Red Bank’s Highway 6 Grocery closes its doors after 39 years of being a fixture in that community
Red Bank, SC (Angelica Iglesias) - Highway 6 Grocery permanently closed its doors last Friday, April 21, 2017. The grocery, now a grill more than a store, was located at the intersection of South Lake and Southwood Drives. Blink, and you might miss it as people hurried by each day going about their daily business.
The Red Bank institution was still a thriving business. It bustled each weekday morning with its regular customers, but after the last owner passed away, the women who ran the place thought it was time to sell.
Betty Stevenson’s feisty personality and knowledge of the area and its people made her the heart of Highway 6 Grocery. Her mother and aunt started the business in 1978, and her daughter and manager of the store, Barbara Miller, had recently taken ownership after Stevenson’s passing.
The store started out as a grocery, gas station, and short-order grill that naturally became a destination for anyone traveling through the then-rural area of SC Hwy 6. Then it was just that, Hwy. 6, not South Lake Drive. As Red Bank started to bring in more and more chain stores, the multi-faceted hub became just a grill.
The little concrete block hangout was known for its committed regular crowd. Any morning you might bump into politicians, big and small business owners alike, hunters and fishers, laborers or lawyers, or some who just thought they were attorneys handing out free legal advice, getting their breakfast before going out for the day. Most of them had their regular orders, and hot coffee, iced tea, water, or the appropriate soda was already being poured before they sat down.
Lexington County Councilman Bobby Keisler, a grave digger by trade, just stopped in to see what everyone was up to and to hear the compliments or complaints depending on the topic of the day. Mike Sturkie, a fixture in the community who held court at one of the corner tables daily, said the reason the little grill was so popular was because “everyone around here is kin one way or the other.”
The family atmosphere is definitely there; some customers just sat me down at their table and started telling me about how much they loved the place and how much they’re going to miss it. One man was a member of Red Bank Baptist Church Men's Ministry. He said they’re going to be looking for a new breakfast spot because the grill was their Tuesday morning meeting place.
The building was small, white, built with concrete blocks, and easy to miss, especially without a sign out front. Sometimes, you couldn’t even see the building because of all the cars parked out front. The only recognition the restaurant had was a small sign on the window that read “HWY 6 GRILL.” It included their hours and phone number underneath.
There weren’t many places to sit, just the counter and three tables. Most people got their orders to go, but enjoyed the conversations about everything from the day ahead to their grandchildren, local politics, where the fish were biting while they waited on their food. For them, it was a place to catch up on the community and get some local news, even if it was a bit stretched at times!
Someone from Charleston recently bought the place and the land it sits on. The regulars have heard rumors that it will become a check cashing establishment. Some said the new owner plans to just renovate the old grill, but others believe it will be torn down. Either way, the little neighborhood hangout will be missed by the crowd of regulars that poured through the door each morning.
As the Red Bank area and its proud residents see a continual slide toward a White Knoll type of place, the loss of the Highway 6 Grocery is just the removal of another road block that was acting to curtail the changes. The Highway 6 Grocery was a key piece of the character of Red Bank; some teasingly referring to it as the town hall. No matter what it becomes tomorrow, its passing is still another part of a wonderful history slipping away.