June 2008

Coligny Plaza: Where the Action Is

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

From an urban point of view, Hilton Head Island doesn’t have a “downtown.” No hustle and bustle. No razzle dazzle. No skyscrapers, city lights or bus fumes. But if it’s the heart of the community you seek, find it at Coligny Plaza. With a collection of over 60 shops and restaurants, nightly entertainment, and close proximity to the beach, it’s where the action is and has been for over 50 years.

Founded by Norris and Lois Richardson in 1956, the shopping and entertainment mecca began with the corner grocery store, Forest Beach Market (now home to the Coligny Piggly Wiggly, known for its family feel and daily selection of just-caught local seafood). As Hilton Head Island grew, the Richardson family built the buildings one at a time and found the tenants to meet the needs of the burgeoning population: a beauty and barber shop, hardware store, ice cream parlor, theater… Over time, Coligny Plaza became the core of island shopping, a tourist destination and the place to be for residents and visitors alike.

Today’s Coligny Plaza has evolved into a hub of activity that includes a variety of stores, restaurants and services, including a few national and regional clothing chains as well as unique boutiques and local mom-and-pops. “The goal all along has been to provide an eclectic environment,” said Cheryl Jimenez, 25-year island resident and Coligny Plaza controller. “You can go to [big box stores, discount centers and other shopping areas], but you’re never going to find the same things you find here.”

Although businesses have come and gone over the years, the area has retained its uniqueness and charm, thanks to the Richardson’s son and daughter, J.R. Richardson and Mary Katherine Toomer, who currently own and operate the business. According to Toomer, the plaza holds not only a special place in her family history, but a strong sense of community responsibility.

Elaborating, Jimenez said, “We look to support the locals. We try to buy from local vendors who have been here for a while. For service and maintenance, we use the mom-and-pop organizations. In some form or fashion, they have been associated with the family. It’s a connection—a recognition thing.”

What’s in store?
When it comes to shopping, Coligny Plaza is not only an attractive venue, but a place to find items you won’t see anywhere else. “There is something unique about each store,” said Jimenez, naming off specialty clothing lines, distinctive accessories, exclusive toys, out-of-the-ordinary pet supplies and an unparalleled selection of giftware and souvenir items. “We don’t have everything, but when you want that special thing, you come here,” she added.

Day or night, if you’re foraging for food, you can’t go wrong at Coligny where you’ll find hearty breakfasts, coffee and pastries, deli items, gourmet takeout, ethnic specialties, frozen concoctions and, of course, the delights of the sea.

Conveniences run the gamut from beauty services to bike rentals, real estate information and Internet access. Entertainment options include a chance to make your own ceramics as a souvenir or special gift and the opportunity to see first run movies produced by independent film companies, not necessarily available at mainstream cinemas.

Summer Fun
With the addition of 10 kiosks providing an assortment of food, merchandise and services and free nightly entertainment, summer brings a whole new dimension to the “downtown” atmosphere at Coligny Plaza. Enjoy a variety of family-style fun every night from 6:30-8 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Come for the shopping, the food and the entertainment. Visit beautiful downtown Hilton Head and see for yourself why Coligny Plaza is still the place to be.

For a complete list of stores, visit www.colignyplaza.com or call 843-842-6050 for more information.

Downtown Entertainment Schedule

Monday Night Magic.
Popular magician, Gary Maurer mesmerizes audiences of all ages.

Positive Vibrations.
Get ready for a jammin’ good time with Positive Vibrations Reggae band.

Mermaid Review
Terri Beaumont presents a variety show including music and encouraging audience participation.

Gullah Experience with K Renee & Company
Experience a fascinating cultural adventure through story and song.

Elvis lives!
All you hound dogs, put on your blue suede shoes and catch “the king” in action. Mike Helms is sure to make a believer out of you.

Daytime delights: In addition to the nightly entertainment, meet Yostie, the puppeteer, weekdays at 10:30 a.m. Catch a family flick at the Coligny Theater, free of charge, each Saturday at 11 a.m.

It’s all happening at Coligny Plaza! It’s free, it’s fun and it’s the downtown place to be!

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