LOCAL Life asked Hilton Head Island resident David Martin to share his thoughts on what it means to be local. Martin is the owner of the family-owned Piggly Wiggly store in Coligny Plaza. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].
When I was asked to participate in a column about local life, the first words that came to mind were “community” and “gratitude.” This community is special — it is resilient, it is strong, it is tight-knit but welcoming, and it is rooted in its natural surroundings.
Moving to a small town can be isolating, but contrary to what an island with 2,000 people may seem like on the surface, Hilton Head in 1969 was the opposite of that. My family moved here from Allendale, S.C., after buying the Red & White Supermarket that year on a hope and a prayer. The community welcomed us in with open arms; they shopped with us and they helped us when we were struggling. The native islanders took us in and connected with us. Because we were given so much during our early years here, my father humbly made it his mission to express his gratitude by giving back to the community. He allowed people to pay their grocery bills on a monthly basis, he helped families who couldn’t afford the most basic items, he donated to the local sports leagues and Deep Well, among so many other things.
Throughout my lifetime here, I have been blessed to witness some of the greatest examples of generosity. When I battled addiction in my 20s, this community stepped in, picked me up, and willingly accepted me back. When a series of brand new, massive grocery stores began opening up across the island, this community continued to shop with their local, family-owned Piggly Wiggly. When the high school girls soccer team wanted new uniforms or a youth group planning an overseas mission trip needed supplies, I invited them to bag groceries for donations and welcomed a sea of local customers who were willing to chip in. When a hurricane brushed our island and we opened the store for those left behind, I witnessed people beyond happy to lend a hand as they paid for the groceries of strangers who had no cash on them, led others around the store by flashlight, kept those waiting in line entertained by singing, and offered to help clean up those properties that sustained the most damage.
As my family and our business celebrate our 50th year here, I cannot help but be grateful to this community. Grateful to live in a place that is invested in helping its people. Grateful for a community that still inspires me to remain true to my roots, and to lend a hand even when I think it’s not possible. Grateful to have raised my own children here. Grateful that my children, who may live in Washington, D.C., and Texas, feel blessed enough and connected enough to still call Hilton Head home. Grateful for the opportunities I continue to have to give back to those around me.
Hilton Head was built on generosity and a sense of community, and I sincerely hope these roots continue to shine and grow through those who call this place home, for the next 50 years and beyond.