By Graham Mitchell
Posted Feb. 24, 2010
James Cowins and a man known as Khurhu started with one pack of incense, a truck, and a desire for business.
That was in 1991. Nineteen years later, Khurhu, who uses only one name, owns and Cowins manages the Oracle, one of the only traditional African stores in the Columbia area. African-American goods can also be found at the Nasbro Enterprise store and Dorothea's African-American Books and Gifts, which are both on Two Notch Road.
Shoppers can find almost anything of an African nature at the 1217 Broad River Road. Store. The Oracle sells non-medicated health supplements and tonics, traditional African clothing, handcrafted jewelry and hand carved wooden sculptures.
Cowins says that while the wooden sculptures and racks of traditional clothing help give the store its African look, he says the health products are how he does his real business.
"I had a customer come in and spend $106.00 on tonic, and I can't remember the last time someone spent that much on clothing or sculptures, " Cowins said.
Cowins says these herbal remedies and tonics are the reason that Oracle has fared pretty well during the economic downturn.
"People always get sick, even during a recession. People care more about their health than anything," he said.
Oracle has proved to catch the attention of customers from outside Columbia. Cowins said customers have come from Charlotte, Florence and the Upstate, and he expects people from all over the state to come during Black History Month.
"I had a woman come in that was visiting from New Orleans, and she said our store had some very unique items. I think that says a lot about our store, considering where she was from," Cowins said.
Customers can find more than merchandise at Oracle. Khurhu, leads yoga classes in Oracle's basement. He considers himself a shaman, which is someone who practices communications with the spiritual world. He also offers talk therapy with the aim of helping people "go inward."
"My job is to connect the dots between mind, body and soul so people can come to the realization of why they are here on this planet," Khurhu said.
Khurhu says he opened Oracle because he wanted people to come to a place of love and harmony.
"I consider myself a community builder. I have stores of a healing nature so that I can bring people into balance with themselves," he said.