Coleman Blvd: Mount Pleasant’s Main Street

The next time you find yourself on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge heading into Mount Pleasant, and you have the opportunity to pick between Highway 17 North and Coleman Boulevard, why not head up Mt. Pleasant’s iconic thoroughfare and see all it has to offer? Coleman Boulevard – also known as Mount Pleasant’s Main Street, “the boulevard”, Coleman Blvd or simply Coleman – is truly the heart of Mount Pleasant, from the picturesque Shem Creek and its busy night life to the mom-n-pop establishments that call this storied street home.

Coleman Boulevard Merchant Alliance logo/seal

First up on the drive along Coleman you’ll encounter Patriots Point, one of South Carolina’s finest and most meaningful tourist attractions. Patriots Point offers plenty to visitors – and locals who could use a brush-up on their history – in the way of interesting tours, historic landmarks (including the USS Yorktown) as well as a Naval and Maritime Museum sure to delight the young and old. In short, don’t dare come to Mt. Pleasant and skip out on Patriots Point!

Between Patriots Point and beautiful Sullivan’s Island is a bevy of Coleman Boulevard restaurants, merchants and other services to enchant you. We’re sure you’ve heard of Shem Creek, THE place to be in Mount Pleasant, as well as its surrounding restaurants and beautiful sunsets. Yet there are many other places to explore on the Boulevard. From local bakeries to boutiques, the abundance of shopping on Coleman Boulevard is not to be missed! Need your watch fixed? Need a dress for your friend’s wedding? Craving a great lunch? Bored with the décor of your home? These quandaries and many others can all be solved on Coleman Boulevard. So, as we all say in Mount Pleasant, “come on over” – and see what wonderful surprises await you right here in the heart of our town, otherwise known as Coleman Boulevard!

Down On Main Street: A historic stroll down Coleman Boulevard

Coleman Boulevard is Mount Pleasant’s main street and home to more locally-owned businesses than any other street in town.
Coleman Boulevard is Mount Pleasant’s main street and home to more locally-owned businesses than any other street in town.

Coleman Boulevard is more than just a gateway to the beach. It’s Mount Pleasant’s Main Street, USA. It was where all the action began in the early 20th century and it remains the heart and soul of the town today.

Coleman Boulevard was named after Mayor Francis Coleman, who steered the town through the rapid development of the 1950s and its transformation from a farming community to a suburban hotspot. Before that, what we now know as Coleman had been U.S. Highway 17, created when the Old Georgetown Highway was rerouted to connect with the newly-built Cooper River Bridge in 1929.

When an additional bridge was constructed in 1967, Highway 17 “bypass” was created, pulling traffic away from the business district of Coleman Boulevard. Besides alleviating traffic congestion on Coleman, it was a boon for the local economy as shoppers began to patronize the strip malls along the bypass. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo forced the shuttering of some businesses along Coleman, and those that survived struggled to compete with the ever-expanding activity on the bypass.

Over the last decade, however, Coleman Boulevard has re–established its reputation as the iconic main street it once was — and business is booming.

The History of Coleman Boulevard

A Culinary Town

When residents from downtown Charleston first began relocating “across the bridge” in the 1950s, new neighborhoods such as the Groves, Bayview Acres, Brookgreen and Shemwood popped up adjacent to Coleman Boulevard. Supermarkets, shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants, churches, a public high school and a television station diversified the offerings. Shem Creek changed, too, transitioning from its former identity as the center of shrimping and boat building to become the hub of renowned seafood dining establishments, beginning with the famed Lorelei and Trawler.

The Fork Restaurant.
The Fork Restaurant.

Back then, the family-friendly Fork Restaurant between the Shem Creek Bridge and Broadway Street was literally the restaurant — as in the only one in town. Later came Piggy Park, a drive-in barbeque place owned by the Bessinger family, located on the spot that is now Page’s Okra Grill. The drive-in was later replaced by Alex’s Diner, well-known as the last stop for late-night revelers, since it stayed open until 2 a.m.

When fast food joints became popular in the 1960s, Jack’s Hamburgers was the first to arrive on Coleman Boulevard, next to where Topsail Restaurant stands today. Who could resist the catchy jingle that some old-timers can still sing? “Jack’s Hamburgers for 15 cents are so good, good, good. You’ll go back, back, back to Jack’s, Jack’s, Jack’s for more, more, more!” Hardees and Dairy Queen followed shortly thereafter.

Today’s food trucks have nothing on the little silver trailer diner that once stood on the corner of Coleman Boulevard and Erckmann Drive that was affectionately known as “the silver cockroach.” Barbara Hanf Henson remembered eating “the best toasted tomato sandwich” there in 1965, but the place was also known for great hamburgers, french fries and a good, hearty breakfast.

