• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

bftlifestyle

story by Stephanie Cardozo  photos by Paul Nurnberg

Joy King lives a “sweet” life in true form. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved here and has now called Beaufort home for over forty-one years. She lives here with her husband, her children, her sister, her nephew and his family. Having her family close to her brings great happiness to Joy, especially because she has the ability to share the success of the Chocolate Tree alongside them.

    The Chocolate Tree first opened its doors in 1980. Before their delicious treats made their way to the shop, Joy’s sister, Pat Green, first started making chocolate candies as a hobby from their home. With help from friends, they would give away samples of their treats and soon began selling candy-making kits. Teaching chocolate lovers, like themselves, to make delicious sweets flourished far quicker than they imagined. Pat Green later opened a small shop to sell supplies and soon they realized that they had to expand. “Basically, it just snowballed from there.”

    Enthusiastically, Joy speaks of her sister’s dream of opening the Chocolate Tree. “My sister opened the store thirty-seven years ago and I was the first employee,” she says with much pride. She has helped, from the very beginning, in the blooming of the chocolate candy-making business.

    “I started working at the front. I’ve done just about every job that can be done in the store. I ran the production for a long time. Now my nephew runs the production while I oversee everything from ordering and booking to maintaining the sales floor,” she shares.

   Proving she can just about run the business with her eyes closed, how does she achieve a work-life balance as a business owner? “It gets crazy sometimes, during the holidays it can get pretty wild. I work anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours a day. My kids are all grown, so they’re used to it. They worked here part-time when they were in school, so they understand what it takes to get the job done,” she adds.

    Having her family close, as well as working the business with each of them at one point or another, really seems to have helped balance Joy. She never really feels like what she is doing is actual work, but instead, an environment that is invigorating. Making people smile by providing them with home-made decadent chocolates is a huge part of what keeps Joy’s passion and drive running high.

   When she thinks back to what lead her to success with the Chocolate Tree, she humbly answers, “Well, it’s a little bit of everything. I learned from my sister and grew along-side her.” As for the business, they both put so much hard work and time into it. “One of the best things we ever did was join the Retail Confectioners International, which just celebrated their hundredth year. We are still a part of that organization and Pat is a past president and I served on the board. It’s a loving group that share and help. So any time situations arise, they are always there to give you information and suggestions and point you in the right direction. So, it really is a little bit of everything,” she explains wholeheartedly.

     The Retail Confectioners International is reputable organization that provides confectioners with reliable sources, networking and ever flowing suggestions in order to see their clients and business with success.

    A woman in business, even the “sweet” kind, needs to have a team that works alongside her and continues to do what is beneficial to the business, as well as providing the best service and quality products to their customers.

     It all began with a small idea in a South Carolina home that burst with growth and became the thriving business it is today, the Chocolate Tree. Joy says, “It is family dynamics, working hard and a collaboration of the environment we’re in…and the community that embraced us.”

   Looking at what could have gotten the Chocolate Tree this far, she joyfully expresses, “Well, it could be that everybody loves chocolate.” She laughs and continues, “Somebody once told me that nine out of ten people love chocolate and the tenth person just lies.”

     Joy’s light and bubbly spirit ties perfectly in the candy-making business, “It’s just a fun business. People come in for happy occasions and the town has really made it their own. On Saturdays, parents come in with their kids from a week at school with good behavior for a treat. It’s just a really neat place to work, because it doesn’t really feel like work.”

     Joy’s advice for those looking to go into the candy-making business is, “You have got to do something you enjoy. It gets crazy sometimes, but I would just say, perseverance and hard work go a long way.”

     All you chocolate lovers should stop by and meet Joy and her staff…it is sure to be a “sweet” adventure.

story by Mary Ellen Thompson     photos by John Wollwerth

No wonder Lulu Burgess, the shop ’til you drop store at 917 Bay St. E, is such a success with Nan Sutton at the helm. Nan’s boundless energy and optimism, coupled with her love of humor, are a recipe for success.

     “I have a sense of humor which I inherited from my father. I love to laugh so I started selling humor. People like to laugh but sometimes they don’t know how; they can come into Lulu Burgess and laugh. Life is too hard, too serious.” Nan is referring to the selection of items she sells in the shop from books about farting to cocktail napkins that will make you need a napkin to wipe your funny tears, to bacon band-aids and air fresheners, pencil sharpeners shaped like a nose, and plastic cockroaches so you can take a taste of the South with you wherever you go.

     “I opened the store on April 29, 2000. I had come back from New York on January 31 to be with my mom who was ill; on that day I met my future husband. I had already rented the space while I was in New York, and when I came to see it there was Mike Sutton, who was a contractor for the renovation,  standing in my store.

     “Before I left New York, I knew I needed a job when I came back to Beaufort. I wanted to be in retail. I had no experience but I was a student of merchandising.” At first the store, named after Nan’s childhood nickname, Lulu, and her mother’s maiden name, Burgess, carried gifts and home accessories, but it has moved into mostly gifts and accessories with some clothing and fabulous affordable jewelry.

     “Good retail is theater. I think people want to be entertained, have fun. It’s what will save us from Amazon. Mom and pop shops offer a personal experience. If we want our downtowns to survive, we need to patronize local shops. One of the things about Lulu’s is that someone who has only $5, $10 or $15 can buy a cool gift and have it wrapped. When I was growing up in Beaufort, if you wanted to buy a cool gift for a little amount of money, you had to go to Savannah or Charleston. I want everyone to have fun. I work in the store six days a week. I’m all artistic; things like spreadsheets give me the hives.”

      “We do videos on Facebook for Filmtastic Fridays; usually I do them with Nell Smith who is just hysterical. (You can see them on LuluBurgessBeaufort on Facebook if you go to videos.) I pick the products ahead of time but the videos are totally done by the seat of our pants.”

