The Bluff Magazine Fall/Winter 2021

Page 1

the bluff Fall / Winter 2021


the bluff

the bluff Fall / Winter 2021



/ W I N T E R 2 0 2 1

Talented singer/songwriter Lauren Jenkins is full of fire and grace.

PHOTO: Krisztian Lonyai

ta bl e of con t en ts




7 A CHA AT WITH MANEET CHAU HAN Inspired by the train rides through India that marked her childhood, Maneet’s latest cookbook, Chaat, is a love letter to street food.



The battle rages on: do the roots of half-rubber belong to Savannah or Charleston? Or somewhere in between?







Writer David Sewell reminisces about the art

A laugh-out-loud, fi rst-person account of a return

of and his love for duck decoys, a love passed

to archery, the writer’s fi rst time since sleepaway

After a 40-year career on television, one that

down by his father and uncle.

camp two decades ago.

included an Edward R. Murrow Award, Randy Price is working on his next chapter.







After a full day’s work, Dell Chambers retires to

Lauren could be a country music song. The

It was 1918, and the FBI was tracking a family who

pandemic hits, her tour dates are canceled, her label

lived in Bluffton and worked at Palmetto Bluff.

his “lab” to put paint on canvas and philosophize.

drops her, and she parlays it all into her next chapter.





BARB ECU E IS HOM E Attorney-turned-food-writer-and-photographer


A self-proclaimed introvert and artist, Ruth Ann’s

Bonjwing Lee explores the BBQ of his beloved hometown,

Born and raised on Hilton Head Island, Josh Peeples

careful eye ensures that every construction

where the per capita density of barbecue is unrivaled.

paused his law school aspirations and headed west

guideline is met at Palmetto Bluff.

for tech but stayed for the wine.







The underappreciated but ever-present squirrel is in

A fi rst-grade teacher and a nurse by day respectively,

The story behind the founder who launched

fact the most prodigious and ecologically essential

sisters Carlene Browner Richardson and Cassandra Browner

a hot sauce movement.

natural forest regenerator, as told by Justin Hardy.

launched their jewelry business in 2007, dying, rolling, cutting, firing, sanding, and buffing each piece by hand.

PHOTOS: Laura Saur, Allison Lane, Ruta Smith, and Photography by Anne, Inc.

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c r e at e d b y f or t hose w ho l ov e t h i s sp ec i a l l owcou n t r y i dy l l




Courtney Hampson




Johnny Autry

Amanda Davis

Kristen Constantineau

Amanda Davis

Heather Dumford

Courtney Hampson

Justin Hardy

Katie Gates

Justin Hardy

Allison Lane

Justin Jarrett

Bonjwing Lee

Barry Kaufman


Krisztian Lonyai

Allison Lane Amanda Davis

Rod Pasibe

Bonjwing Lee

Photography by Anne, Inc.

Whitney Pastorek

Laura Saur

David Sewell

Ruta Smith

Dr. Mary Socci

Cameron Wilder

Tim Wood









P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M



l et t er f rom t h e edi tor upcoming events

We pour ourselves into these stories hoping to spark something in our readers—and sometimes we spark something in ourselves. As I write (type) this, we’ve just officially welcomed summer to the Lowcountry, although the temperatures suggest she’s been here for some time. We’re always thinking ahead at The Bluff magazine headquarters, planning issues in advance but trying to remain nimble enough in case a last-minute idea sparks. “Half-Rubber” on page 71 is one of those sparks. The story was inspired by my father-in-law, Arthur Cramer, who passed away in March. We spent 10 hours by Arthur’s bedside, grateful for the chance to say good-bye. As Arthur’s children told stories about his life, all 78 years spent in the Lowcountry, I was silently committing them to memory. I knew I would write something about him someday, but I never thought his sons would ask me to write the obituary. As they were sharing quips about his life, someone said, “And he batted lefty at half-rubber,” which seemed like a random fact, but one I knew I would include. And wouldn’t you know it, someone read the obituary and asked me what half-rubber was. After I explained, they said, “That would be a great story for The Bluff.” It was a treat when I received the final story from the writer and the Cramers were mentioned. I cried. And that is what I love about this magazine: we pour ourselves into these stories hoping to spark something in our readers— and sometimes we spark something in ourselves.

In this issue you’ll discover an inspiring founder in Molly Fienning, the talented and unstoppable musician Lauren Jenkins, and Dell Chambers, whose artisan star is quickly rising. We talk wine, BBQ, duck decoys, bow and arrows, and more. As summer gives way to what I believe is the best time of year in the Lowcountry, I hope Palmetto Bluff is on your calendar. Fire pits. Oyster roasts. Sunrise on the May River. Walks through the River Road Preserve on a crisp morning. This is a magical place, and fall is a wonderful time to visit.


quintin middleton September 13–17

brooks reitz October 4–8

eric mckay and patrick murtaugh November 8–11

elisabeth connolly December 6–12 CHAPEL CONCERT SERIES

admiral radio September 23 My late father-in-law, Arthur Cramer, with two of his sons.

lauren jenkins October 21

lowcountry boil band December 16 ENDURANCE SERIES

buffalo run December 12 To learn more, visit:

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


con t r i bu tor s

His passion for the land, the natural world, and outdoor activities is evident in all that he does, including indulging us with his hilarious and informative stories. Justin Hardy

1. Whitney Pastorek

Photographer, “Inside the Blessed Eye”

(page 7)

(page 21)

Whitney Pastorek is a community organizer,

Rod Pasibe is a Charleston-based photographer

manager, and writer-at-large whose career has

specializing in architectural, editorial, portrait,

been anything but a straight line. Since being

and commercial photography. A US Army

laid off from her longtime music industry job

Infantry combat veteran, Rod pursued his

in 2020 due to the pandemic, she has taken

passion for graphic design and photography

on a wide range of freelance projects and

after retiring from the service and has been

currently serves as Nashville project lead for

self-employed at both since 2006.

hunger relief non-profit organization World Central Kitchen. She lives in East Nashville with her supermutt, Wally.

2. Justin Hardy



Charleston, South Carolina. She moved to the states 11 years ago and has been capturing

studied geology and GIS. As the land and

stories in South Carolina for the past 10 years,

wildlife manager for the Palmetto Bluff

currently as the photographer for Charleston

Conservancy, Justin’s passion for the land,

City Paper. When not behind the camera, she

the natural world, and outdoor activities is

enjoys spending time exploring the outdoors

evident in all that he does, including

with her husband and kids. Her favorite

indulging us with his hilarious and

subject to photograph is the local cuisine and

informative stories for The Bluff.

people of the South.

and editor focused on food and travel. His photographs have been widely published in magazines, cookbooks, and advertising. His clients include international products and service brands, restaurants, hotels, and resorts. In addition to writing the blog the ulterior epicure, Bonjwing is a published writer and currently serves as the executive editor for Drift magazine. He is based in

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

(page 29, 39)

of Georgia Southern University, where he

Bonjwing Lee is a photographer, writer,


Ruth Ann Terry” and “Brushing a Butterfly”

Justin Hardy is a Georgia native and graduate

“Barbecue Is Home” (page 57)


Photographer, “Local Character:

Ruta is an editorial photographer based in

Photographer and writer,


5. Ruta Smith

Photographer and writer, “Squirrel!” (page 33)

3. Bonjwing Lee


4. Rod Pasibe

Writer, “A Chaat with Maneet Chauhan”

Kansas City, Missouri.

Welcome home.

PA L M E T T O B L U F F R E A L E S TAT E C O M PA N Y 1 - 8 0 0 - 5 0 1 - 74 0 5



Obtain the Property Report required by federal law and read it before signing anything. No federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. This does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy where prohibited by law. The complete offering terms are in an offering plan available from sponsor. File no. H-110005.











FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


When a James Beard Award–winning TV star and best-selling author like

cookbook, Chaat, is a love letter to street food. Chaat literally means “to

Chef Maneet Chauhan is visiting your corner of the world—as she did this past

lick,” and it’s used to describe anything that tastes so good you want to lick

spring, as Palmetto Bluff ’s Artist in Residence for the month of March—one

your plate (or banana leaf ) clean. Chauhan’s memories of traveling to visit

might wonder what it takes to impress her.

her grandparents fueled a journey alongside cowriter Jody Eddy in which the pair hopped the trains of India’s extensive railway network, sampling

Easy: feed her.

wares that, as Chauhan writes in the introduction, “tell a story about the resourcefulness of the Indian people.” That story, divided by region and

“It was beyond,” she raves about the Bluff ton food scene. “The chefs were pushing

chock-full of Chauhan’s personal anecdotes, is beautifully illustrated via the

the envelope. We weren’t expecting to have, like, the most amazing Vietnamese

lush photographs that accompany her eclectic recipes. Released amid the

pho, right?” But the native of India says what really blew her mind about her time

pandemic, Chauhan says the book took on an unexpected life: “Nobody was

in the Lowcountry was Gullah cuisine. “What I loved about it was that there was

traveling,” she says, acknowledging the irony. “But they could travel through

a lot of familiarity in the ingredients—the okra, the peanuts, the crab fried rice.

this book.”

That’s one of my favorite things. God, it’s so good—I could just have bowls and bowls of it,” she confesses, with her characteristic self-effacing enthusiasm.

Although the Indian subcontinent may feel distant to the American South, the way Chauhan fell in love with food sure sounds familiar. “We lived in

Don’t be surprised that an exceptional culinary figure like Chauhan would gush

eastern India, in a small professional community with people from all over

over something as humble as a bowl of crab fried rice. In fact, it’s the perfect

the country,” she remembers. “The fun part about Indian cuisine is that every

metaphor. After all, Chauhan describes the thread that runs through her life story

region has a very distinct cuisine of its own, so what was made in our household

as one of “exciting balance” and weaves that duality through everything she does.

was completely different from what was made in our neighbors’ houses. I would literally fi nish dinner at home, go over to my neighbors, and tell them, ‘My


She’s a classically trained chef who initially wowed reviewers with the Indian-

parents haven’t fed me, so can I eat with you guys?’” It wasn’t ( just) the eating

Latin fare of lauded Chicago/New York restaurant Vermilion, but her latest

that appealed to young Maneet—it was a fascination with the traditions being

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

Maneet’s latest cookbook, Chaat, is a love letter to Indian street food.

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1



handed down. “Going into the kitchen with the aunties, seeing them cook, to

Believe it or not, in the early 2010s, that was still a reasonable question, unlike

me, the incredible thing was the process.”

the boom times of today. (“When they joke that the city bird of Nashville is a crane, they are not kidding,” Chauhan laughs.) But being “the kind of people


who explore each and every opportunity that comes our way,” Chauhan and

She eventually attended hospitality school in India as a rare woman to

admits, “so as a business decision, it was great.” The idea for Chauhan Ale

enter the field, thankful for the blessing of her parents and conscious of the

& Masala House was born in spring 2013: she would take over a former

challenge they issued her: “Do whatever you want; just make sure you’re the

BBQ joint in a rapidly developing part of town called The Gulch and open a

best at it.” Challenge accepted: she excelled in her undergrad studies—and,

gastropub and microbrewery with Indian-inspired cuisine. The original plan

as a bonus, met her future husband and business partner, Vivek Deora—and

was to commute from New York.

Deora flew down and immediately fell in love. “It was not just the city—the soul, the people—but also the opportunity the city afforded us,” she recalls of that fi rst trip. Ultimately, though, setting up shop in Nashville was a practical choice. “We knew that what we wanted to do was unique there,” Chauhan

then enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, from which she graduated with honors. She beat out dozens of men to snag the executive chef position

As it turns out, the six-month project took a year and a half. (“It is the South.

at Vermilion and parlayed her debut as the fi rst Indian woman to compete

. . . Things do take a long time,” Chauhan shrugs.) Along the way, Chauhan

on Iron Chef into her current gig as a full-time judge on Chopped. Soon, her

became pregnant with her second child, a son, who decided to be born three

Food Network star was rocketing above the horizon. “I was getting calls

months early, on the day Chauhan Ale & Masala House opened to the public.

from all over the country,” Chauhan explains of her rise to “celebrity chef”

Suddenly, the universe had handed her a seriously exciting balancing act,

status. “People would ask, ‘Do you want to open a restaurant in Seattle? San

but this time, the choice the couple made was all heart. “We named him

Francisco?’ You know, the obvious cities with a large Indian population. But

Karma,” Chauhan says. “He was in the NICU, and Vivek and I turn to each

then we get a call: ‘Would you like to open something in Nashville?’ Vivek

other and we are like, ‘If he’s so adamant about being a Nashvillian, who are

and I looked at each other, like, ‘Who the bleep goes to Nashville?’”

we to stop it?’”

