When Bennie Bell opened B&B Cloth Shop five decades ago, Columbia County was a rural neighbor of Augusta, and North Belair Road was a two-lane country road.
Fast-forward 44 years, and the shop at 223 N. Belair Road remains an iconic small business on what’s now a bustling four-lane thoroughfare in Evans.
With full support from her husband, Bill, “Miss Bell” was able to develop and nurture a successful business.
Though Bennie and Bill have died, their daughter, Edna Stewart, keeps the family business afloat.
“In the ’40s, while my father was in WWII, my mother worked in the textile industry,” Stewart said. “When he retired from the Army, he built her this shop. She always loved sewing, and Dad would do anything for her.”
Her parents were 58 when the shop opened in 1968. It remains in the original location, at the family house.
“We closed in the carport to make the front portion of the shop,” Stewart said.
“Sewing is the new trend for many new mothers,” said Stewart, who has just one employee. “They like making specialty items for their children.”
An avid customer, Pam Cheatham, of Augusta, sews items for her 3-year-old daughter, Victoria.
“As a stay-at-home wife and mother, I now have more time and the passion to sew again,” she said.
B&B specializes in formal fabrics, buttons, ribbons and children’s fabrics.
“We’ve always tried to provide merchandise that the larger stores do not carry,” Stewart said.
The shop carries individual items so customers aren’t forced to buy in bulk.
“If you only need one button, you can buy it here,” she said.
Stewart and her husband, Ed, a Vietnam War veteran, still live at the shop.
“If I’m able to answer a door or a phone, I will,” she said. “It’s a matter of providing our customers with the type of personal service that came along naturally years ago. We’re sort of a throwback to a bygone era.”