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Antique furniture and decorative accessories, handmade items (paintings, leather bags, jewelry, mirrors, pillows, sweaters, decoys) local and global, seasonal candies, cookies, peanuts. All unique, beautiful, and unexpected in a charming cottage setting in the heart of Old Town Bluffton. 843-837-4434.
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Keeping Bluffton PristineTest
That was me—no cable television, no iPad, no computer and no video games (does ATARI Pac-Man/Space Invaders count?). Instead, we had motor boats, four wheelers and three-wheel golf carts. I’m so thankful that I can say this. But still…a bad parenting choice on my mother’s part! However, she was right. There were less people on the river and less trash. There were plenty of mullet and saltwater catfish (see sidebar on opposite page), and blue crabs on every chicken neck. Kids threw cast nets and floated to the Sand Bar with the outgoing tide. The May River seemed enormous, and the summer never-ending.
Bluffton—then a diamond in the rough—could not be kept unpolished forever. Others discovered the temperate climate, the quaint feel, the pristine river, and the explosion of job opportunities. Bluffton is the fastest-growing municipality in South Carolina. Unfortunately, as the population increases, so does the trash making its way to the May River. Blowers clear the streets and lawns in town, pushing plastic bags, cans, and debris to their lawn’s edges, and wind and rain carry the items to the coves and river. Plus, anything that isn’t nailed down flies out of the boats. My great-grandmother pushed her icebox and porcelain toilet over the bluff to help “stabilize” it when she upgraded to a refrigerator. The older generation is not without fault.
Do you remember when bottled water first showed up? I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to pay for water I could get for free. At this point, I’ll have to concede that it is very portable and convenient, and I provide it on 100-degree summer days to keep my customers from melting into the seats. I collect the bottles at the end for recycle. Honestly, no one should leave the house without their reusable water bottles!
Plastics are found in the guts of many shore birds and sea turtles, causing an intestinal blockage that results in death, and fish ingest microplastics (oil droplets resulting from the breakdown of plastics that have been degrading in the environment for many years). Plastics do break down, but never fully disappear. The scientific community has yet to determine the direct repercussions of this, although it could explain many things such as malformation, or reproductive abnormalities.
When the community comes together to clean up the May River for Earth Day on April 22, we should all make an attempt to participate. I understand some people work on Saturdays, and there will never be a day that suits everyone, but there is always trash in the river. I pick it up on a daily basis during my ecology tours with my crab net serving as my “Trash Recovery Device.” I have even worked it into my tour monologue, and patrons cheer when we successfully retrieve a trash item. Locals and visitors are obviously concerned with trash in the natural environment, or they would not have booked my tour! (However, some objects we will probably never see again. There is a VW Bug at the drop-off beyond Calhoun Street Dock, as well as a shopping cart. I don’t want to know…)
Get out there and collect your share of trash! The health of the May River depends upon stewards of the environment. This applies to everyone.
Things you can do:
• Bring cloth bags for grocery shopping and leave theplastic ones in the store. • Keep the lids on trash cans. • Secure all trash items in your boat and on the dock, so they don’t blow off. • Avoid using Styrofoam. • Spend time with your kids outside and teach them that litter is harmful to the environment. • Recycle!
1008F Fording Island Road | Bluffton | 843-815-4367
New Girls on the Block: Shops open in Old TownTest
By Michele Roldán-Shaw
Every town has its famous avenue. Savannah has River Street, New York has Broadway, Paris has Champs Elysees and Bluffton has Calhoun Street. Our central artery since the days of being just a sleepy fishing village, Calhoun now extends into the modern construction of the Promenade. And like any “main street” in small-town America, the extent to which it throbs and pulses with lifeblood gives a reliable indication of how we’re faring. That’s why it’s encouraging to see so many fresh and interesting businesses come in, including shops by three new girls on the block: Ann Marie Fiore of Cocoon, LaCreasa Allen of The Roost, and Kelly Caron, ASID, of Kelly Caron Designs.
“I think it’s an experience to come into a small shop where you want to hang out for a while and actually have people hear what you’re saying,” said LaCreasa, who celebrated her grand opening at The Roost in November. “People want to get back to shopping locally the way it used to be, coming downtown and buying their Christmas gifts—it just feels better after all the years of box-shopping.”
These days it has become not only feel-good and fashionable to buy locally, but also the intelligent choice: by keeping our dollars circulating amongst ourselves, we ensure our own collective welfare. Thriving local businesses are, in LaCreasa’s words, “a reflection of the health, vitality and economic strength of the community.” Accordingly, she and her colleagues at Cocoon and Kelly Caron Designs—like other businesses in the Promenade—make it a priority to feature regional products whenever possible.