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Chauhan and Deora’s relationship with the city—and their life within it—

show you care by nourishing not only people’s stomachs but also their souls

only deepened when COVID-19 mandated a stop to their whirlwind travel

through food,” she explains. “And if we can’t? Then shame on us.”

schedules. With restaurants and TV production shuttered, Chauhan kept her audience engaged by turning her Instagram into a combination

In the nearly seven years since Chauhan and Deora made Nashville their

motivational speaking seminar and de facto book tour, which included joyous

home, they’ve become a vital part of Music City’s growth and reputation as a

home cooking tutorials costarring her equally joyous kids. Meanwhile, she

premier town, opening three more restaurants under their Morph Hospitality

balanced that positivity with the in-the-moment realism of the self-taped

Group umbrella, all of which have survived COVID-19, miraculously, intact:

documentary Restaurant Hustle, for which friend and fellow celebrity chef

Tànsuŏ (contemporary Chinese), The Mockingbird (modern diner), and

Guy Fieri simply sent Chauhan a camera and asked her to start recording.

Chauhan’s newest concept, Chaatable, where she serves the Indian street

“There are parts in there that, if we weren’t sending our footage at the spur

food that holds her heart. The simple mention of chaat, of course, brings

of the moment, I probably wouldn’t have sent at all,” she admits. “Like me

her back to the thread that’s followed her from her neighbors’ kitchens

crying in the closet with a bottle of wine. I use my social media to just make

in eastern India all the way to the top of America’s food scene. “To me,”

people feel happy, but even that can take a toll. I think being on TV, we

Chauhan explains, “chaat is ‘exciting balance,’ right? It’s got that sweet. It’s

have the responsibility of showing the world that, hey, everything is not fi ne.

got the spice. There is something unexpected in each and every bite. There

Being vulnerable was powerful because everybody was going through it.”

is texture, there is darkness. Balance doesn’t mean boring. I am so obsessed with chaat because I relate it to life.”

The pandemic also gave her the chance to put her efforts behind a community service no one could have imagined prior to 2020: using her locked-down kitchens to feed her neighbors in need. Early in the pandemic, Chauhan rolled up her sleeves to personally deliver weekly restaurant-quality meals to a local soup kitchen serving Nashville’s unhoused community via a partnership with


Chef José Andrés’s global hunger relief non-profit World Central Kitchen;


most recently, she partnered with the Country Music Association and the

And here she laughs again, her enthusiasm for the delight of food simply

Touring Professionals Alliance to cook for out-of-work music industry folks.

contagious. “I’m such a geek,” she says, chortling without apology. “That is the

The opportunity to give back, she says, is a no-brainer. “We think you can

entry requirement to be a chef. Are you a weirdo? Okay, you can be a chef.” 

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

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small outbuilding sat on the edge of a field in northeastern

blind. Once the day’s deception was done, back they went into

North Carolina. A year or so later, the soybean field

the skiffs, piled unceremoniously on top of each other by guides

behind that shed would be my fi rst exposure to waterfowl as

and caretakers. Season after season, their advancing age was

snow geese appeared to number in the thousands, at least to

marked in layering coats of paint. Some would eventually fi nd

an 8-year-old’s eyes. But that summer day, the turn of a key in

their way to the shelves of collectors, the tables of dealers,

a rusted padlock unlocked much more than a wooden door.

auction houses, museums, and the digital wonder of the

Among the scrap lumber, paint cans, various farm implements,

internet. Others would be burned as fi rewood.

tools, and spiderwebs, shafts of sunlight splayed through the siding illuminating them, ever so slightly. There they were,

The wood duck decoy is one of the three original forms of

upswept necks and heads looking stoically ahead. Except they

American folk art, the other two being scrimshaw carving and

had no eyes. Nor wings, feathers, or webbed feet. What they did

jazz. Lofty company indeed. The fi rst decoys were discovered

possess was exquisite form. Form hewn from juniper blocks, just

in a cave in Nevada. Native Americans fashioned them from

like a wooden boat. Lines reminiscent of a fl are-bowed Carolina

tule reeds and then covered the bodies in feathers and paint.

boat to cleave a cold rough chop or to move in the slightest wind.

Their age is estimated to be from 300 to 130 BCE. Fast-

Rasp marks left on bodies to cut the glare from skeptical eyes

forward across centuries and the American colonists found an

above. Boat paint to withstand the inhospitable environment

abundance of waterfowl on the eastern seaboard of their New

in which they did their work. Heavy braided cotton anchor

World. Advances in gunpowder and fi rearms soon led to market

lines and weights and ballasts cast in foundries in Norfolk and

hunting in the 1800s and into the early 20 th century. Duck and

Elizabeth City. Their purpose was singular; their strength was

shorebird numbers plummeted due to market and unregulated

in numbers. Their craft was deception.

hunting. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 outlawed the sale of wild waterfowl, established defi ned hunting seasons,


Fool a canvasback, redhead, widgeon, pintail, black duck,

and ushered in the era of sport hunting. Wealthy residents of

brant, goose, or swan into making a fi nal turn into the wind

the Northeast would discover the wintering grounds of millions

and dropping their feet, setting their wings, and swinging in to

of ducks and geese on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, tidewater

join their feathered brethren. Only they were soon to be greeted

Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina and its Outer Banks,

inhospitably from the occupants of a cedar- and pine-brushed

as well as the coast of South Carolina. Elaborate clubhouses, rife

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

A young, wide-eyed David Sewell.

with caretakers, guides, and cooks, were needed to entertain

from” would make any current decoy collector launch into a

owners and guests. Presidents, celebrities, athletes, business

rabid frenzy. The upswept heads and delicate necks belonged

magnates, and socialites all took part in the sport. The need to

to a complete gunning rig of Ned Burgess decoys. The exact

deceive grew.

ownership of the rig was always a source of mystery to me, but it seemed to be a communal affair between several men.

Unbeknownst to the individuals who made them, an American art

I remember seeing canvasbacks, redheads, widgeon, pintails,

form was slowly emerging from the most utilitarian of beginnings.

and canvas-covered geese and coots. There was also a barrel

Art imitated life. Tools of the trade were hatchets, drawknives,

of “trash” decoys, made in a nondescript

spokeshaves, rasps, chisels, and knives. Materials such as juniper,

factory somewhere. I took one of those,

cedar, balsa, and cork were chosen for natural buoyancy, water

a redhead drake, because they said, “If

resistance, and availability. Regional methodology would arise;

you don’t take them, we’ll burn those.”

canvas and wire frames to create the elegant, lightweight forms of the large species, including Canada geese and tundra swan,

They never had the opportunity to

were commonplace in North Carolina. Duplicating lathes would

properly retire the rig or burn the

turn out high volumes of decoy bodies on the Eastern Shore of

undesirables; the shed was broken into

Maryland, while the heads and painting were still done by hand.

and the entire rig stolen within the

Decoys, blocks, stools, rigs, spreads, tollers—all were monikers

year. My father would swear that years

of the imitators of life. However, my personal favorite term was

later he would see those birds on dealer’s tables throughout

always “d’coyz,” with an emphasis on the hard D and full of the

shows in North Carolina and Virginia. The service life of most

distinct brogue of eastern North Carolina.

of these birds had come to an end as the age of mass-produced plastic decoys had already dawned. The guides liked the plastic

But back to the hot day in the shed. My great-uncle was wearing

birds due to their weight, durability, and cost. At the end of the

his standard uniform of a khaki poplin shirt and pants and had

day, they weren’t concerned about the artistic value of a decoy

one of those long-billed hats with the translucent green visor

when they were wrapping lines on six dozen duck decoys and

and a jumping marlin embroidered patch. He simply said to my

four dozen geese. That’s not my opinion; I heard it from a guide

father and me, “Pick out a couple.” What we were about to “pick

who had the weather-beaten face, lines etched in a crisscross

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


pattern on the back of his neck, and fi ngers like link sausage to

car trunks opened showing canvas bags with graceful necks

prove he knew what he was talking about.

and bills protruding—away from the “table junk.” Occasionally, a shotgun was uncased as an offering to this delicate ballet of

Back in the shed, my father took a canvasback drake and a

negotiation and barter. Hushed tones would fi nally lead to the

well-worn widgeon drake, both made by Mr. Burgess. Most of

climatic phrase “What would it take . . . ?” Once the deal was

those birds had seen seasons of deception. Just as the door

struck, cash or check would be exchanged or credit extended in

was closing, my great-uncle told me to get one more. I took a

the form of the “decoy of the month club.” Colorful characters

Burgess pintail that had essentially all of its warpaint worn off

abounded in this environment to say the least.

except for a little bit of wing speculum that remained. The crime I committed when I got home would make collectors speak

I am not a decoy collector for various reasons. I am, however, an

in tongues and lose their religion. First, I pried off the ballast

appreciator. An appreciator of the form and style that flowed from

weight with a hammer and screwdriver so it would “sit right”

the hands and eyes of the late masters such as Burgess, Dudley,

as I commenced to paint it with Testors

Morse, Fulcher, and others from North Carolina. Ira Hudson

model paint and some acrylic hobby

from Tidewater Virginia. Madison Mitchell and Charlie Joiner

paint, the same paint I used to paint an

and their turned bodies and wonderful paint from the upper

airplane model. Not only did I commit

Chesapeake Bay. The Ward brothers and their sheer artistry from

that travesty, but also I changed the

Crisfield, Maryland. The Caine brothers from South Carolina.

species from pintail to gadwall because

There are others, many others. I believe what my father instilled in

I had more of the right colors of paint.

me was an eye and appreciation for form, shape, and scale and the

I also painted a nice big eye because “I

subtle nature of understatement in detail and color. Today, we are

knew better.” The real crime here was

fortunate that this most unique form of art lives on through the

why my father ever let me paint it in the

hands of modern masters, including Grayson Chesser, Cameron

fi rst place. But maybe he knew what he was doing. Years later, he

McIntyre, and Jerry Talton (whom Palmetto Bluff was fortunate

would strip off my fi ne paintwork and return it to bare wood and

enough to have as an Artist in Residence). A plethora of literature

coat it with an intoxicating blend of linseed oil and turpentine.

and books makes research and history an enjoyable experience.

The form remained unchanged: graceful, upswept chin, flowing

Ownership and procurement opportunities abound in the form

body, and a delicate but strong elongated tail.

of auctions, shows, and clubs. I fear that not many sheds remain, however, with entire rigs waiting. Prices range from the reasonable

As time passed, my father became an educated, if not obsessed,

to ridiculous (check out Guyette & Deeter auction catalogs).

collector and had amassed an impressive collection of birds from

A friend of my father opined, “Buy what you like, enjoy it for a while,

the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

keep it, or sell or trade it.” Tastes and interests change.

Quality would eventually replace quantity. He took me to shows


in small high school gyms in rural North Carolina where the

Occasionally, someone will ask me what my favorite bird happens

heat was habitually set on 85 degrees; the grand Waterfowl

to be. I have three: a canvas goose with an S-curved head to die

Festival in Easton, Maryland; the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in

for that sits atop my gun cabinet, a Charlie Joiner canvasback

Charleston; and all sorts of local craft fairs and club meetings.

drake that my uncle gave to my father, and a certain elegant, high-

My mother graciously supported all of this foolishness. The real

headed Ned Burgess canvasback drake that came out of that shed,

deals for the truly affl icted would take place in the parking lot;

in my father’s hands, so many Junes ago.

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

What childhood looked like before WiFi. Remember treehouses, bikes, canoes, fishing poles, bowling, s’mores, playing tag, and jumping in rain puddles? We still do that here.



