Marshside Mama’s Cafe — the rustic, old-time Lowcountry bar, restaurant, dance hall and town hall that has defined the edgy vibe of remote Daufuskie Island, will close Jan. 1, owner Beth Shipman announced on Facebook Friday night.
“After 21 years of so much fun, friends, music and all around shenanigans I have decided to move on toward another life adventure,” Shipman posted.
The “last day will be Monday, Jan. 1, 2018,” she wrote. “If you get the opportunity come by, sit at a round table, have a drink, eat some food, tell a story, enjoy each other, remember Marshside Mama’s, and while you’re at it you might as well Save the Planet! ‘And in the end the Love you take is equal to the Love you make,’ John/ Paul.”
Shipman said in an interview Saturday morning that it’s time to move on, and she has no one to blame. But she said she cannot continue to work on a month-to-month lease with the building’s owner, Beaufort County. She said that has been the case for years.
She did not know the future of the general store next to the restaurant.
“We’ve had a really, really wonderful time,” she said. “We’ve had so much fun.
“Who can resist a honky-tonk with good food?”
Marshside Mama’s is located near the county’s public dock in what began in the 1970s as an island cooperative. The county has said recently that it does not want to own a building where alcohol is served. It is working with the Daufuskie Island Council to resolve the issue in a way that might keep a restaurant there.
The council, a locally-elected nine-member group that acts as a liaison between the unincorporated island and the county, would like a restaurant to stay at the property, said chairman Chuck Hunter.
News of the closing was surprising to many.
“It’s real, real sad,” said bartender Eddie Campbell.
Shipman mentioned some of the place’s stories in her Facebook post, which went online around 9:30 p.m. Friday and by dawn had attracted 87 comments and 94 shares. She mentioned the visit made for television by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, and local celebrity John Mellencamp.
But on the sparsely-populated island that is linked to the rest of the world only by boat, the vibe at Marshside Mama’s was dictated by the Lowcountry locals.
“Marshside Mama’s has been a place where we all feel at home,” Shipman wrote. “A place where we become friends, share meals, beers, stories, dice, laughs, tragedy and sorrow. A place of community. We’ve seen first dates and last dates, weddings and funerals, babies come and grow up.”
It’s where people from around the Lowcountry have come by boat for a bowl of Shipman’s gumbo or a rocking night of live music. Campbell said that made up about 70 percent of its business.
And then there was Ned. The pot-bellied pig may be the best symbol of Marshside Mama’s ambiance.
At the grand-opening party at this location in 1997, Ned broke out of his pen next door and wandered over to greet the crowd. A Lowcountry legend was born.
For years, Ned came and went, greeting customers. People realized Ned was fond of cold Coronas, and food. They say he could cut the rug on the dance floor.
Ned was featured on television and in a number of publications, even Golf Digest. Artists painted him, and he posed for many a wedding album and family Christmas card. Somebody said he ought to be mayor.
When Ned died in 2007, Shipman said a memorial service, perhaps called Ned Fest, would be held in the fall. It may be a pig roast, she said at the time, but the hosts would respectfully call it an oyster roast.
Marshside Mama’s is where 40 or 50 residents gathered before Hurricane Matthew blew through in October 2016. They made national news as the “Daufuskie 100” by refusing the governor’s order to evacuate. And it was at Marshside Mama’s that they met again after the storm to reconnect and reconstruct.
Its closing would leave a hole in a location that for decades has been the place for public gatherings — including Daufuskie Day, holiday events, the former post office, general store, and traffic at the county public boat landing.
Hunter, the Daufuskie Island Council chairman, said Marshside Mama’s has captured Daufuskie’s uniqueness. “It’s old-world Lowcountry,” he said.