A Grand sign: Unveiling an inspiration.

Finding the sign changed the game.

During renovations of the circa 1866 Robinson Building at 1621 Main St. in downtown Columbia, workers unearthed a remnant of the structure's stint as a vaudeville and silent theater from 1909-1914. The sign's historical significance, with its hints of old-time grandeur, changed the thinking of developers who were originally focused solely on building a bowling alley in the space.

"This was going to be called Lanes on Main," building owner and developer Scott Middleton said. "We didn't quite know what we were going to become. When we found the sign, it just made it. This had to be The Grand. It was The Grand, and it was going to be a grand place."

The boutique bowling alley exists at what became The Grand on Main, with seven state-of-the art Brunswick lanes at the back of a fine dining restaurant complete with a full-service bar and above a tap room featuring a pool table and arcade games. After being dug up from the basement, the sign that transformed the building's design was painstakingly restored and unveiled during The Grand's one-year anniversary celebration on Jan. 17.

"We're a fun space to come and play that happens to have a bowling alley back there," Middleton said. "This year has really given us an idea of what this whole block should be about. We want you to come down and eat and certainly drink, but the main thing is, we want you to have some fun."

The block, steps from downtown revitalization pioneer Mast General Store at 1600 Main St., also includes the recently opened Topgolf Swing Suite, an indoor golf and gaming experience behind Michael's Caf at 1624 Main. Adjacent to that is The Venue, which Middleton said will feature different musical performers each weekend.

The Grand's new sign took a year to restore and cost $12,000, Middleton said. He said it also intimidated a few companies before Irmo-based Carolina Conservation took on the task.

"People were scared of it...

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