Review Category : Profile

Meet Brandy Gray: 59th Commodore of the Beaufort Water Festival

By Lanier Laney

The Beaufort Water Festival is the largest charity event in Beaufort, attracting more than 65,000  visitors to Beaufort and involving more than 400 volunteers for the massive 10-day annual summer event.

Well-orchestrated planning and a year round volunteer staff of 60 dedicated people bring it all together. Each year it’s all overseen by a new commodore, whose job and the responsibilities that come with it are equal to that of a CEO

Beaufort Water Festival 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, right, is seen with her husband, Mickey, and her daughter Emma La’claire, 6.

Beaufort Water Festival 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, right, is seen with her husband, Mickey, and her daughter Emma La’claire, 6.

of a small corporation. This year’s commodore is Brandy Gray, a fifth generation Port Royal native, (daughter of William and Peggy Buquet), who has been a committed Water Festival volunteer since she began as a Pirette in high school in 1989.  She’s the fourth female to become commodore in the 59 year history of the event, which first was held as a sailing regatta and water ski show in 1956.

Today’s Water Festival stretches over two weekends starting next weekend and includes major musical acts over multiple nights and a myriad of events for all ages and abilities including fireworks, an air show and a parade. (For a full listing of all the great happenings, check out The Island News next week, which will be dedicated to the Water Festival.)

Commodore Gray credits her family and the volunteers for helping make it all happen.  Says Brandy, “Our amazing group of volunteers are the backbone of our festival. They are the hard-working, passionate crew that we call our Water Festival Family!”

And when it comes to her husband Mickey, she says, “He is the reason I am able to do so many great things in our community. His support is unwavering. Our daughter has also been right there beside us during this journey.”

Brandy’s been happily married for 16 years to her husband Mickey Gray, who also grew up in Beaufort. Says Brandy, “I met my husband playing coed softball and I never thought in a million years that I would fall so quickly in love.”

Mickey, who retired from the state of South Carolina, now enjoys being a stay-at-home dad for their beloved daughter, Emma La’claire, age 6, who starts first grade at Riverview Charter School this August.

Commodore Gray is pleased with some of the innovations that the 59th Water Festival brings this year for attendees.

Says Brandy, “This year we have a new free downloadable app for your iPhone and Android that will allow you to buy tickets online for all events and give you all the venues and event times, plus a Google interactive map for their locations that you can forward to your phone or computer.  You will also be able to buy tickets online at the Beaufort Water Festival website.”

Also new this year, in order to ease parking problems, there will be a free shuttle service running every 15 minutes, starting Friday, July 17, from 5 p.m. to midnight, from the parking lot of Beaufort Town Center in front of ARTworks and also the parking lot of the County Government Center on the corner of Ribaut Road and Boundary Street that will take people to the Downtown Marina parking lot next to the Waterfront Park.

Brandy said she loves the Water Festival parade, which will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, and is pleased that noted novelist Pat Conroy will be this year’s Grand Marshall. She is also excited that a full day will be devoted to the Dragon Boat races on that same day, Saturday, July 26, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Besides volunteering with the Water Festival, Brandy’s also been involved with many nonprofits such as United Way, CAPA, Friends of Caroline Hospice, Zonta Club of Beaufort and Beaufort Charities. She is able to do all this while also doing an excellent job as  sales manager for the Holiday Inn Express in Bluffton, where she works with groups, tour operators, wedding planners and corporate clients to provide lodging.

Brandy said, “Let me take a moment to thank all of our wonderful sponsors and volunteers. We are a unique group as we are all volunteer driven and have no paid staff. We host one of the longest running festivals in the county and state and are extremely proud of our history. This is such a memorable time for me as I am a second generation commodore and the first Pirette ever to become commodore. This truly makes it a family affair and I am proud of our legacy.”

As for the future, Brandy hopes Beaufortonians will attend as many of the wonderful events over the 10 day period as they can. Money raised will go to more than 20 charities and provide scholarships for local students to attend USCB.

For more information about free events, music nights, activities, and tickets, go online to

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‘Southern enthusiasts’: After relocating to Beaufort from the West Coast, Corey and Ann Higgins open Scout Southern Market

Corey Higgins, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, met his wife, Ann, in her hometown of  San Francisco.

He said, “We dated, fell in love, and got married on April 18, 1998 — a memorable date, as it’s the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which the city celebrates each year. We got married in the only church that survived the earthquake with the throngs of tourists and locals rejoicing all around, we felt like it was for us. It sounds romantic, and it was!”

Corey and Ann Higgins are seen at the grand opening of their store Scout Southern Market on Bay Street.

Corey and Ann Higgins are seen at the grand opening of their store Scout Southern Market on Bay Street.

By the time they decided to move to Beaufort, Corey had spent more than 20 years working in design and marketing for a video game company based in Redwood City, California. Says Corey, “It was a fantastic experience and a great ride but it was time to get off the roller coaster. I wanted less travel, more family time and to pursue a business that my wife and I could do together.”

Ann, whose degree was in fashion merchandising, was the one who got Beaufort on their radar. She said, “Our first visit to Beaufort was 15 years ago.  Corey had an eight-week sabbatical from work and we decided to take the time to travel the U.S. I had recently read the book ‘Beach Music’ and wanted to see if Beaufort was as romantic and beautiful as Pat Conroy describes. It most certainly is! We spent a lovely day strolling the Point and soaking in the beauty and elegance of Beaufort. We were fortunate to see a lot of towns and cities on that trip, but the one place that stuck in our minds the most was that little gem of a town tucked away in the Sea Islands. Over the past 15 years we continued to visit and eventually decided to make the move.”

One year ago, the Higgins family moved to a house on the Point from San Francisco, and Beaufort turned out to be everything they hoped it would.

They have two wonderful children — Emma, 13, and Rowan, 10, who both attend Beaufort Academy.

Says Corey, “I love how welcoming and supportive everyone has been. We come from a place where everyone is glued to their smart phones, pre-occupied and over-scheduled. I love that in Beaufort a simple hello can, and often does, turn into a pleasant and genuine conversation.”

Ann adds, “We also love that we have a wide variety of friends — all from different places, different careers and different ages. Southern culture inspires me. It’s a region unlike others. Southerners are proud of their traditions and style. I think those who have traveled to the South, or relocated to the South, want a piece of it in their lives.”

