Harold Jacobs, the only child of Sam and Mignonette Cohen Jacobs, was born in Charleston in 1913. Harold’s grandfather, Isaac Jacobs, emigrated from Eastern Europe and settled in Charleston, running a dry goods store on King Street. Harold was raised by his parents in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, but the family later moved to Hampton Park Terrace where they opened their first shop in 1929 selling snowballs. The shop offered three flavors – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry – and one of the store’s earliest loyal customers was Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, who would go on to serve as a senator and South Carolina’s 106th governor. It was with this first shop that Harold began a lifelong career in specialty and gourmet foods in Charleston.
Shortly after the snowball shop opened in 1929, the Jacobs family transformed the business into a neighborhood grocery store called Harold’s Cabin in the 1930s. As business grew, they added an enlarged section for gourmet and specialty foods. Something of an early Dean & Deluca style market, Harold’s Cabin offered a variety of specialty items imported from several countries, including more than 100 cheeses, olives and Charleston’s first frozen foods. Under the ownership and guidance of Harold and his wife Lillian Breen Jacobs, Harold’s Cabin thrived in Charleston, moving to a larger space downtown at 84 Wentworth Street in the 1950s. Here the selection of gourmet foods increased to feature even more specialty items, including up to 300 different cheeses.
At its new location, Harold’s Cabin also featured a mezzanine that served as a popular luncheon spot where diners could sit on the balcony and watch the shoppers in the gourmet store below. By this time, the store had garnered such a loyal following and reputation that it became a stop on many tours of historic Charleston. In 1964, Harold’s Cabin was sold to Piggly Wiggly, but Harold and Lillian were invited to stay on and manage the “Harold’s Cabin Gourmet Department” within the grocery store.
Throughout his life, Harold played an active role in Charleston’s Jewish community. As a child, he attended services at Brith Sholom, an Orthodox synagogue, and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), a Reform tradition synagogue. He would later serve as a president of Temple KKBE. He was also a member of the Hebrew Orphan Society of Charleston, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Christian Jewish Council of Greater Charleston, the Samuel Turtletaub Post Jewish War Veterans, the South Carolina Jewish Historical Society and the Southern Jewish Historical Society.
Harold died in 2009 at the age of 96, leaving behind his legacy as an entrepreneur and pioneer in the Charleston’s gourmet foods market, and as a devoted member of the local community.
Yarrum Properties opened the reimagined corner store and café concept, in homage to the original Harold’s Cabin at the corner of President and Congress Streets, in early 2016.