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Pawleys Island: Town’s top citizens are ambassadors for the brand

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Brian Henry came to set up chairs and get people seated.

Sassy Henry came to make sure Brian was there.

It fell to Jimmy McCants to explain why the couple was really at the Pawleys Island Chapel. “These people work as a team and have truly been an asset to the Pawleys Island community,” he said. That’s why they were named Citizens of the Year by the Pawleys Island Civic Association.

Although the award once went to all nine employees of the town of Pawleys Island, this was the first time it’s gone to a couple, McCants said.

Getting to the civic association’s annual meeting was one of few times they haven’t worked as a team since moving to Pawleys Island from Atlanta in 2002 as owners and managers of the Sea View Inn. But they fell into what has become an annual tradition of honoring service to the island as well as making sure the honorees are caught unaware.

“You’re sneaky,” Sassy told McCants and Linwood Altman, the association president. “I’m flabbergasted. I thought it was just about Brian today.”

Brian said finding a seat for everyone in the chapel was “harder than anything else I’ve done.” He figured out that ushering wasn’t his sole purpose when the inn staff and his two daughters, May May and Camille, showed up outside. “I think I know what’s going down now,” he said.

The Henrys don’t live on the island, but they are among its best ambassadors. The pimento cheese that Sassy began serving as an appetizer to Sea View Inn guests in 2003 became Palmetto Cheese. It’s the top-selling pimento cheese in the country, sold in 32 states and nearly 6,000 stores. Each container says “Pawleys Island” on the label.

They started Get Carried Away Southern Takeout in 2011, also based on favorite foods from the inn. Pawleys Creek Apparel followed in 2012.

“This woman right here was the force behind this move and to take over Sea View,” Brian told the civic association. “I have never met a more hard-working individual.”

“We are a really good team,” Sassy said. “God blessed us in this way. We never thought we were going to work together, now we are together all the time – and that’s good.”

She grew up in Atlanta and after earning a degree in biology and horticulture, worked at the Atlanta zoo, a landscape company and a flower and gift shop that she started. In 1995, she had the chance to become sous chef in the executive dining room of the Robinson-Humphrey investment firm.

Brian grew up in Louisiana. The town had one stop light, McCants said. Brian corrected him: “Stop light.” He got a degree in electrical engineering from LSU and worked for Andersen Consulting and Coca Cola.

“This is a dream come true to live here,” Sassy said. “I grew up coming to Pawleys Island. Brian, coming from Louisiana, it was a natural for him to fall in love with it, too.”

“We owe a lot to Pawleys Island,” Brian said.

McCants, who was Citizen of the Year in 2013, said the Henrys have paid it back; that’s the reason for the award. “They give tremendous time to the community in all kinds of services,” he said.

Sassy served five years on the Smith Medical Clinic board and was a member of the Georgetown County Tourism Management Commission. Brian is the chairman of the county Planning Commission and has backed efforts to protect the area’s local character along Highway 17. He’s the current president of the Waccamaw High Athletic Booster Club and he coaches at the school, the YMCA and with the county recreation department.

“We love living here,” Brian said. “Pawleys has been good to us.”

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