     Nan is also very civic minded. A member of City Council, she sat in on council meetings for eight years when Mike was a member. “I also do public service videos. I did one about Hurricane Matthew the day after the storm hit. It was the only video out there because news crews couldn’t get into Beaufort; the Savannah and Charleston crews were busy filming their own devastation.” Nan ran for City Council last year because, “I felt like the city was going in a good direction. The election came up, two seats were available, and I decided to run. I wanted to make sure we keep moving forward because I love this town so much”

     After Nan graduated from the College of Charleston, she went to work on Hilton Head. She had been involved in the theater in Charleston, and one day she received a phone call from a casting company. “I hung up on them. They called me back, and next thing, I was driving to Howard Johnson’s Charleston to meet a casting director. Sitting in the restaurant were Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan who were the producers. The director introduced me and then took me to a room and asked me to read. It turned out he was Wes Craven, who was one of the most famous horror film directors of all time. He called me the next week and offered me a part in Swamp Thing, as Swamp Thing’s sister, Linda Holland.

     “After the filming, I got a letter from Wes. None of my scenes had been cut but the director said I couldn’t be Swamp Thing’s sister because he was Northern and I was Southern and didn’t sound like him, (my line was, ‘It was replicating like mad but when I said it, it came out ma-ad’) so they dubbed my voice. Swamp Thing died at the box office but has become a cult film.”

     In 1984, Nan decided to go to New York City and become an actress. She studied with Uta Hagen and says, “I had the talent but not the ability to promote myself.” After a few odd jobs, Nan accepted the offer of a friend to work for Restaurant Associates, which was a private catering company exclusive to the United Nations. “I became Director of Services and managed all the private parties at the UN for eleven years. We were there to do all the diplomatic receptions and private corporate parties.”

     During her years there, Nan met dignitaries and famous people such as Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Taylor, Yasser Arafat, Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin, Vaclav Havel, Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright and many others. “It was quite a heady experience,” she recalls. “The highest function was when the Secretaries Generals came to the State luncheons for the General Assembly. It was amazing, but it was very stressful, especially dealing with the famous people’s handlers. I learned a lot about people. Richard Nixon winked at me during a small luncheon. After everyone else had left, Bill Clinton stayed and talked to the waiters and service people.”

     These days, when not sitting in City Council meetings, Nan revels in meeting and greeting the folks who come into her shop for gifts, browsing, or for a peek at her sense of humor.

Story By  Julie Hales   photos by Susan DeLoach

Takiya La’Shaune Smith has made her mark in the world…all coming from facing the worst of situations…she has overcome adversity in many shapes and sizes…and walked away a winner.

    But the road was not an easy one.  It came with many struggles.  Turning 40 years old earlier this year, she reflects about her past and how that past has made her the successful woman she is today.

   As she shares, she says, “I feel like my age is starting to catch up with me.”  At only 40 years old, this doesn’t sound like much of a problem. But to a 40 year old that has already done so much, perhaps it would make one think. She continues, “They say that 40 is the new 30.  But one week into it, I was thinking, ‘Oh Lord, I’m 40, What am I gonna do.’”

   Takiya even laughs at herself after saying that. Then, the serious side takes over. She adds, “I have had a very hard, rough life and I am to the place now that I can see how God has blessed me. I have been in the work industry since I was 16 years old, but I have no complaints. God has been good and I love every day of my life.”

   God has blessed Takiya Smith. She is the owner of Beautique Lash and Brow in Beaufort.  Her road to reach this goal has been rocky to say the least….some just small pebbles, others, giant boulders.

    “My current business was born from being homeless. I grew up in a two parent home.  My dad was in the Marine Corp. My mom was a stay at home mom, she worked here and there, not because she had to, but sometimes just to help out when my dad was deployed. My childhood life was dysfunctional to say the least. Even though I had two parents, my dad was not always there and not always the man a father should be. In this situation, young women sometimes look for love in the wrong places and have relationships for the wrong reasons,” Takiya shares.

   That may sound a bit stereotypical, but, all too often, it is the case. And, in Takiya’s case, it is exactly what happened. She definitely sought love and relationships as a way to replace that love she missed from her father. She says, “I had bad relationships all my life, I made bad choices. When I was in my mid 30’s, I met a guy I thought was the one. I knew this man for nine years…thought he would never hurt a fly. It turned out, he was physically abusive. He put me in a big house. He bought me fancy cars. He gave me anything I needed or wanted. But, there is no substitute for abuse”

   At this time, her children were 3 and 9 years old. She knew she needed out. One morning, he and Takiya had an altercation. She knew this was the time.  She grabbed her two children with just the clothes on their backs and no shoes on their feet. They were homeless with no place to go.

   When leaving, Takiya had an income tax return coming to her. She took that money and made one of the smartest moves she has ever made.  She invested that money into a trade…cosmetology.

    That decision was a way for her to invest in herself and the future of her children.  And, that decision has helped her become the woman she is today.

    “I utilized my pain, I buckled down and I made it happen. But, I never wanted to share my ‘life story’ with anyone. I would listen to all the girls who came in for my services tell their stories, but I never wanted to share my own trials and tribulations. Then, one day, I heard God speak to me.  He told me I should start sharing my story and let people know what I have gone through. When I finally did, I felt like a weight had been lifted. People then knew I was now in a better place, and I recognized that as well,” Takiya says.

    This recognition she speaks of gave her hope. Now, her business and her story have meshed together, creating a platform for her to speak, to tell her story in an effort to help others. She shares, “I don’t think there is one day that will ever go by that I forget where I have come from and where God has brought me. I can’t. It’s my story and it’s what I do everyday. One of the things I tell women today when I speak, is that for me personally, I found my purpose in my pain.”

    That is a profound statement! She explains, “The very thing that I didn’t want to share, that I didn’t want to divulge, that I didn’t want to ever face or look at again in my life was the very thing that set me free. It was very liberating.”

    There are a lot of women in today’s world that need to hear that. The things women go through…being mothers, daughters. sisters, mentors….there is already a huge sense of responsibility. Then add on top of that sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, other painful things that women have endured…each person has a different story.  But, it helps to be able to release it and talk about it.

BUSINESS

    It is no secret that Takiya Smith has been very successful.  She took an investment she made in herself and for the betterment of her children and turned that investment into a business…..or, in her case, businesses.