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efore it became the global megacorporation it is today, Amazon was just a dream being carefully nurtured in a Bellevue, Washington, garage. You will fi nd the same story behind Disney, starting with Walt borrowing space in his

uncle’s Los Angeles garage to draw cartoons. Harley-Davidson, Mattel, Yankee Candle Company—it seems as if any endeavor worth undertaking can be traced back to a garage. Watching artist Randell Chambers work, it is easy to see how a simple garage can be a blank canvas for a wild strain of creativity. “It’s like meditation. I have the perfect view here,” Chambers said, while pointing out the garage door. “Every day the sun sets right over there. As soon as it drops, I sit here, watch the sunset, maybe look at the stars for a while, and then close the door and get to work.” Viewed as an outsider, the garage isn’t much to work with. A single-car outpost set against an alleyway in Bluff ton Park, the space leaves little room to maneuver between the easel, the golf cart, the stereo system, and the piles upon piles of artwork that line nearly every wall. It’s a far cry from the $13 million Burnt Church Distillery where, as their inaugural featured artist, Chambers’s work usually hangs. But the space isn’t important—it’s what you do with it. “Come in, spill a beer. Just get crazy or whatever,” he said, outlining the rules (for lack of a better word) for guests in the lab. “I feel like there’s so much more creativity when an individual can get relaxed. When you’re an artist of any sort, the more relaxed you are, the better the vibe, the better the creation.” The relaxation varies from sunset to sunset. Sometimes it’s beers from the minifridge. Some days he’s been known to get the juices flowing by piloting a remote-controlled plane around the alley with his sons, Ashton and Adrian. Sometimes it’s knocking the rust off his old skateboarding skills (which delayed one painting when he came down hard on his left hand, resulting in a gnarly case of road rash). “It gets crazy,” he said. “You’ve seen the Facebook.” Indeed, the Facebook and Instagram pages he set up at the urging of his wife, Gwen, showcase his work just as they do his late-night vibes, whether it’s him zooming down the alley on a miniature motorcycle or just staring into the camera while the evening’s song of choice plays in the background.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

“I’m really camera shy. I open up quick, but I’m a shy person,” he said. “I’m trying to tap into, like, how can I be a performing artist versus an artist? So, I’m dipping my feet into that water right now. That’s why you’ll see the crazy videos, but overall, it’s just me having a good time. That’s the real vibe.” The videos, manically bonkers as they are sometimes, are just Chambers’s way of capturing the attention of the Instagram generation and introducing them to Blessed Eye Arts. The real vibe can be read only in those stacks of paintings slowly impeding on his lab space—a landscape here, a colorful wildlife portrait there, and stacked in between are the intimate profi les of African faces that are his bread and butter. “I usually fi nd all my pictures just surfi ng around the internet or on Instagram. It’s usually Black women, but I’ll do some landscapes and that kind of thing,” he said. “I just don’t see as much of a challenge in a car as I do in a person’s face.”

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It’s really about digging deep into my culture and being connected. connected. connected.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

What stands out to him when searching for that next face, he says, is perspective. In one shot tucked away behind the golf cart, Redd Foxx squints back at the viewer with impish humor. In another, towering over his workspace, a woman garbed in African tribal attire stares down. In between them, scores of African American faces can be found, a testament to Chambers’s deep reverence for his heritage. “It’s really about digging deep into my culture and being connected more with my culture,” he said. This past year has proven to be immensely challenging for his culture, but viewed through Chambers’s enlightened tranquility, it’s the beauty and possibility behind the recent reckoning that shines through. “The whole situation in the news with my culture . . . I fear if I focus too much into projecting what’s going on, there’d be too much anger.” From the subject to each stroke, there is a mindfulness that defines each piece. As a devoted husband and father, he knows this work gives him a chance to provide for his family, but as an artist, each sale is the end of a deeply personal journey. “I put so much work into it; you look at it and you’re creating something. So, you get a deep connection to it, like a pet or something along the lines of that. But when it’s time to go, you know it has to,” he said. “Especially in my situation. I’m running out of space.” In the meantime, his garage/lab houses some intriguing works. While it may not have the unrefi ned rawness of folk art, each piece is informed not by the rigorous discipline of formal education but by the natural talent Chambers has in abundance.

Dell Chambers of Blessed Eye Arts

“I wasn’t really good at a whole lot of stuff at school, and I wasn’t the

“[Julie is] an amazing artist, and she was already moving her work in that

popular guy,” he said. “But when it came to art, people started telling

direction and selling,” he said. “She kept telling me I should try. There

me I was good, but I was like, ‘Can’t everybody do this?’”

was kind of some pressure. Not like I didn’t want to, but I was stubborn.”

The oldest of four boys in extremely rural Buckingham County, Virginia,

“Instantly, you can’t help but recognize his talent. The way he sees

Chambers grew up fairly wild amid field and stream. While he had the

highlights, depth, and shadow—his art is fantastic,” Jones said. “He’s a

talent for it, art at the time was just another class sandwiched between

true talent.”

math and study hall. Enter Ms. Kimberly Powers, art teacher. When Chambers decided to pick up the trumpet rather than continue in art

And then of course there is his wife, Gwen, who not only helped him

class, she physically dragged him out of the band room.

formalize the moonlighting he’d been doing into Blessed Eye Arts but also has encouraged him every step of the way.

“The fi rst day of band class she pulled me right out of there and said, ‘No you’re not; you’re doing art,’” he said with a laugh. She would not be the

“When I saw people were interested, I told Gwen, if I’m not going to do

last person to champion his art. Local artist Julie Jones was among the

anything else, I’m going to make my name known in Bluff ton,” he said.

fi rst to encourage Chambers as he formed Blessed Eye Arts.

“And it’s actually happening. It’s crazy.”

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I’ve learned to move off

energy. energy. energy.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

One of his biggest champions arrived the very first time Chambers set out his shingle as Blessed Eye Arts, at a festival in Bluffton’s Oscar Frazier Park. Two of his works, a massive portrait of an African elephant and a haunting portrait of Tupac Shakur, caught the eye of local entrepreneur Billy Watterson, who was readying for the launch of his Burnt Church Distillery. He needed an artist in residence. Chambers was a perfect fit. “I didn’t expect to sell anything; that was the funny part. That’s when it hit me that I can really take this art somewhere,” Chambers said. “Randell is incredibly talented and a passionate artist. He pours his heart and soul into each piece—so much so that you can almost feel the emotions he was conjuring with each stroke of the brush,” Watterson said. A rotating selection of Chambers’s work has graced the walls of Burnt Church Distillery since. Not too bad for a guy in his garage. Pardon, I mean his lab. “I feel like I just generate so much energy in here. That’s the blessing I get from art. It helps me learn myself. I feel like I’ve learned to move off energy rather than doubts and negativity,” he said. “I sit here and see the sky, see people moving . . . it’s different.”  Follow @BlessedEyeArts on Instagram to see each evening’s experimentation in homegrown art.

Juneteenth Those who drove through Bluffton during Juneteenth will no doubt have seen the banners bearing one of his works. “That piece was inspired by a vision I had in a dream, so I got Adrian to pose reaching up to me and Ashton took the shot; then I created what you see.”



THE PROMENADE | BLUFFTON, SC | 843.757.2529 |


CHARACTER At Palmetto Bluff, we put faith in good people, and we take pride in delighting everyone who explores this place. We believe the inspiration to create great places and great life experiences originates from the people on our team. Local Character introduces you to a member of the Palmetto Bluff team.

Written by: Allison Lane Photography by: Ruta Smith

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or every home designed, reviewed, and built at Palmetto Bluff, Design Review Board Administrator Ruth Ann Terry

is working behind the scenes to make it all happen, managing the guidelines that direct all construction. A self-proclaimed introvert with a passion for the arts, Ruth Ann doesn’t fit neatly into a box—nor would she want to. Over the years, Ruth Ann has found her niche in telling other artists’ stories, so much so that she ran a successful art gallery in the Upstate of South Carolina for five years before moving to the Lowcountry. When asked how art has affected her life, Ruth Ann put it simply: “It kind of is my life. It’s my release; it’s the way I get away from the laptop and how I clear my mind.” This passion for art is evident within her own home, where the walls themselves and the art that hangs on them have come to be physical expressions of how she is feeling. On any given day, you can ask Ruth Ann, “What is your favorite piece?” And she will tell you that it depends—it depends on the day, and it depends on where it is. On the day of our interview, her current favorite was a colorful painting hanging in her kitchen titled Say What You Really Mean. In it, the letters Y-E-S surround a mass of oranges, blues, and pinks, and in the very center, on the only area of black paint, it says, “No.” Minimalist artist Frank Stella famously said, “What you see is what you see.” And with Ruth Ann, there is so much to see.

I could tell you that I’m loyal and dependable because that is very true or that I always follow through with what I say I’m going to do, but I think the most marked characteristic is that I’m just comfortable being me.

Q. WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND AS YOU DRIVE INTO PALMETTO BLUFF? A . I’m organizing the day and personal errands

do the best I can every day. There’s certainly

food, art, home projects. My home is in constant

room to grow, and I still have a lot to learn, but

makeover mode.

I am comfortable in my own skin.

and deciding who needs to be first in line and what needs to happen next.


A . Thank you so much.


A . My passion is all things art—all parts of


A . I’m still putting things in boxes, recapping

it—and I have a soapbox for public art. I

A . Myself, I am just a mess sometimes. I laugh at

what was accomplished, and searching for

believe it should be the core of our education

myself every day—some days, multiple times.

what might have been overlooked. I manage

system, and I believe municipalities have a

that until I get to Highway 46, and then I try

responsibility to provide public art to people.


to leave it at the gate and move on. A lot of

Not everybody can go to a museum, but they

A . Anywhere along the river and the top of the

times, it’s not easy, so I lean on music to make

can walk down a street and enjoy a mural, a

the voices stop.

pretty landscape, or a sculpture.

Moreland Treehouse.

Q. BEST PALMETTO BLUFF MOMENT? A . Time spent with the Conservancy. I learn from



A . How about top artists: Leonard Cohen and

A . I’m actually reading three: Unexampled

Jay, Mary, Justin, and the staff every time,

Andrea Bocelli, especially Bocelli’s recent

Courage by District Judge Richard Gergel,

and I appreciate that so much. I absolutely

release of Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Diana Krall,

John Lescroart’s The Mercy Rule, and Charlie

agree with Jay 100 percent; it really does all

Stevie Nicks, and all things Clapton.

Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the

begin with the land.

Horse. I’m drawn to the last book because of


the illustrations.

A . My sons. We grew up together, and they’ve grown to be incredible people, friends, husbands,

A . Well, I’m a big ol’ introvert, so I am just as


and fathers. With four granddaughters, I find


it a pleasure to influence them, to travel with


them, and to push them past their comfort


A . I’d love to have the power to heal. Wouldn’t

happy as can be in my little square.


that be fun? The opportunities are endless—

A . We have an awesome Design Review Board.

great and small. Maybe I would have a

They care, they get it, and they really do


special wand for people who have bad

understand. They have been working together

A . I could tell you that I’m loyal and dependable

attitudes, and I would just heal their attitudes.

for over 10 years shaping Palmetto Bluff, and

zones and watch them fly.

because that is very true or that I always follow through with what I say I’m going to do, but I think the most marked characteristic

they work closely with and depend on input


is that I’m just comfortable being me. I don’t

A . Enjoying my home, traveling to family and

have anything else to prove, and I want to

friends, a little beach time. Creating something—

from the Conservancy and members of the development team. ◊

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Written by: Justin Hardy Photography by: Amanda Davis & Justin Hardy Illustrated by: Amanda Davis

Gray squirrels rely on seeds, tree nuts, acorns, mushrooms, and some leafy vegetation to maintain their highly energetic lifestyle. Primarily, they are what is known as a scatter-hoarder. This means they will eat their fi ll and spend the rest of their time hiding caches of food for the future. Burying is the most common method. What happens when an acorn or seed is buried by a squirrel and he or she fails to return? The same thing that happens when humans plant a seed and walk away. Ponder that for a moment. Whether they know it or not, squirrels are planting a forest for the generations that follow. Squirrels, in all of their gray glory, are key in forest health and the regeneration thereof. This is especially important for the maritime forests that blanket Palmetto Bluff . Aldo Leopold, famed conservationist and author, nods to this in A Sand County Almanac.. In chapter 2, “Good Oak,” he is in the act of cutting down a dead oak tree for fi rewood. As the growth rings within the trunk are revealed by the gnawing saw, he ponders the status of conservation in the year each ring was created. When the tree falls, he uses its wood to warm his cabin and cook his meals. He then returns the ashes of “the good oak” to his apple orchard as fertilizer. Then, in a stroke of genius, he says, “The ashes will come back to me, perhaps as red apples, or perhaps as a spirit of enterprise in some fat October squirrel, who, for reasons unknown to himself, is bent on planting acorns.” He understood that his day’s labor, warm feet, and delicious dinner owe a debt to some humble squirrel from yesteryear.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

As for a squirrel’s preferred homesites, they are great at etching out a life in many habitats but are most commonly found in areas with lots of mature hardwoods and mastproducing trees. Think live oaks, southern red oaks, hickories, and longleaf pines. If this sounds familiar, it is because the wild spaces of Palmetto Bluff are absolutely riddled with these trees. Squirrels nest in cavities within trees or in bundles of twigs and leaves high in the forest canopy. Often, one squirrel will have many satellite nests that provide options for sleeping and cover across their home range.

