One of the busiest and most active businessmen in the Lowcountry over the past few years had an especially busy two weeks at the end of March.
On March 30, Watterson Brands announced the acquisition of the property at 10 Buck Island Road, the former home of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette since 1999.
The Burnt Church Distillery owner bought the 9.08-acre site with 72,000 square feet of office and warehouse space for $6.3 million, according to Beaufort County public documents.
Packet reporters and officials announced Wednesday that the remaining Packet staff will work remotely until a smaller office space more in line with their downsized staff can be found. The 51-year-old newspaper was founded on Hilton Head Island but took on more of a regional focus through the years, especially once they moved into the Buck Island Road building with Gazette staff 23 years ago.
Ally Hughes, director of PR and community engagement for Watterson Brands, said that the company is figuring out the long-term plans for the space but, as Watterson has done with his signature Burnt Church Distillery space, the end result will be carefully planned out to have maximum impact on the community.
“It will be used for storage for now, but we are so excited about the potential for the building,” Hughes said. “It’s such an epic space. We have a lot of possibilities to weigh and consider.”
This continues a trend of large media footprints being sold and repurposed as the newspaper industry continues to contract and pivot focus toward a hybrid model between print and online delivery. One of the more unique rebirths took place in Portland, Maine, where the city’s iconic Portland Press Herald building was turned into The Press, a boutique hotel that plays heavily on the newspaper history of the space.
This news follows the mid-March announcement that Watterson has purchased the 17,000-square-foot Bank of America building at 59 Pope Ave. on Hilton Head Island and plans to turn it into a hub for the newly acquired Side Hustle Brewing Company.
Watterson bought Side Hustle back in November 2021, just months after brewer Lee Holyoak and his wife Emily turned his garage microbrew side hustle with friends Mike Palmieri and Faith Seiders into a full-blown craft brewery at 144 Arrow Road. Watterson completed the deal for new brewery with long-time craft brewer L.J. Bush as the new co-owner.
“Like many entrepreneurs, to see an idea expand into a full-time business is a dream come true,” said Holyoak, who will stay on as head brewer at the new upgraded location. “Side Hustle started out as the ‘smallest brewery in South Carolina,’ but with the community’s support and enthusiasm it has quickly become a destination for beer aficionados. We look forward to serving our future friends and neighbors on Pope Avenue.”
The current location brews 21 blends, a selection of which are now sold at Burnt Church Distillery and Pizza Co.
That brand synergy will continue in the new space. The new brewery will include indoor seating, an extension beer garden, a merchandise shop and four different dining options.
Pizza Co. owner Marshall Sampson will continue his working relationship with Watterson in creating two new restaurant concepts called Taco Bills and Bank Burgers, both playing off the former use of the building. Sampson will create the menus and spaces alongside his friend and fellow co-owner of the popular island eatery Santa Fe Cafe, Bill Alberts.
“We’re excited to be part of a new beer pub experience for the area that marries a bunch of like-minded brands, all founded and run with a lot of love and passion,” Sampson said of the new venture.
A new Pizza Co. location will also be part of the space, as will Benjamin’s Food Truck, the popular comfort food concept created by Benjamin Watterson.
Side Hustle’s logo and can design has also changed to play into the company’s new locale, celebrating those who go above and beyond for their side hustle. The new logo features a money-scripted font and will highlight the fictitious Benjamin Banker, CFO of Makin’ Bacon.
The new space was originally purchased to be a hybrid open-space, shopping and eatery destination, much like the popular Alpharetta City Center. But Watterson and his staff pivoted to this concept to capitalize and support the ever-growing Side Hustle operation.
“Not only is the former use of the building conveniently on theme, but the space allows for patrons to experience the beer year-round in the way the brewers originally intended: a fun and family-inclusive atmosphere,” Watterson said.
The current Arrow Road location that includes outdoor seating and food truck partnerships will remain open strictly as a canning and brewing location that will sell canned beer-to-go.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. firstname.lastname@example.org.