That thinking is what led Ann and Corey to open Scout Southern Market on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort. Says Ann, “Our mission with the store is to capture the Southern lifestyle. Corey describes me as a ‘Southern enthusiast.’ I love to discover new things and searching for products and people that inspire me. I get to work directly with amazing and talented people, from local furniture makers to specialty food aficionados.”

Adds Corey, “You have to be passionate about what you do. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I’ve never worked with someone more passionate about her job than my wife, Ann. It’s been a thrill to support her after she has supported my career for so many years.”

And Ann appreciates the support — from Corey, her children and the town. She said, “Truly, the sincere support from Beaufortonians is amazing. First welcoming us to the area and now dropping by the store giving me well wishes every day.”

Says Corey, “I’d like to give a shout out to the delivery men and women who service downtown Beaufort. It can be a tricky and stressful job. I never really realized it until I started helping unload commercial refrigerators and dining room tables. Thank you! You know who you are!”

Ann has loved the whole store experience, especially talking with customers. She says, :As a small store owner, it changes every day.  I’m thrilled with how well received the store has been and now my focus is greeting customers and sharing the interesting stories about the Southern-sourced items in our store, which is a thrill and very rewarding.”

Corey describes his job at Scout Southern Market with a smile: “I’m in charge of back office logistics, the marketing guy, and errand boy. Whatever I can take off of Ann’s plate so she can focus on our customers and the store experience.”

While volunteering to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Corey and Ann first heard the word “lagniappe.” Says Corey, “When we were working through the store concept, we wanted to deliver some ‘lagniappe’ to Beaufort. It’s a Creole word we learned in New Orleans that means ‘a little somethin’ extra.’ Our ‘lagniappe’ is the Sweet Tea Bar in the rear of the store. We wanted to offer our guests some delicious Southern snacks and the chance to ‘sip and shop’ their way through the store.”

Their specialty is the Scout Southern Market Iced Tea Float. The tall glass of iced tea topped with lemon or peach sorbet has been a hit with customers.

As for the future, Ann says, “I am determined to volunteer at Hunting Island when my schedule settles down a bit.  I have made it a life goal to help the sea turtle hatchlings and plan to host events and raise awareness through Scout Southern Market.”

The Higgins also joined Historic Beaufort Foundation and Open Land Trust before they moved to Beaufort, and say they have enjoyed learning more about the area through these organizations.

Corey says there are plans for an online store in the future, but for now he said, “It’s important for us to get the store experience right before focusing on other things.”

Be sure to drop by Scout Southern Market and welcome Ann and Corey to the neighborhood.

Scout Southern Market is located at 709 Bay Street, Beaufort. For more information, call 843-379-2282 or visit

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For Jessica Rockwell-Long and Hampton Long, there’s no shortage of caring

By Lanier Laney

Jessica Rockwell’s parents knew she wanted to be a vet from 3 years of age, when they watched her trying to save hermit crabs at the beach. Jessica recently found plans that she drew on construction paper when she was 10: She was going to buy all of Lemon Island and turn it into a huge veterinary hospital and sanctuary for unwanted animals.

Jessica Rockwell-Long and Hampton Long.

Jessica Rockwell-Long and Hampton Long.

Today,  years later, Jessica’s husband, Hampton Long, is secretary of the board of trustees that is building the Maritime Center on Lemon Island, dedicated to preserving the area’s delicate marine ecosystem and educating children about the fish and crustaceans that live among the salt marshes. Although their backgrounds are different, Jessica and Hampton’s combined desire to do their part to help has come full circle.

A passion for animals and a love of medicine made becoming a small animal veterinarian an easy choice for Jessica, who has been a popular vet at Sea Island Animal Hospital for the past 10 years, after graduating magna cum laude from the University of Georgia Veterinary School.

Her family is originally from Minnesota, and moved to Beaufort in 1975 to the Cuthbert House, before it was a bed and breakfast. Her mother, Judy Rockwell, was a captain in the Navy and now is program manager for SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. Her father David Rockwell, was a teacher for 40 years and the technology coordinator for Beaufort County School District.

Hampton Long grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Conn. His parents, Catey and T. Michael Long, both had Southern roots. They longed to return to the South when they started contemplating retirement, and bought a house on Spring Island in 1998. The family quickly became enchanted with the beauty and history of Beaufort.

Hampton is a Harvard graduate, has a law degree from Vanderbilt and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Finance and Accounting from Wharton School of Business. After a stint in Frankfurt, Germany, as a financial analyst, he developed his skills in the field of venture capital while working in Philadelphia, where he found it to be very rewarding assisting innovative early-stage companies along the development curve. But he disliked the winters there, so he was elated in 2010 when his father — a general partner at Brown Brothers Harriman & Company — and he were presented with the opportunity to start their own healthcare and energy-focused venture capital firm, Caswell Investments, LLC, in “Beautiful Beaufort.” As senior vice president, Hampton oversees all the research, financial analysis and due diligence for Caswell’s perspective investment and advisory opportunities.

Says Hampton, “Professionally, to sit at the right hand of one of the very best and well-respected investment practitioners in the industry was a compellingly unique opportunity. The fact that my co-founder would be my best friend and father made it a true blessing. The experience has been everything I hoped and so much more.” He adds, “I particularly enjoy that as venture capitalist investors and advisors — from where we sit — the future is a very exciting place with significant steps forward coming in both medical technology and energy.”

Jessica recalls how she met her husband: “Alison Guilloud  and  Melanie McCaffree did us the biggest favor of our lives four years ago by deciding that they should set us up. The McCaffrees are dear friends of the Longs and invited Hampton over for dinner. Alison asked me to come along. He called me a few days later, and the rest is history. I married the most amazing man! We are so blessed to have found each other. He is the kindest, wittiest man with a fierce loyalty for anyone or anything he loves. I can’t wait to get home to him. We just genuinely enjoy each other!”

Hampton adds, “In addition to being beautiful inside and out, Jessica is easily among the smartest people I have ever met in my life and truly my confidant and best advocate. We have experienced many of the same up’s and down’s in life and are blessed to be able to draw great strength from each other’s perspectives. Ultimately, to be able to call Jessica my wife will always be my greatest accomplishment.”