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P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

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P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

BRUSHING A BUTtERFLY Written by: Allison


Photography by: Ruta


The fi rst time I handled a bow and arrow, it was the summer of 2000, and I was 9 years old attending my fi rst sleepaway camp in the mountains of North Carolina. I was sporting a gap-toothed smile big enough to suck Jell-O through, a party trick I insisted on regularly sharing to the horror of my parents, and I felt like a million bucks in a coordinating athletic set from Limited Too. I started the fi rst full day of camp fi shing, where I managed to inadvertently hook a large turtle on my line. After a bloody scene on the fi shing dock with a dozen 9-year-old girls screaming and crying, I walked straight to the office in my jelly sandals and asked to be transferred to archery. I’ve forgotten most of the details of my fi rst archery class, but the feeling of notching an arrow, setting my sights on a target, and releasing it still sticks with me today. I’m competitive by nature, and in a sport where your only adversary is yourself, it can get addicting fast. Fast-forward to present day, and not much has changed about me with the exception of my smile, which is now sans gap, and my selection of party tricks no longer involves Jell-O. In an effort to get to know the 20,000 acres that Palmetto Bluff encompasses better, I scheduled an archery lesson at the Shooting Club. The day before my archery lesson, a powerful system rolled through the Southeast, bringing with it heavy rain and a 39-degree drop in temperature. By Thursday morning, it’s 51 degrees out, and a dense fog has settled over Bluff ton. I bundle up in my favorite pair of jeans, a denim button-down, and an old pair of Blundstone boots and pull my hair back into my favorite hat.

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P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

I have a little extra time before my lesson, and curious about what, if any, ties to archery Palmetto Bluff might have, I make my way to the office of Dr. Mary Socci and Katie Epps, staff archaeologists for the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy. Surrounded by walls of boxes, carefully labeled and cataloged, I listen as Katie tells me that bows and arrows have only been at Palmetto Bluff since about 1500 BCE, and that most of what people consider arrowheads are not arrowheads; they’re projectile points. The oldest projectile point found at Palmetto Bluff is a Paleo-Indian projectile point lost about 12,000 years ago. The most common hunting aid was an atlatl, a device you could put a spear in to throw the spear farther. Atlatls gave hunters a better range and were used for a long time until bows and arrows came along. With the evolution from the atlatl to the bow and arrow, though, came a transition in the social dynamics of hunting.

The oldest projectile point found at Palmetto Bluff is a Paleo-Indian projectile point lost about 12,000 years ago. “When you have a spear, you have more group hunting. A bow and arrow made it much more accurate, and you could carry a lot more than just an atlatl. It became less of a group activity and more of an individual or two individuals together hunting.” Armed with this knowledge, I make my way through Palmetto Bluff ’s winding forest roads until I arrive at 38 Laurel Oak Bay Road—the home of the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club. The place is in full swing, and a number of guests, residents, and staff members are checking in and getting ready. I watch as a resident whistles for her spaniel, which easily loads into a golf cart outfitted with custom holders on either side to carry two shotguns. I hear my name called and walk over to meet my instructor, Tristan. Fresh out of college and with an unassuming demeanor, Tristan introduces himself, and we load up into a club car and head out to the archery range. Not one to mince words, Tristan jumps right into our lesson. First question: “Right-handed or left?” “Right,” I reply. Second question: “Have you shot before?” I open my mouth, ready to regale him with tales of sleepaway camp and bloody turtles. “Recently,” he qualifies, almost as if he knows where my brain is headed. “Nope,” I quickly reply. He runs down the safety aspects of archery, and then it’s time to get down to business. Standing across from me, he says, “Starting out, you want a nice solid base. Our feet are shoulder-width apart, and it looks like you’re teeing up for a golf ball or baseball. When we’re holding the bow, I like to describe it like we’re holding a baby bird in our hand, holding it nice and gentle.” Baby bird. Got it.

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He runs through how to set my grip and how to nock an arrow on the string and shows me how to correctly draw the bow back using the tips of my fi ngers while keeping my back elbow nice and high. But when he tells me the arrow should touch my cheek, I pause and ask him to clarify because surely a flying missile shouldn’t use my face as a guide? Tristan tells me that yes, this is the most important part to making sure I hit the target consistently. “When you draw it all the way back, I want it right up against your cheek,” Tristan explains again. “When you’re ready to release the arrow, it’s almost like you’re brushing a butterfly. Just nice and gentle.” By this point, I’m laughing nervously, imagining someone trying to brush a butterfly while also trying to remember if my health insurance plan covers cosmetic surgeries. Undeterred, Tristan continues and runs through how to sight the target. Tristan points out my fi rst target, an easy enough looking bull’s-eye in the front left. I try to remember everything Tristan’s told me, pulling the string all the way back, up to my cheek, where I once again worry about facial scarring. After a reminder from Tristan to keep my back elbow nice and high, I release. I miss. It goes high and barely makes the range, let alone any kind of target. Tristan instructs me to push my front arm a little lower to move the arrow down. I do as he instructs and release, and lo and behold, it hits. It’s high, though, and Tristan reminds me again to push lower with my front arm. “Like this?” I ask. “Yes, but lower,” he says. I release the arrow, and it hits, but in the top left. Exasperated, I say, “Points for consistency?” Tristan tries another tact and shows me with his bow what I need to do. Mimicking him with mine but not truly believing this will work, I release, and my arrow sails right into the second inner ring. I hit red. I yell, “There we go! We hit red!” I notice that I’ve picked up Tristan’s use of the collective we, but it feels fitting. We did hit red. I shoot a few more arrows and then hit the red again. After a beat, I say, “You really do have to shoot lower.” Tristan, who has literally been telling me to do this the whole time, agrees that yes, I do have to shoot lower. I marvel at the patience of this man. It’s back to business, and after Tristan reminds me yet again to lower my front hands, I roll my eyes, do as he asks, and release. It hits the innermost ring: yellow. I notch another arrow and release. I hear my photographer, Ruta, excitedly say, “It hit center! It hit center!” Either I’m not paying attention or my eyes are failing me because I’ve missed this entirely. I whip my head back around and scream, “OH! Oh! Oh my god, IT WAS!” I did it. I hit dead center. I work my way around the other targets with varying amounts of success. “This can kind of drive you crazy,” I say, mostly joking but also feeling the tendrils of frustration beginning to form. Tristan, sensing this, simply says, “Mhmm.” I begin to think that maybe he prefers a less communicative pupil.

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In between reminding me to aim lower, Tristan tells me that archery is very similar to shotgun shooting. “With a shotgun, there are no sights, so you’re looking at a target like archery.” I ask Tristan what it is he likes about archery versus shooting. He laughs and says, “It’s easier to get people to hit the target with archery.” Never one to miss an instructional moment, Tristan tells me, “I could stand right behind you and tell you to get left, right, up, or down. With a shotgun, all of the targets are moving, so I can’t adjust on the fly like that.” I imagine moving archery targets and shudder. I continue to make my way around the targets, but with one eye toward the farthest target. It’s 55 yards away, and according to Tristan, not everyone can make it. Not ready to attempt it, I ask Tristan if there’s anything cool I should be doing. He thinks about it and says, “You can do it behind the back.” I’m intrigued and ask him to show me how. He does, and when it’s my turn, I fi re high and to the right. It’s a cool party trick, but so is hitting the target.

I notch another arrow and release. I hear my photographer, Ruta, excitedly say, “It hit center! It hit center!”

After 40 minutes of shooting, Tristan decides I’m ready to try the far target. My fi rst shot falls short, so I pull my back hand lower and release. It hits the ground right at the target. I try a few more shots, and unwilling to admit defeat, I grab another arrow, set my stance, and ask Tristan if my form is okay. He tells me this one might go way over the target. I stubbornly reply with, “We’ll see,” and release. It’s a direct hit. Feeling good and not willing to tempt fate, I decide to end on a high note. Tristan and I walk out to the targets to pick up the remains of my lesson, and I realize again just how far away these targets are and how once I was able to overcome my fear of facial scarring and learn to brush the butterfly so to speak, I was able to get to this point. While I didn’t learn any significant life lessons or kick-start my path toward an Olympic archery career, it was a great day, and that’s what it’s all about, right? Learning something about yourself and the people who came before you and having fun while doing it.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

Hilton Head Island



Interiors that reflect the true character of our clients. | 843.681.5122 | | @jbanksdesign Retail Store: 35 N. Main Street, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926 | @jbanksretail

BUILDING TO A HIGHER STANDARD P.O. Box 902 • 33 Boundary Street • Bluffton, SC 29910 • 843.757.8220 (office) •

lauren Jenkins PHOENIX RISING Written by:

Kristen Constantineau Photography courtesy of:

Lauren Jenkins

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he entire entertainment industry went into a tailspin in 2020, but for Lauren Jenkins— the self-proclaimed storyteller with a rootsy, raw sound and an Americana vibe—the year was both devastating and transformative. The lauded singer, songwriter, filmmaker, and

actress with a voice reminiscent of a smoky red wine (but a love of whiskey neat) had just come off of a banner year in 2019: she was chosen as a member of the Class of 2019 by famed DJ Bobby Bones; she made her TODAY show debut as Elvis Duran’s Artist

of the Month; she released her critically acclaimed debut album, No Saint, which garnered rave reviews from the New York Times, Billboard, and Rolling Stone, among others; and she performed on

school. But if that box was there, I would have checked that one.

countless stages, including Field + Fire at Palmetto Bluff and the

That would have been my thing. That’s what I’ve always, always

Grand Ole Opry.

loved,” Jenkins says.

And in early 2020, she had also just returned from a sold-out

So, not being one for road maps or set plans or playing by the rules,

overseas tour opening for Brett Eldredge in the UK and across

she made her own.

Europe, with plans to promote her album No Saint on a US tour. And with momentum like that, anyone would be excited.

“Around the time of 15 was sort of the catapult. . . . I signed with an agency out of Charlotte, and then I started traveling a lot to

But as we all know, the best-laid plans . . .


Memphis and New York and sort of throughout the Southeast. . . . I bought a car, I bought a guitar, and then I was playing anywhere that I could. I was working on whatever film projects I could.”

Touring since the age of 15 and playing in NYC nightclubs by 17, Jenkins is no stranger to life on the road and all that comes

Balancing her time between New York and Memphis—with some

with it. Born in Texas and raised in North Carolina, she draws

time spent in LA pursuing film projects—Jenkins remained

from her experiences and endless miles on the road—smoky bars,

committed to songwriting and spending time in the studio. After

failed relationships, and small towns—to connect with her fans

an appearance on a morning show out of Memphis, at the ripe old

and audience.

age of 16, Jenkins was approached by a music producer who wanted to record her songs. Not having any real industry knowledge or

And while music has been a constant companion, she’s always

money, she agreed.

loved storytelling. And while she credits this time in her life as “where it began,” she “I kind of bundle everything I do into that lane. It’s photography, it’s

still didn’t have any idea of where to go from there.

filmmaking, it’s songwriting, it’s performing—it’s all storytelling.” “With music and songwriting . . . I never had any mentors. I didn’t


Behind the camera or in front of it, if there’s a story to be told, she’s in.

have anybody tell me really how to do anything. How to do life . . .

“Professional storyteller was not something they talked about in

how to do this . . .”

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M






storytelling IT’S

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Yes, she’d bought a car and left home to begin touring at 15. She


homeschooled herself while on the road and even taught herself to

Between acting classes and waitressing shifts to pay for them,

play guitar. (“I just knew . . . well, I’ve got these songs, and it sure

music always remained Jenkins’s goal. Burning the late-night oil

would be nice if I could play and not have to rely on anybody, which

in a city that never sleeps, she booked her own gigs—playing at

is sort of my MO with life . . . how can I do it myself?”) But she

legendary clubs such as The Bitter End and The Living Room—and

had no idea how to make music a career. What she did understand

even found time to record new music.

was acting and filmmaking and the idea that music could be an actual career. So, with her background and love of storytelling, she

And it was this music that caught the attention of Nashville record

decided to move to New York to attend acting school.

execs, landing Jenkins meetings with some big labels. So, after a phone call and some last-minute waitressing shift changes, Jenkins

And then Nashville came knocking.

hopped a flight to Music City, USA, and after some pretty heavy courting, she was offered a record deal with Big Machine Records. Lauren Jenkins was 21. With a record deal on a label alongside artists that included Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw, she went back to New York, finished acting school, and then made the move to Nashville to begin her music career. However, not one to be landlocked for too long, Jenkins spent the next few years splitting her time between Nashville (where she recorded in the studio during the week) and Charleston (where she’d spend her weekends). “There was a guy at the time. There’s always a guy. I got a lot of song ideas from Charleston,” Jenkins notes. And for the next several years, things seemed to be going well. In addition to directing music videos for fellow artists, she released an EP titled The Nashville Sessions in 2016; collaborated with fellow songwriters on her full-length debut album, No Saint, released in March 2019; and cowrote, directed, and starred in the short film

Running Out of Road, a cinemagraphic music video trilogy that accompanied No Saint. Shot on a road trip that began in North Carolina and ended in New Mexico and Wyoming, Running Out of Road was the first short film that Jenkins had complete control over, putting her on the map as an emerging artist with an undeniable gift of storytelling. “The director and co-creator on it, Cole Smith . . . we met in middle school riding the bus together. We did two trips to make the short film and the music video trilogy. . . . We drove from North Carolina to New Mexico in my car,” Jenkins says.

cancellations. And on top of all that,


her management company informed her that her label was severing ties. But don’t count this self-described “strong-willed” girl out. Just another roadblock in what seems to be a never-ending road trip in telling her story, Jenkins went back to the drawing board and released the single “Ain’t That Hard” in May 2020—her first single as an independent artist. “At the time . . . under the direction of my label, I thought we were making the second record. So, I was planning it, and then when that happened, I was like ‘Oh, well, let’s just go ahead and

But even with a critically acclaimed album and an accomplished

record now. I want to release this song now,’” Jenkins says.

piece of musical filmmaking—chosen as an official selection in the Roswell Film Festival—plans to promote No Saint by releasing her

With a newfound freedom and no more feelings of being “held

first single “Running Out of Road” never materialized. And Jenkins

back,” Jenkins proved that label or no label, she’s always kind of

was abruptly dropped by her label.

done her own thing.


