The Daily Gamecock

'Everybody is family' at local liquor store Jimmie and Son

On the corner of South Harden Street, just two miles away from USC’s beloved Willy-B, Columbia’s local liquor store is identifiable by three red dots on its cinder block exterior.  

When members of the Alverson family decided they wanted to open a business with each other in 2008, they named the place after themselves — Jimmie and Son.

The only problem? Both Google Maps and one of their store signs incorrectly spell "Jimmie" with a "y." 

Born in Newberry County, South Carolina, Jimmie has lived all over the globe. When he was 13, his family moved from South Carolina to Florida. He stayed there until he was 20, when he “got a letter from Uncle Sam,” as he calls it.

<p>Jimmie and Fred Alverson pose behind the counter of Jimmie and Son. They decided they wanted to open a business together in 2008.</p>
Jimmie and Fred Alverson pose behind the counter of Jimmie and Son. They decided they wanted to open a business together in 2008.

"It's just like a regular job, really, after you get out of basic and [Advanced Individual Training]; unless you pull guard duty or pull duty on the weekend, you're off," Jimmie said about his time as a mechanic in the Army. "You go to work at a certain time and you get off at a certain time. It just got to be routine. Except, you can't call in sick at that job."

Jimmie met his wife Yong during a stint in South Korea in 1971. Four years later, their son Fred was born on a military base in Seoul, South Korea. The two traveled with Jimmie until Fred was 6 years old, and then Yong and Fred stayed in Columbia while Jimmie was abroad.

Neither Jimmie nor Fred can speak very much Korean, but Yong is fluent in Korean and English. She said she learned her English from watching American TV shows such as "Sesame Street" and "The Waltons." 

As anyone who has ever visited Jimmie and Son knows, Yong has two additional children — Scooby and Scrappy. Both are Shih Tzu dogs.

“She [had] said she wants grandchildren, but she said forget it — she'll just take the dogs,” Fred said. 

The concept of family extends beyond the owners at Jimmie and Son. 

“When the students come in, we talk to them, and I harass them,” Jimmie said in his pronounced Southern drawl. “I say, 'Your mom and daddy ain't here? It's my time now.'”

When customers have car troubles, Jimmie puts his history as a mechanic to work. He bought equipment just so he can help customers out when they lock their keys inside of their cars. 

“We'll open it up before anybody shows up in the parking lot," Jimmie said. "If I do it, it's free. If they call somebody, it's going to cost them." 

Yong also takes on a parental role for the college-aged women who come to her. Fred said she regularly asks students if they’ve had anything to eat that day and often gives candy or beef jerky to her customers for free. 

“People, the girls, I over watch them,” Yong said. “Anybody can call me mom.” 

Fred said they’ve driven customers home after having car troubles, let customers slide if they’re a few dollars short on change and escorted people out of their store if they’re being too rowdy or rude.

“We just try to look after our customers the best way we can,” Fred said. “Everybody's family here.”

As Jimmie is 69 and Yong is 72 years old, Yong said she’ll retire as soon as Fred gets married. When the couple retires, they're planning on switching everything over from Jimmie's name into Fred's name.

<p>Yong Alverson’s Shih Tzus Scooby and Scrappy pose for a photo on the counter of Jimmie and Son.<br>
Yong Alverson’s Shih Tzus Scooby and Scrappy pose for a photo on the counter of Jimmie and Son.

"The problem is that I'm 45 years old, and I haven't gotten married yet," Fred said, laughing. 

Yong said she and Jimmie don't depend on the money they get from working. They live more of a quaint life, while Scooby and Scrappy enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. 

"We don't spend that much money. My dogs spend more than I do," Yong said. 

Scooby and Scrappy turn their noses up at steak, but they love having dried fish for breakfast and dinner. At $10 a pack, it adds up.

Because Yong's love also extends to her customers, she said she wants everyone to put a mask on and wash their hands. When customers come in without a mask on, the Alversons will give out free disposable masks.  

“You can make money, but the most important is your health,” Fred said.

Jimmie said he wants his customers to be smart about who they’re drinking and hanging out with. 

“If you’re going to party, know who you’re partying with,” Jimmie said. “Don’t bring strangers in if you don’t know them because you don’t know what they’re bringing with them.” 

Jimmie and Son is located at 347 South Harden Street, Columbia, South Carolina, 29205.