They both are fans of Beaufort. Jessica says, “We love being close to family and friends. Growing up here, I never thought I would return to Beaufort. That’s what most native Beaufortonians say when they leave, and yet, here we all reside!”

Says Hampton, “I love Beaufortonians’ warm and welcoming nature, their care and responsible stewardship of the area’s rich history and natural beauty and their strong sense of service to their neighbors — both through faith-based and secular charitable organizations. Having lived in many places, it is truly a wonderful combination that is rarely replicated anywhere else.”

In their giving back to Beaufort, Hampton has been involved in several charitable organizations besides board secretary of the Port Royal Sound Foundation since 2012. He’s been a council member at St. John’s Lutheran Church since 2013 and recently became a board member of the Open Land Trust. Jessica has been a member of the Junior Service League of Beaufort since 2005 and is currently co-chair of the Sustainer’s Project. She chaired a committee for Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Valentine’s Ball this past year, and provides ongoing support of the Hilton Head Humane Association and Beaufort County Animal Shelter.

The couple avidly supports the nonprofit Port Royal Sound Foundation and looks forward to the new Maritime Education Center being constructed at the old Lemon Island Marina site on S.C. 170 that is due to open later this year. Among many other initiatives, the center’s programs will provide a place for area students to learn about the sound’s rich ecosystem and all the fish, crustaceans and wildlife that make their special home there. To find out more, or to get involved, visit

Learn more about Sea Island Animal Hospital

• Sea Island Animal Hospital is a full service animal hospital located on Lady’s Island just behind Sonic in the Professional Village that offers annual wellness and preventative care, urgent care, surgery, dentistry, digital radiology, boarding and basic spa packages for your pet.

• Dr. Rockwell-Long and Dr. Horn are proud of their new advanced, state-of-the-art ultrasound machine for which they are both extensively trained. Ultrasound is a non-invasive approach to examining your pet’s internal structures and requires no sedation. It’s extremely useful in evaluating heart conditions and identifying changes in abdominal organs. Ultrasonography is also very useful in the diagnosis of cysts and tumors and is used to perform echo cardiograms, the only real way to evaluate the heart, and do live color Doppler images of the organs and vessels.

• They also carry heartworm, flea and tick preventatives as well as prescription diets. This year Sea Island Animal Hospital has improved pricing as well as “Paw Plans” which are wellness packages that allow clients to provide their pets with all the recommended veterinary care for a significantly discounted cost and pay small amounts each month as opposed to all at once.

• Get 50 percent off your first exam if you are a new client: Mention that you saw the article in The Island News!

• Sea Island Animal Hospital is located at 40 Professional Village Circle, SC, 29907. Call 843-548-0741 or visit

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Matt and Laura McAlhaney: Beaufort’s dynamic duo

By Lanier Laney

Matt and Laura McAlhaney met on a charity fundraising catamaran sail around Charleston Harbor nine years ago in July. It was love at first sight and they were married a year later.

Says Laura, “Everything is funny with my husband. I find him to be hilarious.”

The McAlhaney Family: Laura, Matt, Cecilia, 6, and Cape, 7.

The McAlhaney Family: Laura, Matt, Cecilia, 6, and Cape, 7.

Matt, whose parents are Ann McEachern Bulock and Henry T. McAlhaney, is a Beaufort native and University of South Carolina graduate. He has been in real estate sales and development in Beaufort for more than 20 years and hangs his license with Cora Bett Thomas.

Although born in Japan, Laura, whose maiden name is Mastrandrea, is of Italian heritage. She lived in Charleston after her father was stationed at the Charleston Naval Base as Supply Corp Captain in 1978. Her family later retired to Mt. Pleasant in 1988.

They have two adorable children — Cape, age 7, and Cecelia, age 6.

Both Matt and Laura love to travel, and each had done a lot of it before they met. They believed there was a need for a small, yet luxurious, modern boutique hotel in Beaufort’s downtown historic district. Matt, with Laura’s support, renovated and opened City Loft Hotel six years ago, at the bottom of the recession. But through hard work and a great staff, the hotel has turned into a real success story.

As a business partner, Laura opened and oversees City Java & News which has become a popular community hub while also welcoming guests to City Loft. City Java offers the best in espresso drinks, all types of great coffee, along with breakfast, lunch,  pastries, wine, beer, print materials and wireless internet.

City Loft was voted best hotel in Beaufort from both The Island News and The Beaufort Gazette this year. On a larger stage, TripAdvisor (the world’s largest online travel website) has listed City Loft as the number one hotel in Beaufort since it opened, and has named it in the top 10 best small hotels in the United States two years running. While TripAdvisor no longer has the category, three years ago, City Loft was also in the top 10 for best service in the country in the company of luxury giants such as The St. Regis and The Four Seasons.

Says Matt, “I see my primary job as securing an excellent work force and providing a happy, fulfilling work environment as this translates into customer satisfaction — our single greatest priority. We have fun but we are very serious about our small space in the world of hospitality. My right hand woman at City Loft has been Stephanie Fairbanks, and without her and my excellent staff you would not be interviewing me — that is a certainty.”

“My husband is our leader and a great partner,” says Laura. She said the staff of City Java and City Loft “are an extension of my family and I’m really proud they choose to work with our organization. I love them all.”

Laura, besides creating and overseeing City Java, has been a teacher for the past 13 years in South Carolina public schools after receiving a graduate degree from the College of Charleston in teaching students with learning disabilities. Before that she studied Language and International Trade at Clemson University. Matt calls her “the combustion engine behind our family.”

Melesia Walden, the original headmaster at Bridges Preparatory School, and Laura wrote and received The Learning Center grant for a partnership with Bridges which allowed Laura to serve as the learning coach for the 2013-2014 school year.

Says Laura, “The Learning Center grant gave me a great opportunity to continue my work with the school after start up and utilize my years of teaching experience to serve the students and parents of Bridges. The position of learning coach allowed us an innovative way to maximize my experience in teaching and coaching students we identified as in need of assistance. To me, individualizing instruction is the most important study in education today, which is why partnerships like those supported through The Learning Center are so important.”