“I didn’t get into the music business because I wanted to be in the

It was March 2020. She had just returned from her overseas tour

music business . . . so when the departure with the label happened,

with Brett Eldredge, a devastating tornado had just swept through

nothing really changed. I think it kind of actually freed me up,”

Nashville, and the COVID-19 pandemic was causing tour date

Jenkins states.

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what i do

Admitting that she does things very differently (“I don’t always play by the rules,” Jenkins says) and had feelings of being “held back” at times, there was something exciting about being independent. “It felt really important to almost immediately release music . . . for myself, to remind myself, ‘No, you did this before without a label; you can do this now.’ And the song was a good reminder to me as well . . . because I think that sometimes when we’re going through things, we kind of feel like we’re the only one. And that’s just not the case,” Jenkins states. She adds later, “Also, there’s a lot of heartbreak in the world, and it’s not that hard to be kind. . . . And it’s also not that hard to really break a heart. So, don’t.” With all of this talk about breaking hearts, one may think “Ain’t That Hard” is one of those sad, post-breakup songs, when in fact, it describes Jenkins’s (and many others’) ability to stay strong, rise above, and learn from past experiences. “You hurt me good, but that’s just you, and I’ll move on, ’cause that’s what I do,” Jenkins sings in the bridge of this thoughtprovoking ballad. Inspired by her experience with Big Machine and observations made while on tour, this acoustic number with its delicate cello and soulful vocals transports listeners to small towns across America with soulful lyrics that sing of “main street bars and football teams . . . rusty cars and homecoming queens.” It’s the art of a storyteller who is able to find those common threads that bind us together . . . wherever we may be in the world.

LIVESTREAMS FROM THE LIVING ROOM A wanderer at heart, the past year has been the most time Jenkins has spent in one place since she left home at 15. However, with new music to promote and the pandemic canceling any sort of live music shows, Jenkins found a way to connect with her fans—and an ever-growing audience that can’t get enough of her songs—via virtual “live from home” shows from her living room (often joined by her rescue dog, Cooper).


homecoming queens “I was super hesitant about them at first. . . . But, I will say,

“This year has taught all of us that we can’t get through this

I’ve probably done hundreds since the beginning of this

thing without each other. Sometimes it’s as simple as a kind word.

pandemic . . . and my favorite thing that I’ve seen out of it is

We have to help each other out.”

those connections that I’ve personally been able to have with people around the world. I’ve seen this community build,”

In addition to using a percentage of her virtual tip jar to donate to

Jenkins says.

a variety of charitable causes, Jenkins also acknowledges that it was the support of these fans that allowed her to pay her everyday

“I’ve seen people become friends. People that have never met

living expenses as well as fund her new recordings.

in real life . . . and now they’re friends. . . . And that, to me, is so cool. It brings a different kind of fulfillment.”

“Life can be really tough. I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many strangers who I can call beautiful humans.”

And it’s this virtual community that Jenkins has built—thanks to her big heart and her ability to capture the essence of human


emotions with her lyrics, guitar hooks, and melodies—that

With the same kind of storytelling and picking up where No

has supported her and lifted her and others up in a year when

Saint left off, Jenkins has been working on her second full-

community and connection has never been more important.

length album and her first as an independent artist. With plans

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


to unveil the album through a series of EPs, fans will be able to

And also, I think there’s a couple of songs on the No Saint record

pre-download parts 1, 2, and 3 before being able to buy the full

that I will always, always love that I’m really proud of, but as a

record later this year.

whole, this record is definitely some of the strongest writing I’ve ever done.”

“I didn’t want people to have to wait for the full record . . . and so that’s why I’ll sort of tell this story in three parts.

Another major difference between No Saint and the new record

You know, this record really kind of picks up where No Saint

(tentatively titled Miles on Me) is that fans may have already had a

left off. It’s very recent; it’s all the things

sneak peek at some of this new music. That’s

that have transpired since then.”

right: if you tuned in to any of Lauren’s

The first song, released in April, is titled “Like You Found Me.” Part rock anthem and part ode to independence (“I’m finally fine on my own”), this song gives fans a taste of the newfound freedom and different perspective that Jenkins is able to embrace on this new record. “You didn’t find me cryin’, you didn’t find me broken, didn’t find me bitter or haunted by ghosts, so, if you leave me,


leave me like you found me.”

livestreams this past year, you may have actually heard a few of the songs already. “Through





playing the songs that are on the record and so people already know some of these songs that are going to be on there. . . . I think it’s going to be so fun when I get back on the road because all the fans are going to know the songs already,” Jenkins says with a smile. In between the livestreams, finishing the new record, and continually perusing her

It’s also a reflection of lessons that the last year has taught Jenkins.

inspiration board with plans for another music video trilogy/short film to go along with her new music, she’s ready to get back on the road.

“I think I’m a better writer, and I’m also . . . in a lot of ways a better human. I’ve grown up, and I’ve learned a lot. You know that first

“As soon as I can tour and play places, I am there. Like, I am

record, some of it was some of the first songs that I wrote when I

gone yesterday.”

got to Nashville. I was pretty young at the time. So, I think just


the perspective is different from this record, in a really good way,”

You know what they say:

Jenkins notes.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. •

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

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joe’s kansas city bar-b-que

KANSAS CITY DOESn’t really roll off the tongue in the company of places like penang or libson or finland.

And yet, there it is along with these others as the featured destination of its very own episode in the penultimate season of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain’s itinerant foodlogue that ran for nearly a decade on the Travel Channel. In the summer of 2011, I received a call from the Emmy Awardwinning show’s producers. Bourdain was coming to film in my hometown. And of course, he was coming for barbecue, which I had the gall to tell the producers was morbidly cliché— everyone comes to Kansas City for barbecue. Sure, our per capita density of barbecue is unrivaled, but wouldn’t they rather showcase our second-tier city’s mildly burgeoning independent restaurant scene instead? No. “Tony wants to do the show to end all shows on barbecue.” I rolled my eyes, fully aware that I’ve never been near an Emmy, let alone produced a television show. They wanted to film two segments with me. For one of them, Bourdain wanted to meet me at my favorite barbecue restaurant in the city. That was easy, I told them, it’s Oklahoma Joe’s (which has since changed its name to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que). Bar-B-Que But Bourdain said no; he had already written about it a couple of years earlier. In fact, he was the one who arguably launched the humble gas station restaurant


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

american royal world series of barbecue

into orbit when he named it one of the “13 Places You Must

with pickles and two slices of white bread slapped on top. It’s

Eat Before You Die,” alongside a glittering constellation of

the type of barbecue that most people, foreign and domestic,

Michelin-starred destinations for gastronauts, including The

associate with America.

French Laundry in Yountville, California; El Bulli on the Costa Brava of Spain; and the dreamy sushi counter at Sukiyabashi

I like Joe’s Kansas City because it does everything well. You

Jiro in Tokyo (Bourdain’s article appeared in the July 2009

have to if you’re going to win the Grand Championship title at the

issue of Men’s Health).

American Royal World Series of Barbecue. Barbecue It’s the world’s largest and most prestigious barbecue

But, I protested, Bourdain was right—Oklahoma Joe’s was the

competition, which has been hosted annually in Kansas City

best barbecue I had found in the city. And if he was asking to

since 1980. The owners of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Jeff

feature my favorite spot, that was it. Whether it was my honest

and Joy Stehney, and their team, Slaughterhouse Five, Five

fl attery or my stubbornness that prevailed, I don’t know, but

have won two Grand Championship titles and have placed fi rst

they relented.

in nearly every meat category, including lamb and sausage.

If I look nervous in that segment, it’s because I was. Eating

What they do especially well at their restaurant, in my opinion,

barbecue—especially Kansas City–style barbecue—isn’t exactly

are ribs, dirty rice, and chicken. No one ever thinks of ordering

what you want to be doing on national television. As I explained

barbecue chicken, because let’s be honest, it’s usually dry. But

to Bourdain (with sticky fi ngers and feeling terrified of eating

the chicken at Joe’s Kansas City, I tell everyone, is de rigueur.

the rib in my hand), while the Gulf Coast and Texas rely on dry rubs, Kansas City barbecue is wet. Whereas Carolina pitmasters

Kansas City’s pantheon of barbecue is crowded. There’s a reason

mop their whole hogs with a thin, vinegary marinade, ours

Bourdain wedged it in between trips to Mozambique and the

slather everything from beef to pork to chicken to turkey to

Croatian coast and why it’s known as the capital of American

catfi sh with a thick, dark, sweet, and sometimes spicy sauce

barbecue, an honor that my Southern friends have a strangely

and serve it with a walloping dollop of sauce on the side. And

difficult time accepting. Perhaps, I tell them, they wouldn’t

unlike other regions, in Kansas City, your meat always comes

object as strongly if they also accepted my very well-reasoned

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


american royal world series of barbecue

lc’s bar-b-q

argument that the great state of Missouri belongs more in the

from the meat smoking above. I also prefer LC’s sauce, which

American South than in the Midwest. But they will have none

is high in vinegar, an important foil for the fattiness of the

of it. Well, sorry friends, you can’t have your burnt ends and eat

meat and beans.

them too, especially if you’re in the South, because you won’t find them there. Burnt ends are specific to Kansas City. If you

Although Kansas City has welcomed younger guns to the scene

encounter them anywhere else, you’re in the wrong place.

in the last decade—places including Q39 and Slap’s BBQ—the old guard still holds its own. Much of the appeal is the throwback

Although Calvin Trillin made Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue

charm at institutions such as Gates BBQ, BBQ where everyone on

and its burnt ends famous in an article he wrote for Playboy

the line screams “Hi, may I help you?” when a customer opens

magazine in 1972, celebrating the scraps of brisket bark that

the door. It’s comically aggressive yet bizarrely heartwarming.

the counterman would lay out for customers while they waited

Like the greeting, the barbecue lamb ribs there are not only

to order, I go to LC’s Bar-B-Q for them instead. Arthur

uniquely Kansas City but also taste of a bygone era.

Bryant’s is good for slaw—I like my cabbage chipped, not


shredded—but LC’s has far better burnt ends. LC’s also has

But isn’t that true of barbecue everywhere? Whether you’re

my favorite baked beans, chunky with shaggy scraps of meat

from the Lowcountry or from the northern corner of Alabama,

and full of flavor, owing to the fact that the trays of beans are

where the sauce is milky white and zippy with horseradish,

set at the bottom of the smoker to catch all of the drippings

or you’re from China like my parents, barbecue is suspended

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M


sorry friends, you can’t have your burnt ends and eat them too, especially if you’re in the south, because you won’t find them there. burnt ends are specific to

kansas city.”

gates bbq

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


slaughterhouse five

in nostalgia. Having lived in the US now twice as long as he did abroad, my dad has yet to discover an American food he likes, except barbecue. In fact, he loves it. The meeting of sweet and salty, sour and spicy, with a hint of smoke overlaps with much of Chinese cuisine. Familiar and comforting, it was far better than any Chinese food he could find when he first arrived on these prairie plains half a century ago. In a land of strange flavors—he’s exasperated by the ubiquity of cheese, for example—this saucy pastime has become a trusted companion for him. It’s doubtful that the second episode of the eighth season of No Reservations brought down any curtains on America’s romance with barbecue, as Bourdain hoped. I think that’s a good thing. He had asked me during those days of filming what I liked about barbecue. At the time, I couldn’t say. I told him I’d think about it and get back to him. A decade on, the answer is obvious: clichés and all, barbecue is home.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M


you’re from the Lowcountry or from the northern corner of Alabama, where the sauce is milky white and zippy with horseradish, or you’re from China like my parents, barbecue is suspended in



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P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M


Justin Jarrett BR Design Co.


FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


Growing up on a dirt road outside the small southwest Georgia town of Dawson, Cassandra Browner Richardson and Carlene Browner found themselves with plenty of time on their hands, but they definitely wouldn’t call it downtime. Their mother, Queenie, wouldn’t have it.