“One of the things I’ve really tried to focus on is searching out items that are exclusive to the Lowcountry,” said Ann Marie, who recently relocated Cocoon and its “Live with Style” adage to the Promenade after three years in Sheridan Park. “We carry Savannah Bee Company, Charleston Shoe Company, jewelry made in Beaufort, and dish towels hand-stamped on Hilton Head, including a Bluffton design available only here at Cocoon. Everything we have can be personalized, and our monograms are done locally.”
A browse around the store reveals an elegant yet homey coastal flavor that would be familiar to anyone in Bluffton—flatware decorated with blue crabs, haute perfume beside books by Garden & Gun, and clothing that looks fabulous yet feels like you’re wearing your pajamas. “From Exquisite to Everyday,” as Ann Marie puts it. “This is a lifestyle store for how we live and entertain in the Lowcountry, and down here we have a lot of company, so we carry products to make you and your guests feel comfortable.”
Just around the corner, LaCreasa Allen has fashioned a similar ambience at the Roost, yet with her own uniquely personal touch to “Elevate the Everyday.” Fine decanters, gourmet cocktail nuts and snacks, European antiques, custom stationary, animal prints and wood grains alongside orchids and burnished gold; her impeccable tastes come to the shopper’s aid. Many of the things she carries are Southern-made, and all of them are small-batch artisanal products. She’s particularly excited about “getting her hands on” some oyster knives from Williams Knife Company out of Edisto—finely handcrafted and regularly featured in Garden & Gun; they run in short supply during the holidays.
“We have a lot of special little things that bring that extra something,” said LaCreasa, who moved here from North Carolina because she fell in love with the natural beauty and quaint small town environment, but immediately saw the need for more shops as the economy picked up. “I like the idea that someone can call me and say ‘I need three or four gifts for the holidays and I need them to be at a certain price-point,’ then I can put together a grab-and-go gift package.”
This old-world rapport between customer and shopkeeper has been achieved by LaCreasa since her doors first opened. Local resident Heather Bender was recently in the shop and couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “I’m SO excited you’re open!” she gushed. “I’ve lived here for 25 years but I kind of feel like I’m in Europe right now. I’m in that phase of life where I finally know what my style is—that mix of modern and traditional—and I like things that no one else has. I don’t have a lot of things, but the things I do have I’ve chosen them to be nice. I tell my husband all the time, I’m low-maintenance: a nice candle, some coffee, then I can chill out and be happy.”
After perusing around raving about things and enjoying the sample chocolate-covered peanuts, Heather finally left the store with a joyful declaration: “Can’t wait to come back! I’m going to tell all my friends—this will be my new happy place.”
For LaCreasa it must feel good to know she has filled her intended niche, and provided a customer with the exact experience she was seeking. “I’ve gotten the best feedback like that,” says LaCreasa. “It’s been overwhelming.”
A stone’s throw away is Kelly Caron, ASID (American Society of Interior Design). Her new space in the Promenade is a combination retail boutique and studio for professionally licensed Kelly Caron Designs. Clients can peruse books of lighting fixtures and fabric samples, or shop the floor with its heavy emphasis on the local. Kelly’s “Lowcountry Eclectic” blends antiques with comfortable furniture, beautiful Lowcountry paintings with sculptures made out of sea coral, big oversize lanterns with jewelry and treasure boxes—all to create what she perceives as the Lowcountry style of “comfortable, casual and unique; relaxed but with a touch of luxury.” Although this rings similar to the words of her colleagues at Cocoon and The Roost, there is no competition—only friendly well-wishing.
“I feel like I’m only successful if they’re successful,” said Kelly. “I think we’re all just happy to be here. We’re excited to be women in business, this has been our goal for a long time, and now the moment has come. Bluffton’s growing and there’s a need for a strong shopping area that’s not Tanger Outlets—we’re full of restaurants and now we’re hungry for retail.”
In Kelly’s vision, however, the Promenade is more than just shops—it’s a comprehensive design center. “We have architects, realtors and a builder; we have a landscaping company and a fireplace showroom coming in; we have someone who does cabinetry, appliances and lighting; we have the Garden Gate and shops like Cocoon and The Roost that carry tableware and accessories. I really don’t think you need to go anywhere other than downtown Bluffton to make your house feel like a home, which is great! We have knowledgeable professionals right here, and we all compliment each other. We’ve all embraced the Bluffton vibe, the Lowcountry and what’s trending, and we’re working together to make sure we’re successful as a community.”