    “When we were homeless, I was just trying to get a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. I did not intend to start a business. I went to school to do permanent makeup. While in school, I started doing lashes and would practice on family and friends. In only 3 months time, I had so many people reaching out to me that I had to find a location. Seven years later, it is still snowballing into other things and other opportunities,” Takiya says.

   In 2010, she opened her first business, Beautique Lash & Brow.  In 2014, client needs began to change and more brow services were in demand. Hence, the birth of a brow bar, The Brow Company Beauty Bar & Makeup Studio. Both these businesses now share the same space…located in Beaufort Town Center on the first floor facing Boundary Street.

PUBLIC SPEAKING

    More and more people began to hear Takiya’s story.  Women coming into her business would hear her story and were fascinated at her accomplishments. A lot of these women were involved in different organizations.  She was asked by a member of Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA), now recognized as Hopeful Horizons, to speak to a group of women about domestic violence.

   Hopeful Horizons, formerly CODA, provides professional support services to victims of intimate partner abuse and their children. Committed to the belief that safety from violence and freedom from fear are universal rights, Hopeful Horizons conducts education programs to confront the social norms that condone abusive behavior.

   Her speaking career spun from that CODA Meeting.  Now, she is invited to speak at women’s groups, organizations, church functions and she has spoken in various school districts across the state mentoring young girls.

   Speaking has been good for her, giving her another outlet to help those in need.  She shares, “I am a woman of faith. My business is a ministry. No matter your faith, the word ministry means to invest in, to give to, to aid in.  And, I do that in speaking. It is very fulfilling to me.”

TALK SHOW HOST

    Takiya Smith was contacted by the show, Girl Talk, to be featured on the show to talk about the brow bar when she expanded her business. After the show aired, the camera man told her she needed to do her own talk show, that she had a very powerful story. Not thinking much of his statement, the thought just went away.  Two short weeks later, she was contacted by WHHI-TV about being a guest host on one of their talk shows. She agreed.

    She remained a guest host for WHHI-TV for about a year and a half.  In January of 2016, Takiya went to the station manger and told him she had an idea she wanted to pitch to him. She obviously did a great job.  The first episode of “Inspired with Takiya LaShaune (her middle name) aired in September of 2016.

    The show is about extraordinary women sharing extraordinary stories. She has a panel she chooses from and she selects local women in the lowcountry. She has made her story a platform for other women to share their own backgrounds…..and back stories. This gives successful women the opportunity to share how they got where they are…the good, the bad and the ugly.

   “It amazes me how my life and my story have enabled me to give other women the platform to share their own experiences. We have received positive feedback in the community…it is truly a blessing,” Takiya shares.

THE FUTURE

    When asked about any future plans, Takiya doesn’t miss a beat.  It is obviously something she has given much thought.  She tells us, “I am transitioning. My brand has been built to be a franchise. I am expanding globally.”

     She has marketed her own brand over the past few years and began making connections worldwide. She is re-branding to Takiya La’Shaune Salons. This branding came about because people started connecting with her name more than the business names. The new name will encompass every facet of the beauty industry – medical spas, nail salons, lash spas and brow bars.

   The plan for the new roll-out of Takiya La’Shaune Salons is to be up and running within the next 6-12 months. Also, with this, she will be consulting.  She will be available to consult with people who want to open a lash spa or a brow bar, or anything in the beauty industry. She will be contracted to help people get their business running from ground zero…from opening the business, marketing, hiring, building clientele…learning all the ropes.

PERSONAL

    Takiya is a single mom.  She has two children that she can’t say enough good things about. Her daughter, Mayah, now 19, is in pre-med at the College of Charleston.  She wants to be a trauma surgeon.

   Her son, Jaeden is 14 years old.  He attends Bridges Preparatory School.  Jaeden is quite the little entrepreneur himself, owning his own business, At Your Service.  He aspires to attend Clemson University and be a Bio-Engineer.

   Being a mother, her focus has been her children. She knew that focusing on her career was a means to an end for what she and her family needed.  Her faith in God has helped lead her to who she is today.

   “I love people. I love hearing stories about people that have overcome hardships. It’s where I find my purpose. When you can be selfless and put somebody else’s needs first, even when you are in need, it’s so gratifying. That’s what this life is supposed to be about,” shares Takiya.

    Takiya La’Shaune Smith has found purpose from her pain.

Story by Cindy Reid   photos by Paul Nurnberg

The photographer. The person who is there, yet not there. Unobtrusive, quiet, but yet persistent. The person who preserves, captures and presents you with all the glorious images from your big day, from your wedding or special event. The maker of the tangible memories, the photographs  that you and your family will cherish for generations. The  photographer Susan DeLoach is Beaufort’s  memory maker.

     You may have seen Susan clicking away at the Beaufort International Film Festival, or you may have seen her work in this magazine, Beaufort Lifestyle. She is Past President of the Photography Club of Beaufort, Past President of Beaufort Art Association and has been a volunteer for Friends of Caroline Hospice, Dragon Boat Beaufort and Hope Haven.  She often contributes donations of her photography work to local charity silent auctions such as  Bikers Against Bullies, YMCA Boots and Bling and the  Junior League. In the background, working away, she has been a presence at many local events and parties.

 A little back ground- where are you from and how long have you lived in Beaufort?

     I was born and raised right here in Beaufort.  As a child, I lived in an area of Burton that was mostly farm land.  Most summers there were tomato or cucumber fields lining the dirt road in front of my home and both served as my playground.  I spent most days outside riding my bike, mini bike or walking barefoot down that dirt road picking blackberries or visiting friends.  We knew all our neighbors, never locked our doors and knew to be home when the sun set.  It was the most carefree time of my life, as it should be for any child.

What is your educational background (college, technical school, school of hard knocks)?

     I graduated high school from Berkeley High in Moncks Corner, SC, attended Trident Technical Collage for a couple of semesters and then returned to Beaufort.  I then attended USC – Beaufort and received my Bachelor of Science in Business Management through a program allowing  Beaufort students to complete their four year program in association with USCB- Aiken. My degree was issued through USCB – Aiken but I attended all of my classes in Beaufort.

