As work trucks began to show up last summer, patrons of the former Red Fish in Bluffton remained curious for months about who and what was going into the space previously occupied by the popular restaurant.
Recently, the mystery was solved, when The Court Atkins Group completed its renovation and announced its presence in its new headquarters.
Court Atkins has an extensive menu of architectural commercial, residential and interior designs in its portfolio that's been serving the Lowcountry since 2004.
It recently relocated its services to its new home so that its 30 employees could work and collaborate under one roof. It also has retained its Hilton Head and Savannah offices.
"Our company has matured, and we have a larger staff," said James Atkins, co-owner and partner with William Court. "We had employees scattered over five different suites, in 3,900 square feet ... It began to challenge the workflow and the work product, so we hunted for space that we could bring everybody back under one roof."
The building, built in 1990, was first the "new" Bluffton post office, then Myrtle's Restaurant, later Myrtle's event venue, and finally Red Fish. The space provided the design firm with 5,000 square feet of interior space and another 1,200 square feet outside on the deck and patio with a fireplace. The company now hosts events for insiders and outsiders.
The partners were looking to capitalize on the potential of a large, open design space studio that would encourage collaboration and ongoing team dialogues.
"The pieces fell into place, and we're excited to be in this building," Atkins said.
The company bought the property in May of 2019 with the help of NAI Carolina Charter real estate company. They renovated portions of it in partnership with Shoreline Construction and wrapped up the transformation in February.
"We took the restaurant out and put the design studio in," Atkins said. "It's a multipurpose collaborative design-oriented space."
Now, he said, "We get together around the table with sketch paper and pencils and are able to work through creative ideas that really is the essence of creative architecture and interiors."
Among the new space amenities are:
• Rollup garage glass doors for a "great indoor-outdoor environment"
• A 17-foot mahogany gathering table, previously the Red Fish bar, to meet and entertain clients and colleagues
• The interior design resource and design display center; previously the back bar
• A conference space past the original foyer and dining rooms to welcome guests
• A full-service kitchen and break room
• Various smaller conference spaces
Staff design director Deb Van Plew describes the general interior vibe as "Lowcountry contemporary with clean lines of a soft contemporary aesthetic, composed with authentic materials and textures of nickel gap, brick and oak."
"She took a strong lead to recraft the interiors here," Atkins said.
So why is Bluffton their home turf?
"This is certainly home, and I don't see us going anywhere," he said, adding that both his and the Court's families have grown up here over the past 20 years. "Bluffton is a dynamic and diverse community. What we love about working here is that we get opportunities to work with people from all over the country."
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.