The new Mermaid of Hilton Head retail location in Tanger 2.

Winter in the Lowcountry typically sees a lull in the new business calendar, but that was back in the days when brick and mortar ruled the roost. We have plenty to discuss, both new businesses and some fond farewells.

Welcome, welcome!

Parker’s Kitchen, 5 Oliver Court, Bluffton, 843-901-2280, You’ve been seeing it sprout up on Bluffton Parkway for most of 2022. It seemed done for the past couple of months. But yes, the new Parker’s is open. So now you have gas options on both sides of that stretch of the parkway. This Parker’s is a bit different than others, though. There are fewer pumps than most of the recent additions around town. On the plus side, the kitchen offerings are a bit more extensive. I’ve tried the catfish and it more than makes up for Cracker Barrel taking catfish off their menu (Jim ’N’ Nick’s still the chain fave, Chef B’s and Da Shack the local gems).

Two new gift shops at Tanger 

December was a busy month for Jenny Alberson and the crew over at Tanger Outlets Hilton Head, as they welcomed two new themed gift shops. At Tanger 1, Bay Breeze opened in mid-December next to Adidas. The store is all about both beach and ocean-themed apparel and Hilton Head and Bluffton branded tees and sweatshirts. Down the road, Mermaid of Hilton Head has opened next to Zales. What began as an ocean conservation boat tour idea has grown into children’s books and a new retail location for Mermaid Nina, husband Captain Rick, and their ocean-roaming crew. Check out the new store for everything you need to live the mermaid life, including your very own swimmable mermaid tails.

One bit of bummer news out of Tanger:

The eatery and self-pour concept that is Tapville Social will not be coming to the back parking lot side of Tanger 2. We were excited to see what this was all about, as it’s been teased for months. But alas, it was not meant to be. Tanger officials say a new business is taking over the space in the coming months.

Thank you for your service

We have some farewells to share and some tips of the cap to three amazing businesses that have brought decades of smiles to the bellies of Lowcountry foodies.

The grand dame of them all, Signe Gardo, decided to hang up her apron after 50 years of baking and cooking on the island’s south end. Gardo cooked her last batch of Christmas meal packages for more than 50 families and closed the doors of Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery and Café at 93 Arrow Road on Christmas Eve. 

Signe’s is believed to be the longest-running restaurant with a single owner on Hilton Head. The adventure began at Signe’s World deli in a lighthouse keeper’s cottage at Harbour Town in August 1972. She moved to Arrow Road in 1984 and proved the roadway could be more than just a cut-through road, that it could support thriving businesses. 

Signe’s has been a favorite of both the golf and tennis pros that have played and stayed on the island. Gardo, now 81, has been easing toward retirement since breaking her leg two years ago, but her most diehard fans never believed this day would come. Gardo plans to share her half-century of kitchen adventures in an upcoming cookbook she is working on with her daughter. 

She is one of the kindest and most humble souls you’ll find. Our waistlines may be thinner without her, but the end of an era leaves a gaping hole in the heart of the Lowcountry business community. 

The happy news here is the space will continue to host incredible eats. Sprout Momma Breads is taking over the space after a bit of renovating. Kim Tavino and Ryan Fennessey have been a fave of the market circuit with their fresh take on old world bread-making – and now they will have a central location to share their breads and sandwiches. Plans are to open in February.

We’ve talked about Lisa “Bernie” Bernstein and how her combination of big heart and mouth-watering baked goods has wowed foodies. Well, Bernie will be closing up her Palmetto Bay Road location on Dec. 31 after a rent hike forced her to rethink her operation. Not to fret though: After a three-week break, Bernstein will be doing advance-order baking after working out a deal with a local restaurant to use their kitchen. Watch The Purple Cow Facebook page for updates.

Off island, we’re saying goodbye to the brick-and-mortar Riverwalk location for The Lunch Lady. Mindi and Brandon Meyaard have been comfort food favorites for 15 years, so much so that the business has expanded to a thriving catering and food truck business. The couple have been easing away from dine-in for a bit (COVID and a lack of staff expedited that evolution), and simply put, one of the balls in the air had to go. 

Mindi shared on The Lunch Lady Facebook that the family has lost eight family members over the past 30 months, which has caused the couple to reassess priorities. They will continue the catering and the food truck, but their last day at Riverwalk will be Jan. 5. 

Finally, Marleigh and Mike Hammer will be closing the doors at their Berkeley Place location for Sunset Slush Hilton Head. Ongoing maintenance issues at the plaza combined with shifting priorities have forced the Hammers to downsize and focus their entrepreneurial efforts on their housecleaning business, HammerTime Cleaning. Marleigh will also be competing in the Miss Plus America state pageant in Columbia in the spring. 

This is a quartet of four of the hardest-working and kind-hearted families around, the kind of guts, spirit and talent that make the Lowcountry the special place we know and love. 

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton.