The charming brick building on the southeast corner of Court Square has seen much of Greenville’s history pass before its front doors — even the Civil War. It existed before city directories began in 1876, which listed the building as Ferguson & Miller’s Groceries & Provisions.
John Ferguson and Jacob Miller started out in partnership with their father-in-law, John Grady, at the store in 1866. According to a Greenville Enterprise notice, Grady, then in a dry goods business partnership with Robert Goodlett, built this “new store opposite their old stand” in 1856. Among nonresidential downtown structures, only Christ Church Episcopal is older.
Ferguson and Miller’s longstanding and successful partnership dissolved in the 1890s, and by 1896 Eugene F. Bates set up his expanding wagon business in the building. At the turn of the century, Ellis & Pope wholesale grocers occupied the storefront, followed by W.H. Pool & Co. by 1907.
The building continued as a grocery store run by J.H. Bagwell until the time of WWI. After the war, Standard Furniture Co. occupied the building for five or six years before Jones Furniture Co. moved out of its smaller store on North Main to take over the historic building in 1929.
Jones modernized the façade and supplied Greenville locals with davenports, chairs, hutches and such for several generations until it was bought out by the neighboring national Haverty’s furniture chain in 1967. Carl and Helen Prosser occupied the building for the next generation when in 1973 they moved their Cancellation Shoe Mart store (started in 1951) into a declining downtown that desperately needed more retail. While fewer native Greenvillians will remember buying furniture at Jones’s, many still fondly remember buying discounted ladies’ shoes at the Prossers’ store.
By that time, the building’s lower façade had changed many times. While a shoe store, the charming old bricks were covered in drywall while the view of the 1850s wooden beams and roof skylight was buried by layers of office tile ceilings. When Carl Prosser was in his 80s and ready to retire, a group of young entrepreneurs led by Carl Sobocinski sought to restore the building’s old charm and take its use into the 21st century.
Sobocinski and chef/partner David Williams’ restaurant, Soby’s New South Cuisine, opened on Nov. 7, 1997, helping to usher in a new era of downtown destination dining. In 2020, Soby’s will become the building’s third-longest running occupant behind Ferguson & Miller’s (29 years) and Jones Furniture (38 years). As a local favorite with consistently great service, food and business model, Soby’s is well on its way to being the building’s longest-running tenant.