“She’s always told us you can’t get anywhere standing still,” Carlene recalls. That mentality led to marathon sessions crafting everything from handmade wreaths to homemade garments, and it allowed Queenie to pass on her passion for creating the handmade polymer clay jewelry that landed the Browner sisters and their Charleston-based BR Design Co. on the TODAY show, jump-starting a family business that has been decades in the making. The hobby they picked up when Cassandra was 9 years old and Carlene was 6 has evolved into a full-fledged business nearly 45 years later, to the point that the sisters are eyeing an even bigger expansion as they approach retirement. Cassandra, now 53 and a registered nurse, and Carlene, age 50 and a fi rst-grade teacher, never stopped making jewelry, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they joined forces to take the side project to the next level. Cassandra and her family moved to Charleston in 1998 for a US Navy appointment, and Carlene joined them in 2003 when Cassandra’s husband, Trevis, was deployed. The Lowcountry’s appetite for art and culture proved the perfect incubator for sharing—and selling—the fruits of their lifelong labor with others. “Charleston just had that maker support group,” Cassandra says. “It’s not that we were trying to do it on a bigger level; the demand just became bigger. It really surprised us, because we had been doing it so long, so when people started looking for it and stores started wanting

She’s always told us you can’t get anywhere standing still.

to carry it, it kind of threw us for a loop.”



P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

So, imagine their surprise when Cassandra received an email from a

The sisters make a dynamic duo—Cassandra

producer at NBC’s TODAY show—just a couple of months after BR Design

works the clay and Carlene handles the

Co. had been featured in Garden & Gun magazine—asking the sisters to

design process—while Trevis lends a

overnight some of their jewelry to be showcased to a worldwide audience,

hand drilling holes in earrings. When

on Carlene’s birthday, no less.

Cassandra and Trevis’s daughter, Caitlyn, is home from Winthrop University, where

The response was overwhelming. The segment aired at 9:18 a.m., and

she is studying accounting, she plays a

over 100 orders came through the company website before most folks

role too.

were sitting down for lunch. “For about two weeks, it was insane around here,” Cassandra recalls. “It was fun and nerve-racking at the same time.”

“It’s a family thing,” Cassandra says. “People always think we have like a little

And it has hardly let up. The newfound exposure, combined with the

factory here, but it’s literally just the three of us

extra effort the sisters put into developing their website and social media

and my daughter when she comes home from college.

presence during the COVID-19 pandemic, led to unprecedented demand,

You would think by now we’d be tired of doing it, but it’s

which meant extra work for a small, family-run operation.

fun. It’s fun to see how it turns out.”

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


ot some th n s ’ It ing

t. h that’s g i done overn

The assembly line style suits the sisters’ opposing personalities. Carlene is

know we’re putting our heart and soul into this product. It’s not just

the organizer, a skill honed by teaching elementary school for nearly three

something you’re buying off the shelf.”

decades, and Cassandra is more scattered, a product of her lifelong career as a nurse.

Fans’ fascination with the process wasn’t something Cassandra and Carlene were counting on, but now it’s leading to other opportunities.

“We grew up in the same house with the same mama, but she is very

They were featured as Palmetto Bluff ’s Artists in Residence this past July,

organized—that’s the teacher in her—and I am very fly-by-the-seat-of-

teaching classes in earring and necklace design and showcasing their work

my-pants,” Cassandra says. “I’m a nurse. You never know what’s going

at Palmetto Bluff ’s Artist Cottage.

to happen.” It’s quite a change for two women who grew up in rural Georgia and weren’t Up until the past 18 months, BR Design Co. did most of its business in

even on Facebook until recently. “We just never put ourselves out there

person, whether it was in a booth at the Charleston City Market—“I think

before,” Cassandra says. “We just made our products and took them to the

we had perfect attendance every Friday and Saturday night,” Cassandra

people. When we started being on social media, we started getting calls

says—or at festivals or pop-up shops around the city, but when the

from people. I guess if we had put ourselves out there a little earlier, maybe

pandemic set in, something had to give. The rarely used website got a

it would have happened, but everything happens for a reason.”

refresh and became a lifeline to the loyal customers the sisters had grown accustomed to seeing regularly, and it helped spread their reach.

Indeed, the timing was impeccable. Both sisters are nearing the end of their careers, Caitlyn is a year from graduating with her accounting degree, and

They reluctantly delved into social media too, and Cassandra’s Instagram

the pandemic pause allowed the Browners to take a break from the daily

posts giving folks a peek behind the curtain opened up a whole new world

grind and focus on the future.

of customers—and caught the attention of celebrities such as Julianne Moore and, eventually, the TODAY show.

But they also take care to reflect on how they got to this point and give thanks to their mother. Both sisters say their work can’t match the quality of


“I think now that people have seen that, they understand that this is a

Queenie’s, and they have lamented over the years that her talent was isolated

process; it’s not something that’s done overnight,” Carlene says. “People

to a small community where she gave away most of the pieces she created.

P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

“We always joked with her that she probably should have moved to Paris or somewhere,” Carlene laughs. “Her vision was so much bigger than the little place where we grew up.” They’re honored to be cementing their mother’s legacy, and Queenie is ecstatic for her daughters. “For me, that was the icing on the cake, to see my mother’s face on the TODAY show,” Carlene said. “It was so wonderful to see her picture up there, because we would not be where we are if it wasn’t for her. It was overwhelming.” With the business taking off , it’s fi nally realistic for the sisters to consider retiring from their day jobs and giving BR Design Co. their full attention, and after a year and a half of doing business digitally, they’re ready to get out and interact with customers again. And those customers now come from all over the place, so it’s time to invest in a van and take their jewelry to the people. Queenie approves. “We don’t want to just stand still,” Carlene says. “The next thing is to put the business on the road. Keep moving.” 

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


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HALF-RUBBER A W H O L E - H E A RT E D COAS TA L O B S ES S I O N Written by: Tim Wood

It is a game you may have never heard of, but it is such a beloved

Herb and Russo played all through high school and were part of

cornerstone of our region’s history that two states have a century-old

Benedictine Military School’s 1961 state championship baseball

blood feud over who invented it.

team, the school’s fi rst state title.

It may have become a national sensation if TV network censors didn’t

In the late 1970s, famed Savannah city athletic director Pearson

consider its name so bawdy in the 1980s. Its popularity has ridden

DeLoach was approached by Mayor John Rousakis—a half-rubber

generational ebbs and flows since its storied creation in the 1890s, and

junkie himself—to play the fi rst World Invitational Half-Rubber

now, half-rubber appears ready for another breakout moment on the post-

Tournament at Grayson Stadium.

pandemic beaches of Georgia and South Carolina. DeLoach, ever the promoter of his beloved city, had watched his dad Some Northerners might say the game is a rip-off of Brooklyn street

play epic Sunday afternoon battles in their government housing

stickball, but the baseball-obsessed, blue-collar workers of turn-of-the-

neighborhood. He wanted the world to embrace the game, so he

20th-century Savannah and Charleston couldn’t always afford the nickel to

approached NBC’s TODAY show and legendary weatherman Willard

buy a legitimate baseball. So, they’d pool their pennies to buy a three-and-

Scott about promoting the tourney. Scott and his producers were

a-half-inch rubber ball and cut the ball in half so two families could play.

game but wanted to find a more family-friendly name than “halfrubber” to sell to the network censors and a national TV audience.

Historians can’t peg which city owns the lineage, but they can

No deal.

agree that by the 1920s, half-rubber reached a fever pitch among working dads, their friends, and their sons on

“Pearson wasn’t having it, none of us were, so it stayed our beautiful

the streets of Savannah and beaches of Charleston.

secret,” Russo said. “Today, it’s nothing. We have cornhole on ESPN, but back then, it was a scandal.”

The game requires a hitter, a pitcher, and a catcher with fielders as a luxurious option. Mop handles were cut to size, about 42 inches back then

The early tourneys had as many as 64 teams, including many coming

but closer to a kid-friendly 30 inches today. Pitchers threw the ball flat side

from Charleston, claiming to be the kings of the game. Russo and

down like skipping rocks on a pond. But these balls did so much more.

Herb dispensed with the out-of-staters in the inaugural tourney and five more times over the years, winning their last title at age 50.

“That sucker would rise, curve, come in like a knuckleball. Unlike a Wiffle ball, you really could control that half-rubber,” said Charles Russo,

“Them Charleston Rebels held up the white fl ag of defeat many times,

longtime Savannah fi sh market owner and one half of a world-champion

thanks to Denny and me,” said the now septuagenarian Russo.

half-rubber duo with his childhood friend Denny Herb. “We learned to play when I was eight. We’d play at recess at Blessed Sacrament or while

Guys like Ricky Myatt aren’t so willing to give up their claim to the

I was waiting on my papers for my paper route to be dropped off . At fi rst,

deed though. The former James Island High School and Citadel star

we used bottle caps, but then we heard about half-rubber.”

athlete said his fi rst memory in life was centered on the game.

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1



“My dad would take us to Folly Beach on the weekends, and I remember

“Everyone is looking for new outdoor games post-pandemic. Get me on Shark

the sound of the mop handles rolling around in the back of the truck,”

Tank, and we will blow this out,” he said. “This game is pregnant with potential.”

“Dad loved the game, and he was some kind of good.”

Bluff tonians including Johnny Clemens would agree. Though not as serious about

Myatt said.

the game as his city counterparts, the unofficial Mayor of the Sandbar in the ’80s Myatt went on to a 25-year career as a postman in the Front Beach area. He had

and ’90s said the game was a staple of his and many other Bluff ton boys’ youth.

an eye for real estate and invested in area houses and opened a beach volleyball bar in the late 1970s, Malibu East. He told his dad he was going to break out of

“This was a sugar refinery favorite. Our dads would work their butt off, come

the middle class and retire young—and he achieved that. Ever the entrepreneur,

to Bluff ton on the weekends, and play half-rubber until dark on the Sandbar,”

Myatt never forgot his family’s love of half-rubber.

Clemens said. “Morris Robinowich owned Planters Mercantile on Calhoun Street, in Old Town Bluff ton; he had the best balls. We’d sneak Mom’s electric carving

petroleum. The pair created a patent for the mold and got a Charleston woman

The balls were a quarter each by then, but worth every penny. It was a working man’s

named Peggy Hibbs to bankroll an elaborate marketing rollout in the 1980s that

game. My friends Bolden and George Simoneaux, the Cramers, all electricians,

went belly-up quickly, which created an opportunity for Myatt.

were all half-rubber addicts. Come the weekend, it was the perfect beach and

He’d seen a local duo find a way to manufacture half-rubber molds from

knife and cut that sucker in two.

beer game.” Myatt approached his friend, fellow James Island High School alum turned lawyer Paul Schwartz. “I wanted to buy the patent, do this as a memorial for my dad, who thought we were idiots for wanting to do it,” Myatt said. “That just

They teach it to today’s kids enthusiastically, but guys like Clemens want nothing

made me all the more determined to make this a business.”

to do with the origins debate.

He and Schwartz bought the patent in 1986 and started Landshark Productions

“It came from Savannah, migrated here, but what does it matter?” Clemens said.

to market half-rubber balls, bats, and merchandise. Thirty-five years later, Myatt is still making a modest living in retirement, packaging the half-rubbers

“My T-shirts on, they have the half-rubber as the moon, the bat

and bats for shipping in his garage. He’s seen the ingenious molds used for

as the base of the palmetto tree like a state logo,” Myatt said. “I have friends,

everything from yoga and Pilates balance balls to a vibration dampener for

guys that played on the tourney teams like the Rebels, that will go to the grave

sound engineers.

claiming half-rubber as Charleston’s. But heck, I’d make ‘created in Savannah’ T-shirts all the same. I’m Switzerland here.”

“If MacGyver had a half-rubber and duct tape, he could build a helicopter,” Myatt said. “I think it’s a tremendous hand-eye coordination teaching tool. Major

One man far from neutral is Russo. He says the rivals can’t even agree on how

leaguers like Matt Wieters and Justin Smoak grew up playing half-rubber. Some

to spell the game—Georgians prefer “half-rubber” while “up-the-coast elites”

coaches swear by it; others think it screws up kids’ training. You throw that curve

prefer “half rubber” or “halfrubber.” But he and longtime friend DeLoach are

ball, it comes to the plate looking whole like a baseball.”

lockstep on their claim to the pastime. He heard DeLoach once say that General Oglethorpe had not an English staff in his hand but a half-rubber stick.

Legend has it, Michael Jordan’s minor league coaches tried to use halfrubbers to teach him to hit a curve. Myatt is still convinced the game is ready

“This was, is, and will always be a Savannah thing. Denny and I don’t get around

for a spotlight moment.

on the ball quite so well anymore, but we’ll still take all Charleston comers,” Russo said. “Half-rubber is all Savannah.”


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

The Lowcountry’s Premier Provider of Interior and Exterior Surfacing Materials

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New England broadcasting icon Randy Price has traded a lapel mic for pruning shears as he embraces the passion challenge of his lifetime.