The Learning Center of Beaufort Inc., in partnership with The Coastal Communities Foundation, extends grants to nonprofit organizations looking to increase the success rate of any struggling learner in their population, be it during school or after school programming.

The Learning Center board selects which organizations will get funding based on their grant applications. For example, Penn Center and The Boys & Girls Club ran after-school tutoring programs for the 2013-14 school year, but other funded programs operated during the school day, which was the case at Bridges. The Learning Center is available to every child in Beaufort County at a variety of locations including Bridges, St. Peter’s Catholic School, Penn Center, AMIkids, Saint John Paul II Catholic High School, and soon Holy Trinity Classical Christian School. And, The Learning Center Fund works closely with the Beaufort County School District to identify children in need of assistance.

Matt says, “Laura is a rare find and a unique creation as she is beautiful, educated, energetic, and thoughtfully engaged in the world in which she lives. She cares for our children and me, she cares about the many students’ lives she has touched and works daily to make our businesses the best they can possibly be.”

Besides Laura’s involvement with The Learning Center, which is a 501c nonprofit, they both have been supportive of many charities in Beaufort. Matt has been involved with CODA for over 20 years and has coordinated golf tournaments and baseball charity events for the organization. He’s also served on the boards of Historic Beaufort Foundation, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and TMAC.

Both Laura and Matt love Beaufort.  Says Laura, “There are so many things to like about Beaufort. So many interesting people from around the world are exposed to Beaufort in some unique way, love it and long to come back. All of this provides Beaufort with a population of many fascinating people.  I love people and their stories.”

Adds Matt, “For me, I love the friends and family that have gathered on this small island — so many have brought so much to the table of life.” Matt also loves what his friend Chris Conefry says about Beaufort: “It’s the backdrop for any Southern novel you may want to write.”

As for the future, Matt says, “I think it is unusual, and I am proud of the fact that my family and I live in the home in which my mother was raised; even better it is less than 200 yards from City Loft. I like to think we have created and continue to contribute a vital component to the economic engine of downtown Beaufort.” Adds Laura, “We believe a person’s work should touch the lives of others, always.”

To that end, they both would like to see City Loft Hotel and City Java & News brand grow and are exploring opportunities to make that happen.

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Bob Guinn and Ed Pappas of the Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program: Training tomorrow’s leaders today

By Lanier Laney

Ever since moving to the Lowcountry, both Bob Guinn and Ed Pappas have immersed themselves in volunteer activities. So much so, that they now head a program that gives residents an inside look about how the city and county work, as well as providing information about local nonprofit institutions so participants will know how best to apply their own volunteer interests and leadership skills.

Ed Pappas and Bob Guinn

Ed Pappas and Bob Guinn

For the past 21 years, Clemson University Extension Service has sponsored the Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program. This program, dedicated to encouraging volunteerism and community involvement, seeks mentoring by existing leaders for its participants and is geared toward training tomorrow’s community leaders

Thirty-five senior leadership participants spend one day a week involved with community leaders and local experts. Every Wednesday, from January to early April, the class meets at a topic-specific venue such as Penn Center, USCB, Parris Island, Honey Horn, and Town Hall, to name a few. A typical 12 week program involves over 100 speakers at over several dozen locations within Beaufort County. To date, more than 735 people have completed the program, and Beaufort is a better place because of it.

Bob is director of the program and Ed could be described as the program’s Number 1 volunteer “extraordinaire.” For the past 16 years he has helped oversee planning, developing and implementing the next year’s program with other student graduates. He’s currently working on the 2015 class.

Says Ed, “In June 1997, I retired after a 30 year corporate career, in a variety of capacities, with AT&T in Basking Ridge, NJ. And with my wife, Sandra Chavez (who also worked at AT&T), we relocated in 1998 to Callawassie Island.

“We immediately fell in love with the Lowcountry, the environment, the history, the culture. Living most of our adult lives in the Northeast, we thirsted for more information about the area.

“In November 1998, we enrolled in Clemson Extension’s Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program which gave us in-depth knowledge and exposure to a diverse set of government, civic, social and nonprofit institutions in Beaufort County. Beaufort County Senior Leadership gave us more knowledge of Beaufort County in 12 weeks than we gained from living in our home county in New Jersey in 12 years.”

After taking the program, both Ed and Sandra became involved with area nonprofits. Ed stayed on as a volunteer and currently chairs the Clemson University State Advisory Council, whose goal is to promote and support extension activities to favorably impact the quality of life of all South Carolina citizens. He also became a volunteer with environmental organizations and issues, starting with Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs and eventually becoming a board members on the Rural & Critical Lands Preservation Board, Port Royal Sound Foundation and Low Country Institute.

His wife Sandra became equally involved: First as a volunteer with nonprofits, then as chairperson for the Lowcountry Human Development Center in Okatie and United Way of the Lowcountry.

Knoxville, Tenn., native Bob Guinn is the lead agent for Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton counties for Clemson University Extension. As an employee of Clemson, he is in charge of the many outreach programs and teaching efforts the extension conducts in the area. He also is the executive director of the State Extension Advisory Council.

He met the love of his life, wife Karen, at the University of Tennessee, where he worked before coming to Clemson, in 1979. Karen is a retired math teacher, and they are proud of their two sons — Robert and Christopher — who graduated from Beaufort High School and are now at the College of Charleston and Clemson University, repesctively.

Bob said, “In extension, we like to help people improve the quality of their lives.” To that end, he has conducted, supported, and taught leadership skills in over 65 leadership programs across the state in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, Lexington, Hampton, Allendale, Orangeburg and Bamberg counties.

Bob was also vice-president for Habitat for Humanity of the Lowcountry for two years, a member of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce for many years, and president of the Lowcountry Wellness Organization for years. He enjoys sailboat racing and is currently outfitting a sailboat with the plan of exploring the Intracoastal Waterway.

Says Ed, “In my 16 years with Beaufort County Senior Leadership, I have met an amazing and diverse number of persons who have gone on to share their life experiences and careers with the citizens of Beaufort County. I am humbled and enriched by having played a part of their continuing journey. I am grateful to Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension Service for introducing me to the opportunities for civic engagement; for inspiring me to ‘give back’ some of the richness of my life experiences and career so to positively contribute to the quality of life of South Carolina citizens.”

