Bluffton: Turn left at Walmart.
That’s what the bumper stickers say.
They used to say “Bluffton is a State of Mind.”
Sam’s Club pulled out of Hilton Head Island this week for Bluffton. The new big-box store opened Thursday on a 66-acre site where a Walmart Supercenter will open next week. It will be our fourth Walmart Supercenter, counting the one in Hardeeville, with one more on the way.
I remember when there weren’t that many traffic lights in Beaufort County, outside of Beaufort.
That shows how fast we’ve grown, edging ever closer to Anywhereville. Are we there yet?
When Walmart came to Hilton Head, it was historic. It should be on the timelines, along with our “discovery” by that first timeshare salesman, Capt. William Hilton.
Walmart arrived in the roaring 1980s, when the road signs that Hilton Head was going to hell were flashing by so fast we could barely read them. Now the same thing is happening in Bluffton. Soon we’ll need to fly from the enlarged Ridgeland airport to the enlarged Hilton Head airport just to get here. We’ll call it the Ultimate Flyover.
The advent of Walmart on Hilton Head was historic because it was the nail in the coffin for the $400 hammer.
Remember that Bluffton was still a drinky little fishing village, so a road trip to escape the high prices of a remote island meant going to Savannah or Beaufort.
By then our schools were overflowing and the class of worker bees was growing, and if we complained about common old Walmart coming to Port Royal Plaza, it didn’t stop us from shopping there.
At my house, we convinced our children for as long as we could that Walmart was the only place selling high fashion clothes and shoes. Their lawyers are still hassling us, saying we knew or should have known we were inflicting emotional stress. They like to use their grade school class pictures as proof of the damages.
Soon, Walmart found it necessary to build a larger store in the woods, which has since been expanded into a Walmart Supercenter, and to Hilton Head’s credit it remains in the woods where you cannot see it from the road.
And the old store was turned into a Sam’s Club. This introduced us to the novelty of paying the world’s richest retailer for the privilege of buying stuff in a warehouse setting. It also introduced us to the need to rent a U-Haul trailer to get toilet paper home from the store.
Now, if we venture to the new Sam’s Club that is twice the size and has a pharmacy and bakery and sushi for crying out loud, we will wonder how we ever managed to survive in the old place. And, yes, we will shop there. Do not believe the people who say they will never darken the doorstep.
Meanwhile, the old markup pricing on Hilton Head has subsided and we have hardware stores and enough grocery stores and pharmacies to sink the island. We will be OK, but counselors are standing by.
I feel for the early-morning shoppers at Sam’s — the ones wearing chef’s pants — because so many restaurant workers and caterers depended on Sam’s being nearby.
And I wonder if the new and improved, bigger and better Sam’s Club will have an osprey nest on a light pole in the parking lot.