The story of the Richardson Group entities is, in many ways, the story of Hilton Head Island itself. Before there was a bridge to this sleepy little sea island, there was James Norris Richardson, the man they called “Big Daddy.”
Big Daddy came to the island with his wife Lois and three children, James (JR), Collins and Mary Katherine in 1955 with a dream to open the island’s first market. Having already built a grocery chain empire from the ground up (quite literally, as he got his start sweeping floors), he knew exactly what needed to be done. He shipped materials over by barge, and built The Forest Beach Supermarket – where Coligny is now – brick by brick.
Forest Beach Supermarket quickly became the social hub and de facto downtown of this small but growing community, perched as it was right on the beach. Big Daddy capitalized on his new market’s status as Hilton Head’s downtown by adding every shop and service a blooming hometown might need – a laundromat, a barber shop, a fast food restaurant and more. In time, one store became many. And those stores became Coligny. The old market may be gone, but in its place are 60 shops and restaurants that carry the tradition of serving as Hilton Head Island’s downtown.
In time, leadership of Coligny passed from Big Daddy to his son, JR Richardson. In addition to guiding Coligny’s growth and continued vitality as a destination, Richardson has left an indelible imprint on the community, like his father before him.
He was the visionary behind Windmill Harbour, the majestic residential gated community that rests comfortably on sparkling depths of the Intercoastal Waterway. Apart from mesmerizing sunset views and impeccable luxury, Windmill Harbour also enjoys some of the finest deep water access on the island, which made it a perfect home for the South Carolina Yacht Club, which JR and wife Leslie founded and are very active with to this day.
The younger Richardson’s impact has been felt even beyond the island, with the opening of Westbury Park in Bluffton and the expansive footprint of Richardson Group Real Estate. Richardson has even turned his considerable expertise to the island’s burgeoning culinary scene with the inception of restaurant, Local Pie, the first and only Neopolitan-style wood-fired pizzeria on Hilton Head Island. Designed with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and a sense of community, the philosophy behind Local Pie is a perfect fit for JR’s community-first philosophy.
And through all of his many endeavors, JR Richardson and the Richardson Group have continued a commitment to Coligny, the downtown the Big Daddy dreamed of and built one brick at a time 60 years ago.
Under the care of JR and Leslie Richardson, Coligny has entered an exciting new era of shaping the community it works tirelessly to serve. Now, 60 years on, Big Daddy’s dream of building a downtown for a sleepy island town is being realized in sensational new ways. The island town may no longer be sleepy, but it still has the same downtown, thanks to a family legacy that has had an extraordinary impact on the island it calls home.