To sign up for next year’s Beaufort County Senior Leadership program, go to

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Nathan Harris: Making the world a better place, one child at a time

By Lanier Laney

Nathan Harris, 84, could have lived a life of leisure. Born into a wealthy English family, he did not have to work after he graduated from college. He spent his time fox hunting three days a week, hunting, shooting, and riding the steeplechase the other days.

Nathan Harris, 84, is often seen in one of his dapper outfits riding his bike around town.

Nathan Harris, 84, is often seen in one of his dapper outfits riding his bike around town.

But he felt there must be more to life, some contribution he could make. His father had served his community as Lord Mayor of Leicester England. Nathan remembers WWII vividly when, as a child, he watched his father constantly work to get refugees and Jews out of France before and after the Nazis took over. He also remembered a vacation at the seashore where he watched the legendary flotilla of small boats manned by local citizens rescue more than 30,000 British troops from across the English channel the night that France fell to the Germans and the Nazis were rushing to annihilate the trapped troops.

He saw that one person’s efforts could make a big difference in peoples’ lives and he wanted to do that also.

His first chance came when he was elected to Leicester County Council. He started looking for ways he could help improve the quality of life of  local families. A deeply spiritual man, he also chaired the Parish Council. He felt education was a way to open horizons for many of the poor, working class children there. He became involved with the Leicester Education Authority (which was the largest education authority in England at the time) and later became its head. Over the years, it became a model as one of the most progressive and successful education authorities in England and received many awards.  While there, Nathan also organized students and teachers to create the most successful youth orchestra in Britain.

After seeing what enrichment music brought to the students’ lives, Nathan wanted to expand their experience of the visual arts as well, since many were too poor to travel to the great museums of London. Nathan oversaw the creation of the finest collection of art by living artists in Britain outside of the Tate Gallery by getting artists involved to put their art in schools for students to feel and touch and experience first hand. The collection even featured pieces from English art icons, including famed sculptor Henry Moore.

Nathan was head of the these organizations for more than 20 years, as well as being a columnist on education and social improvement issues for two major London-based newspapers (The Times and Guardian) and often appeared on television as a popular pundit.

Before she became Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was appointed Minister of Education for England. In that capacity she began to butt heads with Nathan, who was chairman of the Leicester Education Authority and East Midlands Arts Association.

Says Nathan, “She thought art and music were unnecessary, a waste of money and irrelevant. She said publicly that the idea of bringing culture into the education of working class children gave them ideas beyond their station.” He continues, “She started off good by restraining the unions, but her anti-working class attitude proved to be a disaster. So though they think here in America she’s the cat’s whiskers, by the time she left office she wasn’t well regarded in England and had lost her luster.”

But before that, when Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, Nathan decided it was time to leave England.  Says Nathan “I didn’t want to see my life’s work destroyed. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”

Nathan’s marriage of 27 years — which resulted in “four wonderful children” — had ended in divorce a few years earlier and he had met a new love, Alison Strong, from a well-regarded aristocratic family.

Says Nathan, “She was a unique second wife in that she insisted on giving everything to my first wife.”

Realizing he’d have to make money, Nathan flew to New York City and joined a marketing business run by a friend there. The friend, who lived in Connecticut, wanted to move the business South to a little town called Beaufort, and that’s how Nathan ended up here.

His wife, Ally, soon followed and became the office manager at Fripp Island Real Estate company.  They lived together in Beaufort for eight years.

Unfortunately, Ally became sick and passed away after a long illness. Nathan had to mortgage the house to pay all the hospital bills, which he did, and had enough left over to barely buy the historic Joseph Patterson House on the corner of Duke and Newcastle street in the Northwest Quadrant in downtown Beaufort. Although it was a “falling down wreck,” he and a carpenter friend persevered, and over the years, saved it and restored it to its present day beauty.

Nathan has been involved with AMIkids Beaufort (formerly known as the Beaufort Marine Institute) since its early days for the past 23 years.

Says Nathan, “I think it is the best program for young people in trouble with the law in the world.  Nearly 80 percent non-recidivism, and it’s usually the other way around.   The Department of Juvenile Justice recommends kids they think will benefit from the program. It’s phenomenally successful.”

At the recent AMIkids Croquet Fundraiser at Brays Island, Nathan, as one of the “master of ceremonies,” stayed on the mic with his soft-cultured English accent for nearly four hours, talking to the crowd about the organization and imploring them to contribute. As a result, he raised nearly $45,000 of the record $95,000 raised this year.

AMIkids has literally helped hundreds and hundreds of young men get back on track with their lives over the 20 years Nathan has been working with them.

Nathan has also enjoyed being the eucharistic minister at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church for over 20 years.  He’s been friends with Rev. Alexander McBride, the minister of the First African Baptist Church on The Point, for years and finds his sermons “very inspirational” and the people in the congregation “lovely.”

About Beaufort, Nathan says, “It’s a very interesting mixture of many sorts of people that I find interesting. The epitome of American small town charm.”

Nathan met the third love of his life, Carol Washington, and they were married three years ago when he was 81.  You can often see Nathan in one of his dapper outfits, biking around town. He says it helps him stay well and fit.

“Life in Beaufort has been pretty good and I hope it goes on for another 84 years,” he said.

Nathan Harris has demonstrated  that one person, no matter what age, can make a difference in children’s lives, and we thank him for that.

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Foodie Kingdom: Beaufortonians Ann Gassenheimer and Pat Gallagher turn local cooking business into nationwide success

By Lanier Laney

It all started in their backyard garden on The Point in Beaufort when husband and wife team Ann Gassenheimer and Pat Gallagher canned local kumquats and gave them to some friends — who loved them. It has now grown into a national food business that sold 30,000 jars of products last year.

Pat Gallagher and Ann Gassenheimer are the owners of Vegetable Kingdom.

Pat Gallagher and Ann Gassenheimer are the owners of Vegetable Kingdom.

Says Pat, “We moved to Beaufort with many plans that did not include Vegetable Kingdom. But Ann’s cooking and canning caught the attention of new friends, and before we knew it we were selling jams and many other foods at the newly opened Port Royal Farmers Market. That is the first place we ever sold and where we returned last fall after a break from settling into our new kitchen. There are more products than when we started but many of the originals are still in production.”