What led you to your current business?

     I have always loved art but I can’t  draw a straight line, so photography became my artistic expression.  After the birth of my oldest child, my husband bought me a camera and I became a “Soccer Mom,” photographing my kids and everyone else’s who would let me. I even began to volunteer at the fire department and take photos on scene. Soon I realized that I loved what I was doing and I should pursue it as a career. I continued to study and decided I would open my own photography business. My grandparents were entrepreneurs and I had already owned a couple of businesses, so I hit the ground running in 2003.

Did you have a mentor or person who helped you at first?

Yes, I went to my first digital photography workshop in Charleston, a workshop hosted by a photography magazine, and met John Chandler.  He is a professional photographer in Richlands, North Carolina, who had recently retired from the military and we became fast friends.  He taught me so much about photography and we are still friends today.

     There are many others who continue to help me grow as a photographer but it all began with John.

What do you find rewarding in your field?

     One of the most rewarding parts of being a photographer is being able to give the gift of memories. Generally on any wedding day or other special event, the people who hire me have so much going on that there is not enough time to actually take a moment to take it all in as it is happening. I can give them that time back after the event.  They can look at the images of the day, some of which they would have not seen anyway and relive the day.  I love to hear from my clients after they have received their images and be told they were crying all over again. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing the memories I captured for them in the form of photos evoked a happy emotion from that day.

What do you find challenging in your field?

     Staying current is a huge challenge, technology is constantly changing in the field of photography.  In the digital age of photography, I fear the loss of digital images. It is so important to print photos, to be able to hold them in your hand and give them to someone is so important.  I remember as a little girl, sitting on the floor at my grandparent’s house looking through shoebox after shoebox of photographs, so please print your images.  Put them in albums, frames or even in a shoebox so someday one of your family members will find them and relive those memories.

What is a good day at work for you?

       Having a shoot is a good day for me. Whether it is a family, a couple, a wedding or other event, I love to capture moments.  I also love when I see my clients and they share with me what their favorite images are that I captured for them.  I have been a photographer long enough now that I have had the privilege of photographing several special events for my clients and when I receive those calls and am included in their “big” days – those are great days!

What is one thing people may not know about your field?

     There is no substitute for experience, I work at my craft every day.  Owning a good camera doesn’t guarantee good photos.  You need to take thousand of photographs to begin to consistently capture the images as you see them, with your artistic expression.  Learning to work with light takes experience, learning to position people in the best way takes practice. It is truly a life long journey to be the best you can be.  In addition to capturing the images, learning to deal with whatever gets thrown at you during a wedding or photo shoot takes experience, there is simply no substitute.

What would you like to tell a potential client?

     Photography is my passion. I am so fortunate to be allowed to share my passion with each and every one of my clients. I hope that I will have the privilege of capturing just one moment in your lifetime that will stay with you all of your days, and then continue to bring joy to those who love you.

Story By Carol Lauvray    photos by Paul Nurnberg

When describing Beaufort, South Carolina, words like scenic, charming, historic, pristine and friendly come to mind. And each year, Beaufort continues to make the lists of the best places to visit and live in the South. In fact, Southern Living magazine voted Beaufort the South’s Best Small Town in 2017.

     Beaufort beckons visitors and attracts residents with 500 years of history, stately antebellum mansions, moss-draped Live Oaks and breathtaking views of its river and marshes. The challenge for the City of Beaufort is preserving the history and natural setting of this special place, while providing the services and infrastructure necessary for Beaufort to continue to evolve as a vital community.

     Accomplishing this balance cannot be left to chance—it requires careful planning. This is the challenge that Libby Anderson, Director of Planning and Development Services for the City of Beaufort, has faced for the past 21 years.

     Libby grew up in Elmira, NY and met her husband, professional photographer Paul Nurnberg, when they were both in high school in Elmira. She earned a Master of City Planning degree from Boston University in 1986, but her career in city planning began in 1984 as an environmental planner for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission. Since that time, she’s held several professional city-planning positions, including the cities of Greenville, NC and Savannah, GA. Libby joined Beaufort’s City Planning Department in 1996.

     The mission of the department of Planning and Development Services is to preserve and enhance the quality of life in the City of Beaufort. To accomplish its mission, the department is charged with:

•  Developing, implementing and enforcing plans, programs, policies and regulations

•  Providing guidance on development proposals

•  Reviewing development plans

•  Staffing citizen boards

•  Conducting research

•  Developing recommendations on planning-related issues for elected and appointed officials.

     “Our department’s work touches everyone who lives in or visits Beaufort,” says Libby. “Our customers include the City’s residents, property owners, neighborhoods, developers, businesses and local officials.” The department is involved with design review for projects; zoning administration; working with various organizations and neighborhood associations; grant writing and administration for City projects; public education and community outreach; and building code enforcement. In addition, the department administers and staffs citizen boards, including the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Historic District Review Board, Design Review Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Park & Tree Advisory Committee.

     Libby says that her department accomplishes its work through a small staff of people who possess diverse skills and provide a high level of customer service. In addition to Libby, the staff consists of a landscape architect; project development planner; permit technician; administration assistant; building official; and two inspectors.

Bringing City Planning to Life 

     “Our department is responsible for protecting Beaufort’s history while we move the City into the 21st Century,” says Libby. “We focus our efforts in three areas to do this: long-range planning, current planning, and community development.”

 Long-range Planning 

     The City’s Boundary Street Master Plan and the related Boundary Street construction project now underway are prime examples of long-range planning, according to Libby. “We are 10 years into the 100-year Boundary Street Master Plan adopted in 2006. The plan is a comprehensive strategy for growth and redevelopment of the corridor and envisions that Boundary Street can be one of the most memorable streets in America. The Master Plan was created using the concept of ‘designing in public’—the team of planners, engineers, architects, and economists conducted an open planning process in September 2005 with the participation of over 300 interested residents and stakeholders. Our planning work is done early in the project and involves neighborhood engagement through meetings with residents and stakeholders to identify the ideas, needs and concerns of the community first.” Libby says that the Boundary Street construction currently underway is slated for completion by spring 2018.

