Ralph’s Country Store — Hartsville, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | Darlington County | Ralph’s Country Store
A country store is more than a business where one can acquire goods. In many small communities, it is the local gathering spot, a place where people can come together and grab a soft drink, a pack of crackers, and catch up on the news via word-of-mouth. This store in the Kelleytown vicinity of Hartsville, built in 1935, served as such an establishment. According to contributor Bill Segars, Ralph’s Country Store was operating during the 1950s when young Bill would ride his bike to the store from his house, which was less than a mile away.
Proprietor Ralph Segars – a distant cousin of Bill’s – held court in the store from his overstuffed chair, where he would make change for purchased items from a roll of cash in his pocket. According to Bill, “Conversation was always in the air, but the more people – mostly men – who were there, the livelier and more interesting the conversation was. Mr. Ralph was glad to see anyone stop by, but he made it real clear that if you were going to be there, you needed to add to the conversation. He didn’t like, as he called them, a ‘sponge’ – those men who just sat there and soaked up the news and never brought any. Just to be clear here, we are talking about news, not gossip. Everything that was told was told to be the truth, or so Mr. Ralph said, and I was too young to question him.
“All in all, good times were always had at Mr. Ralph’s. I don’t know of any problems that ever arose from conversation. It was just simple, good fun. The most time that I spent there was from the mid 1960s until 1973. My father and I would go by very often to catch up on conversation and get a drink and a pack of square nabs. This is when Cheese Nabs would come five-to-the-pack. My father and I would inevitably have the discussion as to which one of us would get that odd, fifth nab.”
Sadly, Ralph’s Country Store came to a tragic end when Ralph Segars was shot and killed during a robbery in his store on November 23, 1973. Today the vacant store building serves as a reminder of a simpler time when Facetime and Newsfeeds were found in the local country store. Below, historic images of the storied proprietor show Mr. Segars in his element.
Ralph’s Country Store Info
Address: 2519 Kelleytown Road, Hartsville, SC 29550
GPS Coordinates: 34.353392,-80.138923
Ralph’s Country Store Map