P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

Life’s Next Harvest

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The seeds for this new life were planted 10 years ago. After all, you don’t just tell a TV legend—a 40-year fi xture on the Boston airwaves and the nation’s first openly gay anchor—that it’s time to sign off. Let alone give up four decades of New England living for a complete life reorientation. Randy Price needed a bit of a nudge. The Baton Rouge native did his time in the South; a return engagement didn’t top his wish list. His soulmate of over 40 years, Mark Steffen, had an edge though. Mark is a master gardener, so he knows a thing or two about fertilizing a sprout. “We both wanted to get out of the cold, but after 28 years in Maine, it’s a lot to take in,” said the veteran newscaster. “Mark knows me so well though. We want to do year-round gardening, and South Carolina is the mecca for that. Once he planted the seed, I was a fanatic. I became obsessed with finding the right home and making this happen.”

“We want to do year-round gardening, and South Carolina is the mecca for that. Once he planted the seed, I was a fanatic.” Whether it’s gardening, breeding cocker spaniels, advocacy and philanthropy, or Randy’s unprecedented tenure anchoring the top newscasts in Boston, when Mark and Randy commit to a project, they are all in. For 70-year-old Randy, gardening is the centerpiece of a new chapter in a life well lived. Randy grew up in Louisiana, the middle-class product of a hard-as-nails, pennyFrom top: As a Baton Rouge Eagle Scout, Randy made it a point to get news/journalism merit badges | The new cool guy on campus radio | On the air with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (in Guam and Thailand).

pitching mom and a kindhearted refinery worker. “We were Protestants; we didn’t talk to Catholics, and we certainly didn’t talk about being gay,” Randy said. “When I told them, they were supportive. My dad said, ‘I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, but we love you.’ And that’s all that needed saying.” Randy went to college thinking of architecture or medical school at LSU and Louisiana Tech, where he heard the campus radio station was looking for volunteers. “I don’t know why it hit me. I had no real drive before that to be a journalist, but it sounded like fun, and once I dove in, I was really hooked,” he said. Randy spent four years in the Air Force in the Vietnam War era, reporting for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. It was there he was first on TV, thrown into anchoring by necessity, learning on the fly. “I had a knack for it. The pressure of it all, it didn’t really faze me, or at least I guess it didn’t look like it.” Once he was back in the US, Randy looked west to officially start his TV career. He moved to Los Angeles and worked as a studio stagehand, where he made friends who helped him craft a solid demo reel of his military on-air work. That led to a TV reporting job at KERO-TV in Bakersfield, California, where he first met Mark at a friend’s party. “He just had this Midwestern charm and a real pure heart. We clicked almost immediately,” Randy said.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

When Randy was looking to make his next career change two years later,

“Folks like a comeback story, and I wasn’t shy about my mistakes,” he said. “I am

Mark was by his side for a move to Toledo, Ohio. “I carefully engineered

so blessed to have had folks who championed me in those dark periods.” Randy

my career, but Mark, he took things as they came with his career and made

used his second chance to become a passionate proponent for those fighting

it work. He always found a home and ended his career as a CEO, doing far

alcohol and addiction, all while anchoring what became the top-rated newscast

better than me.”

in Boston.

Randy’s four-year stint in the bigger Toledo market attracted talent scouts

“Folks like a comeback story, and I wasn’t shy about my mistakes.”

from TV titan Westinghouse, who offered Randy his pick of where to go next. “I was looking for a place that was going to be a safe lifestyle choice, so we looked at Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Boston. I had no idea picking Boston would be such a perfect fit,” he said of the biggest career decision of his life. Randy began at WBZ in 1982, anchoring the morning news. His personal touch with stories and interviews made him a quick fan favorite and led to the nighttime anchor desk. “I quickly found Boston to be a beautiful, welcoming city, so much texture, so much energy and importance for a city that never felt that big.” Coworkers knew he was gay and had met Mark many times. But in the late ’80s, it was still a very taboo topic in the industry. A 1990 interview with an LGBT newspaper changed all of that. “It just came up. We were never hiding it, and someone asked. This paper passed the story on to the Boston Globe, and it started getting traction,” he said. “All of a sudden, I’m the nation’s first gay news anchor. And I didn’t mind the moniker. I’m proud of it.” Randy received national attention, including an offer from Joan Rivers to appear on her daytime talk show. “They were focusing the show on secrets, but this was no secret,” he said of declining the offer. “We lived in family neighborhoods, we had work parties, had so many friends. I was honored to be with Mark.” The pair officially married January 3, 2007. Randy rapidly became the poster child for the Boston pride community, which thrust him into the world of advocacy and endless speaking engagements. “The embrace from the fans, it was special, and it made me want to focus even more on giving back,” said Randy, who become an active and longtime voice for the autism, animal rescue, and LGBT communities. “I became a public speaker, which I’ve never done, but I was so touched by folks’ stories and causes, so it just

Randy at his home in Palmetto Bluff, with canines Sophie and Kobe who have adjusted to life in South Carolina just fine.

became an extension of who I am.” The speeches and emceeing gigs were followed by parties and, according to Randy, some bad alcohol decisions that led to the darkest period of his career. A second and very public drunk driving arrest in 1995 was followed by an abrupt end to his time at WBZ. “I was never an at-home drinker; alcoholism

Back at his home in Kittery Point, Maine—a commute he made to Boston for

didn’t run in the family,” he said. “I just stayed too long some nights and made

28 years—Randy and Mark were fostering hobby passions of their own. Mark’s

bad choices. And because of it, I spent a year and a half off the air, and a lot

lifelong zest for gardening and Randy’s love of cutting the grass led to endless

of those good-time friends disappeared. I didn’t know if I’d ever work in the

hours manicuring acres of their marsh-front greenery.

industry again,” He said an industry friend eventually “brought me in the back door” at rival station WHDH, where Randy began as a field reporter before

And then there are the dogs. The couple were longtime pet people, but

working his way back to the anchor desk.

Randy’s surprise holiday gift for Mark led to a new obsession.

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“Mark said this black and tan looked like he could go to shows. We got connected with a woman in the know in Cape Cod, and before we knew it, our Rudy was showing worldwide,” Randy said of a 20-year run on the dog show circuit. Rudy and his offspring won shows all around the world. Rudy, whose portrait hangs in the couple’s master bath, has sired more than 100 show champions. Randy said it’s the connections with the families that made the hobby so enjoyable. “I mean, the winning gets addictive for sure. Some is good, more is better. But it’s the personal relationships we made that kept us in it for two decades. Because the politics in that world, that was a lot.” “Connection” is a word you hear when folks speak about Randy. As he concluded his 38-year tenure atop Boston’s media hierarchy, the tributes rolled in from politicians, fellow broadcasters, and viewers around the country, many talking about his From top: After military reporting, Randy was on to TV news assignments in Bakersfield and Toledo | Running the iconic Boston Marathon was something he had dreamed about, and accomplished | Randy and Mark have always had a full house of dogs.

unparalleled ratings success and his numerous humanitarian and professional awards, including the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Award—the industry’s highest national honor given to Randy for overall excellence in a large market newscast. But above all, his selflessness and endearing humanity were a common theme in the salutes. So many, including the veterans’ groups that Randy championed in his annual Veterans Day telethon on WCVB—his on-air home for the last 10 years of his career—are sad to see their hero leave. One of his loyal fans estimated that among speeches, emceeing events, story coverage, and a mere mention of a cause, Randy helped raise more than $40 million for charities in his time in Boston. “I’m proud to be like my dad in that regard. He cared, he had compassion, he gave of himself effortlessly,” Randy said. “I loved telling stories and was so grateful that folks so often shared their most trying and intimate emotions with me. So, it was just natural to give back and make that such a priority. It was a privilege.” He feels blessed to have ended his career working with one of the most honored stations in the country and to have spent a decade with Jenny Barron, “the best executive producer and boss I’ve ever had.” COVID-19 made his farewell tour far from ordinary. He spent a year pre-pandemic commuting from Bluff ton to Boston, four days there, three days here. When air travel was no longer possible, he set up a ring light, his iPhone, and a Skype connection into the WCVB studios from his home office in Palmetto Bluff. Randy embraced the industry’s rapid adaptation of remote broadcasting, and as a result, viewers of the Eye Opener morning show got an even more intimate peek inside the final days of his career. Randy’s calming and uplifting demeanor made him a lockdown must-watch, leading station president, Bill Fine, to convince Randy to stay six months longer than planned.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

On his fi nal show on May 20, 2020, he left his best work for last—a four-minute tribute to the viewers and champions of his career, a master class in writing and broadcasting right to the fi nal seconds before the cameras went dark. “For 38 years, New Englanders have trusted me and my colleagues to bring them the important news and information of the day,” Randy said in his sign-off message. “I thank you for that trust and [for] inviting me into your home.” “I’m not a farewell party guy. This was just perfect, ending by sharing my new beginnings,” he said. Now, Randy and Mark get to indulge in their passions alongside their two canine companions, springer spaniel Sophie and Doberman lap dog and former show champ Kobe. From their favorite day lilies they have transplanted from Kittery Point to the varieties of Southern garden favorites, the garden design is meticulous and the planting locations are the product of careful research and consultation. “We dug up and bagged our day lilies. To see them bloom here, it was magical,” Randy said. “We have many specimens of camellias; they are the crown jewel of Southern gardens, and we knew they needed just the perfect setting. We looked around Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana to fi nd just the right variety. It’s a whole new ball game down here, so we’ve done our homework. All these plants we never had up North—the crepe myrtles, the magnolias—we were studied up when we came here.”

“All these plants we never had up North —the crepe myrtles, the magnolias— we were studied up when we came here.”

From top: Along the way, Randy ended up getting married on the Massachusetts State House lawn, and viewers shared their joy | Celebrating the 2018 World Champion Red Sox | The studio news team with whom he shared his last goodbye.

Whether it is long bike rides, researching and planting the next fine specimen, or immersing themselves in their new community, Randy said every day is and will be full. “I am a project person, like my dad. There will always be new obsessions that we will be all in on. We love to travel, love new food. Places like Scandinavia are a summer destination, and we could never do that with caring for our garden in Maine. But now with year-round gardening . . .” He paused, thought about the words he’d uttered and laughed. “Oh Lord, yearround gardening! We may never leave.” “It’s a scary new world, but I’ve noticed there’s plenty of New Englanders here to make me feel welcome,” Randy said. “Most of all, we’re enjoying the beauty of Palmetto Bluff , the neighbors biking by, the incredible sunrises. I’ve never been so excited for what’s next.” 

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Bluffton boy shucking oysters, circa 1913. PHOTO: Courtesy of Lewis Wickes Hines

Much Ado About Nothing Written by: Dr. Mary Socci

World War I posters proliferated by the US Food Administration to encourage patriotism through food conservation.

On January 9, 1918, FBI Agent William V. O’Brien

everyone to conserve food was embraced as not only a

arrived in Bluff ton, on the trail of a possible enemy

way to contribute to the cause but also a patriotic duty.

operative working for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Across the country, families pledged to reduce their

O’Brien quickly sought out the local informants who

use of sugar, wheat, and meat so those supplies could

had tipped off the authorities. A member of Beaufort

be sent to the troops and European allies. “Victory

County’s Food Conservation Committee had reported the

gardens” sprouted in backyards and public spaces, as

suspicious behavior, but that official had simply relayed

communities turned to local production to save food

details provided by Miss Ruth Padgett, the schoolteacher

and fuel for the soldiers.

at Palmetto Bluff . Miss Padgett taught the children of the employees of Richard T. Wilson Jr., the owner of the

While the conservation of food was voluntary, there was

20,000-acre property.

enormous social pressure to participate in the effort. The US Food Administration’s campaign “Food Will Win the

Although some Bluffton residents worked for the

War” blanketed the country in posters, advertisements,

Wilsons, many of the household staff were from Europe.

and newspaper articles on Americans’ duty to conserve

Irish, English, Danish, Scottish, and Norwegian servants

food. Schoolteachers sent home pledge cards for parents

were among those who attended the family at their home

to sign that affi rmed their family’s commitment to

in New York and accompanied them when they traveled

“Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, and Porkless

south to their winter residence at Palmetto Bluff. In

Saturdays.” And this is what led to Miss Ruth Padgett’s

1917, Mr. and Mrs. Kover from Hungary were among the

suspicions of an enemy agent at Palmetto Bluff .

Wilsons’ employees. During the last week of October 1917, Miss Padgett issued At the time, the United States was embroiled in World

food conservation pledge cards to her students at Palmetto

War I, fighting against Germany and the Austro-

Bluff . The children dutifully took the cards home for their

Hungarian Empire. As American troops battled abroad,

mothers to sign. Over the next few days, the signed pledges

those at home rallied to the war effort. A request by the

came back—all except the card from the Kover family. The

new federal agency the US Food Administration for

Kovers’ card was returned unsigned.