     Also part of the long-range plan is the creation of Battery Park (named for the Civil War era Battery Saxton), along the marsh on Boundary Street as you enter town. Creating the passive park to beautify the south side of Boundary Street involves the ongoing purchase by the City of several properties owned by businesses. Many of the buildings have already been purchased and some have been demolished, including two buildings formerly standing on the site of Battery Saxton, located just to the east of Wendy’s. Libby wrote the grant in 2001 for funding to purchase those two buildings, which have been demolished.

 Current Planning

     The City’s Civic Master Plan approved in 2014 provides the vision of how Beaufort should be developed and calls for building within the City limits, rather than developing outside the City. Current Planning focuses on any new development within the City, such as the Beaufort Inn’s new 12-room cottage being built on Craven Street and the new parking garage proposed for the Historic District downtown. Renovations in the Historic District also fall into this category. City Walk, a new housing development located on the marsh near North Street west of Ribaut Road, and Midtown Square, a housing development within the Northwest Quadrant on Prince and Duke Streets, are other examples of new development within the City.

Community Development

     Community Development encompasses programs to support the revitalization of existing neighborhoods. Libby’s department secures grant funding toward this end, which is used along with City funds to implement the projects. During the 1990s and since 2000, the department has secured grants totaling more than $1.5 million to help repair 69 owner-occupied homes in the Northwest Quadrant. Other revitalization projects in the Northwest Quadrant are the Bladen Street Streetscapes—Phases I and II and the Duke Street Streetscapes—Phases I and II. Grant funding secured by Libby’s department toward these projects totaled $2 million.

Planning—to be the Best

     The next time you tell someone that you live in historic Beaufort, South Carolina, take a moment to think about all the people and planning involved in making Beaufort the South’s Best Small Town!

Story By Julie Hales   Photos by Susan DeLoach

Blakely Williams works diligently at her desk each day with the mission of promoting and growing the businesses and community of Beaufort. As President & CEO of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, Blakely  is excited  each morning knowing her day will be spent improving a city that she has grown to love so dearly.

    Blakely came to Beaufort in 2006 to interview for a job with the chamber.  She tells us, “My husband, Blair and I moved to beautiful Beaufort in 2006 as newlyweds!  We actually came home a day early from our honeymoon for my job interview with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.”

    She joined the chamber team as the Member Services Manager in 2007, where she was responsible for promoting, recruiting and retaining Chamber business members and tourism marketing sales.  Her first day was quite an experience.

    “My first day on the job, we had an evening New Member Reception and the staff worked 13 hours that day.  I thought it was the best day ever!  Meeting new people, organizing food and bar for a crowd, welcoming people to the Lowcountry, understanding what a diverse business base the community has – how could you not love Chamber work!?  I was hooked, “she says.

    Her love and dedication to Beaufort and the chamber paid off.  In 2011, she was asked to serve as the President and CEO. This job has a need for passion, and Blakely fits the bill.

    “In this capacity, I am tasked with emphasizing the importance of increasing tourism, enhancing the three military installations in the Beaufort community, recruiting and growing jobs, revitalizing downtown and helping the business community thrive,” she shares.

    The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1892.  They have been taking care of the Beaufort Regional business community every day for 125 years.  Blakely is excited to say, “I consider it an unbelievable privilege to serve. As a team, we talk about how we are the custodians of this amazing organization.  It was here way before us, and it will be here way after us.”

    Everyone knows you cannot shine all by yourself.  You always need somebody around you to flip that little light. It’s called a team.  And, Blakely Williams cannot talk highly enough about the entire chamber staff.  She says, “Every day, I am grateful and thankful to work with such an outstanding group of professionals.  These ladies and gentlemen know how to get things done.  I love going to work every single day – we laugh all day long.”

    Team, hard work, support and passion are themes that run through Blakely’s success at the chamber. She has learned, practiced and developed these values to drive her toward success. But, with this success also comes balance…it has to….she is also a wife and a mother. She shares, “The reality is I have a busy, stimulating and fulfilling career at the chamber. But, my absolute favorite job is being Mom to my three little ones.  My darling girl, Quinn is 7, and my precious little boys, Brice (4) and Harvey (2) are so cool and so funny.  I learn something new from them every day.”

    Blakely hopes that the work she does at the Chamber will matter to the lives of her children one day.  If she has anything to do with it, it will.  “At work, we believe in education.  We believe that developing a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce is integral to increased job opportunities.  We believe in modifying the allocation formula for public education funding so that all students receive equitable funding. We believe that our precious natural resources, like Hunting Island, should be protected.  We believe that what happens at Parris Island, MCAS Beaufort and the Naval Hospital Beaufort is not only good for the local economy, it’s good for America’s protection and national defense.  And we all believe that we live in paradise – heck, even America’s Happiest Seaside Town,” she states.

   When sked about hobbies, as if she has time for any, Blakely responds, “I do like to read. Right now, I’m bouncing around between Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families.

    Considering the world’s dramatic and accelerating pace of change, what lies ahead is unknown.  But the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce is ready and able…Blakely emphasizes, “We believe our best days are yet to come.”

   With Blakely Williams leading the way, there is sure to be good things in store for Beaufort.

photos by Ronald Lopez

Reading is a basic building block that gives children the tools they need to engage in a lifetime of learning.  From kindergarten through 3rd grade, children are learning to read.  From 4th grade on, they are reading to learn.  One in three American 4th graders score “below basic” in national assessments.  This means that they can barely read at all.  A person who is not at least a moderately skilled reader by 3rd grade is typically less likely to catch up and more likely to NOT graduate from high school.

     To help fight these literacy challenges head on, United Way of the Lowcountry created its Early Grade Reading Program, “Read Indeed!,” in 2012.  Read Indeed! is a unique collaboration between United Way of the Lowcountry and the Beaufort County and Jasper County School Districts.  Read Indeed! works to increase reading achievement in our community so that children in Beaufort and Jasper Counties are proficient in reading by the time they finish 3rd grade.  Through this program, students receive, one on one, 30 minute tutoring sessions, three times a week.  By focusing on school readiness in Pre-K and grades K-3, the program can make a lasting difference in the lives of children in our community by giving them tools to achieve their dream.

