When Henry Allen died at age 90 in January 2017, Orangeburg’s downtown lost one of its best friends.
As we noted two years ago in remembering Allen, the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association since its inception in 1993 has won a number of awards for success and innovation in encouraging the development, redevelopment and improvement of downtown.
In July 2016, the Municipal Association of South Carolina posthumously honored Jimmy Evans, president and owner of AMCO Construction Company, with a Main Street South Carolina Inspiration Award. Evans died in January 2016.
Allen’s death came a year later, another blow to downtown.
Now, two years later, Allen’s partner in business and life, his wife of 65 years, Sue Crigger Allen, has died at age 87. Her role in owning/operating Palmetto Office Supply and promoting downtown was equally important.
In 2002, the South Carolina Downtown Development Association honored the Allens with the "Master Merchant Award." Recognizing excellence in the retail field, the award is given to the merchant who has been a mover and shaker in downtown revitalization and exemplifies creativity and success in merchandising, inventory, display and valued-added retailing and services.
The couple became involved with the business more than 50 years ago, expanding it multiple times over the years. Known as "Orangeburg's Most Unusual Store," Palmetto Office Supply continues to offer products from supplies and furniture to teaching aids and greeting cards.
Sue was a fixture at the business. She stressed the importance of the family, telling The Times and Democrat in 2011 regarding owning and operating Palmetto Office Supply along with her husband and two daughters over decades: "I am probably one of the luckiest mothers and grandmothers in the world. We have played together and we work together, and we still do. We get along beautifully."
A caring family atmosphere has been a key component of the business’ success, where customer service is first.
“We always think of giving good service and we also stress it,” Henry Allen said. “It is nice to have it confirmed by your customers. We make every effort to give good service. It is my idea that customer service is something you can do that our competitors can’t always or don’t always do.”
Orangeburg loved Henry and Sue Allen and Palmetto Office Supply, recognizing the couple as grand marshals of the annual Christmas parade in 2015.
The Allens returned the love to their community.
They did plenty for Orangeburg, particularly downtown, investing in the business and the future of the area. Expansions by Palmetto Office included a second front when the Green Stamps store closed, another when Western Auto closed, another when the Christian Book Store closed and yet another when a physical fitness facility relocated. Awnings were added and other improvements made in 1996 as Palmetto Office participated in the DORA facade-improvement program.
When Henry Allen was honored with the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Person of the Year in 2000, he said: "All that I have done is for the love of the city of Orangeburg. When you love the city as much as I do, it makes you want to work hard in taking care of it."
Henry Allen was a successful businessman. He deserved accolades and remembrance in Orangeburg. And so does his wife and business partner, Sue Crigger Allen.