Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Lauren Sklaroff


In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe fled persecution, anti-Semitism, and violence in search of the “American dream.” Both the Rivkin family and the Kligman/Baker family found their way to Columbia, South Carolina, rather than staying in urban centers like New York and Philadelphia. While both families eventually operated grocery stores in Columbia, their respective roles within their communities were very different.

Jacob Rivkin, and later his son Caba, originally ran a grocery in the heart of the Jewish community that sold kosher products unavailable elsewhere in the city. The popularity of Rivkin’s Grocery led to the opening of multiple branches, and ultimately, to two delicatessens in Columbia; Rivkin’s Delicatessen was one of the first Jewish delis in the South. Clara Kligman Baker, on the other hand, only ever had one location of Baker’s Grocery and sold Southern, non-kosher meats and produce to her predominately African American neighbors in Columbia’s Ward One community

Catering to the Local Trade follows these two families from the Old Country in the Russian Empire to the new in central South Carolina, examining how their identities and experiences changed through ownership of local grocery stores. The Rivkins—Jews selling Jewish food to other Jews—and the Bakers—Jews selling Southern food to African Americans—illustrate two very different paths of acculturation and integration not only into the larger Columbia community, but also into American culture as a whole.