D. Poliakoff


Court Square
Abbeville, SC 29620

FAMILIES: Poliakoff

D. Poliakoff was in business on historic Court Square in Abbeville, South Carolina, from February 19, 1900 to August 26, 2000—more than 100 years. The store’s founder, David Poliakoff (c.1871-1940), was born in Minsk, Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1893. After a brief stay in New York, David moved to South Carolina where he opened Poliakoff Brothers with his brother Mendel (1874-1937). They operated together from 1894 to 1898, first in Clifton and then in Gaffney. According to family lore, David went on to work as a peddler and briefly settled in McCormick before deciding to open his own shop, D. Poliakoff, next door to the State dispensary on Court Square in Abbeville in 1900. After the dispensary closed in 1909, David purchased the establishment’s massive Diebold iron safe for $35.50 ($946 in 2018 dollars). The safe was used at D. Poliakoff’s for generations and—as of 2018—remained in the store’s former location.


After successfully applying for citizenship in 1901, David sent for his sweetheart in Russia and in July 1904, married Elka Rachel Axelrod (1877-1956) in a ceremony performed by Rabbi Abraham Poliakoff (1860-1924)—David’s cousin and brother-in-law. Together David and Elka maintained an observant Jewish home a block away from Court Square and raised six children:  Abram Ellis (1906-1970), Marion (1907-1969), Meyer (1911-1985), Eva (1913-2002), Arthur (1916-1998), and Samuel Robert (1919-1989).


All five of their sons served in World War II and graduated from the University of South Carolina, where over a period of more than 15 years at least one Poliakoff brother occupied the same dorm room in Burney College. Abram Ellis went to become an Abbeville County physician, Marion a clothier in Walhalla, Arthur a pharmacist in Atlanta, and Samuel a physician, also in Atlanta, Georgia. Eva became a schoolteacher and moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts with her husband and family. After receiving his degree from the University of South Carolina, Meyer joined his parents at D. Poliakoff and, in 1940, married Rosa From (1914-1999)—the daughter of Lithuanian merchants, Israel (1879-1935) and Bertha (1879-1969).


As their business grew, the Poliakoff’s moved the store to the east side of the square, and then, in 1935, changed locations once more, settling in a large two-story building on the northeast corner of Court Square and Washington Street. The building at 128 Court Square was constructed in 1873 and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1972. When David died in 1940—five years after the final move—The State newspaper noted that he “by thrift, upright dealing and energy has risen from a small business to one of the leading merchants in this section.”1 Rachel lived another sixteen years and was described as a “prominent Abbeville businesswoman and a resident” at the time of her death.2


Taking over the store in 1933, Meyer and Rosa managed D. Poliakoff for more than 50 years. Their son Ed recalls, “over the years it was not unusual for an Abbeville child to be outfitted at Poliakoff’s through the school years, employed there as an after-school clerk and, finally settling down, to raise a family and depend on the Poliakoff in charge for proper fitting their own children’s shoes.”3 Meyer and Rosa regularly attended merchandise shows in Atlanta and Charlotte where Rosa selected women’s apparel with specific customers in mind.


When Myer died in 1985, Rosa formally took over the store. Under her watch, Twentieth Century Fox took shots of the store for Sleeping with the Enemy starring Julia Roberts in 1990. That same year, the Poliakoff family celebrated their 90th year in business with a public event near the square. Speakers included former Governor Dick Riley, former Congressman W. J. Bryan Dorn, and state senator Billy O’Dell, who presented the congratulatory resolution adopted by the General Assembly. State Senator Isadore Lourie was the keynote speaker, praising the generation of Jewish immigrants who established businesses in the South around the turn of the century.


The 95th anniversary was celebrated in April 1995, in conjunction with a meeting in Abbeville of the newly organized Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina. There, Rosa was presented with a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton. Though determined to see the store’s 100th anniversary, Rosa died on October 26, 1999, missing the anniversary by four months. Family and devoted staff kept the store in business until after the anniversary was reached, and D. Poliakoff closed its doors on August 26, 2000.



1 “David Poliakoff Dies at Abbeville,” State, July 11, 1940, 2.
2 Likely printed in Press and Banner around June 09, 1956.

Main Image: 128 Court Square around 1972. Reprinted from the National Register Properties in South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Archives and History.


Above Image: Photo of David and Elka Rachel Poliakoff, c.1904. Image courtesy of Ed Poliakoff.


Above Image: Advertisement for D. Poliakoff following Meyer’s death. Reprinted from The Press and Banner, August 21, 1985.


Above Image: Newspaper clipping describing D. Poliakoff’s 90th anniversary. Image courtesy of Ed Poliakoff.

The Jewish Merchant Project is supported by the generosity of the Henry & Sylvia Yaschik Foundation and the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation.

JHSSC Office
Sylvia Vlosky Yaschik Jewish Studies Center
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Charleston, SC 29424
Phone: 843 953 3918