Where Women Business Owners and Southern Hospitality Abounds
January 2024 Issue
By Elizabeth Skenes Millen
Photography by Lindsay Gifford & Elizabeth Skenes Millen
If you’ve driven up or down I-95,
you’ve seen the exit for Yemassee, but have you ever stopped?
“We’ve always had people passing through, but now we’ve become
a destination,” said Paula Flowers, owner of Fletcher’s Catering.
The eight other businesswomen in the room agree,
Paula is the “de facto mayor” of Yemassee,
though she has never run for office. “She’s the one who worked
so hard and got the TV show to come to Yemassee, and it worked!” touted Charlotte Murray, who grew up on Hilton Head Island.
Wait! There was a TV show filmed in Yemassee? CBS launched a reality show entitled “The Week the Women Went.” Aired in 2012, the premise of the show was the town’s menfolk are left to handle all the responsibilities, ranging from making the kids’ breakfast and putting them to bed to maintaining their households and coordinating events when the women leave for a week. It made for good TV, but it wouldn’t work today because the women of Yemassee are movers and shakers and a major part of its economy.
In the quaint and welcoming event venue, Lowcountry Living Room owned by Charlotte Murray, I gathered nine female Yemassee entrepreneurs and business owners to talk about the love of their town. Over coffee and homemade brownies, I learned all about the girl power that’s helping put Yemassee on the map. “We all have a specialty and understand what people want,” Libby Holloway, owner of Altheia Appraisals said.
“Yemassee is smack dab in the middle of everything. It’s an hour to everywhere—Beaufort, Charleston, Hilton Head, Savannah. Even Augusta and Columbia are close,” Samantha Flowers, owner of Lucky Duck Soapery and Fletcher’s General Store explained. “It was once considered the crossroads of the Southeast for the railroad,” said Sharon Mansell, owner of Fletcher’s Rug Company.
People are beginning to see the charm of Yemassee and the benefits of small-town living. Not only is Yemassee a major depot for Amtrak, which stops four times a day, it is also home to several big national and international businesses and surrounded by large plantations, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Auldbrass Plantation house and outbuildings which lie just outside the town limits. Faye Gooding, the CEO of Le Creuset North America lived there for 40 years, hence the Le Creuset outlet store on the interstate.
Libby, who moved from Beaufort for a slower pace of life, has found fantastic friends and convenience in getting on the road to visit clients. She explained the uniqueness of Yemassee: “Our town ranges from simple farming folk to internationally well-known authors and artists to big businesspeople. Of course, there’s Producer Joel Silver (Matrix, Die Hard), who owns Auldbrass.”
“And Gaye was the second florist for J. Lo and Ben’s wedding!” Charlotte chimed in. Gaye McNair is the owner of Tulips and Twigs Floral Designs. “She does absolutely beautiful work,” Charlotte added.
“Hospitality isn’t just a concept around here. It’s what we do!” Paula said. These women entrepreneurs and shop girls work together to not only make their own businesses thrive, but to also help each other and their town thrive. They love Yemassee and the quirkiness of this small town that has become a bustling Southern gem hiding about two miles off I-95.
I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on all the ladies’ faces as each one of them told their stories. A diverse group, ranging from Burberry to Birkenstocks, it is crystal clear these women care about each other. They started throwing out names of other local female business owners who couldn’t make the interview, even giving a shout-out to Brenda, the local Postmistress who runs six country post offices.
Gaye explained the tight bond between them. “There is real love and friendship here. We want to elevate everyone.”
With a crack in her voice, Charlotte’s eyes filled with tears, “These women would drop anything at any time for me.” And they all have had their moments when these friendships meant everything. “We are all in the same boat, raising children and caring for elderly parents, plus running our businesses. It’s a comfort knowing I have the support of these women,” Sharon added.
The ladies started joking about Sharon, stating, “I’ll call her up and just say I need a Mansell kid to come help,” Paula said.
“What do you mean by a Mansell kid?” I asked. “How many children do you have, Sharon?”
“Ten,” she responded. With three catering/event gigs in the room booked for that evening, I knew the Mansell kids were about to be busy.
Those who have taken the road less travelled and landed in the coziness of Yemassee have loved every minute of it. “People say things like, ‘Everywhere I’ve been today, I experienced real hospitality!’” Paula said. “Hospitality isn’t just what we say, it’s what we do!” Added Donna McCoy, owner of Barracks Antique Mall.
These ladies are inviting you to “Come See Yemassee!” If you love coffee, antiques, shopping, unique boutiques, historical architecture, friendliness, fresh air, and Southern hospitality, it’s definitely worth the drive. Chances are, you’re only an hour away.
Check Them Out!
Lowcountry Living Room
Antiques, Art & Coffee
Celebration Event Venue
216 US 17 Alternative
Follow on FB Lowcountry Living Room
Barracks Antique Mall
32 Salkehatchie Rd
Fletcher’s Cafe & Catering
17 Yemassee Hwy.
Follow on FB Fletcher’s & Co
Fletcher’s Rug Company
Handmade Rugs & More
17 Yemassee Hwy.
Follow on FB Fletcher’s & Co
Fletcher’s General Store
Lucky Duck Soapery
17B Yemassee Hwy.
Lucky Duck Distillery
179 Yemassee Hwy.
Fine & Decorative Arts Appraisals
Tulips & Twigs Floral Designs
Shipped Anywhere in US
Voices of Tomorrow Childcare
229 Yemassee Hwy.
ABC Quality Rating
Not in Attendance
Harold’s Country Club
The Church House
1177 Old Salkehatchie Hwy.
Carolina Graphics of Yemassee
6 Yemassee Hwy.
Follow on FB Carolina Graphics of Yemassee
We have tried to be all-inclusive, so please forgive us with we missed someone. It was not intentional and there are more stories coming from Yemassee!