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While an unsigned card might have raised eyebrows, not everyone participated in the pledge card program. In a few parts of the country, officials bragged that 100 percent of the pledge cards were signed. In other places, the percentage was much lower. The Charleston Evening Post reported in January 1918 that 100,000 families in South Carolina had signed the pledge and that the goal was 300,000. So, if young Steven Kover had stayed silent when he returned an unsigned card to his teacher, it might have resulted in only a disapproving look from Miss Padgett. Perhaps it was fear of his teacher’s displeasure that prompted Steven to offer an explanation. He said his mother “would not sign the card because her sympathies were with her own country and she would not do anything she thought would harm her own country.” One can only imagine Miss Padgett’s shock at hearing this bit of information—and it wasn’t information she thought she should keep to herself.

Miss Padgett reported the Kovers’ refusal to sign the pledge to the Food Conservation Committee in Bluff ton. Over the next few weeks, this tidbit of intelligence worked its way up various ladders of authority until it landed on the desk of Lewis J. Baley, head of the Georgia branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Baley referred the case to the South Carolina branch in Charleston, since any action the bureau took would need the approval of the federal attorneys in South Carolina. The Charleston office dispatched Agent O’Brien to investigate. After spending the night in Bluff ton, Agent O’Brien arrived at Palmetto Bluff by boat on the morning of January 10. He was taken to see Charles Newton, the manager of the Palmetto Bluff estate. Newton confi rmed that the Kovers had been employed by Wilson in May 1917 and that they had worked for Wilson until December 28, when they had been let go. Newton could not give specific details but


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M


He said his mother “would not sign the card because her sympathies were with her own country and she would not do anything she thought would harm her own country.” Ruth Padgett to the Food Conservation Committee

said he believed the Kovers’ sympathies were with the Central powers. Still, he had to admit he had never heard the Kovers make a disloyal statement. O’Brien interviewed other employees of the Wilsons. No one had ever heard the Kovers make any kind of comment that could be construed as suspicious. Miss Padgett confi rmed this, saying the only thing she had heard was what Steven Kover had told her about the pledge card. Still, as the Kovers were from the Austro-Hungarian


Empire, O’Brien decided to track them down.




The captain of the steamship Attaquin said the Kovers were passengers who had been on board when the ship left Palmetto Bluff on January 1. He reported that later that day, the Kovers had disembarked in Savannah. Despite the Kovers’ nine-day lead, O’Brien set off for Savannah.


He soon established that the Kovers’ luggage had been


taken to the Ocean Steamship Company. That company’s ticket agent turned over the passenger records for O’Brien’s


Agent O’Brien

perusal. O’Brien had missed them by just 36 hours.

The Kovers

The Kovers had left for New York City on a steamship at 5:00 a.m. on January 9, and O’Brien had arrived in Savannah on the afternoon of the 10th. Perhaps disappointed at the escape of his suspects, he returned home to Charleston the following morning. Today, it seems absurd to think that the Kovers were enemy agents, and even if they were, that they could have infl icted damage to the United States through their employment by the Wilsons. Yet paranoia often accompanies patriotism, as it did at that time. Even in Beaufort County, a place far removed from the front lines and war rooms of World War I, people were arrested for statements that were considered anti-American. As for the Kovers, there are no records that indicate further pursuit by the FBI after they left Savannah. They may well have remained completely unaware that they had caused a stir in Bluff ton and Palmetto Bluff and that they had eluded the FBI.

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Lowcountry From the

to the Wine Country

Written by: Barry Kaufman Photography courtesy of: Josh Peeples

How a Lowcountry kid with a famous family name ended up f lourishing in the fertile soil of Napa Valley.


ven if you’re not a wine person, you’re at least familiar with the concept of terroir. At the risk of radically

oversimplifying it, terroir is the distinctive notes of both fl avor and bouquet that inform a wine’s overall experience, derived from the conditions in which the grapes were cultivated. To experienced wine people, terroir is everything. In each sip, they can discern the difference between loamy and sandy soil, sampling the subtle impact that topography, climate, and rainfall have on the resulting vintage. It’s the same with people, sometimes. You can talk with someone and almost hear the place where they fi rst took root in the timber of their voice, the patterns of their speech, and the outlines of their personal philosophy. As an example, it doesn’t take long to discern that, while he embodies indelible notes of Napa Valley in his passion for wine, Josh Peeples’s terroir is pure Lowcountry. The son of Hilton Head Island power couple Tom and Mary Ann Peeples, his upbringing on Hilton Head Island informs everything he does. The fi rst and most obvious notes of his South Carolina origins come in the unapologetically casual approach he takes to life. After all, we are no strangers to elegance here, but pretentiousness is usually in short supply. “People make fun of me, but I think Bud Light is the greatest beverage ever made,” he said with a laugh. “I’m trying to take wine off its pedestal. Let’s just start with a thumbs-up or a thumbsdown. Our culture at the winery is, just because it’s the most expensive wine, it doesn’t have to be your favorite. And don’t feel bad if it’s not.”


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

FA L L / W I N T E R 2 0 2 1


“I’m trying to take wine off its


. Let’s just start with

a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

Our culture at the winery is, just because it’s the most expensive wine, it doesn’t have to be your favorite. And don’t feel bad if it’s not.”


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

If you haven’t developed your palate to the

San Francisco instead,” he said. “My father had

intricacies of the Lowcountry, you may take his

great advice when I told him I was thinking

comment as one of irreverence, but the truth is

about not going to school. He said, ‘Law school

more nuanced. Peeples has a deep respect for

has been there for 200 years; I’m sure it will be

wine and the industry that has grown around it.

there for a few more.’”

But with Elyse Winery, the mission is to disrupt the old model.

After a few years as a “weekend warrior,” heading out to Napa in between workweeks in the suit-

“The old guard of Napa who were here in the

and-tie start-up space, Peeples found himself

1980s, they’ve stuck to their guns in terms of

lured by the business of soil, water, and grapes.

how business is done,” he said. “We’ve found

“A big draw for me is that wine is fundamentally

some creative loopholes in how we market wine.

a quirky business. . . . I get to be CEO, COO, and

It took me 15 years to crack that nut, but we’ve

director of marketing all at one time. There’s

fi nally got it.”

never a boring day,” he said. “And I’m not really a cubicle guy.”

While Elyse is a vineyard like so many others dotting Napa Valley, the key difference is the

And what could be more Lowcountry than that?

way they’ve fl ipped the script. In addition to

Well, I’ll tell you: fostering a true sense of

producing wine under the Elyse label, Peeples

Southern hospitality.

and his partner, Russell Bevan, produce smaller labels’ wines, including Standard Deviation, Addax, and Institution, and open up their facility to other wineries, serving as an incubator of sorts

“During the fires of 2020, we had just installed

“Robert Mondavi instilled in Napa

a very large generator, so we let a dozen wineries process at our place for free because

for the next generation of great wine and giving

back in the ’60s this philosophy

no one had power. That’s just something you do

new producers the advantages he never had.

that we all have to make better

because one day it could be us,” he said. “Hilton

“Robert Mondavi instilled in Napa back in the

wines. If there are only one or two

’60s this philosophy that we all have to make

really good wineries, no one’s going

better wines. If there are only one or two really

to come. We all learned from that

good wineries, no one’s going to come,” he said. “We all learned from that mentality. A rising tide

mentality. A rising tide lifts us all.”

lifts us all.”

Head has that same mentality. Whether it’s a hurricane or fire, people come together to help each other out.” That philanthropy, such a distinctive note of those raised on the Lowcountry’s sandy soil, is a prominent note in Peeples’s profile. “I learned it from my father. You need to be there. You

As such, Elyse not only gives smaller labels

“I’m hyperprotective of not changing the look

need to do more than just write checks,” he said.

access to their equipment but also happily

and feel of Napa Valley. Growing up in Hilton

“Like when you go to the Hilton Head Island

shares resources when it comes to navigating

Head Island, you learn to respect that,” he said.

Seafood Festival and you see (event founder)

the byzantine laws surrounding wine. “One of

Andrew Carmines still running the show.

the crazy things about being in the industry

Just the same, the wine world has taken notice.

I grew up with that being the norm. We can raise

as long as I have, there’s a lot of hyperacute

That disruptive mentality traveled with Peeples

tens of thousands of dollars just by showing up

rules you learn. Every state has different rules,”

from Hilton Head Island to San Francisco in the

for a dinner. You feel like a jerk if you don’t.”

he said. “We can leverage that knowledge for

late ’90s, drawing him toward the pre-bubble

smaller brands, and we can extend that back-

dot-com era.

office knowledge and that guidance.”

Nearly 2,900 miles separate Hilton Head Island and Napa Valley, but that charitable spirit

“After graduation from College of Charleston, I was

unites them. That approachable charm Peeples

And while he’s trained his sights on the old

supposed to be on Hilton Head just for the summer

has made a vital part of Elyse Winery? That’s

Napa Valley business model, he still holds the

before heading back to law school. I decided to

as Lowcountry as a cool Bud Light on a hot

traditions of the area in the highest regard.

skip law school and explore the start-up world of

summer day. •

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Molly Fienning

PHOTO: Courtesy of Cameron Wilder


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M


Courtney Hampson

INSPIRED is the story of founders and the inspiration behind the brand and/or movement they started.

In 2014, following the birth of her son, Fox, Molly Fienning was on a mission. After nine months of craving oysters and dirty martinis, Molly was headed out to cure what ailed her. She and her husband, Ted, popped into their favorite oyster bar and ordered. The server asked, “Would you like hot sauce for your oysters?” To which Molly quickly replied, “No.” “Are you sure?” nudged the server. “It is good. Our chef makes it specifically for our oysters; it’s cold-pressed. . . .” Molly relented. After her first taste, she declared, “This is the best thing I’ve ever had.” As they were leaving, she told Chef Geoff Rhyne to give her a call if he ever wanted to bottle and sell his hot sauce. He did, and Molly knew in her gut this would work. “I like the product. I like Geoff. That was it.” This was not Molly’s fi rst foray into entrepreneurship; she launched

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Johnny Autry

Babiators a decade ago. After a day on an airfield (where her Marine pilot husband was stationed) watching kids squint at the sky, Molly saw an opportunity and a brand was born. But her drive to create started long before that; raised in Manhattan, she was “always building things.” Drawn to science and math, she double majored in electrical engineering and computer science at Harvard, where she wanted to eventually study technology and its implications on society.

Fueled by her gut, Molly saw the potential for Red Clay to be a best-in-class brand and went all in. Following graduation, Molly started her first job at IBM, and she quickly learned she was not a corporate person or a cubicle person. “I loved the team, I loved my boss, but I didn’t want to be on the bus. . . . I wanted to drive the bus.” And drive she did, from IBM back to Harvard and a think tank gig studying

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Deep Dive

the internet and its effects on education. This landed her in Washington, DC, where she reunited with Ted, her college boyfriend, that “nice Southern boy” her mother always told her was the one. Feeling the call to serve after the attacks on September 11, Ted had joined the Marines after graduating in 2001. Their second chance at love was a whirlwind romance: “And suddenly I am married, living on a rural military base, and realized whatever I do, I have to be able to take it with me when we move again and are stationed somewhere else,” Molly said. So, back to the oysters, the hot sauce, and the aha moment. Molly became a silent partner in Red Clay Hot Sauce, and for four years, the brand enjoyed its time as a popular, local, artisan product until she asked, “How can we do more?” Molly understood the millennial customer and knew she could take this brand national. But her partner Geoff was clear, saying, “I just want to

PHOTO: Courtesy of Cameron Wilder

make sauce.” Molly did not blame him. In fact, it is his commitment to family and balance that draws her to him—their shared values are what make this partnership work.

What keeps you centered? Fueled by her gut, Molly saw the potential for Red Clay to be a best-in-class brand and went all in with a new logo, new branding, and a new website. They relaunched Red Clay. Molly stepped in as CEO (a role she first thought would be perfect for her husband), and a pitch to Fresh Market landed them on their

I tend to go all in. I enjoy the butt kicking. But I also love being a wife and mom, so I know I can’t live in extremes. I am

first grocery store shelves. Today, they have national distribution in several

thoughtful about what I let in my life and

grocery store chains, and the Red Clay brand has expanded to include salts

how I bookend each day.

and hot honey with an annual revenue topping $3 million (up from $70,000 before the relaunch).

What advice do you give others? But at the end of day, Molly says of Red Clay and Geoff, “We remain true to our shared values: family, friends, farmers, good food, and good drink.” ✥

Know yourself. There is no quick journey to success.

What inspires you?

I think about what brings the spirit of life into me. What am I doing here? What brings out the spirit within? And for me that is the greater good and helping others.


P A L M E T T O B L U F F. C O M

the bluff F A L L



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