Lunch #7: Good Service Has No Price

Pictured above: Rachel Phillips, Laura Rodrigo and Megan Lawson Holmes. Photo #2: N.B., Megan Holmes, and Exec. Chef Frank Lee- Charleston, S.C.

Rich people will pay almost anything for good service. They can buy virtually anything; but their time, and how they use it, is their most precious possession. So, if someone else can be handling a task for them, while they do something more productive or pleasurable, they will pay for it. For instance, some years back, I met a gentleman at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. When I tactfully got around to asking what he did, his reply was, “I buy and sell cars for wealthy clients here and in Palm Beach.” I asked him to explain further how this works; “A Client calls and says that he wants a low mileage Bentley convertible for his Hampton’s house. I do the search, find the car, check it out, have it shipped to his house, and it’s waiting for him in his driveway. All he has to do is wire me the funds, I take my fee, and pay the seller. Then, we find another car for his Palm Beach house. And when he gets tired of any of the cars, I sell them, collect my fee, and find him a new one.” So, the wealthy client doesn’t spend his time on Autotrader.com (like you or I), and can be doing something else. I learned this gentleman has a home in the Hamptons, another near Palm Beach, and spends his time hanging-out with his clients.

Which brings me to my lovely and talented lunch partner, Megan Lawson Holmes, Founder of Charleston Concierge Company , who lunched with me recently at SNOB. Megan identified a real estate and hospitality niche in Charleston, that I was unaware of. Apparently homes in Elliotborough and Cannonborough are in an “Accommodations Overlay” district that permits nightly rentals. The city approved this zoning relaxation as a way to encourage a more rapid rate of investment in these two neighborhoods. Well, it has worked. Wealthy outside investors can get a foothold into the downtown Charleston real estate market, and hopefully not have their asset sit idle.

Here’s where Megan’s company comes in. She manages the property for the owners. She handles the rentals (some upwards of $1,000 per night); and for anyone staying in one of her client’s properties, she handles reservations to make their stay in Charleston more enjoyable. Investors love the concept, because their short-term rental income can be upwards of three times what long-term rental might be. “Brilliant” as the Brits say. While Charleston Concierge Company has become a leading luxury property rental management company in the “Accommodations Overlay” district, it has also attracted  competitors. The other real estate firms also offer concierge services with their rentals. Nevertheless, Megan is sanguine, “I can play with the big boys, because its me, the owner of the company, providing the personal service.”

Megan is profiled in our forthcoming book, Charleston, A Good Life, along with two of her friends (Rachel Phillips and Laura Rodrigo)- three interesting people, doing interesting things, in a unique place.

A final comment about SNOB for the owners: How much would it hurt financially to return the Lunch Express from $12.95 back to the $10.95 it was six months ago? I know “two bucks is two bucks”, but you get a large, loyal, local luncheon crowd everyday. It would be a reciprocal gesture of loyalty to your patrons. Please reconsider

Charleston, A Good Life, co-authored by photographer, Ben Gately Williams, and writer/editor, Ned Brown, is a book profiling “interesting Charlestonians (old and newer), doing interesting things in a wonderful place.” The book will be released in latter 2016. Charleston, A Good Life,  will tell the story of why Charleston is a special place through over 50 environmental portraits of individuals; the first book about Charleston of its kind. What we are doing with the Charleston, A Good Life blog is telling you a bit about the people we are profiling, and other Charleston topics of interest.

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Lunch #6: Stitching a Family Legacy

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Ben Gately Williams and I had the privilege of visiting Airy Hall Plantation yesterday, which is about forty miles south of Charleston, in Colleton County, and magnificently situated on the Ashepoo River. The property originally was purchased by Frederick Gilbert “Commodore” Bourne, an early President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Bourne earned his nickname as the former head of the New York Yacht Club, and he was an early member of the Jekyll Island Club, or the “Millionaire’s Club”, back in the late nineteenth century. The Limehouse family has owned it since 1978. The house is a stately Georgian brick structure, which Frankie Limehouse has decorated beautifully, and leading up to it is an alley of old Live Oak trees strewn with Spanish Moss.

Ben and I were visiting Airy Hall for our forthcoming book, Charleston, a Good Life, and to profile three generations of the Limehouse family in business and public service. I particularly like the picture of Buck and granddaughter, Eliza Limehouse (daughter of Chip and Sue); she with the purple hair and the “wrist party” going on. Lize has a successful jewelry business, and recently launched Plantation Candles. I kidded with Buck and Chip, that she will probably make more money than both of them; dad and granddad are noticeably proud.

