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 the one his great-grandfather ran in rural West Virginia, has expanded to a second location at 633 S. Assembly St. in Colombia.
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.
The Lyons general store, which sells what Brightbill describes as “Southern lifestyle clothing,” opened on July 7. It offers 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 cups and lawn flags.
“We’re a retail clothing, gift and accessories store with a big focus on casual wear – 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 that the store has a local flavor and offers a little something that you won’t see in a lot of the big box stores.”
Lyons carries shirts and other apparel from Local Boy Outfitters, which opened in Columbia in 2013. Brightbill said he is also working to bring other Columbia and SC brands to the store in the future.
Brightbill is a North Carolina native, born in Raleigh and raised in nearby Sanford. It opened the first Lyons’ General in Raleigh in 2018, where it is 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. “The decision to open my own store came a little more naturally to me than to people who don’t have that experience. I’ve always liked the concept of being self-employed.’
Brightbill decided to expand its company about 18 months ago and looked for a new market within about three hours of Raleigh. Columbia wasn’t on his radar at first, but he heard about the vacancy at Assembly and Rosewood and realized its potential after visiting.
The site has many advantages, he said, including a high-visibility location and a relatively large amount of free parking. 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 arise downtown or near campus.
Students are primary consumers of many of Lyons’ General brands, from T-shirts to Hey Dude men’s and women’s shoes and boots. However, Brightbill said that while much of his merchandise appeals to a younger demographic, college students aren’t his only target market. Outdoor enthusiasts like the store’s selection of Xtratruf boots, he said, while those who love the beach can shop the Bogg Bag selection of beach bags and other items.
“We have several colleges and universities in Raleigh, and while they are an important part of our business, they don’t make us or break us, and that’s what we expect here in Columbia,” Brightbill said. “Obviously we want to take advantage of the presence of the University of South Carolina as well as other colleges, but we also don’t want to be dependent on that market. There’s really no one else in Colombia that does the product mix that we offer, and we have products that appeal to a wide audience.”
The Lyons General Store is open from 10am to 8pm Monday to Saturday.
Contact Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.