Vegetable Kingdom began as a preserving company making unique pepper jellies and jams. It now sells a wide variety of meals, dressings, marinades, sauces, relishes, chutney, and more.  They make condiments and foods for everyday as well as special occasions.

Ann says, “I created Vegetable Kingdom with an overreaching idea that food could be grown, cooked and sold for many to share a great flavor from a very specific place in a way that tells a story about how and why that particular flavor tastes so unique and good.

“Not everyone has the time or desire for routine meal preparation, so a major goal from the outset was to make all or part of a delicious meal come from the jar in your hand. Every product can be used in many different ways to help in your kitchen. This goes for leftovers, which our condiments can make shine like new.”

Adds Pat, “We grow some of the plants that end up in our products, but much of our raw materials come from people we know, farmers within miles of our kitchen in Garden’s Corner who want their crops to be made into something for people to enjoy.”

Says Ann, “We were both heavily influenced by our Louisiana and Alabama grandmothers. We have very similar stories of learning to preserve fresh foods, cook unique dishes, pluck chickens, scale fish, shell peas and grow gardens — all from our grandmothers. Everyone had gardens, and we have had one since we met, going on 21 years. We sometimes wish that Nonnie and Mamaw could be here to help in the kitchen and to see what we have done with all they taught us.”

Pat says, “We always have new products in the works.  One customer requested a creamy Greek dressing, another a simple herb vinaigrette, so these are both in development. We want to remain flexible and responsive to the desires of our customers, in so far as we can.

“Salad dressings are very important because they are time-consuming to make at home. By the time all the greens and other vegetables are washed and ready, you don’t want to start from scratch with a dressing — who has that kind of time? “

In the works right now is a Green Tomato Ketchup which, while like a red ketchup, is flavorfully unique.

“This summer will see us adding new salsas to our line and in the fall, additional soups,” said Pat.

Vegetable Kingdom’s most popular products are Gumbo, Hot Pepper Pecan Jelly,  Smoky Pepper Jelly, and Mango Chutney. In the summer months they sell a lot of Watermelon Raspberry Jam and Ginger Lemonade Jam.

“Fast rising in popularity is Smoky Pineapple Sauce,” says Ann. “It’s very versatile: great as a marinade or finishing sauce. We use it at home often.”

Pat and Ann have been working with Whole Foods Market for two years now, and recently became the store’s regional supplier of gumbo, creole, and etouffee. Whole Foods also carries about 10 other Vegetable Kingdom products.

One of their newest clients is Southern Season, with stores in Charleston, Chapel Hill and more planned to open. They supply many small stores across South Carolina and beyond.

Vegetable Kingdom’s production kitchen is 5,000 square feet, including a warehouse. They also have a garden of quarter acre where they organically grow many items necessary for their products.

Says Pat, “This year we reached a milestone — most every product we make had at least one ingredient grown from our garden!”

Ann creates the recipes, manages production, and runs the day-to-day kitchen operation. She also bakes bread and pastry and takes the occasional catering job.

When Pat is not selling to new stores, or selling at farmers markets and festivals, he helps with the heavy work of cooking in a 40 gallon kettle, and he is still making roux that his grandmother taught him to make when he was 6. He also manages the warehouse, order fulfillment and creation of all Vegetable Kingdom labels, which he designs and prints on site.

Says Ann, “We love Beaufort, the Lowcountry, the South and food.  It is in our DNA a bit deeper than some. Everything we do revolves around growing and cooking good food. So this is where our adventure began and it just keeps getting better.”


• Their products include Gumbo, Creole, Etouffee, Chow Chow, Zucchini Relish, Three Pepper Tomatilla Salsa, Hot Pepper Pecan Jelly, Smoky Pepper Jelly, Lime Pepper Jelly, Peach Pepper Jelly, Hot Pear Chutney, Mango Chutney, Smoky Pineapple Sauce, Tofu Dressing, Dee’s Diamond Dressing (dijon vinaigrette), Peach Mango Jam, Watermelon Raspberry Jam, Ginger Lemonade Jam, and Caramel Apple Butter. They also offer Cranberry Apple Relish and Orange Cranberry Sauce for the holidays and an array of ready-to-eat foods and baked goods at farmers markets.

Owner Pat Gallagher said some new products include: 

• Massaman Curry (a  classic Thai curry) 

• Smoky Pepper Jelly (they smoke the peppers in a wood smoker)

• Ghost Pepper Jelly (hotter than most)

• Three Pepper Relish ( to spice up anything you want hotter)

• Bankok To Bali Noodle Soup (an Asian soup base you can make to suit your mood).

Vegetable Kingdom products can be found at Whole Foods Market (Southeastern Region), Earthfare, Suzara’s Kitchen and Sea Eagle in Beaufort, Nuances in Port Royal, Mangos on Fripp, and many more locations listed on their web site. They sell at the Port Royal Farmers Market on Saturdays, The Bluffton Farmers Market on Thursdays, and also at the Savannah Farmers Market in Forsyth Park on Saturdays.

 For more information about Vegetable Kingdom, write to P.O. Box 41 Sheldon, SC, 29941, or email or visit online. Call 843-441-3339, or find them on Facebook, Square Up and on Amazon.

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Chandler Trask not only builds custom homes for clients, but has built a happy life for his family in Beaufort: Dream Builder

By Lanier Laney

Beaufort native Chandler Trask specializes in building custom homes and remodeling existing ones in Northern Beaufort County.

He started building homes in the early 1990s and created Chandler Trask Construction two years ago. He originally  worked as a real estate appraiser and owned his own company, Trask Appraisal. While working as a real estate appraiser he was able to see all types of construction up close — from the good to the not-so-good.

Chandler and Amy Trask

Chandler and Amy Trask

Says Chandler, “I started building spec homes at first and found that I really love building. It was fun to see a project come together and it’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to provide someone with a home they love.”

His work philosophy is simple. “The way I see it, it’s their house, they are the customer,” Chandler says. “My job is to give them the house they’ve always dreamed of on time and within their budget. I am so proud of the homes I’ve built and it makes me feel really good to see them enjoying their new house.  Amy and I are going to an open house at a home I built this weekend and I just love to see how excited they are to entertain and show off their new place.  That why I do what I do.”

