As a Mount Pleasant local, Mike Shuler sees much more than a boat landing when he looks at the Isle of Palms Marina. He sees a special area holding the key to childhood nostalgia and the timeless charm of a beloved beach town.
Long before the growth of Mount Pleasant as we know it, Shuler recalls when Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant were one small, tight-knit community. He enjoyed a Lowcountry lifestyle by the water, in and out of boats. Naturally, the marina was home to some of his fondest memories.
As Shuler grew into adulthood, Mount Pleasant began to expand, losing much of the familiar small-town feel. Nonetheless, Shuler continued to enjoy life in the Lowcountry. Years later, he took over the Isle of Palms Marina Store as the tenant in hopes of bringing back the local charm of the area. “This renovation project was perfect for me because it is an area I really care about,” said Shuler. “It is going to be improved but maintain the local soul that the marina store has always had for me.”
The marina consists of two parts. The first part is the marina and boat launch which houses a public boat ramp, several docks on either side and a gas pump area. The second part is the ship store building which contains public bathrooms, a seating area overlooking the water and a shop full of all the boating essentials one might need for a summer day.
During this project, every aspect of the Isle of Palms Marina will be renovated to improve the visitor experience. So far this year, the docks have been replaced to remove old, splintering wood. Ongoing projects include renovating the ship store and redesigning the parking lot. The marina store is getting a facelift to freshen it up and make it more welcoming for visitors.
“Our new management team has a lot of experience and will be able to run the store effectively,” Shuler said.
As the area has grown, Shuler believes that the parking lot is no longer able to accommodate the number of visitors coming to the marina in the summer. To fix the issue, he is working to reorganize and repave the parking lot in a more efficient way.
Due to the ongoing construction, the boat launch is only open to Isle of Palms residents, but as soon as the finishing touches are complete, the public will be able to enjoy the updates. “We are very close to being finished and re-opened,” Shuler said. “We are very excited. It is only a matter of weeks.”
The marina renovation is not the first to bring new life to this area. Last spring, locals Dave and Chrissy Lorenz, along with their partner Jon Bushnell, wanted to do their part to bring back the feel of the old Isle of Palms. They decided to open Islander 71, a restaurant adjacent to the marina that takes visitors back in time to the island in the 1970s.
“We wanted to bring it back to the glory days of Isle of Palms,” Lorenz said.
Since its opening, the restaurant, located in the building that formerly housed Morgan Creek Grill, has become a local hangout spot for families after a long day on the water as well as residents who want to grab a quick bite on the island. The outdoor area and bar have given locals a spot to gather and enjoy the weather and atmosphere that makes Isle of Palms so special. Lorenz said his goal was to transport people back to a time when the island was nothing more than a beach town. Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to appreciate the rich history and culture of Isle of Palms while delighting in waterfront views over the Intracoastal and good Lowcountry cooking.
The ongoing renovation of the Isle of Palms Marina, together with the opening of Islander 71, have transformed not only the marina, but the entire island. It shows that although Mount Pleasant has grown tremendously with an influx of newcomers in the last decade, the community hasn’t lost its local touch.
There is certainly more room for expansion within the next few years. The city presented a conceptual plan for an Isle of Palms Waterfront Park in front of the restaurant, overlooking the Intracoastal. Although there haven’t been any recent updates regarding the proposal, it is clear city leaders see endless potential for the marina. It serves as the perfect place for locals to gather and an ideal spot to show visitors what the Lowcountry culture is and has been for decades.
Shuler said he cannot wait for everyone to be able to enjoy the new marina and ship store this summer.
“We have put quite a bit of money and effort into the rebirth of the Isle of Palms Marina,” Shuler added. “It is something we are really proud of. It has been a long time coming.”
By Madison Broach