“I decided I just didn’t have the energy that it took, and also I didn’t have the funding to do all that it entailed,” he says. Which is why he’s looking to sell the space to David AvRutick, a lawyer and entrepreneur who lives just blocks away from the store. “I was doing all the cooking, but when it’s just one person handling that, you really can’t produce as much as you’d like, and I think with the new ownership, we’ll be able to spark that a little bit and maybe give people more options than we’ve had in the past.”
But despite this possible new ownership, AvRutick is dedicated to preserving what Burbage’s has meant for the community — even down to the name, which will potentially be changed to “Burbage’s Legacy.”
“To be able to do that, we have to do a little bit more of what they are doing now and what they’ve done in the past,” AvRutick says.
Right now, AvRutick has submitted an application to the city that asks for permission to expand the area available for patron seating from about 469 feet to about 960 feet, which would give them the opportunity to provide 24 comfortable seats and to display groceries more effectively. The request will go before the city’s zoning board on Tues. May 21.
AvRutick is also hoping to get permission to serve beer and wine on the premises, which Burbage’s used to do before Al took over.
“What we’re envisioning is not a bar. It is not a restaurant,” AvRutick explains. “It is a spot where people will walk to on the way home, pick up their casserole for dinner, and stop and have a glass of beer and wine and some pimento cheese. Or if they’re stopping in for lunch and want to have a beer with their sandwich, they can do that. It is not a drinking destination.”
AvRutick hopes to enhance both the grocery and the prepared food sides of the business. Some of the available prepared items will stay the same, while others will get updated and new dishes will be added. Al Burbage will continue to be a supplier, so expect his barbecue, sausage, and okra soup to still be in the shop. Anyone working in the store will wear a white apron, and while you might not see AvRutick operating the meat slicer, his entire family will have a presence. AvRutick expects his 16-year-old daughter will work there this summer, and he and his wife are naming the expanded sweets selection “Ben’s Candy Corner” after their 11-year-old son.
“Our motivation really is something that is community based,” AvRutick says. “It’s the preservation of what Burbage’s has meant to the community, what it has offered to the community, how it’s served the community, and we’re looking forward to doing exactly just that.”
Al Burbage hopes the new store will continue to serve the neighborhood in the way it has for the past 65 years.
“If I wasn’t confident in what David was going to do, essentially I’d just close,” he says. “I’m kind of at that point with it, and I just thought his ideas were kind of along the line of what I was wanting to do or thinking about doing but not willing to do, so I just think it’s going to be a real boost to the neighborhood and downtown Charleston all together.”