His lovely wife, Amy, is a Virginia native, and the two have been married 21 years. Says Chandler with a smile, “Amy and I met at a fraternity party at USC. She was really just talking to me to make some other guy jealous, but in the end I got her — not him!”

Adds Amy, “I thought Chandler was the sweetest, funniest guy I’d ever met!  I’ll never forget when he brought me home to meet his parents about a month after we met. I felt like I’d stepped back in time. Not only was I mesmerized by  the beauty of the historical home he grew up in, but his mother and father were so gracious and kind. I was already picturing myself living in this idyllic little coastal town with two kids hanging out on the porch with his family.  Channy made all my dreams come true!”

Amy has been a media specialist at Lady’s Island Elementary School for the past five years. She has a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina, She’s also a National Board Certified teacher.

Says Amy, “I absolutely LOVE to read and always have, so becoming a school librarian was a natural fit for me. Of course, nowadays a librarian’s job is much more technology oriented but that is fine with me because I’m a major computer nerd.”

She even created the website for her husband’s company.

Chandler said, “I’m a very lucky man. Amy is not only beautiful, but she is so smart. She is so dedicated to her job, but of course her favorite title is Mom.  We’re both so proud of our kids. They’re teenagers now and they’re just such interesting, smart people. It’s awesome!”

Their son Tucker is 17, and daughter Stewart is 14, and both attend Beaufort Academy.

Adds Amy, “Our son is very busy with sports. He plays football, basketball and soccer and we love to attend his games at BA. Our daughter plays tennis and was a cheerleader so football season is so much fun. These are our last few years with them at home so we want to spend as much time as we can with them (when they’ll let us).”

Both Amy and Chandler are big fans of Beaufort. “I can’t really imagine living anywhere else,” says Chandler. “Fishing and boating is a huge part of my life. Just the natural beauty that you see even driving around town between job sites is enough to take your breath away. I get busy though and I have to remind myself how lucky I am to live here, especially when I’m waiting for the bridge!

“There was never any doubt that this is where I wanted to raise a family. I have two brothers and a sister and we all live in Beaufort so I’d say this place certainly puts a hold on you.”

Adds Amy, “I’m from Virginia Beach which is a really big town so I love the small town lifestyle here. Raising my children here has been such a blessing. People really look out for each other and each others’ kids in Beaufort. Whether it’s a tragedy or a celebration, people show up for you in Beaufort. I know that whatever comes my way I have so many dear friends who have my back and  that is such a comforting feeling in today’s crazy world. Beaufort makes me feel safe. It’s home.”

Chandler grew up watching his dad do construction. His father developed the Plaza Shopping center (on the corner of Boundary and Robert Smalls Parkway) and started the Plaza Theater, which the family still runs today.

When it comes to his business, Chandler says, “Well, I’m a one man show so I’m in charge of everything.  That helps me give my customers a personal touch (and keep costs down).  If they hire me to build their house, they’re going to deal with me and only me. I will be on the job site every day.  I encourage my clients to call me on my cell at anytime. I love that personal connection. One of the things my past clients say about me most frequently is how easy I am to work with. I want them to be happy because, for most of my clients, this house is something they’ve been dreaming about for many years. I want the house and the whole building experience to exceed their expectations, and it usually does!”

If you want to build your dream house or remodel your present one, you can get in touch with Chandler at 843-321-9625, or you can go to his website at or email

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Ex Libris: Beaufort’s longest running book club celebrates 20 years

By Lanier Laney

Ex Libris, Beaufort’s longest running book club, was started in 1994 and is now celebrating 20 years of good friends getting together to discuss literature.

After developing a reading list at the beginning of the year, the women meet once a month to discuss the book — and maybe drink a little wine. They try to include a variety of genres from fiction to biographies to self-help and historical fiction. They have developed a reputation as the serious book club.

Members of the Ex Libris book club. Front, from left: Gwen Sanders and Sandra Myrick. Second row: Nancy Brown, Valerie Fisher, Vicki Mix, Rosemary Cuppia and Audrey Montgomery. Third row: Cindy Newman, Mary Sanders, Mary Segars, Priscilla Coleman, Fleetwood Bradshaw. Back row: Kathy Kilgore, Sally Post and Frances Cherry.

Members of the Ex Libris book club. Front, from left: Gwen Sanders and Sandra Myrick. Second row: Nancy Brown, Valerie Fisher, Vicki Mix, Rosemary Cuppia and Audrey Montgomery. Third row: Cindy Newman, Mary Sanders, Mary Segars, Priscilla Coleman, Fleetwood Bradshaw. Back row: Kathy Kilgore, Sally Post and Frances Cherry.

There are roughly 25 members; 16 of them have been with the club since the beginning. Some of the original members include Rosemary Cuppia, Gwen Sanders, Frances Cherry, Cindy Newman, Fleetwood Bradshaw, Vicki Mix, Kathy Kilgore, Sally Post, Mary Sanders, Priscilla Coleman, Fran Sanders, Mary Tatum, Sally Shepard, Laura Dukes, Sarah Kern, Robin Koppernaes and Liz Malinowski.

They have seen a lot of changes over the years — babies born, high school and college graduations, marriages, and now even grandchildren.

The group first came together at Kathy Kilgore’s house after several members had heard about book clubs being formed elsewhere. Those original members have now read and discussed 240 books (one a month for 20 years). Their first book was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and one of their most recent books “The Fault in Our Stars” is also being made into a movie.

Kathy says, “I think our club is dynamic because many of us don’t socialize together any other time except book club. We come together and get one another’s perspective on a whole range of subjects. There are always a few disagreements, but we respect each other’s opinions.”

They take turns having the meetings at each other’s homes and each person brings appetizers to go with the wine.

Even with 25 members, between prior commitments, family events, and other distractions, they usually end up with 12 to 15 people at a meeting, which, as one member said, is the perfect number to be able to discuss the book. That’s why current membership is limited to 25, and there is a waiting list.

Member Vicki Mix admits that they particularly enjoyed reading the young adult books. “It lets us know what our kids are reading,” she said.

