Gary Burkhalter has always dropped by Brother’s General Store in downtown Columbus to get his wife some peanut butter fudge but Saturday was a sad day.
“It’s all gone,” said Burkhalter of Seale, Ala. “At Christmas, I always come by and get my wife some fudge. I’m sad. She is going to really be sad.”
Burkhalter was among a steady stream of old customers and new visitors to the 1014 Broadway candy and gift shop on its last day of operation. The closing came more than two months after the owner, Irvin “Brother” Rosenberg, died at age 70.
Rosenberg was a fixture at the store that featured a mix of candies, ice cream, sandwiches and other items. The family has been in uptown for more than a half century.
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Rosenberg’s wife, Colleen, was busy ringing up customers with ice cream and other treats. “It’s very sad, bittersweet” she said during a break. “I don’t know what to say. I start crying if I talk about it too much.”
The couple had retired and moved to north Georgia in 2006 when Rosenberg said he couldn’t keep still. They returned to Columbus and opened the store in 2007.
The couple had plans for Christmas before Rosenberg died in October. “My husband and I had planned to go to the Grand Canyon on Christmas so I have got my best friend going,” Colleen said. “I’m going to go ahead and be gone a couple of weeks, clear my head and kind of go from there.”
Jim Johnson stopped in the store for the first time for ice cream. Many items were reduced for the final day.
“It shouldn’t be closing,” he said. “Someone should come in and keep it going.”
Ramona Taylor said the store was a great place to reward her children for doing well in school. “My little one had his first date here,” said Taylor, who was with son Giovanni. “It is something we did when we just wanted to have something special. I’m really sad.”
If she came to the store alone, Taylor recalled how Rosenberg would always ask, ”where are the kids and how are they.” She came to support the business even with some items a bit pricey. “Some of the candy items were a little pricey but we came down anyway because we wanted him to stay in business,” she said. “To me he was an icon. He made downtown more vibrant.”
Thelma Davis, who is better known as "C.C. The Christian Clown," said the general store was her first stop as she made balloons for children.
Rosenberg allowed her to store balloons in the store while she was on the street. “He was so sweet,” she said.
Colleen recognized the steady stream of shoppers in the store on Saturday wondered where they had been. “I wish they had been here all along,” she said. “We might not have gotten to this point.”