History of Gift Shop
Longtime Lowcountry locals are well aware that The Greenery is the pre-eminent landscape maintenance company in the region. Most of us know that the company is 100% employee owned and was founded by the Edwards family in the early 1970’s. And, it’s common knowledge that The Greenery sets the standard in its industry, having received national acclaim and countless awards, while giving back in a major way to the communities that it serves. But, what many folks may not know is the story of the company’s humble beginnings and the history of the unique building that houses The Greenery Garden Center Gift & Home.
Lowcountry Love Story
The story of how the business came to be and how the building found itself a new home on Hilton Head Island are now forever intertwined thanks to some (perhaps literal) “divine intervention.” It was while on a weekend getaway in Hilton Head that Berry and Ruthie Edwards fell hopelessly in love with the Lowcountry. You likely have experienced that feeling yourself: it’s an undefinable mystique – something in the salty air, the swaying moss, the majestic live oaks, the magnificent skyscapes – that speaks to a place deep within us. On that October weekend in 1973, the Edwardses decided to answer the siren call of the South Carolina sea islands and leave their home in North Carolina to relocate to the Lowcountry. There was so much development going on at that time, Berry and Ruthie knew that there must be plenty of opportunity for them to launch a successful business while enjoying their newly adopted coastal lifestyle.
Birth of a Business
So it was that Berry left a high-flying, successful career in textiles, and, admittedly having no prior experience even working in his own yard, purchased a landscaping company called Hillside Landscape Nursery. Well, anyone who knows anything about the area is well aware that “hillsides” are a rare sight in the Lowcountry, so Ruthie immediately set about changing the name of the business to something more applicable. She collaborated with local artist Ralph Ballantine on the new logo design and that is how The Greenery, Inc. was born.
Still having the massive undertaking of their move looming before them, there were many trips back and forth for the family in those early days of establishing their new roots on the island. With construction on Interstate 95 having only just begun a few years earlier, back then the main route to and from points north meandered through many charming small towns, Ridgeland among them. It was on one of these trips, in the Cherry Point area of what is now SC Highway 170 that a “For Sale” sign caught Ruthie’s eye. It was placed in the window of a weathered old white clapboard church building with a certain charm that piqued her interest. That is how she came to know the Reverend Alonzo Alston, a towering, colorful figure and the leader of the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He and his flock had recently relocated to a brand new sanctuary built of brick just a few yards away from the wooden church structure, which he had earmarked for scrap lumber and priced at a paltry $600. Ruthie knew it would be perfect as the headquarters for their burgeoning business.
Church for Sale
Happy to give the Edwardses a tour of the church, Reverend Alston intimated some of the history to which the building had been a witness. It is estimated that the quaint, rustic church was built around 1873, having withstood 100 years of weather at that point, including a hurricane here and there. It was crafted from sturdy heart pine lumber and featured a narrow wooden balcony, likely for the choir, or the church women to sit. The structure’s only source of heat in winter was a pair of wood stoves, while summer Sundays in the sanctuary would likely have been sweltering, save for an occasional breeze gently wafting through the tall side windows. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the history of the building can be found in the tale of its inception. If the church was built in 1873, which it is believed, it would have been erected less than a decade after the abolition of slavery. It’s highly likely that the church was constructed by newly freed slaves using wood reclaimed from the ruins of nearby abandoned plantation buildings, most of which had been plundered in the Civil War. It’s particularly moving when considering that the charming little church that caught the eye of Ruthie Edwards holds an important place in history as one of the first African-American churches in the region, and even the nation.
Now that Berry and Ruthie had settled on what their business would be and the building in which the office would be housed, came the monumental operation of moving the old wooden church from its original home in Ridgeland to its new location on Hilton Head Island. At that time, the island could only be accessed by drawbridge or boat and the building would not fit through the bridge. Additionally, the steeple, belfry and roof had to be removed for the structure to be able to pass underneath electrical and phone wires as well as low hanging tree branches. So, the little charming wooden church was loaded onto a flatbed truck, a “Wide Load” sign was affixed to the back and off it went on the first leg of the journey to its new home. The second leg of its journey would see the building loaded onto a barge at Buckingham Landing and floated across Skull Creek to Hudson’s Landing. From there, the church was transported on the flatbed trailer by truck the rest of the way to where it stands today on William Hilton Parkway.
A Peaceful Place
As the seasons changed and the years passed, The Greenery’s business blossomed, slowly at first, until it became the booming success it is now. The old church building had served the organization well as an office space, but the company had definitely outgrown it by 2005. That’s when they decided to give the building a new purpose. They would incorporate Ruthie’s eye for design and love of antiques (after all, she had built a successful interior design business of her own over the years) with a garden center and gift shop. They called it the Antiques & Garden Collectibles Shop at The Greenery and filled it with beautiful antiques, whimsical and unique treasures for gardens, gifts and home. Ruthie tapped Lisa Kiggans to manage the shop housed in the old church building and the rest, as they say, is history. But the story doesn’t end there. It’s told by every hand hewn beam in the rafters, by every well worn plank in the floor and it’s in every inch of the beadboard tongue and groove paneling in the walls and the ceilings. There is a palpable serenity inside the building, amplified by the loving care that the family has put into it. It’s a peaceful place in an increasingly manic world; there’s a bit of magic inside that old church.
The Garden Center Gift & Home accepts all credit cards. We offer Gift Cards on site or Call us to order one 843-592-3759