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Being local comes from the heart

LOCAL Life asked Andrea Antunes McGilton to share her thoughts on what it means to be local. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].

Story by Andrea Antunes McGilton

Andrea Antunes McGilton is shown with her husband, Randell, and their son, Jack. The couple met at Hilton Head Island High School when Andrea was 17 and have been soulmates ever since.

To me, being local has little to do with geography and everything to do with the heart. It has everything to do with falling in love with a place and with the people. It’s feeling that huge sense of belonging that creates peace and happiness.

Although I was born in New York, since moving here at the age of 7, I’ve considered Hilton Head Island my forever home. I belong here. My parents are here as is my brother John and his family. My husband Randell and I are raising our son Jack here. And now, I have assumed the responsibility of steering my family’s business, Distinctive Granite and Marble, toward a future that will mirror the island’s success.

It all started for me in 1994, when my parents – my Portuguese dad John and New Yorker mom Alice – came to Hilton Head Island to visit cousins Carol and Phil Schembra. They were so taken with the beauty and opportunities on Hilton Head that my mother went back to New York with us kids to pack up the family home while my dad stayed to open a Hilton Head location for his stone business.

Maybe it was the soft beauty of the Lowcountry that captured my family. Or, the friendliness of the people and their open acceptance of anyone who chooses to join them on the island, no matter where they were from. It was all of those things, plus the opportunity to live surrounded by nature and encouragement while pursing personal goals and ambitions.

I remember early on eating pizza on the floor of the Distinctive showroom on Hunter Road, and answering the phones every summer from the time I was 11. I literally grew up in that warehouse full of huge slabs of stone. I consider myself fortunate to have known at an early age what my life’s work would be and where I would make my forever home.

I met my husband, Randell, at Hilton Head High School when I was 17. We were soulmates from the beginning. Randell has joined our family in so many ways. He shares my dad’s love of cars, and when they aren’t tinkering, they are driving to shows and races. Now, Randell has joined me in operating Distinctive Granite and Marble. Our son, Jack, is already playing and eating pizza in our showrooms. Sounds pretty local to me.

Hilton Head has been so good to our family. Our businesses are thriving, and my brother John Jr. now heads up AGM Imports.

The Antunes “family” has grown over the years in other ways as well. We have always considered our employees to be part of our family, and we work hard to provide jobs, security and a future for them. Many have been working with my dad for years. They have come to our weddings and we have gone to theirs. We take pride in these opportunities we have created and cherish our friendships and responsibilities.

My parents have always believed that being local requires giving back. We are longtime supporters of the Children’s Relief Fund, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and we are generous donors to dozens of charitable organizations. Our new generation shares that commitment to give back, support and take care of our neighbors however we can. It’s what it means to be local – and it comes from our hearts