Lawrence Heyward arrived to open his St. Helena Island grocery store Tuesday morning, as he does every day.
It was 6:45 a.m. -- still 15 minutes before sunrise -- when the 56-year-old manager parked next to his store, Folly Road Grocery at 489 Seaside Road. As Heyward opened the truck door, he was approached by two men armed with handguns, dressed in dark clothing and wearing bandanas over their faces.
"Get on the ground!" they yelled at him. "Give me what you got."
Heyward said he laid on his back, then was ordered to take off his pants, which had $110 in a pocket. The two stole Heyward's pants, along with his keys, cellphone and a computer bag, which held his wallet and a money bag containing about $100.
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One then fired a shot into the ground a few feet to Heyward's right. The two men ran toward the woods on Harbor Breeze Drive.
Unharmed, Heyward went next door, and deputies were called at 6:50 a.m. Deputies are searching for two men in connection with the armed robbery.
Heyward described both suspects as black, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, 125 pounds and 25 to 28 years old. One had dreadlocks and spoke with a lisp.
A retired veteran, Heyward and his wife, Lynn, have run the small grocery store for five years.
"We're barely keeping our heads above water," Heyward said. "When you're struggling in the business anyways, and someone comes in like that and is trying to take what you have, a lot of anger comes before any fear."
Heyward said the store phone rang all day Tuesday with calls from customers and friends concerned about him. He said he will return to open the store Wednesday morning.
"I'll wait a little while, though, until the sun comes up," Heyward said.
The Heywards' lease on the store ends next month, and they had not planned to renew because business has been slow.
Lawrence Heyward said Tuesday's incident reinforces that decision.
"You get one shot at life, and when you think it might be over, it's not worth it," Heyward said.
Follow reporter Laura Oberle on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.