     Over the last five years, the program has had an immense impact on children tutored throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties.   During the 2016 school year, 800 students participated in the program thanks to support from more than 300 volunteer reading tutors and AmeriCorps members.  The results continue to add up.  94% of students in Jasper County and 95% of students in Beaufort County who participated in the program increased their reading scores.

     Based on the success of the Read Indeed! program, the United Way of the Lowcountry is continually recruiting people with passion and a desire to help children.  They are looking for volunteers to tutor students in Pre-k through 3rd grade at 12 sites throughout both counties.  The trained tutors are matched with students who are identified by school literacy specialists as needing additional help with reading.  These are the students who do not receive other intervention and would otherwise fall through the cracks.

In addition to working with students during the school year, Read Indeed volunteers also assisted the Beaufort County School District this summer with its Extended Year Summer Reading Program.  This program serves K-4th grade elementary school students.  The purpose of the Extended Year Summer Reading Program is to deter summer learning loss, improve student literacy and reading skills, and develop mastery of grade level standards.  During this summer, 1410 students participated in the program.  Of those students, 69% of students showed growth from the end of the school year to the end of the program and 24% maintained their reading level.

     Volunteering for the Read Indeed! program is a rewarding opportunity that requires no experience but will make a lifetime of difference for a child in our community.  Training for this program will be provided to help you get started and be successful.   One to two hours of your time per week throughout the school year will make a tremendous impact.  Working with the school teachers, the Read Indeed! volunteers help elementary students master the art of reading to help them read on grade level by the time they reach the 4th grade.

     Those interested in becoming a Read Indeed! volunteer tutor, please call Bethany Marcinkowski, Vice President of Education Impact at United Way of the Lowcountry at 843-837-2000 or bethanym@uwlowcountry.org.

Story By Julie Hales     Photos By Susan DeLoach

Anita Singleton Prather is a business woman. She is the brains behind her business, ASE’-Gullah Education, LLC.  Her business is vast and encompasses many things….catering, event planning, storytelling, educating, singing, acting, writing plays and being a historian. She is the founder and a member of the musical performance group, The Gullah Kinfolk, Gullah Traveling Theater, Inc…among many other things.

     If you have never heard of Anita Singleton Prather, perhaps you have heard of Aunt Pearlie Sue. Aunt Pearlie Sue is the creation of Anita  Singleton Prather, a native of the Sea Islands in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Based on her grandmother, Aunt Pearlie Sue’s character has entertained audiences with Gullah-flavored folktales for many years.

     When asked where she got her start, Anita thinks for a short moment, then replies, “My parents were involved in the civil rights movement when I was growing up.  We were one of the first black families that were integrated in the school system, so we were involved in a lot of cultural type enrichment activities. By the time I was in the 8th grade, we would go over to Penn Center for cultural enrichment workshops… African drumming and spoken word in the Gullah dialect.  I guess that kind of wet my appetite a little for performing.”

     From then on, Anita had a passion for performing.  She became involved in as many school and church activities as possible, especially the ones that gave her the opportunity to perform. She shares, “I was always a big performer at church events and school events. I was very involved in the Pep Club and Student Council  In High School, I learned a Gullah poem, which I later performed in school.  This was my first time speaking the Gullah dialect in a public setting even though it was spoken by many family members at family gatherings. All of that became part of who I am today.”

    Anita was very involved in her church.  While still in high school, she began playing the piano in churches around the area. When she came back from college, she only wanted to play for her own church, First African Baptist Church.

     There she became the minister of Music and the Youth Minister. She also began writing plays for the church…Christmas and Easter.  And, she started doing Children’s Church.

     By this time, she was also teaching full time.  She got involved teaching the children about Black History and was able to write some plays about Black History.  The kids were able to perform these plays at school.

STORYTELLING

     Aunt Pearlie Sue is composed of different parts of Anita’s grandmother, Rosa, who was her mentor. “Rosa was a full figured woman with a positive attitude. She danced, she sang she gardened and she was an expert seamstress and cook. In Anita’s words, “My grandmother was the real “Madea.” She carried a pistol in her purse. She took charge of her work….and sometimes her employer.  She was a take charge kind of woman…the kind that didn’t allow people in her kitchen at cooking time and roaming the house at cleaning time. I learned a lot from her.”

     Anita has spent the last 18 years performing as Aunt Pearlie Sue and with her Gullah Kinfolk musical group. She has had the opportunity to perform abroad and all over the United States…even for the White House during President Clinton’s administration.

     She performs a lot locally at Penn Center’s Heritage Days, the Original Gullah Festival, Lands End Woodland River Festival, Sea Island Christmas Celebration at USCB and many local churches.

GULLAH KINFOLK

     The Gullah Kinfolk are the most exciting musical sensation ever to come from the South Carolina Sea Islands.

     Virtually all related, the closeness of this dynamic group is apparent from the first song. Audiences nationwide have been mesmerized by their unique style, memorable performances and uplifting renditions of their historical repertoire.

     The group was formed by Anita in 1999 in an effort to preserve Gullah history and the Gullah dialect. A performance by the Gullah Kinfolk is a rare treat that will be remembered for a lifetime.

     Their annual production, Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish …Freedom Comin,’  is an emotional production. The story of Christmas is seen through the eyes of slaves. Anita’s grandchildren are in this productions which, she says, they came into them practically at the time of their birth.

    On the business side, Anita spends a lot of time promoting the Gullah Kinfolk.  She markets the group, books their performances and pretty much makes sure everything happens the way it is supposed to…from costumes and props…to writing…to singing.

HISTORY

     Anita’s decision to promote the Gullah heritage was not so clear cut: “I stumbled onto it. I didn’t plan it.” Although now revered as a culture, it wasn’t that way in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  “Years ago I was taking a trip over to Daufuskie Island which got canceled at the last minute. I started fussing with God. Then, I got a vision to teach the children about Gullah. And that’s how it all began.

