Saying goodbye to Piggly Wiggly is hard to do
“Don’t throw the day away. Don’t burn the Pig.” Dave Matthews’ song, “Pig”
When I first heard that we would be losing our Piggly Stores, at least as we know them, the words of Dave Matthews’ song “Pig” instantly came to mind. “Don’t throw the day away,” the song says, “Don’t burn the Pig.” It’s playing on my iPod as I write this piece. I know it’s “just” a grocery store, but that’s like saying Shem Creek is “just” a creek.
If you’ve been in the Lowcountry for any length of time at all, Piggly Wiggly grocery stores have been part of the familiar landscape and part of the culture of how we eat, meet and live. When you walk into a local Piggly Wiggly, it has a distinctive Lowcountry aura that other stores just don’t quite have.
A few years ago at Charleston Race Week, held at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina here in Mount Pleasant, a British sailor said in his victory speech, “How can you not love a place like this where they have a grocery store named Piggly Wiggly, you’re served hot grits in the morning and the people are fantastic?”
But now we all must deal with the reality that progress and changes in commerce have claimed another familiar and welcoming Lowcountry landmark. Perhaps we should have seen this coming when Piggly Wiggly’s “Local Since Forever” billboard on the Mount Pleasant side of the Ravenel Bridge disappeared not too long ago.
The Pig has always been a go-to for Lowcountry food. For decades, Piggly Wiggly stores were located at the intersections and crossroads we drove past as we came and went in our daily lives. I just can’t imagine not seeing a The Piggly Wiggly at the fork in the road of Ben Sawyer and Chuck Dawley Boulevard. While the vast majority of the sixty-something thousand residents East of the Cooper may see Mount Pleasant as a wonderful, suburban community with upscale retail stores and some nice places to go out to eat at night, in the truest sense, Mount Pleasant has always had its own distinct sense of place. It has always been its own town, not a just a bedroom community near Charleston.
Over the decades, landmarks that have fallen to progress include Moultrie High School, the Krispy Kreme donut shop on Coleman Boulevard, the cozy Red & White stores that dotted the area, the Lorelei and the Trawler restaurants on Shem Creek, where you ate and then walked the docks near more shrimp boats than you could count. I’m sure some of the old timers could name dozens more places that have disappeared, and I’d love to hear about them.
So now Coleman Boulevard, which is Mount Pleasant’s de facto Main Street, is in the midst of undergoing some pretty dramatic aesthetic changes, too. Hopefully, it won’t become like King Street in downtown Charleston, where local stores move out and the national chains take over. While nobody wants to be a hayseed and decry all progress, nobody in their right mind wants Mount Pleasant to look and feel just like Anytown, USA, only with a picturesque creek running through it. We love our town for a reason, and we choose to live here for a reason, and that reason does not include making it look and feel like all the towns everyone left behind in order to move to this nice town.
So it’s goodbye to the Pig. The employee-owned company has decided to sell most of its stores around here. While nobody can fault them for making a sound business decision and exercising their right to free commerce, I, like countless others, will sure hate to see them go.
Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.firstname.lastname@example.org.