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When you’re here, you’re family

LOCAL Life asked James Messina to share his thoughts on what it means to be local. Messina is the owner of MESSINAS, a business that manufactures natural lawn and garden products with the brands Pulverize, Seedlingers, Animal Stoppers and more. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected]

I guess it all started innocently enough. “You know, we could just move here, and I could commute back to the office every week.”

How many people who come to Hilton Head say the same thing to their partner in a dreamlike moment, not sure if they’ve said it loud enough for the other person to even hear them? Most just want to know how the words feel as they pass over their lips, while others are looking to be dared to follow through. Well, for my wife Megan and I, it became one of those life-changing moments, the butterfly wing flap that would change the course of our lives, resulting in uprooting our family, including our three children and our dog Rocky, to a “new normal” that so many people only dream about.

While we were always drawn to the island for the unbeatable beaches, Lowcountry hospitality and seemingly endless bike trails, we also fell in love with the Spanish-moss-covered trees, the take-your-breath-away sunsets and the nightly cicada serenades. There was so much to wrap our arms and hearts around in this special place that the burden for me of keeping one foot back in New Jersey seemed like a small price to pay to ensure our piece of island living for our family.

I have been coming to the island, off and on, for the past 20 years, and while I would certainly not be considered a local until recently (thanks for your help, Mr. Schembra), I put in many an hour at the Kingfisher in Shelter Cove in my younger days as both a waiter and bartender, at Banana Republic in the old Shelter Cove Town Center (I’m definitely showing my age with that one) and for my own business spraying homes against deer damage with our Deer Stopper product.

Now, as the owner of a consumer lawn and garden products company with outlets in all 50 states and nine countries around the world, I get to call Hilton Head home. I look at the time I get to spend here as the greatest reward possible for the work I do and the time I spend away from my family.

From fishing with my boys on the back of our own dock on the Palmetto Dunes lagoon to cheering on my daughter and the rest of her Prep volleyball team, we have been able to make short work of establishing our roots here. And at every turn, we can’t help but feel like we made a terrific decision by the countless folks who seems to welcome us with that unspoken knowing smile and a wink that says “yup, we know exactly how you feel. We did it, too.”

So if you should happen to see us grabbing lunch at our favorite spot, Java Burrito, playing our umpteenth round at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, making another delivery of our products to Bruno Landscape and Nursery or laughing over the coconut cake at Jane Bistro, we hope you’ll interrupt us and say hello. After all, we’re neighbors now; and we wouldn’t dream of having it any other way.