Judge Kellers

A store lost in time

The red brick store that sits on 307 College Avenue hasn’t changed much in the 78 years since it was built. It’s one of the few Clemson landmarks that doesn’t get renovated, updated or even painted. The faded black sign on the front reads:

JUDGE KELLER
GENERAL MERCHANDISE
REASONABLE PRICES

And when you push open the front door, you feel like you’ve wandered back in time to the days when your receipt was written on the brown paper bag that held your purchases.

The store got its start across the street in 1899. A member of the very first class of Clemson cadets, Isaac Leonard Keller left school after two years and opened Keller’s Store, stocking cadet uniform supplies. Legend has it that he could determine sizes and hems of uniforms without even measuring, and so he was given the nickname “Judge.” In 1918, he moved across the street into a wood-frame building, where the store remained until 1936, when the current brick building was erected.

The cadet uniforms might be a thing of the past, but within the walls of Judge Keller’s you can find the uniforms of contemporary Clemson students and fans. Stacks and racks of T-shirts and shorts, sweatshirts and hats cover almost every available surface. For years, they offered overalls, dyed orange, for sale.

The Judge’s grandson and namesake, Isaac Leonard Keller ’70, runs the store today with the help of his son, Ben. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see vestiges of earlier generations. Three hats that belonged to Leonard’s dad still hang on the wall. And if you look through the boxes on the shelves, you might still find a nice pair of white leather shoes from the 50s.

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