Byrum’s leaves mark on Lake Wylie fishing community before final closing today

Part of the Steele Creek community for more than a century, the general store is closing for good

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comSeptember 1, 2012 

— The idea Byrum’s General Store could soon be a beauty salon sits a little funny among locals. But, it isn’t like the building hasn’t seen change before.

When Byrum’s opened in 1890, the Steele Creek store looked a little different than it does now.

There wasn’t the extensive fishing gear selection catering to anglers on Lake Wylie. There wasn’t a Lake Wylie. The Catawba River hadn’t been dammed.

There wasn’t the constant overhead reminder of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport nearby. This side of balloons, manned flight hadn’t been achieved.

“It’s like losing a part of the family in the Steele Creek area,” said owner Robby Byrum.

Byrum’s is going out of business today. Locals spent the final days reminiscing over hot dog and barbecue plates, swapping old stories and waiting for Byrum to say he wouldn’t close after all. He never did. He believes the building will become a salon next.

“I could’ve stayed open, but I would have to reconfigure the business,” Byrum said. “Business from about 11 to 2:30 is good, but then it dies like the wind.”

Byrum said people have been “really upset,” but most understand. Through the years, the store became a hotbed for anglers looking for specialty equipment or ideas. The store also sponsored local fishing tournaments. Rusty White, a Rock Hill fishing guide, said he’ll miss the hot lunches and old plank floors.

“It’s unfortunate but a sign of the times,” White said. “Byrum’s has been open for a long time and always been a place where local fishermen could go to get the better, harder-to-find tackle.”

Internet shopping and larger stores are part of the reason business slowed. What made the store special was the owner fishes, White said, so he knew what the community needed. In fact, if Robby Byrum has his way, he said he’ll spend more time fishing now.

Byrum takes pride in how well the local fishing community shows itself in regional and national events, and for whatever part his store may have played in supporting it.

“Lake Wylie fishermen, they’ve done real well across the country,” he said.

Wilson and Eleanor Byrum moved away from the area four years ago, but only to a retirement community in Concord, N.C. Earlier this week, they went to the store one last time, recalling childhoods sweeping out the place and the “tomcat on the cheese hoop” that got in the way of business.

“We wanted to come one more time,” said Wilson, 87.

The store has adapted to horse carriages, automobiles and major highways coming through. The long list of Byrums in the area will adapt now, too. Eleanor Byrum said her family is “ingrained in this place,” even from a short drive away.

“We’ve been here a long time, two or three hundred years, so I guess we’ll stay,” she said.

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