Sometimes a big move such as relocating to a new town is a bit like purchasing a new automobile. It can be exciting – even exhilarating. At other times, the thrill comes from buying a beautifully restored and updated classic from your youth, only to discover that it’s even better than you remembered it.
That’s how it is with Mount Pleasant, as throngs of newcomers are pleased to report. For people who settle down in Mount Pleasant for the first time, everything about the town is an adventure. For those who are returning – or, in their hearts, never really left – it’s a welcoming old friend.
To find out what makes Mount Pleasant such a desirable home to folks “from off,” as well as to others with a long history here, we spoke with two women with different life experiences. Each has her own reasons for loving this community by the sea.
Kim Powell, who moved to Mount Pleasant last June, lives in Marsh Harbor at Toler’s Cove. A third-generation Ohioan from Dayton, friends and family members were perplexed when she and her husband, Keith, uprooted their three sons and headed for the Lowcountry.
Diane Valentino, who grew up on the Isle of Palms but attended school and shopped in Mount Pleasant, remembers the days when the town’s “supermarket” was a grocery store on Pitt Street – the only “downtown” around – and the sole department store was Kenny’s. If that tiny general store, which stocked everything from Keds to bedsheets to clothing, didn’t carry it, people liked to say back in the day, “You didn’t need it.”
Powell arrived in Mount Pleasant when the town had exploded from the 4,000 or so residents in Valentino’s youth to some 70,000 today. For her, huge food stores are in abundance and everything from formalwear to fire pits is available at a wide range of major merchants, from Belk to Walmart to Lowes.
Valentino left Mount Pleasant for a while, moving with her husband, Marion, during a military tour in Germany. They have been permanent residents of Mount Pleasant since 1984.
Powell moved here for reasons both personal and professional. Two sons at the College of Charleston and a third now a student at Porter-Gaud offered family reasons. Business beckoned as well. She and Keith opened a division of their construction company, Summit Industrial Flooring, 18 months ago, and they fell in love with the area. Additionally, she’s in the process of launching a new luxury spa, Woodhouse Day Spa, at the old Zeus Restaurant site on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard.
At first, it’s hard to imagine how two people with such different stories could both be so enthusiastic about living here.
Among the things about Mount Pleasant that excite Powell is the town’s business community. Her demographic research showed that this town would be ideal for a new luxury day spa such as the one she plans. In fact, Mount Pleasant has a higher economic rating that any of the other locations in the Woodhouse Day Spa organization.
She loves “the creativity … and all the artisanal brands of almost anything you can imagine. I love the passion for life here. Every day, people are doing things that are out of the ordinary.”
Predictably, Valentino cherishes “family and friends and all those wonderful memories.”
Just taking a ride around town recalls for the Lowcountry native a time when Mount Pleasant was just a quaint little village – when Boone Hall Plantation was just a plantation, Snee Farm didn’t yet exist and the ancient Grace Memorial Bridge was the only way to access the bright lights of big city Charleston.
Powell is also impressed with the cocktail culture.
“I’m a big fan of Hat Trick Gin and the other botanical tonics like the kind that can be found at Rarebit,” she commented.
Valentino likes all the new shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities available today but feels that despite all its growth, Mount Pleasant is still deep down the same friendly small town she knew in her youth.
Yet there are more similarities than differences in why both women are so fond of our town.
Both love the outdoors: Powell for the running and bicycling, paddle boarding and boating; Valentino for the birds, the wildlife and the shrubs, flowers and plants “that bloom in every season of the year.”
Both love the ocean and the easy access to the beach, and both have a special affection for Shem Creek and everything the historic fishing enclave offers. And everybody loves the weather.
While moving to Mount Pleasant or returning home here may be like buying a “dream car,” that’s not because it’s the means to reach a destination. It’s because for a growing number of new arrivals and longtime residents, it is the destination. And it’s just too good for them ever to want to leave.
By Bill Farley
Photo of the Powells provided; photo of the Valentinos by Cassandra Michelle Photography.