Eli Brightbill honored his family’s four-generation tradition of entrepreneurship when he chose the name Lyons’ General Store for the business he started in North Carolina four years ago. Now the store, named after one his great-grandfather ran in rural West Virginia, has expanded to a second location at 633 S. Assembly St. in Columbia.
The store is located at the intersection of Assembly and Rosewood Drive, near the State Fairgrounds, on a site that first housed a McDonald’s and then a used car dealership.
Lyons’ General Store, which sells what Brightbill describes as “Southern lifestyle apparel,” opened July 7. It carries a wide selection of T-shirts, hats and shoes from popular brands such as Simply Southern, Old Row, Drake and Southern Couture, as well as other items including purses, jewelry, coasters, decorated tumblers and lawn flags.
“We’re a retail clothing, gift and accessories store with a big focus on casual clothing – that’s really our niche,” he said. “Another thing we try to do is work with some regional and local companies wherever we go, so the store can have a local flair to it and offer a little something that you’re not going to see at a lot of the major retail chains.”
Lyons’ carries shirts and other apparel by Local Boy Outfitters, which opened in Columbia in 2013. Brightbill said he’s also working to bring other Columbia and S.C.-based brands into the store in the future.
Brightbill is a North Carolina native, born in Raleigh and raised in nearby Sanford. He opened the first Lyons’ General in Raleigh in 2018, where it’s currently located in the Crabtree Valley Mall.
“My great-grandfather came from nothing and built his own business, and that example inspired a lot of people in my family to be self-employed,” he said. “Deciding to start my own store came a little more natural for me than it does for people who don’t have that background. I always liked the concept of being self-employed.”
Brightbill decided to expand his company about 18 months ago and looked around for a new market within about a three hour of Raleigh. Columbia wasn’t initially on his radar, but he heard about the vacant location at Assembly and Rosewood and realized its potential once he visited.
The site has many advantages, he said, including a high visibility location and a fairly large amount of free parking available. The store’s close proximity to both downtown Columbia and the University of South Carolina also allows for easy access to customers from both markets without having to worry about the parking issues that spring up downtown or near campus.
College students are prime consumers for many of the brands Lyons’ General carries, from the T-shirts to men’s and women’s shoes and boots by Hey Dude. However, Brightbill said that while much of his merchandise appeals to a younger demographic, students aren’t his only target market. Outdoor enthusiasts like the store’s selection of Xtratruf boots, he said, while those who like the beach can shop the selection of Bogg Bag beach bags and other items.
“We have several colleges and universities in Raleigh and while they’re an important part of our business, they don’t make or break us, and that’s what we anticipate here in Columbia,’ Brightbill said. “We obviously want to capitalize on the University of South Carolina’s presence as well as other colleges, but we also don’t want to be dependent on that market. There’s not really anybody else in Columbia doing the product mix we offer, and we have items that appeal to a wide audience.”
Lyons’ General Store is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.