Tour Seneca’s Main Drag: Ram Cat Alley

By:Page Ivey

Date:8/8/2016

Every small town in South Carolina has a Main Street, even if that isn’t its exact name. For Seneca, the main drag is part Main Street and part Ram Cat Alley. How cool is that?

First, a little history. Seneca, South Carolina, is hometown to politicians John Edwards and US Sen. Lindsey Graham as well as TV personality Todd Chrisley. The town began life as a railroad junction in 1873 and quickly became a shipping point for area cotton farmers, who would line up their wagons for blocks awaiting the train. Soon, a passenger terminal, hotels and a park built up around the depot.

All that cotton led to the building of textile mills just before the turn of the century. Textiles dominated the town’s economy for nearly 70 years. But like so many textile towns, Seneca saw most of its plants close up during the 1980s and ’90s. The town also was home to the Seneca Institute, which was an African-American junior college from 1899 to 1939.

Now Seneca thrives as a bit of a tourist town with nearby Lakes Keowee and Hartwell, as well as Clemson University.

If you stop by on a Thursday from April through October, stick around for Jazz on the Alley with various bands playing from 6:30-9 p.m.

And now for your virtual stroll down Ram Cat Alley:

Brews on the Alley; 864.973.8923

This is your spot for coffee, espresso and craft beer, which you can sample in four different craft beers in flights (that sit atop flight paddles handmade by a local craftsman). You also can mix and match a six-pack of craft beers to take home. Sample some of their artisan pizza while you are there. Opens at 7:30 a.m., Monday-Saturday.

The Healthy Olive; 864.888.3636

This store offers a variety of wines, olive oils, flavored vinegars, spices and dips, as well as gifts and novelties. Be open-minded as you sample. If the salesperson tells you raspberry vinegar tastes good on vanilla ice cream, trust her or him and try it.

M Tannery & Sons; 864.882.0300

This huge store is filled with antique furniture, china, housewares and things that are just plain odd. You can easily spend hours here. And if you get hungry while you are shopping, Circa 1930 (864.888.1933), is a coffee house and restaurant inside M Tannery. The restaurant open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday and offers large sandwiches, including a homemade meatloaf sandwich, with a full selection of salads and soups all for less than $10.

Ram Cat Social House; 864.324.0647

Ram Cat Social House is a beer garden and grill, offering a variety of local brews and Southern eats. Try the Moonshiners Meatloaf for supper or a small-plate version of shrimp and grits. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Live music on Saturdays and brunch on Sundays.

Green Springs; 864.888.4327

This independent gift shop specializes in pottery, natural handmade soaps, hand-blown and slumped glass, Fair Trade baskets and toys. If you are looking for a quirky gift, this is the place to stop.

Red Door; 864.882.1443

The Red Door has an eclectic collection of décor and gifts, including stylish lamps, clocks, antiques and baskets. Many items are pegged to nearby Lakes Keowee and Hartwell.

Spot on the Alley; 864.985.0102

The spot offers typical bar-style food, lots of burgers and chicken wings, with occasional veggie and gluten-free options, in a casual atmosphere with pool tables, trivia nights and live music every Friday night and karaoke on Saturday.

Sensibly Chic; 864.888.4455

This flower shop has some interesting gifts, including a collection of handmade Carolina Summer candles, garden décor and collectibles. This shop pulls in locals and visitors alike.

Rob & Reana’s Jewelry by Design; 864.882.6591

This store offers jewelry, watch and clock repair and custom design jewelry work.

And on Main Street:

The Fashion Shack; 864.985.1756

Originally a retailer who sold customer returns and unsold merchandise from other retailers, The Fashion Shack now is a consignment shop. You never know when you will find something special at steep discounts.

North Thompson Park

This green space is ideal for a picnic or a brief stroll and is home base for most of festivals in the town.

A little off the main drag

To glimpse antiques in their natural setting, take a stroll from downtown to the Lunney House Museum, 211 West South 1st St. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Dr. W.J. and Lilian Mason Lunney. Call ahead to see if you can get a guided tour through the painstaking renovations of the Queen Anne-style bungalow and the story of the family that lived there. The house is open to the public 1-5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday. 864.710.7494

For a little more casual fare, try Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe, 124 N. Townville St., is the spot. Check out the burgers and long list of deli sandwiches here. There also is a selection of dinners, including a Greek veggie platter or a rib eye steak with all the fixings. Salads and appetizers are less than $10, and dinners are less than $15. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 864.882.3006

Arts Off the Alley, 123 N. Townville St.

This artist cooperative offers local handcrafted art, paintings, mixed media, jewelry and wood carvings as well as vintage items.

Betty’s Hungry House Café, 400 S. Fairplay St.

Betty Outz began serving her homemade breakfast biscuits and meat-and-three lunches in 1981. Her brother, then her niece, bought the café in the 1990s and have continued the family tradition. You will not leave hungry. Open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 864.882.7665

Blue Ridge Arts Center, 111 E. South 2nd St.

This center collects works by local and regional artists for show and for sale. The gallery is open 1-5 p.m., Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The center also has programs for kids in the summer, check ahead for details and times. 864.557.0432

Seneca Presbyterian Church, 115 W. South 1st St.

The congregation for this church was organized in 1875 and the current sanctuary building dates back 100 years. 864.882.2505

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The largest city in Oconee County, Seneca is situated in the northwestern corner of South Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Named for Sinica, an old ...

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