Reviving an Iconic St. Helena Landmark
Breaking ground during the early months of 1955, Mr. Leyonard Blocker and his beloved wife Barbara began construction on a small country store just over Cowan Creek at the front door of St. Helena Island. Officially opening for business on October 15th of that same year, Blocker’s Grocery Store quickly became a favorite, and for many years, the only, one-stop-shop for local sea island residents. As decades rolled by and more and more visitors discovered St. Helena and the islands and beaches just beyond her, the store evolved into an iconic landmark where visiting became more than just a stop at a gas station -- it became an experience reminiscent of times gone by. From a full service fuel station to shelves and baskets filled with locally grown produce and plants and nearly anything in between, patrons could always count on the market to have something they needed. The Blocker’s ran and managed the store for over thirty years until they decided to retire and lease it in 1988. When the new operator took over, he changed the name of the store to the St. Helena Market but continued the tradition of selling local produce, plants, and other goodies commonly found in old fashioned general stores.
Fast forward to 1997 when the opportunity arose for the Land Trust to purchase the property from the Blocker’s to prevent any further development of the land. By partnering with Beaufort County and others, as well as receiving generous private donations from our members and local residents, the Land Trust was able to successfully close the deal by the summer of 1998. Upon the Land Trust’s acquisition of the property, with the same tenant in place, the St. Helena Market continued to operate until late 2012 when the doors closed for the first time in well over half a century.
After nearly 3 years of sitting vacant, the Land Trust began renovations to the old market in the fall of 2015 as a result of an overwhelming response from local residents, long time visitors to the islands, and others passionate about reviving this historic icon and St. Helena institution. In keeping with the old country store theme, the Land Trust has entered into a long-term lease agreement with the Carolina Cider Company to operate the market once renovations are complete, which are expected to be in May 2016. Similar to their other two locations (one in Gardens Corner and the other in Point South, both on Highway 17 just north of Beaufort), the St. Helena location will specialize in carrying locally made ciders and other small batch southern delicacies such as jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, homemade pies (the best you will ever eat!) and other sweets, stone ground grits, Carolina Gold rice, and much more. They will also offer premium fresh ground coffee which can be enjoyed while browsing through the store or while relaxing on the patio out front. So this summer when you head out to the beaches, stop in and take a look…there’s a good chance there will be something that suits your fancy.