Hil­ton Head honors 2 as Hall of Fame work­ers, com­mu­nity builders

The Beaufort Gazette - - Business - BY DAVID LAUD­ERDALE dlaud­erdale@is­land­packet.com

Two busi­ness and civic lead­ers were in­ducted into the Hil­ton Head Is­land Hall of Fame on Thurs­day at a lun­cheon at the Son­esta Re­sort.

Nor­ris Richard­son, who built a gro­cery store in the woods near to­day’s Coligny Cir­cle and built it into Coligny Plaza with about 60 stores and restau­rants, and Gene Martin, who all but gave away the store as owner-op­er­a­tor of the su­per­mar­ket at Coligny Plaza, were in­ducted in the hall spon­sored by the Ro­tary Club of Hil­ton Head.

The club cited at­tributes be­yond their suc­cess in busi­ness.

“The hard work, vi­sion and en­trepreneurial spirit of Hil­ton Head Is­land busi­ness pi­o­neer James Nor­ris Richard­son did more than cre­ate from noth­ing a town cen­ter and ‘down­town.’ The ex­pan­sion of what was to be­come Coligny Plaza served as build­ing blocks for a fledg­ling com­mu­nity, giv­ing it a fam­ily fo­cus and set­ting the ta­ble for other en­trepreneurs to thrive,” it said.

And: “Gene Martin cre­ated the Hil­ton Head Is­land value of cor­po­rate vol­un­teerism by lit­er­ally ‘giv­ing the store away.’ Af­ter tak­ing over the Red & White Su­per­mar­ket in Coligny Plaza in 1969, his name quickly be­came syn­ony­mous with ‘giv­ing’ and ‘yes.’ His un­her­alded do­na­tions of food to nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity pro­grams, schools, PTAs, hol­i­day food bas­kets and dis­tressed in­di­vid­u­als set a tone for Hil­ton Head and set a high bar for those who fol­lowed.”

Richard­son died in 2001, but his busi­ness is still in the hands of his wife, Lois, and their sur­viv­ing chil­dren, James N. “JR” Richard­son Jr. and Mary Kather­ine Toomer.

Martin’s su­per­mar­ket, which is now a Pig­gly Wig­gly, also is in the fam­ily, run by Gene’s son, David Martin.

In­ductees in the Hall of Fame, founded in 2012 to pro­mote un­der­ly­ing val­ues of the com­mu­nity through peo­ple who have had a last­ing and ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pact, are hon­ored with bronze plaques on the grounds of the Coastal Dis­cov­ery Mu­seum on Honey Horn Plan­ta­tion.

Past in­ductees are Charles Fraser, Fred Hack, Char­lotte Hein­richs, Charles Sim­mons Sr., Bil­lie Hack, Thomas C. Barn­well Jr., Ben Ra­cusin, Dr. Peter LaMotte, Dr. Jack McCon­nell, Emory Camp­bell, Carolina “Beany” Ne­whall, John Curry and Isaac Wil­born.

The 2018 hon­orees were de­scribed by the club as fol­lows:

NOR­RIS RICHARD­SON

Mod­ern Hil­ton Head Is­land in many ways stands on a quiet but steady pil­lar named Nor­ris Richard­son.

He opened a small food store in 1956, just as devel­op­ment of the is­land dawned with the open­ing of the first bridge.

He be­came a model en­tre­pre­neur who worked hard, took risks and was fully com­mit­ted to mak­ing Hil­ton Head suc­ceed as a com­mu­nity of year-round res­i­dents.

When Richard­son died in 2001, Sea Pines founder Charles E. Fraser said he helped es­tab­lish the fam­ily-fo­cused tone of the is­land.

“Nor­ris Richard­son will for­ever hold a key spot among the hand­ful of peo­ple whose work and en­trepreneurial spirit built mod­ern Hil­ton Head,” Fraser said.

Richard­son’s devel­op­ment pro­vided ba­sic ser­vices, but also a “down­town” and a place where en­trepreneurs could come make a liv­ing and in turn be­come pil­lars of the com­mu­nity.

Through Richard­son’s vi­sion and tenac­ity, the com­mu­nity gained a phar­macy, bank, fast-food restau­rant, dry clean­ers, hard­ware store, movie the­ater, ice cream shop – many of them firsts for the is­land’s mod­ern era.

First Bap­tist Church evolved from wor­ship ser­vices in the Richard­son home, and Nor­ris served many years as chair­man of the board of dea­cons. Later, he helped found the North Is­land Bap­tist Church.

And his wife, Lois, be­came the first em­ployee of what would be­come the Sea Pines Co.

“Nor­ris had a vi­sion,” Lois said.

GENE MARTIN

Gene Martin took over the Red & White Su­per­mar­ket in Coligny Plaza on May 26, 1969, at the time the is­land’s only su­per­mar­ket.

His busi­ness be­came a com­mu­nity gather­ing place and a touch of home and per­sonal care to new moms and re­tirees who ex­pected, and got, caviar.

His giv­ing seemed to never end.

The Ga­tors youth foot­ball pro­gram never had to buy sup­plies for its con­ces­sion stand. They were do­nated by Martin.

For more than a decade, Martin do­nated all the food and wine for the Hil­ton Head Hu­mane As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual Valen­tine’s Day fundraiser, the Stay-at-Home Ban­quet. He was there from the be­gin­ning, and it grew to more than 1,200 meals.

Also, cus­tomers could run tabs at his store, some­thing that helped many work­ers in the is­land’s sea­sonal econ­omy.

When the Hil­ton Head Is­land Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion hon­ored Martin for his ex­cep­tional con­tri­bu­tions to is­land cit­i­zens, it cited his “un­her­alded do­na­tions of foods to nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity pro­grams … schools, PTA, food bas­kets and dis­tressed in­di­vid­u­als.”

He once said, “I’ve lived here and raised four chil­dren here, and it’s the least I can do to help when help is needed. Yes, it gets hard, but I keep giv­ing. Be­sides, I never planned or wanted to be rich.”

He served on the in­au­gu­ral board of the Hil­ton Head Hos­pi­tal as well as the board of the Cham­ber of Com­merce and area board of the Bank of Beau­fort. He was pres­i­dent of the Jaycees.

He has been hon­ored with the Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Cit­i­zen­ship Award, and as a unan­i­mous choice to be grand mar­shal of the St. Pa­trick’s Day Pa­rade.

“Hil­ton Head is a unique scene,” he said. “Most of us have the com­mon goal to keep it the best place in the world to live.”

Gene Martin

Nor­ris Richard­son

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