David Lauderdale

Old Bluffton not the same after this legendary business decides to call it a day

Adam Simoneaux at Scotts Market, which he closed in January, ending, for now, three generations and more than 50 years of Scott family meat markets and groceries in Bluffton.
Adam Simoneaux at Scotts Market, which he closed in January, ending, for now, three generations and more than 50 years of Scott family meat markets and groceries in Bluffton. dlauderdale@islandpacket.com

Will the last person to leave good old Bluffton please turn out the lights?

First the McCrackens, and now the Scotts, have turned off the lights in businesses that have been a part of the town for more than half a century.

Emmett and Teddy McCracken closed Stock Farm Antiques, started by his artistic mother Naomi McCracken in 1953.

Their recent retirement party was “Bluffton at its finest,” Patsy Hodge said while tending to customers at the Eggs ‘N Tricities shop in what they now call Old Town. Bluffton has exploded from one quiet square mile to one of South Carolina’s fastest-growing cities, and the retirement party showed how much things have changed.

“You knew everybody there,” Hodge said. “You knew their children. You knew at least something about their grandchildren.”

And now Scotts Market has closed.

Owner Adam Simoneaux shut the boutique meat shop at the corner of Heyward Street and May River Road last month, ending a three-generation run by the Scott family at the heart of Bluffton.

His grandfather, George H. Scott, first came to Bluffton from Port Wentworth, Ga., to cut meat at Sam and Nonie Collona’s S&N Grocery in a space on the main drag that is today the May River Grill.

That was in the 1960s.

George Scott went out on his own, and by the 1980s, a newspaper article said Scotts Meats was “as much a part of Bluffton as the May River.”

Old Bluffton

Scotts was about the only grocery store in town, and most folks were running a tab.

But if you gave Mr. Scott a bad check, it would be posted by the cash register where everybody in town could see it.

It’s where generations of kids got baby chicks, or rabbits or ducks at Easter. And where lots of them got their first jobs. It might be sweeping up cigarette butts. Or they might get lucky enough to work in the meat department, where Bluffton brothers Dino and Johnny Mitchell became rock stars.

It’s where kids came to trick-or-treat on Halloween, and where men stopped after work for a PBR and smoke in the hallway behind the meat counter. Adam said it was called “The Behind the Wall Gang,” where sheet-rockers stood next to lawyers and everyone was welcome as long as they behaved.

It’s where a bulletin board by the front door told of opportunities for disco dances, used bed frames, church suppers or free puppies.

Emmett McCracken once said that between going to Scotts and the post office, you’d seen everybody you needed to see and heard all the news you could stand.

And Scotts is where Maybelle Mervin of Mammy Grant Road in Pritchardville became a Bluffton legend.

“She had carte blanche to discipline anybody, workers or customers,” Adam said.

Maybelle cooked two pots of food every day for the help — a pot of rice and a pot of something else, “and that something else was always the best thing you’d ever eaten,” Adam said.

Maybelle had lost her husband, and she wore his clothes to work. She chewed tobacco. She carried a pocket knife.

“She was so cool,” Adam said. “She was George Scott’s right hand. She was sweet, but she was the enforcer.”

The Scotts parking lot was once the scene of the marriage of two mannequins from the Nearly New shop.

They had been dressed for a while as a bride and groom, so someone thought it would be a good idea to have a wedding, “or, more to the point, a wedding reception,” Adam said.

Scotts was old Bluffton.

Piggly Wiggly

George Scott had the built-in help of his wife, Julia, their four children, at least one of his sisters and grandchildren.

A series of stores thrived, despite losing it all in an Easter Sunday fire in 1974.

Adam’s mother, June Simoneaux, worked in her parents’ store from the time she was 12, “doing whatever Mama told me to do.” Adam said he started around age 9.

The Scotts sign on May River Road came with a new business George and Julia Scott opened in 1968, a Bantam Chef fast-food restaurant.

Now, Adam said, it’s the largest martin nest in Beaufort County.

After the Bantam Chef and grocery store burned to the ground, the Scotts rebuilt. The new store grew to 7,000 square feet before they built a 20,000-square-foot supermarket across the highway, opening to a chorus of naysayers about the time Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina in 1989.

The old place became Scotts Mercantile, serving a rural life that’s pretty much gone. Today, there’s an Alvin Ord’s sandwich shop there, along with the Coastal Exchange home goods shop, Bee Town Mead and Cider, and Scotts Market, now for sale.

Along the way, George Scott’s son, Jeff Scott, became the meat master, and daughter June Simoneaux was the bookkeeper. Her husband, Lee Simoneaux, opened a video store by the grocery in the 1980s.

The family eventually sold the supermarket to Piggly Wiggly, which closed it in 2008.

Jeff and June opened a liquor store, and later Jeff opened Scotts Meats. After Jeff got sick and closed it, Adam, who had opened a restaurant called the Sippin’ Cow with his wife, Lyndee, resuscitated the meat business as Scotts Market in 2012.

“We’re entrepreneurs,” said Adam. “We’ve all got a little juice in us.”

Adam said he closed shop when he had to have an operation and after getting an offer to do something else.

“I’m not cutting meat,” he said. “I can guarantee you that.”

He hopes to sell the business intact.

When George H. Scott, a quiet man who could smoke an entire cigarette while cutting meat without ever touching it or dropping a single ash, died in 2007, columnist Babbie Guscio said, “There never was a kinder soul born.”

Somehow, Bluffton’s bright light seems a bit dimmer now.

But thanks for the memories.

Senior editor David Lauderdale has been a Lowcountry journalist for more than 40 years. He oversees the editorial page and tells the stories of our community. He grew up in Atlanta, graduated from Erskine College, reared two children on Hilton Head Island, and is a popular public speaker.