Her sentiments are echoed by both Ann Marie and LaCreasa. “I love being part of Old Town,” said Ann Marie. “There’s such a sense of community; like this morning when I got here I ran next door to the Corner Perk and got a chai latte—it’s just this wonderful sense that we’re all here because we love Bluffton, and now we simply want to give people what they need. We all compliment each other and between us we have so much to offer.”
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“Opportunity” is a word that comes up a lot with Laura Bush. The opportunities she’s been given, and those that young folks enjoy today. Hers is a story of opportunities seized, envisioned, and given back.
Laura is a Bluffton native whose people go as far back as can be traced—to Spring Island on her daddy’s side, and Buckingham Plantation on her mom’s. You don’t get any more local than Laura Bush. She recalls playing in the dirt streets of Old Town with her friends, attending segregated schools, seeing her daddy fish and farm; watching everyone eat from the river and the earth and share whatever they had.
“If I look back from where I’m sitting now, I’d say it was hard,” said Laura, who will tell her story at an honorary banquet this month at Campbell Chapel AME in Bluffton. “We didn’t think of ourselves as poor or deprived. We were all in the same situation. But now, after all the work I’ve done, I can see we were in dire straits.”
Nearly a half-century later, Laura views the Lowcountry through eyes that have seen what newcomers never will. A lot has changed, and she played a major role in that. As one of 14 siblings, Laura knew college was out of the question, so upon high school graduation in 1962 she headed north to live with an elder sister in New York, and then a brother in Washington, D.C.
“Coming from a little old country town and the freedom that I had, I did not like the city,” Laura admitted. She had yet to find her niche when life took her in another direction: her father suffered a debilitating stroke, so Laura returned home to help her mother care for him. In those days, the job prospects in Bluffton were limited, so she found work on Hilton Head in hospitality, housekeeping or groundskeeping, just like the rest of her contemporaries. “That was life as I knew it,” she said. “I didn’t think there would be anything else and I didn’t see a problem with it.”
Fate had bigger things in store for young Laura.
The first twist came when former South Carolina Governor Fritz Hollings embarked on a statewide poverty tour. At that time, a doctor in Beaufort was speaking out about children falling sick and even dying from malnutrition, iron deficiency and stomach worms. No one had indoor plumbing in those days, only shallow wells with pumps, and sanitation issues like using the bathroom outside, unwashed hands and playing in the same dirt were causing children to become infected with parasites. (Laura recalls her mother treating them once a month with Castor oil to flush their systems.) As awareness exposed these living conditions, former Governor Hollings and his team decided to come see for themselves. Someone recommended Laura as a guide, and despite having little personal interest in the issues at the time, she led the delegation on an in-home, eyewitness experience. This was the unwitting start to Laura’s career in public health and service.
Later, as she worked at what was then Bluffton’s dry cleaning service on the corner of Calhoun Street and May River Road, she was approached with another opportunity. The University of South Carolina was implementing a program to study and combat intestinal parasites, and asked Laura for help with outreach, data collection and community education. Suddenly, she was testing soil samples, holding community meetings, conducting “dietary recall” fieldwork, going into homes and convincing mothers to get their children treated.
“I realized I had the ability to impact people,” Laura said. “When I spoke, they believed in me. I would tell them, ‘These doctors aren’t going to harm your kids, and they trusted me. I was able to get almost 200 children to participate.”
It was a true awakening for her—not only to the issues she’d been unaware of growing up, but also to her own ability and desire to do something about them. In 1969, a Senate hearing on Nutrition and Human Needs was held to report the findings of their groundbreaking work, resulting in the creation of the Beaufort-Jasper Comprehensive Health Center, which remains a cornerstone of the community today (it now includes Hampton County, as well.) Soon after opening their doors, they hired Laura as Health Education and Action Assistant, the first of several positions she would hold there over the next decade. “It was a fantastic 10 years,” she said. “We did so much work.”
Laura went on to become a consultant for the Beaufort-Jasper County Water and Sewer Authority on a project to bring potable water to folks in rural communities.
Again, she realized her ability to “organize, plan and implement” was making a difference. She grew in knowledge and skill, networking and gaining the community’s trust. By this point in her career, you could give Laura Bush an assignment, and she would sit down and study the proposal before hitting the streets to make it happen.
