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gift-2At this time of year, we are often reminded that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. But there are a group of local businesspeople who are living that mantra year-round by taking part in what’s being pegged as a “gift economy.”

Simply put, a gift economy is a type of economic system in which goods and services are given without any expectation of reward or payment. According to the New World Encyclopedia, “A gift economy emphasizes social or intangible rewards, such as karma, honor, or loyalty, for giving.”

April Lewis, owner of The Art of Yoga on Hilton Head Island, is an adherent of the practice. Her studio doesn’t charge fees for its services, which include yoga classes, herbal consultation, holistic healing and massage.

“It really is a simple idea about getting what you give,” she said. “People think that way during the holidays, but we hope people will think about that concept year-round.

“It’s all about the honor system. When we tell people the fee is whatever they want to pay, some of them say, ‘Wow, that’s awesome,’ and some people want a ballpark figure of what to pay. But that’s the fun of it – seeing people’s faces when we explain that we’re a donation-only business.”

So how well does it work? Marty Crocker, a massage therapist at The Art of Yoga, says it is simply amazing.


How do you spell success? For Hilton Head Island’s Ryan Martz, it’s as easy as A-B-C.

OK, so there’s a little more to it, like having an uncanny eye for the world around you, turning a photography hobby into a thriving business empire and having fun the whole time you’re doing it. But really, it comes down to 26 simple letters hidden everywhere you look.

Martz has created a thriving business using photographs of landmarks and pretty much any other item that cleverly resemble letters of the alphabet. Customers at their bustling Coligny Plaza kiosk choose 4-by-6 photographs of these letters (and variety is the order of the day — a simple “D” can be anything from a letter drawn in sand, a half-moon transom, a guitar pick, or even the Salty’s Dog’s hat) to spell out a word. The letters are then framed on the spot and, voilá, customers have a unique keepsake.

0712_retirement_4When retirees give of themselves, it’s a win-win situation for the volunteers and the organizations they serve.
Research shows that retirees who volunteer have fewer physical problems and higher levels of well-being than those who don’t volunteer, according to the U.S. government’s Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

0712_retirement_3As a retiree, you now have time to pursue the activities and interests you’ve put on hold while you worked and raised a family. You’re looking forward to a happy and healthy future.

0712_retirement_2Mike Pope recently received two calls from Hilton Head Plantation residents looking to remodel their bathrooms. Both wanted to extend their stay in their homes, seeking a way to age in place, a movement that has increasingly gained popularity with retirees as a way to maintain independence longer in a safe and comfortable manner.

0712_retirement_1Retirement and retirement planning have a very different look today, with new rules, new strategies, and often, modified expectations.

According to a recent Gallup survey, most Americans now believe they will be able to retire at age 67. This is up from 66 last year, 63 ten years ago, and age 60 in the 1990s. For many the ideal of relying on Social Security and pensions, and filling days with golf, tennis, grandchildren, and travel, seems a bit removed from this new reality. Both retirees and those planning to retire face some difficult questions: When should I take Social Security? Will I be able to live comfortably if I defer benefits? Should I plan to work in retirement, and if so, how will my income affect Social Security and taxes? Do I have a realistic written income and investment plan? How much can I spend from my investment portfolio without fear of running short? These are issues that pre- and post-retirees are grappling with as they come to terms with retirement in the 21st century.

0712_retirementopenerA New Chapter Begins
Take a bow. You’ve done it.
Through financial crises, housing market bubbles and a 401(k) that went from a nest egg to an Egg McMuffin, you’ve soldiered onward to retirement.

blufftonbizCould Bluffton become a mini-Silicon Valley? Local officials and Clemson University certainly hope so.

The town has joined with Clemson’s Institute for Economic and Community Development to create a “technology village” in Bluffton. The goal of this nonprofit public/private three-year pilot program is to diversify the local economy and create a breeding ground for technology companies, which would translate into new businesses and new jobs in Bluffton.



Not to undermine the importance of financial and investment planning during the other 11 months, but for the most successful investors, January is the month to really step up your game. The hardest part is narrowing down the full width and breadth of fiduciary possibilities to the most important goals. If that’s the case, consider the following a “goal mine” of resolutions to get you off to a profitable 2012.


With the opening of Station 300 this month, Bluffton doesn’t just get a place to hurl a few rocks. In the short term, it gets an entertainment mecca that pumps money into the local economy. In the long term, it gets the chance to establish itself as headquarters to a new chain of entertainment megaplexes.

After three years of planning, a $7.3 million entertainment facility is opening this month on Buckwalter Parkway. And while Station 300’s emphasis may be pinned on bowling, the owners have a broader game plan.

“This is not your father’s bowling alley,” said managing partner Gary Trimm. “The idea is to have more than bowling.”

There will be plenty more, and, yes, dad is invited too.

In addition to “high-tech” bowling, the 33,000-square-foot facility at Buckwalter Place will have a large arcade, a sports bar, an upscale dining area with indoor and outdoor seating and party rooms.

And the owners have spared no details to make the experience an interesting one.

From “Cosmic Bowling” — where balls glow beneath black lights and a light show is set to pulsing music — to large flat-screen TVs at each station, odds are bowlers haven’t seen anything quite like it. While there are about 6,500 bowling centers nationwide, only about 120 have these high-tech toys and this one will be a first for the Lowcountry and surrounding region, Trimm said.

He’s hoping it will draw customers from across Beaufort and Jasper counties and the Savannah area, bringing an estimated $3 million into the town each year. It will employ seven to nine full-time workers and 40 to 50 part-timers, with an annual payroll of about $750,000.

Generating an income is what inspired Trimm and another partner, Gary Brust, to get rolling in the first place. Shortly after retiring to Hilton Head Island, Trimm felt the economy slipping into the gutter and he needed a new venture to secure his future, one not tied to the stock market.

He was intrigued with the growing popularity of high-tech bowling and thought such a center would be perfect for Bluffton’s demographics of retirees, families and college students. Brust helped find other partners.

The center will be open 365 days a year and, with so many local retirees, Trimm hopes it will stay busy during the afternoon while attracting adults at night and children and families on the weekends.

And that’s just the start. Eventually, the owners would like to work with other developers to expand the complex into an entertainment district.

They also hope this is the first of several bowling centers they will open in coming years, with their headquarters in Bluffton.

“Right now our focus is getting this one up,” Trimm said. “We think we can replicate it in a number of areas.”

Station 300’s grand opening is Jan. 20-22, but its doors open Jan. 7 to give the staff time to work out any bugs before the official launch.

For more information, visit www.station300bluffton.com or call 843-815-BOWL.