order, sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods and fresh fish and meats cut to order, and cooked to order. They also served several Lebanese dishes that were extremely popular with the local immigrants that were moving to Rock Hill in the 1920s in the height of the business boom. Mr. and Mrs. Zadan operated The Barbeque Café for almost 19 years in this location, weathering the storm of the Great Depression and World War II and its aftermath.
On March 8, 1948, Tom and Sumela Zadan sold their interest in The Barbeque Café to her brother and his wife, James G. and Lillian Hellams Moses, my grandparents. In this same transaction, my grandparents sold their interest in The Royal Cab Company, located at 411 South Oakland Avenue, to Tom and Sumela Zadan. It is not known if it was a direct swap of property and business, or if any cash exchanged hands.
Tom Zadan was struck by a city bus at the intersection of Black Street and Green Street while walking home from the Royal Cab Company in 1950. He sustained head injuries and, after a long illness, he passed away in June of 1951. Sumela Zadan retired and sold her interest in the Royal Cab Company, and passed away in March of 1968. They are both interred in Laurelwood Cemetery in Rock Hill.
TOMMY’S PLACE 1948-1960
My grandparents, James George Moses and Lillian Hellams Moses took over the location at 201 South Trade Street on March 8, 1948 with the sale/swap of the Royal Cab Company with Tom and Sumela Zadan. My grandfather, in talking to his family of five, asked them all what the name of the new store should be. His young son, James Thomas (Tommy) Moses, spoke up and said, “Let’s call it “Tommy’s Place”! The name stuck, and my grandparents ran a thriving business at this location from 1948 until they decided to move to a larger place in the fall of 1960. The business at Tommy’s Place changed little, as did the offerings of food and dry goods. It was just an excellent location in post-war Rock Hill and served the local clientele well.
The Café had a large picture window at the Trade Street entrance, and my grandparents made good use of the show window by displaying fresh fruits and vegetables in season – watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, apples, oranges, and pears. At times, he would fill the display with crushed ice and display fresh fish and different meats. They had a large cooler by the door and sold ice cream year around.
There were two long lunch counters with stools for their patrons to eat inside. Considering the time period, the Jim Crow laws were in full effect in the South. The counter in front was for “White Only” and the counter in the back was for “Colored Only”. It should be noted that at this time in history, this was not only accepted by both races, it was expected by both. The difference at Tommy’s Place was that my grandparents treated everyone the same, no matter where they sat. As a Lebanese immigrant himself, my grandfather often said to me (in so many words) , “ I came to this country as a young boy, I spoke no English and we had no jobs. I went to the Clover schools, I learned English, and I worked with my daddy in his store in Clover and learned this business. I have been looked down upon, called names and treated badly in my time here, but I have made it in the world. I have many friends and I can count my enemies on one hand. I do not care about a man’s color – If he works for a living, is feeding and clothing his wife and children, and keeping a roof over their heads, and doing his best by them, then he is no different than I am and deserves the same respect as anyone trying to make it through life.”
One of my grandmother’s best friends worked for them, an African-American lady named Ida. Ida’s last name is lost to history, as no one alive in my family can remember it. Ida was one of the best cooks in downtown Rock Hill, and legendary for her fried fish dinners and fish sandwiches that were served daily at Tommy’s Place. My Great Aunt Sumela, who had operated the place as The Barbeque café, also came in and cooked for my grandparents. Her specialty was a Lebanese Beef Stew that was cooked in large quantities and sold daily.
My grandparents opened Tommy’s Place at 5 AM daily to have breakfast and coffee available for the shift workers at The Bleachery , the Victoria Mill, and the GoldTex Mill – both those going in to work and those getting off third shift. They also stayed open until midnight to accommodate those getting off work at 11 PM.
In the fall of 1960, the City of Rock Hill announced plans to widen Black Street from two lanes to four lanes. Since the building Tommy’s Place occupied was built right on the sidewalk, it had to be torn down to accommodate the street improvements. My grandparents closed the business at 201 South Trade Street, and moved to a new location at 348 South York Avenue, where they opened a new and larger concern called The Shamrock. (See R&R entry for 348 South York Avenue). To my memory and knowledge, no other business ever occupied the building at 201 South Trade Street after they closed, and the building was demolished sometime after January of 1961 to make way for the Black Street road improvements. [These improvements were all part of the Urban Renewal Plan to straighten Black Street and allow for a railroad overpass to alleviate traffic congestion caused by the train parking on the tracks to load and unload supplies.]
See the More Information links in the picture column for the business licence for Tommy’s Place as well as newspaper articles concerning the family.
Compiles and submitted to R&R by – Michael McGarity, 5/28/14
Also see the Urban Renewal image for a 1950’s look at the area.
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