“Even though there were periods of time where I didn’t have a job, people always found me,” she said. “The native blacks have a song that every round just goes higher and higher [“We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”]—that’s how my jobs went.”
Next, she was hired by the Institute for Community Education and Training to conduct a statewide project on the needs of low-income women, despite her limited knowledge of the field.
“I think from there I felt I could do anything,” she said. When the executive director left, Laura stepped up; the role presented new challenges, because for the first time she was responsible not only for her own livelihood, but everyone else on the nonprofit’s staff, as well. She’ll never forget when the Ford Foundation gave them $300,000, the biggest funding proposal she ever wrote.
From there, Laura went to the Beaufort County Department of Social Services, where she coordinated an emergency assistance program to help people facing such hardships as illness, disaster or the loss of a job or a spouse. She created a system whereby local charitable agencies could access records of who had been given assistance—when, where and how—thereby preventing abuse.
She even helped nab a criminal during those days! Laura knew something wasn’t right about the individual posing as a homeless man with a broken ankle in need of a bus ticket home to Virginia, who turned out to be an escaped convict from Florida. But mostly her office was the conduit through which help flowed.
“Say someone has a $200 bill, their lights are going to get cut off and they have children in the house,” Laura explained of her work during those years. “I would ask that person what they could contribute, then get pledges from churches or other local groups that wanted to help. You could take a special form signed by me to the light company, and that was like money in the bank. I established all those relationships. There were times I actually had law enforcement in people’s yards getting ready to pull their mobile homes, and I would say ‘Sir, how can we buy some time?’ I helped take a lot of stress off people, and I enjoyed that a whole lot. I really felt I was making a difference.”
In 2007, after 15 years with DSS, Laura left to battle breast cancer. She feels blessed to be a 10-year survivor, however she doesn’t consider herself retired just yet.
“I don’t see that my work is done,” she said. “There are still some issues, especially with our children.” In 1988, she got on the school board thinking she’d do a single term, but four years turned into 26. After all that experience, she is able to identify two target areas that still need improvement in our schools: diversity and achievement.
“We need to always keep diversity at the forefront,” she said. “We live in a community of blacks, whites and Hispanics, so I would like to see that reflected more in our teachers and leadership.”
Always one to speak her mind, Laura also sees a need for sensitivity training in schools, as she feels cultural differences might account for the higher numbers of African-American students getting referrals, suspension or expulsion. “I don’t think our kids are any worse than anybody else’s,” she said. “So, we need to turn those numbers around.” It disturbs her that African-American students are still on the bottom in terms of academic performance. “Apply resources! Give them a double-dose of reading or math or whatever they need to get them up to the level where they should be.”
True to form, Laura is taking action. In 2016, she founded the “Better to Give Back Fund,” inspired in part by her son’s mentoring of young black males on Hilton Head, and the desire he expressed to see them improve their self-image.
“These kids think they’re not worth anything,” said Laura, “that people have a certain image of them and they can’t be anything beyond that. So, we have to keep encouraging them to see that doors are opening, that they need to not squander those opportunities.”
Laura’s non-profit, which gives money toward local scholarships and other programs, is committed to the “Five E’s”: Empowerment, Experience, Education, Exposure and Entertainment. An upcoming banquet at Campbell Chapel will benefit the fund, as well as celebrating Laura’s life and 48 years of community service, while giving people the chance to hear her incredible story in her own words.
“I think those moving here today have no earthly concept of what Bluffton was like,” she said. “For those of us who lived it, there needs to be more opportunities to share both the good and the bad. We had black entrepreneurs! We had a black movie theatre on Calhoun Street; we had an undertaker, grocery store, a lady who owned an apartment complex, two brothers who captained their own boats, and a cooperative of black fisherman who actually bought and owned the Bluffton Oyster Factory for a while. Where is that in the Bluffton history books? There are people out there who have stories to tell, so hopefully by telling mine it will open the doors for others.”
It is remarkable what Laura Bush has accomplished without a college degree, simply through work ethic, desire to learn, and commitment to serving her community. She is the first to express gratitude to all those who supported her, particularly her husband who helped take care of their four children all those years she was working.
“I have availed myself of all kinds of opportunities,” said Laura. “I can tell you all the people who gave them to me, and I appreciate them when I see them. I always try to treat people decently, never speak ill of anyone, but listen to their opinion and give them mine. When people don’t respect and trust you, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, I think people have seen in me the kind of character that made me respected, and I thank God for that.”
