The Fordham behind Fordham Market

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By Lanier Laney

I interviewed Angus Duncan Fordham and here are his answers, in his own words.

My name is Angus Duncan Fordham.  To most I am called Duncan, as my Dad was also Angus. Now that I have been blessed with the senior reaches of adulthood, I am equally known by Angus. Angus and Duncan reflect my Scottish heritage. My mother was a McLeod so I am very pleased with my bloodline and having three tartans to fashion someday in the next millennium.  The Fordham linage heralds from England and I am equally proud of another European heritage.

Angus Fordham and his wife Sally with their two grandchildren, Ada, 5, and Mariah, 7.
Angus Fordham and his wife Sally with their two grandchildren, Ada, 5, and Mariah, 7.

My mother was a McLeod-Chandler, the Chandler clan being from Boston.  The Chandlers were  maritime sailmakers from way back and outfitted many of the sea going vessels of the time.  In a factory in New York City and later Savannah, Ga., canvas products were fabricated not only for the maritime trade but also for the military during the Civil War, and World Wars I and II.  (One great-grandfather was making tents for the Union Army and the sheiks in Saudi Arabia while my other great-grandfather wore the uniform of the Confederate militia.) The first canvas bases in major league baseball were fabricated in this factory.

My McLeod grandparents lived on the farm in Seabrook where granddad was a second generation farmer. He was a vegetable farmer and grew many varieties and shipped his fresh crops up and down the entire Eastern seaboard. He was followed by three more generations of family farmers. Today, many of the old barns and buildings still stand in disrepair, but they are a reminder of the glory days of Lowcountry truck farming.  My mother was born in the wonderful home that my cousin still lives in and he and his family completely renovated a few years back.

My father, Angus Fordham, Sr., was born in Alamo, Ga., and settled in Beaufort in the 1920’s. Angus was the first in his family to attend college after a friend lured him to Clemson A&M to play football and baseball. As jobs were scarce at the time during The Great Depression, he first worked in North Carolina. Wanting to return to Beaufort, he ran for the Superintendent of Education position and was pretty surprised when he was elected, but now indeed had a job. As an Army reservist, he was called for WWII and left for the Pacific Theater and ended his Army career in 1945.

He returned to Beaufort and in 1946 opened Fordhams hardware store  downtown.  He and his brother Mark operated this enterprise for more than 40 years. That same year, dad was talked  into running for the office of mayor of Beaufort, a position he held for 17 years.

I was raised in Beaufort along with ‘the best sister in the world’, Marjorie Fordham Trask. She still lives in and takes loving care of the family home on Bay Street. Grandfather McLeod purchased this home in 1910 because Grandmother Hope wanted to leave the farm and move to “the city” and live on Bay Street where she could watch the occasional horse carriages pass by.

The Beaufort river was our playground where we spent our time bogging, sailing and swimming from the dock in front of the house across Bay Street.

I attended all 12 years of grammar and high school in this town. I always had a job at the hardware store.  One summer, my main duty was to sit in the front window on Bay Street and operate the big display of Lionel trains.  There were fun occasions when I would work on the Seabrook farm with some of my cousins. (The farm pay was also much better!) A good memory was at lunch time when all of us “hands” assembled in the country store across the railroad tracks and dined straight from the wood box on salted smoke herring along with oversize no taste soda crackers. The fine dining was complete when we reached into the big glass jars and were treated to a Johnny Cake.

My first loves were the river and hunting in the plentiful fields and woods.  I was gifted my first 13 ft. bateau powered by a 7 ½ hp Scott-Atwater on my 10th birthday.  I kept this boat down on the river shore on Bay Street.  There were usually about a half dozen small boats tied up here belonging to local crabbers. My boat was the easiest to spot because it was the only painted one in the group.  Back in that time, even as a little guy, when I got home after school, I would load my motor and gear and head down the river, never telling a sole where I was or headed. That is the way it was. The culture then would bring gasps today. I owned my first shotgun and .22 rifle before 10 years of age and a 9 shot .22 cal. handgun probably before 15 years, and my own automobile at 16.

I graduated from The Citadel in 1962.  My major accomplishments there were, one, survival and graduate with my class; and two, a member of the undefeated Citadel rifle team NRA Intercollegiate, SC and Southern Conference championships.

Soon after graduation, I had my first real job, a platoon leader in the U.S. Army. I am proud to have served two years in West Germany with the U.S. Army’s Fifth Corps and in the Army’s  Ready Reserve for a total of six years.

In the mid-1960s, I joined my family in the hardware business. In 1969 we opened a second location when my brother in law, Paul Trask Sr., built the Beaufort Plaza Shopping Center. We had a good run here for over 20 years, our store located next door to the Winn-Dixie.

During this era, I met a beautiful young lady, a dairy farmer’s daughter from Anderson, SC.  Sally was teaching  third grade in Beaufort and I am still blessed with her presence after 45 years of marriage.  We are further blessed with two wonderful daughters — Amy, who is Curator of Visual Resources in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Louisville, and Amanda, who has our two magnificent little granddaughters Mariah, 7, and Ada, 5. Our son-in-law Liam is a career Naval Officer. They live in Virginia.

Sally and I attend the church I was reared in, Carteret Street United Methodist Church, where Sally sings in the choir.

When I returned to Beaufort as a young man, I was typically “tagged” into a multitude of civic activities. Notably to me, I am a past president and a Rotarian for 49 years, and also was delighted to be a past commodore of the Beaufort Water festival.

In 2003 a local realtor brought me an unsolicited sales contract to sell the hardware store property at 701 Bay Street. I was pleased with the offer and the thought of exiting the business world and at least semi-retire was extra pleasing. With mixed emotions,  I closed the doors of the family business after 57 years only to find out later that there was not going to be a sale after all and I had a 16,000-square-foot empty building.

At the suggestion of a business friend and with assistance from a business consultant, I reopened the building in 2004 in the name of Fordham Market.  My business plan was to lease space to medium to upscale retail business, local artists and artisans. We have been in operation for 10 years now and our slogan says it all, “A World of Shopping Under one Historic Roof.” We now operate with a fine coterie of tenants and staff.

Downtown Beaufort is a great place to do business. It has a dynamic pulse of retail business, restaurants, art and professional people.

There have been some slow times over the years but nothing like what some writer penned recently,  that Downtown Beaufort was once “almost a ghost town with boarded-up store fronts.”  This is not accurate.  I know because I have been here. One reason we have weathered the likes of recessions is our pristine location. Downtown is completely surrounded on one side by magnificent antebellum homes and on the other side by the Intracoastal Waterway.

I have retreated to my second story office and hope that our community leaders will continue to make the right decisions for this pearl of a town.

I will end with this thought: Until the day that this town finally bites the bullet and removes the parking meters downtown, we will never reach our final destination and goal as a totally unique experience in shopping, dining and visiting in a beautiful historic waterfront town. Parking does need to be monitored and that can be done here because it is simple and done all over the world.

And, as for a proposed building (or plural) near the downtown marina, I know council will consider, “why build just because there is a place to build?” This area is part of the “pristine” I just mentioned. In fairness, I look forward to seeing the plans being proposed.  The good reputation of these planners precede them and they could be convincing.

As I near my fourth quarter and my joints need more assistance, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I am now ready to pass my keys on to the next generation — or maybe to someone who will have some fresh new ideas for this Queen of the Sea Islands!