“It’s like having Mr. Rogers teach your child to swim,” said one parent who left it up to The Swim Lessons Company’s Jim Reiser to show her child the secrets of not sinking. A third-generation swim teacher and coach, Jim approaches his pupils from a gentle, comforting angle that’s especially calibrated to meet the needs of infants, preschoolers, and adults disguised as Toys 'R' Us kids, employing fun activities and drills to impart skills. His friendship with water began in elementary school, and it was a friendship destined to last. To pay for college, Jim leased the university pool and used it to train young swimmers; he went on to teach aquatic courses at the University of South Carolina and lead multiple swimmers to state championships. "The Swim Professor"—a nickname Jim earned after founding Swim Lessons University, an online learning resource loaded with educational videos—now spends his days sharing the magic of swimming with people of every age, imparting the tips and tricks they'll need to survive in a pool, from holding their breath to performing a proper backstroke and catching Marco Polo.
When Redic Earl Robinson started making house calls in 1919, he visited his customers by bicycle. Each family knew him as "Mister Ed," and they bundled their laundry for him to take back to the shop on Gervais Street. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beckham Robinson, Mister Ed's wife, warmed an iron with a coal-fire stove as she awaited the shipment. Together, they soaked the garments in buckets and worked stains out on scrub boards.
Today, Redic Earl Robinson Jr. carries on the family tradition with modern equipment. Twice weekly, his team travels by motorized horse to pick up laundry and make deliveries. They utilize custom cleaning solutions for specific fabrics and offer specialty services for leather, suede, quilts, and comforters. In addition to stain removal, Ed Robinson Cleaners offers alteration services at its 2551 Forest Dr. location.
Trained in the art of sausage making, German-born Wilfried Huller put his skills to use by opening a butcher shop in 1968. The business expanded into a restaurant and moved its current location, where mugs sing glassy songs in toasts over brimming plates of Wiener schnitzel and spaetzle. A German-style buffet sets forth an endless parade of steam, which hints at meats free of MSG, mixed with fistfuls of spices, and smoked over natural hardwood. Cool suds spill forth from bottles and taps, fueling revelry with honey-hued wheat beers from Franziskaner and Maisel. The onsite butcher shop sends homemade sausages with guests eager to enjoy them in the comfort of vacationing neighbors' kitchens.
Nestled within Columbia's historical Shandon neighborhood, Pupcakes Pet Boutique invites passersby and their four-legged friends to admire the designer dog-wear, stylish carriers and beds, and handy accessories in the homey, family-run shop. Throughout the store, Prada, the assistant manager and resident silky terrier, performs quality-control tests on toys, greets visitors with begs for belly rubs, and reviews payroll time sheets. The scent of daily baked treats tickles the olfactory lobes of discerning doggie patrons, and the sight of pooches dressed in cute vests and comforting Thundershirts reduces human speech to adoring coos and baby talk.
A nonprofit organization designed to promote and improve the lively Columbia neighborhood, the Five Points Association has spearheaded many projects since the early 1980s, ranging from a large-scale streetscaping project to the construction of two fountains to yearly beautification updates. The group also organizes events to bring people to the landmark district—notably the Five After Five concert series and the city's Saint Patrick's Day festivities. Overall, the association, which comprises more than 100 members each year, works to balance the interests of the Five Points' merchants with those of residents and visitors.
The Harbison Community Association provides a venue for community members to work out and form bonds with their neighbors. The center maintains an indoor heated pool, a jacuzzi, and a baby pool. Members can build strength in the weight room and challenge their friends to a game on the racquetball court.