What: An Evening With Laura Bush
When: Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 6 p.m.
Where: Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church, 21 Boundary St. Bluffton
6 Promenade Street, Unit 1008 | Bluffton | 843-815-3315
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1005 Fording Island Road | Bluffton | (843) 837-1880
Art on the Outside: Michele Roldán-Shaw’s Dolphin Mural on Calhoun StreetTest
Mayfest is an amazing annual celebration of regional artists and artisans, but local painters, potters, sculptors, woodworkers, jewelry makers and craftsmen make Bluffton the “HeART of the Lowcountry” every day.
In addition to the colorful galleries, eclectic shops and tasteful eateries lining Calhoun Street and adjacent avenues, new public art occasionally pops up in Old Town. Recently, a painting of a mother and baby dolphin leaping out the water replaced D. Pierce Giltner’s weatherworn shrimp boat image on the corner of Bridge and Boundary Streets.
Giltner, an esteemed local artist who operated Gallery Without Walls next to The Store on Calhoun Street for several years, asked Michele Roldán-Shaw to create a new installment on the former Town bulletin board; prepping the wood, providing the paints and studio space and even installing the finished piece.
“It was his kind way of lending a hand to a fellow outsider artist—meaning we don’t have formal training or a lot of slick marketing behind us, so we have to be innovative and make our own way,” she explains. “I’m very grateful to Pierce for giving me this opportunity!”
Perhaps best known as a freelance journalist (and longtime Bluffton Breeze contributor), as well as the author of two true adventure tales called “Rambler’s Life,” Roldán-Shaw’s first love was art.
“I have been doing art for as long as I can remember,” explains the avid outdoorswoman. “However, I have no formal schooling—I just follow my own muse! When I moved to Bluffton 13 years ago, I started painting the local flora and fauna I saw in my explorations.”
For instance, her Lowcountry mural at the Coastal Discovery Museum includes a black snake slithering up a palmetto tree (a memory from a visit to Hunting Island), as well as a pod of dolphins with one tiny, black newborn fin in the center (as seen on Bull Creek). She also spent several years showing her art at various Calhoun Street galleries while painting more murals for businesses and private residences.
Today, Roldán-Shaw’s primary focus is on her writing, although she still does commissioned pieces and original artwork for family and friends. A table she had painted long ago with a mother and baby dolphin provided iconic inspiration for her most recent project.
“[Dolphins] are one thing NOBODY ever gets tired of seeing,” she says. “I am very pleased with how the painting has been received in the spirit of town beautification that everyone can enjoy.”
To view Roldán-Shaw’s gallery of artwork, inquire about painting commissions or learn more about her books, call (843) 304-3460 or visit ramblerslife.com.
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Art galleries, cafes and antique shops can all be found in Bluffton's Historic District and make for a pleasurable day of browsing and buying. Interested in antiques and art? Stroll through Old Town Bluffton for a warm, welcoming shopping experience. Looking for the great deals on name brands? Head to Tanger Outlet for endless bargains.
Seafood lovers unite! The Red Apron Sips & Seafood Party, held in conjunction with the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, will feature Lowcountry dining, savory cocktails, Southern stories and more on Friday, October 20 at 6 p.m. at Bluffton’s Hampton Lake. Hosted by emcee David Lauderdale, a popular Island Packet columnist, this tasty event… Read More…
Two historic churches representing two distinct segments of Lowcountry society will be showcased during Celebrate Bluffton’s Heritage Discovery Day on October 14. This journey through the past begins just outside of Pritchardville at St. Luke’s Methodist Church. Originally a parish of the Anglican Church, St. Luke’s was authorized by an act of the Colonial Assembly… Read More…
Walking around Old Town Bluffton, you might catch a glimpse of a man out of place—or rather, time. Dressed in 19th-century clothing with a big straw hat and toting a canteen, this man is none other than Bluffton Jack, leading one of his Old Town Tours on a journey through history. Jack, whose real name… Read More…
Get ready for the 24th Polo for Charity on Sunday, October 22 at Rose Hill Equestrian Center, Bluffton. Gates open at noon, and the match starts at 2 p.m. at this afternoon affair coordinated by the Rotary Club of Okatie. This unique event is revered as one of the highlights of the Bluffton and Hilton… Read More…
For October, I was asked to write an article on haunting music. Much to my surprise, there was a footnote about my involvement in a local Jerry Garcia tribute band and what I thought about The Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead. Hmmm….What do I think about a band that toured for 30 years, almost non-stop… Read More…