The City Magazine Since 1975

Family Ties

Family Ties
June 2020

In the far left window of this photo, a sign announces “Opening Day”—the beginning of what would become an iconic store at the corner of King and Spring streets. The five-and-dime shop originally opened in Moncks Corner at the turn of the 20th century under the name Read & Dumas, after its founders and brothers-in-law Frank Read and Mendel Dumas, and relocated downtown in 1912. Dumas split off from the general store five years later to create his own business, M. Dumas & Sons, down the street, and the shop’s name was later changed to Read Brothers. Read’s great-grandchildren, Nathan and Sally (Magdovitz) Wilensky, say that Frank’s son, Joe, soon began working in the shop as a cash boy (moving money between the registers and office) and went on to run the business himself. Eventually it sold fabrics for clothing and upholstery, high-end stereo equipment (after Joe’s son, Tommy, took electronic classes at Trident Technical College in the ’60s), along with other trinkets that struck Joe’s fancy during trips to New York and Europe. The eclectic shop was known not only for its unique goods, but as a place to gather. During its heyday, it would be open until midnight on Saturdays. In 1999, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley proclaimed August 18th “Joseph Read Day” in honor of the man who had consistently worked six or seven days a week at the store (often with his family, down to his great-grandchildren) since it opened 87 years prior. Although Read Brothers closed in 2017 due to structural degradation, those who grew up with the business still hold onto the memories (and even fabrics and stereos) from this landmark.