Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

The Thanksgiving holiday at the Herbkersman household was, as much as possible, about family and a celebration of gratitude. We have adult children who have new lives starting alarmingly soon, and older parents who are dealing with the challenges that we all eventually will face. Holidays for us are times to focus on the present and enjoy our blessings to the absolute fullest. Memories of absent loved ones make the enjoyment of family and friends all the sweeter.


Strolling around Old Town Bluffton last weekend began with a commitment to walk off some of my excess celebration, but as often happens, it turned into a bit of market research. Old business habits run deep with me. As I made the rounds from the Promenade, meandering down to the Church of the Cross, by way of the Oyster Factory, I was a little taken aback by all the folks, and especially by all the business being done. I stopped to chat with a few shoppers who didn’t look familiar, thinking they might be from out of town. Some were, but several were in the process of becoming our neighbors.


Out-of-towners and newcomers alike were just enchanted with our place. They liked the way we have kept the nature intact, how we have preserved our history, and most of all, how people in the shops, galleries and restaurants all seem eager to chat. I am becoming more convinced that our friendliness and conversational bent just puts us over the top as far as visitors are concerned. Home folks kind of take it for granted. It really is a special feature.


And speaking of restaurants, many of you have commented on the changes in the Promenade, one of which is that Moon Mi is now the Mulberry Street Pizzeria. We had a number of good conversations with the Mulberry Street partners before we decided to make the change. We had built a strong business at Moon Mi, with a loyal customer base, thanks to the good work of former manager Charlie Wetmore. However, Joe Sullivan, Mulberry chef and partner, made a very good case that his product and style would enhance the overall dining offering in the Promenade, especially with the opening of the new Bluffton Room, and some of the other potential additions we are considering. We also liked the fact that it was one family group selling to another family group. Just seemed like a Bluffton thing to do.


One of the benefits of having two competing chambers of commerce in Bluffton, seems to be that they both are trying to raise their game. One example is that the HHI/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce has hired a small business specialist, Hannah Horne, who is coordinating the chamber’s Shop Small campaign in our area. They have partnered with American Express and chosen four small businesses in Bluffton to spotlight with website videos and print coverage. Those businesses are: Babbie Guscio’s The Store, Jacob Preston Pottery, Chica’s in the Promenade, and Spartina 449.


Finally, I want to make a suggestion to all the business folks. Most of us can use a little extra help during the holidays, so it just makes sense to hire a college student home for the break, and hire one high school student, even if it’s just someone to sweep up and take out the trash. Not only will it make your life a little easier, with maybe a little more family time, it may well make the economics of those you temporarily hire a whole lot better. We have always tried to hire young folks over the holidays and have found that they are good workers and they also remember the opportunity you offered. I promise you they get more out of it than a few paychecks. It’s a small investment that can pay big dividends.