     “God let me know that Gullah was going to be my ministry. I thought, good…I get to tell white people off for the way they treated black people back in the day, and get paid for it.  God said…Nah, not the way this is going to happen. God explained to me it had nothing to do with color.  You have the good, the bad and the ugly in all folks. God taught me that anyone who tries to hold someone down, they too become a victim,” she says.

     Anita and Aunt Pearlie Sue have combined forces to educate us and to allow us to experience the history of an era, and a culture deeply embedded in this area. For so many years , it was the backbone of the economics upon which the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands were built and prospered. “Gullah is not a culture that excludes, it is the umbilical cord that connects us all back to the cradle of civilization: Mother Africa,” Anita says.

      As a storyteller and singer, Prather has performed at many festivals, including the Spoleto USA international Arts Festival in Charleston, Festival of the Sea in San Francisco California and the Connection Project in Barbados West Indies just to name a few. She has appeared in the Hollywood film, Forrest Gump, and on Christmas Across America on the Food Network Channel. In addition to her participation in educational documentaries, Prather’s one-woman show, Tales from the Land of Gullah, has been broadcast on PBS nationwide, Canada and the Virgin Islands. Her latest film project, Circle Unbroken Gullah Journey from Africa to American, was featured at the Capital City Black Film Festival in Austin Texas and is also being broadcast nationally on PBS.

     Along with her film and music projects, her animated character spins tales and songs on an award-winning website on SCETV Knowitall.org/ gullahnet. Her traveling museum exhibit, that originated at the Children’s Museum of Houston and has toured the top children’s museums throughout the US and Canada, featuring Aunt Pearlie Sue, has introduced over one million children to the Gullah culture of the Sea Islands of Beaufort.

     Her true life short film, My Man Done Me Wrong, has tickled audiences at the Jamerican Black Hollywood, San Francisco Film Festival and other national and international film festivals.

     Her voice has been heard across the nation by radio broadcasters as she spins her Gospel Top 10 tale, “Chicken Dinner Money.”

     She is also the curriculum coordinator for the Education of Gullah Culture Through the Arts in the Beaufort County School District. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Howard University and a Master’s + 30 Degree in Education from the University of South Carolina.

     Through her Gullah heritage, Anita continues to creatively entertain and educate audiences of all ages about the African experience in America.

     If you have never seen a performance by Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk, you are definitely missing out on seeing some of the finest talent known in the lowcountry.  Their show will leave you mesmerized…do yourself a favor and buy a ticket to their next performance. You will not be disappointed.

Margaret Evans
Co-owner and editor of Lowcountry Weekly; columnist (Rants and Raves); blogger (It’s Me, Margaret). Former assistant to Pat Conroy. Advisory Council for the Board of Directors – Pat Conroy Literary Center.

Story by Mary Ellen Thompson    Photos By John Wollwerth

Margaret Evan’s writing is eloquent and thought provoking; here is what she has to say about her work.

BL: Do you and Jeff own Lowcountry Weekly together?

ME: Yes, we bought Lowcountry Weekly 17 years ago when it was 18 months old. The hard work is done by Jeff and Amanda Hanna, who is our sales and marketing director. They do all the “heavy lifting.” I’m the lucky one who gets to sit at home and write at the computer in my pajamas.

BL: What is it like to own a newspaper in this time of digital reading?

ME: It’s very difficult. What has saved us is that we’re a mix of a community paper and a features magazine, a magapaper. People tend to read news on-line, but many advertisers want to be showcased in print. It’s challenging, but I don’t think print is going away.

BL: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

ME: I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a writer. I wrote poetry as a child and walked around the house reading it aloud. Reading and writing were the only things I was really good at. I have a bachelors degree in English and a masters degree in English.  People often ask me if I’m going to write a book. I don’t think I have the ambition to do what it takes to do something that big. I like my small writing life. I like connecting with people, making them think; moving people is what it is all about for me. Our society has become so fragmented; I’m kind of obsessed with breaking down those walls.

BL: How did you get to Beaufort?

ME: I came here in my 20’s after graduate school and lived at Fripp Island where I met Pat Conroy; I had become a huge fan of his in grad school. I had been in classes that were all about deconstruction, The Prince of Tides saved me by reawakening my passion for the written word. When I came here, I recognized the lowcountry from his writing. I became his research assistant for two years while he was writing Beach Music. Beaufort Magazine asked me to interview Pat, and as a result I became their editor for the next six years. Pat Conroy launched my career. When Beaufort Magazine folded, I started writing for Lowcountry Weekly, then Jeff and I bought it.

BL: Do you have a certain time of day that you dedicate to writing?

ME: In the morning, I get up early and write before the day gets in my way. But I’ll often post on Facebook over a little happy hour wine; I don’t necessarily recommend that.

BL: A special place?

ME: The breakfast nook in our house where my computer is.

BL: A certain kind of clothing – pajamas?

ME: Pajamas, gym clothes, sweats, or in the summer, old maxi-dresses; they are always nice because you can just put on some sandals and go out if you want to.

BL: Is there something people would be surprised to find out about you?

ME: Gosh! Is there anything I haven’t told? How’s this – I’ve never watched a single episode of  Downton Abbey!

BL: How would you define your style as a writer?

ME: I think I have a questioning style. I write to ask questions, not to convince or persuade. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” When I write, I don’t know where it’s going until I’ve written it, then it becomes clear.

BL: Do you think your pre-teen affection for Nancy Drew led you into wanting to investigate people’s lives by writing about them?

ME: Probably so! I’m still a huge mystery fan. I always wanted to be a detective; when I got older I realized that meant things like carrying a gun, but I like to find clues and solve puzzles. I think the kind of writing I do is like being a detective.

BL: On your blog, you describe yourself as “A fairly conventional Southern girl with the mind of a philosopher, the sensitivity of a mystic, and the sentimentality of your great Aunt Esther…” clearly you are not shy or self-effacing. Is that why are you so comfortable putting yourself out there in your columns, blogs and social media?

