After more than 30 years of buying and selling folk art, chic clothing and distinctive jewelry, Nancy Golson decided it was time to change course and sold Eggs 'n' Tricities on May 12 to her employee Georgia Holaus.
The health of her husband, Charlie - who founded the restaurant Charlie's L'Etoile Verte on Hilton Head, plus accidentally running over her foot with his wheelchair, and the crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic brought things to a head.
After weeks of closure, the shop initially reopened with a shortage of staff.
"So, Georgia came back to work and when I told her I didn't know what I was going to do, she said she was willing to work 30 hours a week and we could be open three or four days a week. I said most of the other employees were not going to come back to work," Golson said, "and she said, 'OK. Well, then would you be willing to sell, because I'd like to buy it.' I said, 'What'?"
Holaus is a former elementary school teacher and co-owner of the Bluffton music store Fretworks who has spent most of her working life in retail. She and her husband, Eric, own another music store in Arizona. They have lived in the Bluffton area for the past five years after living for 10 years in Greenwood. They moved to South Carolina from Milwaukee, Wis.
"We specifically moved to Bluffton for the ocean and the weather," Holaus said, "and we moved here to open Fretworks Music Store because this area didn't have one. It was good opportunity for us."
Golson opened "the Egg," as it is lovingly nicknamed, in the fall of 1989 in what had been a former gas station-turned-Calhoun Station Thrift Store, on the corner of Calhoun and Bridge streets.
The thrift store needed more space and moved to where it is now located behind the Bluffton Town Hall. That's when Golson saw her opportunity.
"Charlie and I had bought a restaurant on Hilton Head in the weeks before Christmas of 1983. While I was waiting tables I was also trying to start a Montessori school and I asked everyone for donations for the school in Bluffton," she said. The restaurant is now run by their children Palmer and Margaret.
"I started thinking I wanted to bring people to Bluffton to see how beautiful it is. I asked Mr. Messex if I could lease (the building), since Calhoun Station had already painted it," said Golson.
She and Martha Lattiman had worked together on projects for the school, Lattiman was interested and the two became partners. In addition to the things they themselves could make, they traveled all over to find more items that would fit with the store's style.
"We drove our kids up to camp in the mountains, bought some folk art and came back and opened up," she said. "Our first mentor was Joe Adams. He had a company called America, Oh Yes! He specialized in American folk art and was one of the biggest dealers in folk art around."
The store's name fits its style.
"It got the name because the little newspaper we had in Bluffton was called the 'Bluffton Eccentric' - it was the greatest little paper. Graham Bullock was the editor and Graham's wife Jane was my children's Montessori teacher," said Golson. "And he made sure the kids were in the paper every week. It got so they would ask, 'Are we in the eggs-entric?' And we just started using it."
Golson said the store just kept growing ,and with it her volunteering in the community.
"I must have been a fool for punishment. We were building the new Michael C. Riley Elementary School, and we organized one fundraiser after another for that school," she said. "We planted trees - a lot of the ones in front were all dug up from someone's property and planted there. That year - I forget when that was - I was named school volunteer of the year for Beaufort County," she said.
Volunteering began at an early age, she said.
"My mother used to say 'the more you give, the more you get back.' When I was 12, my sister and I would make new altar linens and my mother would make chasubles and things like that for the priest at Church of the Cross," Golson recalled. "She would do things like that."
Whether it's been organizing an event, painting signs or raising money, Golson has always supported her community.
"I don't believe in all the 33 years I have been open I haven't been hit up for a golf tournament, or this or that, and I don't think I've turned anybody down. And I think that all of that comes back to you tenfold," she said.
The small shop makes for close working relationships, and Patsy Hodge and Connie Reed are two who have worked there for years.
"Patsy Hodge has worked for me for 20-plus years now. She had a bridal shop on Hilton Head and when they closed it then she came to work for me and so did Connie Reed," Golson said.
"With Patsy, over the years we began to finish each other's sentences. And she knew what I was thinking, and that was helpful because when Charlie was so sick and I spent a lot of time in Savannah with him, Patsy knew what I would do in every situation. In fact," she said with a laugh, "most people think Patsy owns it."
Another long-time customer is also a former employee and now a good friend. "Beth Woods worked for me in the early years until she became pregnant. I knew her great-grandparents as a little girl in Spartanburg. Beth was a school teacher in Bluffton," Golson said. "Now her daughter, Haigler, is about to graduate from college and she came to work for me, too. Beth is still one of my best customers and one of my best friends."
Eggs moved in 2015 from its first site at 71 Calhoun to its current digs at 5 Lawton St., a magnet for visitors and long-time customers.
The hardest thing about running the store, she said, has been controlling herself and her spending.
"I'm not a business person. I'm a creative person," Golson said. "I love rearranging the store and making it look good and changing the displays. That's what keeps your customers coming in."
Although she will be busy with other undertakings, there is one thing she will miss about being in the shop: "All the fabulous people I've met and gotten to be friends with over the years. There's so many," said Golson. "The same thing with Charlie's restaurant - so many people we met when I was working there and waiting tables. People is the most wonderful thing."
Little will change with the new owner, albeit operating under the current considerations of the COVID-19 restrictions. Holaus said only six customers will be permitted in the shop at a time, and any clothing shoppers try on will be sanitized before they go back on the racks.
"I wish Georgia well," Golson said. "She's going to have one of my employees, Andrea Crews, who is excellent with displays. She's worked for me off and on for 15 years or so. She's going to work for Georgia a little bit. I'm sure Andrea will give it that eggy look."
As for Holaus' plans for the future?
"I'll have all the same consigners, same phone number," she said. "I've never had a bad day of work here. I'm super excited."
Nancy's plans will include lots of family time and a chance to pursue some activities for which she has not had time.
"I want to paint. I love painting. I might take an art class. And I want to get my foot fixed. ... That's the first order of my life after this coronavirus," she said.
"When it gets a little warmer I may just sit on the porch and have a glass of wine and watch the tide come in, and then have another glass of wine and watch the tide go out."
"And enjoy my grandchildren. I'll hopefully watch them get a little older, and see where life leads me."
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.