Village at Wexford: Shop. Indulge. Enjoy
Author: Kitty Bartell
Nestled under shady boughs, Village at Wexford is one of Hilton Head Island’s true shopping and dining gems, where strolling is requisite and delightful destination gives a wink to tradition. Uncommon, yet ever-so approachable, the shops and businesses lining its covered walkways have offered a quintessential opportunity to experience local at its very best for nearly 30 years.
Loved equally by locals and visitors, Village at Wexford is a classic main street experience where everyone is warmly welcomed to shop, indulge and enjoy. Like its own little community within the island community, this village is owned and operated by its resident best-of-award-winning retailers and restaurateurs, providing a sense of pride and commitment to honoring its roots while collaboratively creating a vibrant, creative, future-focused destination with over 30 of the island’s finest merchants.
Debbie Kelley, 35-year island resident, lives next door in Wexford Plantation with her husband Spain Kelley. “It’s like our little neighborhood community,” she said. “We eat at Ombra [Cucina Rustica] at least once a week. We love the food and the atmosphere, and we run into a lot of our friends and neighbors. We’ll often have dinner and then go over to Porter & Pig for a drink and play darts, especially if our family is here.”
Like most Village at Wexford devotees, Kelley is a devout fan of several shops and services. “I love shopping at The Porcupine; it is my very favorite clothing store. When I need a gift, I run to Gifted [Hilton Head]. They do the most gorgeous gift wrapping,” she said. “Most of the owners are local people; we know the shop owners. I’ve known Patricia [Owen] at FACES [DaySpa] since I first moved to the island. I go to FACES for facials and massages.” Over the years, friendships have formed from the relationships that began at the village.
A unique feature of Village at Wexford is that several of the shops have been here for all, or nearly all, of its years, with some creating a legacy of shop owners, handing down their businesses to family members who are lovingly taking over the reins to the delight and relief of their devoted customers. LeCookery, the village’s singular gourmet kitchen and tableware shop, became a family business when newlyweds Clinton and Carson Greif approached his parents, LeCookery owners Laurel and Charles Greif, proposing a partnership. “We pride ourselves on customer service and knowing our customers by name,” Clinton said. Now operating the business fulltime, he appreciates the relationships created by his parents.
“The island is established enough now that we’re experiencing a family turnover of businesses,” said Sarah Perry, who, along with her sister, Lauren, have thoughtfully taken the helm at Branches, the floral, gift and antique shop opened in 1995. “It started with my aunt and mother. Now they are retired, it’s my sister and me. Soon it will be the third generation as our children grow into the business.”
Jean O’Fee’s rendering of the Village at Wexord, commissioned by Wally Smith in 1989.
Senny and Steve Powell built their shop Island Child from original raw space at the village when it first opened. Practically raising her children in the shop, Senny Powell said, “Two of my daughters would be excellent retailers. I still hope that one of them will, maybe someday, step up and say she would love to carry it on.”
Getting to know the shop and restaurant owners is one of the lovely benefits of being a Village at Wexford guest. Whether it’s a browsing expedition without a defined purpose or planning an elaborate special occasion, the owners will get as involved as you would like and will fall in love with what you want to accomplish.
Bluffton resident Resa Barbalich is making Village at Wexford a key destination for the guests who will be attending her daughter’s wedding this coming October. “We’re going to rent a van to take everybody over for a day at Wexford,” she said. Barbalich discovered Village at Wexford when she was recommended to The Hair Designers, where her monthly appointments with Diane now provide her and her husband with an excuse (not really needed, she said) to travel over the bridge to her favorite island destination. “We love Wexford. My husband drops me off and goes to The British Open Pub. He’ll hang there while I get my hair cut and then we’ll have dinner.” An admitted material girl, she is excited to share the shops and restaurants with their guests in the fall. “We’re going to have a little excursion,” she said, including a special private dinner and plenty of shopping, where she has found the owners so very helpful in her planning for the wedding, from shopping for the right outfit, to menus, to gifts.
Barbalich also credits The Oilerie Hilton Head for renewing her interest in cooking and enjoys using their infused oils. “I used to hate to cook,” she said. “The Oilerie has gotten me back into it.”
Village at Wexford offers an experience not found elsewhere. Newer merchants like Louette and Java Burrito are a big part of creating a cool, innovative vibe, while mingling perfectly with their neighbors, honoring the roots of the center and honoring what was original. “We’ve evolved generationally,” said Avis Rollison, owner of The Porcupine, where she is known for her exceptional taste whether sourcing designer fashion or keeping on-trend with fast fashion (the latest in fashion-speak, she said). “Village at Wexford is all owner-managed by people who live in the area. That gives customers better customer service because it’s people who really care. Most of them love their business and that’s why they’re doing it. Their customers are their assets.”
Wally and Jean Smith opened Smith Galleries in 1988, where their focus has always been hand-made-in-America jewelry, fine crafts, art and toys. Focus plays a big part of the success of not only veteran businesses like theirs, but of the village’s newer businesses that have immersed themselves in the Village at Wexford culture. “We’re a mom-and-pop business,” Wally Smith said. “It’s all a reflection of our skill and personality.”
Keeping the shopping experience at Village at Wexford fresh, focused and full of personality is a testament to the merchants and their commitment to building, reinterpreting, and always reinventing to make it the best neighborhood in which to shop. Retail role models such as Needlepoint Junction with their expansion, and colorful reinvention, and Senny Powell’s ongoing passion and commitment to keeping merchandise current, demonstrate why this place is so special.
“I talk to my customers, especially the young moms. I want to know what they’re thinking, what they’re looking for, what they like to give to their girlfriends when they find out they’re expecting a baby. I’m obsessed. I’m on Instagram; I’m on the Internet; I’m always looking for the next best thing,” Powell said. “It’s still so exciting. When I find something that I love and I think my customers are going to love—and then they do—it’s just so much fun.”
That is the kind of passion customers find, whether looking for a gift for their canine or feline companions or their grandmother; whether experiencing a great meal, working out the kinks at the chiropractor, or finding just the right Lilly-wear or Teague’s togs for a day at the RBC Heritage golf tournament.
Inspired, the team leading the merchants has created an exciting vision for their present and future. Village at Wexford is reaching out to the community to support charities and organizations through events like their “Day to Celebrate Women” event held this past May.
Future events are being planned to benefit the local community including fundraisers, outdoor markets, and special winter holiday events. Local businesses with a heart for their community are the foundation by which award-winning venues like Village at Wexford and Hilton Head Island are enriched.
Who will you find at Village at Wexford? Locals shopping and connecting with merchant-friends, visitors reconnecting with their favorite destinations and people, and delighted newbies, experiencing the lovely, inviting happenings at the village for the first time.
Please visit villageatwexford.com for a complete list of Village at Wexford merchants, special events, and weekly happenings. Follow Village at Wexford on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; check out #experiencelocal.