ME: I think I am shy in person. About the philosopher – I’m constantly making connections. The mystic? I tend to see, I read a lot of spiritual truths into the natural world. I feel comfortable putting myself out there in writing. I can’t not put myself out there; you have to be honest in your writing. I do feel shy in public because of what I write. People know more about me than I do of them. I’ve done that to myself. They feel like they know me. I push through that shyness because I’m Southern and my mom raised me to be social.

BL: Another writer, who admires you greatly, wondered if you are purposely provocative at times. She said, “Margaret baits with elegance and innocence and then sits back as people often tear each other apart.”

ME: I would be lying if I said I was not trying to stir the pot on Facebook, but not so people will tear each other apart. Instead, I am trying to provoke discussion and common understanding and deep thought. My goal is to help people ingrained in one position see the perspective, and common humanity, of people ingrained in another.

BL: How did your experiences with Pat Conroy affect you and your writing?

ME: When I was much younger, I tried to write like Pat. I soon figured out that wasn’t going to work so I tried to strive for his specificity of language. He was a mentor to me. When I worked for him again it was 20 years later. I was doing a lot of writing for him, critiquing manuscripts, toward the end of his life. He would say to me, “Kid, your writing is getting better all the time.” He read my columns and said, “You do something most columnists can’t; you create a whole world in your column.” No one could describe Margaret’s work better than Pat Conroy.

Story By Cindy Reid    Photos By Susan DeLoach

Is there any special occasion in our life that doesn’t include food? Beaufort loves a party and they do love good food. What Southerner doesn’t?  In fact, who doesn’t love a party with delectable hors d’oeuvres, delicious tapas and scrumptious goodies?

     Award winning Chef Debbi Covington’s sophisticated upscale catering company has been a Beaufort presence for twenty years, creating food that is gorgeous and delectable. Most likely you have enjoyed her culinary arts at a cocktail party, luncheon, anniversary party, wedding or special event such as the Beaufort International Film Festival. One bite and you too will be hooked on Catering by Debbi Covington!

      Debbi is originally from Wilson, NC. She met future husband Vince Covington while they were attending Atlantic Christian College. She says,”After graduation, Vince was here in Beaufort and I was in Raleigh. We got married and I moved to Beaufort. It was 1991 and I thought I had gone back in time. Sams Point Road was a two lane road, and part of it was dirt!” She continues, “I had no job prospects. I had a BS in Business Administration and had been working in personnel management in Raleigh. When I moved to Beaufort, I typed up my resume and took it to Budget Print just to make copies and David Woods hired me on the spot. I spent four months making copies and meeting everyone in town. Then, I took a position at First Presbyterian Church where I worked for fourteen years as the Pastor’s secretary. I loved my job and I did a little bit of everything, from designing the bulletin to counting the Sunday offering.”

      In 1997, after five years of working at the church, Debbi started catering in her free time. She says, “The plan was that I was only going to cater part time, but people started hiring me, and here I am. We built our house to include a professional kitchen that conforms to DHEC standards. Vince’s Dad owned Broad River Seafood back then and he helped us work to meet all of the legal requirements and regulations. We would have built a much bigger kitchen if I had known how busy I would end up being!”

      Debbi’s affinity for cooking goes way back. When asked who her mentor was she answers quickly “My Mama. I am doing what my Mama wanted to do. She was a home economics teacher who loved to cook. After I was born, she became a stay at home mom so I was raised in the kitchen. I was always in the kitchen stirring a bowl and helping. As I got a little older, I would bake a cake for my Daddy every Saturday. My business enables me to do what I love.”

     What does a professional chef and caterer bring to their clients? Debbi says, “I can explain what foods are best served at certain venues, I can give people options they may not know exist. I can tell them about new flavors and new food trends. So many amazing foods are available to us these days.  Remember we eat with our eyes first! Catered food always needs to taste as good as it looks.”

     Catering by Debbi Covington caters many weddings every year, events that can be as challenging as they are rewarding. She says, “The most challenging issue is to keep food safe, to keep it hot, fresh, and/or cold all at the same time. My number one priority is serving delicious, healthy and beautiful food. But this is not the Food Network- notice I wear no jewelry or nail polish!” She continues,” But it is all worthwhile when an event goes really well.  When people come up to you and tell you it’s the best food they ever had at a wedding, well that’s a good day at work.”

      Not only a chef and caterer, Debbi is a well known and prolific food writer. She has been writing a bi-monthly column for Lowcountry Weekly for many years and says “It is one the best things I have ever done. The column started out as half a page and no pictures, and is now a full page with color photos. The original title was ‘Easy Cooking with Debbi,’ and now it is ‘Everyday Celebrations.’ Having the column pushes me to create all the time, which is a good thing. Often our weekday dinner ends up in the columns! I celebrated my 250th column a few years ago, and will be coming up on column 300 soon.”

      She has published two cookbooks, “Dining Under the Carolina Moon” in 2005 and “Celebrate Everything!” which came out in 2012. She is currently working on a brand new one, which will be out in March 2018.

     Debbi’s advice for anyone interested in starting a catering business, “You need to really love food. It helps to also have a knack for creativity. The ability to adapt to all kinds of potential emergencies, like rain and power outages is a must.  There’s so much more to it than most people think and the food world is always changing. Presentation styles change and no client wants their event to be ‘dated.’
She says keeping up with personal connections made has been very rewarding, “Staying in touch with ‘my brides’ after the wedding is so much easier with Facebook and I am delighted to follow their lives, their accomplishments and when they have babies. A wedding is such a huge event and you work so closely together, that you have a bond for life. Occasionally I even get to cater the baby shower! We connect and I have made lifelong friends through my business.”

     In addition to her busy catering and publishing schedules, Debbi finds time to give back to the Beaufort community. She says, “I work with lots of non-profits including the Santa Elena Foundation, Historic Beaufort Foundation, Beaufort International Film Festival, Open Land Trust, Boys and Girls Club — too many to name them all. My special love is the Tabby House.”