After the photo shoot, Buck and I sat in his library, winter fire ablaze, to talk business, politics and Charleston history. Early in Buck’s career, he gave up his successful insurance business in Florida to move to Washington, D.C., and take a top position in the Republican National Committee. It was a pivotal decision, putting him in contact with key players in his party, which would eventually help him in business, and lead to top positions in public service for South Carolina and Georgia. Even today in powerful Washington circles, if you mention Buck Limehouse and South Carolina, the response is universally the same: Buck is the “real deal” and can “walk the talk.”

Awhile back, Chip Limehouse and I sat down for lunch at SNOB , to discuss his post political career. Chip wanted to take a break from politics, but I definitely believe he will continue to be involved in public service. And he should; he did a remarkable job as head of the Charleston Airport Authority, luring Southwest, and planning the airport expansion.

While Buck Limehouse walked me to my car yesterday, I asked him if he saw a future for granddaughter Eliza in politics? Buck smiled and said, “Governor; she’s a take charge kinda gal.”

Ps. A very happy forthcoming 55th wedding anniversary to Buck and Frankie. Congratulations!

Also seen at SNOB the day Chip and I had lunch: Mims Roberts, Chris Price, Judy Cassatt, Judy Tarleton, Angela Mack, Pat & Jim Lombard and Dick Elliott.

Charleston, A Good Life, co-authored by photographer, Ben Gately Williams, and writer/editor, Ned Brown, is a book profiling “interesting Charlestonians (old and newer), doing interesting things in a wonderful place.” The book will be released in latter 2016. Charleston, A Good Life,  will tell the story of why Charleston is a special place through over 50 environmental portraits of individuals; the first book about Charleston of its kind. What we are doing with the Charleston, A Good Life blog is telling you a bit about the people we are profiling, and other Charleston topics of interest.

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Lunch #5: Daughter of an American Legend

My friend, Mary Aarons from Gloucester, Mass, was in town last week on business, and seeing the sights. For those of you who read this blog about “interesting Charleston residents doing interesting things” you might ask, “who is Mary Aarons?” Mary is a book publishing professional, and has been very helpful to Ben Gately Williams and me with our forthcoming book Charleston, a Good Life. It was Mary’s late father, Slim Aarons, who was the inspiration behind our book, and the series of books we plan to do.

For those of you who do not know Slim Aarons by name, he was one of America’s best known photographers from the late 1940’s through the 1980’s. You’ve seen his work, and may not have known it; click here to see samples. After World War II, Slim headed for Hollywood, where he photographed all the great stars: Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe and on. From Hollywood, Slim began travelling the world photographing “beautiful people, in beautiful places, doing beautiful things.” Slim became the international jet set and society photographer that everyone, who was anyone, knew and trusted. There are literally at least six coffee table size books today of Slim’s images from: Palm Beach, Jamaica, Marbella (Spain), the French Riviera, St. Moritz, Gstaad and on dozens of private yachts. If you enjoy lifestyle photography, order any of Slim’s books; they are exquisitely beautiful.

Is Slim Aarons still remembered professionally today? There isn’t a top photographer, magazine editor or art director today, who doesn’t refer to Slim’s iconic work. After lunch, Mary and I stopped by Garden & Gun’s spectacular new offices in the Cigar Factory, to visit with Editor-in-Chief David DiBenedetto, and Art Director, Marshall McKinney. Marshall mentioned that the December 2015 cover of Vanity Fair with Bill Murray astride a blow-up horse in a swimming pool, photographed by the great Bruce Weber, was a direct Slim Aarons copy from decades ago- the greats copy the greats.

Mary enjoyed her lunch at SNOB and loves COOKS! Also seen at SNOB, while we were there: Johnny Maybank, Tommy Bennett, Merrill Benfield, Bill Hall, Sr., Dick Elliott, Judy Tarleton and Chris Price.

Charleston, A Good Life, co-authored by photographer, Ben Gately Williams, and writer/editor, Ned Brown, is a book profiling “interesting Charlestonians (old and newer), doing interesting things in a wonderful place.” The book will be released in latter 2016. Charleston, A Good Life,  will tell the story of why Charleston is a special place through over 50 environmental portraits of individuals; the first book about Charleston of its kind. What we are doing with the Charleston, A Good Life blog is telling you a bit about the people we are profiling, and other Charleston topics of interest.

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