Krispy Kreme was also a favorite on Coleman Boulevard. Lucky for Moultrie High School students, it was close enough to grab a donut before school. Brian Ballzinger recalled one of his teachers sending him there to get her morning coffee during homeroom. “And I took sips of her coffee on the way back to school,” he said. “I remember it was the best coffee I ever had.” After school, a milkshake at Krispy Kreme was a daily fix for many, and the Moultrie Generals football team stopped in for donuts and milk after practicing at Jasper Green field. The shop was also where retired men met for coffee each morning and to discuss football.

Multimedia Mount Pleasant

The Seabreeze drive-in movie theater was another popular spot in the 1950s. Some longtime residents claim to own one of the speaker boxes left behind when the theater site was abandoned and the Cooper Estates neighborhood was established. An indoor theater called the Parkway was also on Coleman in the 1950s in the building where the GDC store is located today. Harry Gregory, the store’s owner, said, “We never took out the rear wall that held the movie screen. The spots where the projector and large fans that cooled the un-air-conditioned theater are also identifiable and the upstairs balcony and the ramp going down into the theater are still there, too.”

The town has always been home to military veterans and their presence on Coleman Boulevard was obvious. The American Legion and the VFW meeting halls provided opportunities for them to socialize and share their yarns over a frosty beverage any night they wished. As a salute to the large Navy presence in the area, Channel 2 at the west end of Coleman Boulevard used the call letters WUSN when it went on the air in 1954. Appealing to the youngest viewers, the station’s owner added a zoo of sorts on the property with an alligator, exotic birds, a kangaroo and a donkey. But the real star was “Suzie Q from Channel 2,” an Asian elephant who could be viewed on the front lawn of the studio by every passing car on Coleman Boulevard on their way to the bridge. Local talent was showcased on the annual televised March of Dimes telethon at the Channel 2 studio and donors, both big and small, were urged to call in or stop by with their gift. The highlight was when local firefighters arrived on air to empty their boots of the dimes they’d collected from motorists. In 1975, WUSN’s call letters were changed to WCBD as a nod to the tri-county area.

A Shopper’s Delight

The Moultrie and Sea Island shopping centers provided one-stop shopping for the essential business of running the family household and still remain important fixtures on Coleman Boulevard. Moultrie had the Colonial Supermarket, Berkeley Drugs and Grant’s Department Store. Sea Island was anchored by the Piggly Wiggly and included Belk department store, Western Auto, a liquor store and a laundromat. And of course, there’s Causey’s Barber Shop, which has been in business at Sea Island for 55 years. Known decades ago for the buzz cut, Angelo Marotto recalled being part of the Christ Our King-Stella Maris School haircut club.

Sea Island Shopping Center circa 1968.
Sea Island Shopping Center circa 1968.

“The nuns would take us across the street to Causey’s and get the hair cut off our shoulders,” Marotto said.

Today, Causey’s offers a variety of different styles — even for women. But just as in earlier times, kids can still get free ice cream — as if the sports memorabilia lining the walls isn’t already enough of a draw.

Causey’s Barber Shop.
Causey’s Barber Shop.

Across the street, Royall Ace Hardware has stood on Coleman Boulevard for more than 40 years. John Royall bought the Willard Hardware store in 1976. “It was just a little old building — 2,500 square feet — and it’s now the Fin and Feather hunting store at Haddrell’s Point,” he said.

Royall expanded in 1990 and built the current structure just a couple doors down. He acknowledged he’s always felt lucky his family’s store is along the town’s main street. “Cars go slow on Coleman and Ben Sawyer — 30-35 mph — so they can see our business easier than if it were on the bypass.”

A Place to Stay and Play

Back in the day, vacationers could find lodging along Coleman Boulevard. In the 1950s-60s, long before the construction of the hotels now dotting the bypass, the Brookgreen Meadows Court Motel was located where the Brookgreen Shopping Center presently stands. The outdoor swimming pool was the envy of every child in town and eventually the owners allowed townsfolk to pay to use it—a club pool of sorts. But the hotel was a hotspot for travelers since it was only a few miles from the beach. Locals knew to stop at Choppy’s Gulf gas station on the corner of McCants Drive and Coleman Boulevard for snacks and cigarettes on the way to the beach. They never forgot the fireworks, too.

Brookgreen Meadows Court Motel
Brookgreen Meadows Court Motel.

A Brighter Tomorrow

Today, Coleman Boulevard has received a landscaping facelift and is lined with hundreds of swaying palmetto trees. It’s home to small businesses providing for every facet of daily life — from restaurants, home furnishings, personal health needs, sporting goods, clothing stores and more. According to the website for the Coleman Boulevard Merchant Alliance, the town’s main street is home to more locally-owned businesses than any other street in town.

Mount Pleasant may not be the sleepy little town it once was, but its main street continues to keep up with the times. “Everything we needed was right there,” recalled Anne Royall, who grew up near Coleman Boulevard in an earlier era.

Today, there’s no doubt that Coleman Boulevard still has it all. It’s our very own Main Street, USA.

By Mary Coy