John Sherrer has an instinctive ability to perceive potential. The possibilities that are the most irresistible to John are imbued with complex stories and rich histories. That’s why he was completely captivated when he stood between the brick walls on 1633 Main Street.
In the space above Columbia’s popular wine parlor, Lula Drake, time had stood still since the 1940s. What was once a busy sporting goods store had become a time capsule of dusty displays and abandoned merchandise. As director of preservation at Historic Columbia, John had the opportunity to witness the transformation and rehabilitation of this extraordinary expanse into one of Columbia’s finest event venues.
This kind of opportunity is just one of the aspects John loves about his job. He is passionate about advocating for the preservation of Columbia’s past and educating visitors and citizens on the city’s importance. “It helps us better understand ourselves and hopefully keeps us on track for a better future,” says John. Historic Columbia also provides downtown house and garden tours of historic properties, including behind-the-scenes peeks at properties undergoing rehabilitation.
In addition to his position at Historic Columbia, John serves as an ambassador for Experience Columbia SC — the city’s leading guide on the best ways to experience all the Columbia region offers. “I love to educate people not just on Columbia’s past but also on all of the cool things they can do, whether they are visiting or living here,” says John.
Since John has witnessed the renaissance on Main Street, some of his favorite spaces are rehabilitated buildings now illuminated by a canopy of string lights. “This area has tremendous vitality,” says John. “Not just with new businesses but particularly with the adaptive use of historic structures — people living in them and enjoying them. One of his favorite spots: Lula Drake. Although most renowned for its wine selection, John swears the beer is some of the best in town.
When John explains what makes Columbia unique, he recalls 1786 — the year Columbia was established. Strategically selected as the capital, Columbia is the central hub of culture in the Palmetto State. “Columbia is not just a crossroads,” says John. “We are right in the center and radiate out to various areas in South Carolina — whether in culture, sports, or politics.”
Although Columbia has had a history of influence, John is incredibly enthusiastic about its future. “It’s a place where lots of opportunities exist,” he says. “We’ve had flashes of greatness and brilliance. But in many ways, we are just starting to fully appreciate the potential, retain the talent, and attract the people to realize those possibilities.” Just as John loves to witness the transformation of historic spaces, he watches Columbia’s metamorphosis with wide-eyed wonder. Nothing excites John quite as much as potential.
Discover more ways to experience Columbia at ExperienceColumbiaSC.com, @columbiasc on Instagram and Twitter, @columbia.sc on TikTok, and Experience Columbia SC on Facebook.