Fleetwood Bradshaw said, “Over the last 20 years, the lives of our members have been interwoven creating a tapestry of friendship. We have gooed over babies and wept over graves. We have cheered each other’s accomplishments and supported each other during times of illness, disappointments and sorrow.  We raised babies, built houses, attended school and church events. We’ve taken our children to college and our parents to nursing homes. We watched our children marry  and now watch as our babies have babies. Who knows what books and what events will take us through the next 20 years. We met over the love of words and we stay for words of love.”

She adds, “A wise friend once told me, you will never be lonely as long as you have a book to read.”

Says Kathy Kilgore, “Personally, this club has encouraged me to read books I may otherwise have not picked up. It provides me with a new perspective on many subjects and it has been a wonderful journey with a fabulous group of women.”

As a group they have contributed more than $3,000 to a variety of causes including Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, DSS Adopt a Family, Born to Read, National Wildlife Foundation and Friends of Caroline Hospice.  They pick a deserving organization to give to every year. And every December they invite spouses and guests to an annual Christmas Party.

They have also hosted many visiting authors such as Mary Kay Andrews, Lois Battle, Cassandra King and Tommy Hayes. A favorite highlight was hosting Matthew Bruccoli, a professor of English at the University of South Carolina and the preeminent expert on F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Kathy said, “Many people don’t realize that The Matthew J. & Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald constitutes the most comprehensive research collection for the study and teaching of Fitzgerald and is housed at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.”

The club’s current “leader” is Sandra Myrick. She says, “I would like to thank the founding members for all their efforts throughout the years in motivating the group to continue for the past 20 years!  What an accomplishment. I would also like to thank all of our members past and present for giving of their time and talents to keep this fine organization of lovely ladies meeting to discuss an open-minded collection of reading and contributing to the many nonprofits over the years. I hope that we will be celebrating our organization many, many more years to come. The past 20 have proven very successful so I am hoping in the next decades to have the same success.”

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Refined Design: Meet Maleia Everidge, Grayco’s in-store home designer

By Lanier Laney

Over the past few years, Grayco Hardware has been undergoing a dramatic transformation into Grayco Home and Hardware with the addition of beautiful decorative objects for home, garden and entertaining.

Maleia Everidge is seen in The Lowcountry Living Showroom at Grayco on Lady’s Island.

Maleia Everidge is seen in The Lowcountry Living Showroom at Grayco on Lady’s Island.

The creation of this transformation has been a result of the hard work of Marjorie Gray and Maleia Everidge, Grayco’s in-house designer. Maleia, a North Carolina native, says, “Thanks to Marjorie, Grayco is a family owned local hardware store that has taken on a new image — not only as a place where you can find the tools to build or repair a home but beautifully decorate it as well.”

The now-gorgeous home department that was started by Marjorie as a few humble shelves in the middle of the store four years ago has expanded to an entire furniture and lamp department in the back of the store. Maleia currently oversees and buys for this “Lowcountry Living Showroom.”

Marjorie hired Maleia as her co-buyer and in-house designer two years ago.

”Maleia has been a very successful designer in Beaufort for years; I saw her work and loved it and what a wonderful fit it has been for us,” Marjorie said.

Maleia got her design experience early, working in some of the best designer showrooms at the famous North Carolina furniture market in High Point during college.

She started her first design business in the early 2000’s, a few years after graduating from the University of North Carolina.  She also gained experience building and renovating numerous homes of her own and for friends and clients over the years. She’s a former associate of Beaufort’s prestigious M Home and Garden store on Bay Street, where she further refined her craft.

Maleia “discovered” Beaufort through her good friends Francis and David Cherry. She and her husband moved here and raised three wonderful children. Zach, 21, is now at the College of Charleston; Addie, 19, attends Clemson University; and Emma, 17, goes to Beaufort Academy.

Says Maleia about Beaufort, “I just love the sense of community we all have here and our beautiful setting on the coast.”

Maleia has volunteered for more than 10 years with Historic Beaufort Foundation and has been an active contributor to many of the beautiful decorations at the organization’s annual soiree and other events. She is also very involved with St. Peter’s Catholic Church’s “Homes for the Holidays,” where she has decorated five acclaimed show houses.

When it comes to her style, Maleia says, “Some people call it ‘Coastal Chic’, to me it’s more of a ‘Refined Rustic.’ For example, I’d put an elegant, modern, white lamp on a table with a driftwood finish. I love clean, modern, simple, sophisticated, and to me, the rustic part makes it approachable, warm and inviting, by using lots of natural materials and finishes and more casual and easy living for our seaside lifestyle. I like to make people feel good in a room and that it shows a part of their personality.”

With so many people redoing their beach rentals this time of the year, Maleia specializes in the “quick refresher.” She keeps up with the trends in home design and says you can do it easily (without spending a fortune) with some new graphic pillows, a pair of modern lamps and maybe a mirror.

In the Lowcountry Living Showroom, Maleia has worked hard to give customers a high-end chic look, at a great price. She points to a mirror and says, “That mirror on the wall looks exactly like a Mitchell Gold which retails for almost $1,000. Our version is $299.”

The showroom also exclusively carries one of Maleia’s favorite High Point furniture collections called Braxton and Culler, made in the USA. (It’s proved to be so popular they can barely keep it in the store!) She brought modern graphic wallpaper and fabric to the store and several new lamp lines, to name just a few. She also loves the new Benjamin Moore paint line that Grayco owner Herb Gray has added “because of their beautiful coastal colors.”

If a customer brings a picture of a room or a paint swatch to the store, Maleia will gladly give advice there. For larger jobs, she has a successful interior design business called ME Design where she does large and small residential and commercial projects.  She recently did a very beautiful re-do of Dr. Karen Eller’s office in Port Royal.   She’s been a great resource too for other top interior designers in the Lowcountry who visit her often for suggestions and help.

It’s rare to find a place like Grayco that can meet all your decorating needs — from nails to designer sofas — under one roof. And with Maleia Everidge on the team as the in-store designer, the store has hit a “home run.”

CONTACT MALEIA: Call her interior design business ME Design at 843-812-1814, visit her at Grayco Hardware and Home, 136 Sea Island Parkway, Lady’s Island, SC, 843-521-8060, or email

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