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Expansion: Amid economic swings, joggling boards are a natural for start-up

Since the 1960s the Altman family and their staff at Pawleys Island Realty have been helping put people in homes (and homes away from home), either permanently or for memorable beach vacations.

Two decades later, they started handling home repairs for their property management clients with Pawleys Property Improvements.

Now, they’re helping with home furnishings through a new venture, Pawleys Lifestyles. From hand-painted joggling boards to custom-built oyster tables, their unique merchandise blends functionality and quality craftsmanship with Lowcountry style.

Sharing space with Elizabeth Taylor Satterfield Interior Design, the business opened in May in an old grocery store building on the North Causeway, between Pawleys Island Realty and Pawleys Island Hardware.

“It’s been slow evolving,” said Alan Altman, a partner at Pawleys Island Realty. From concept to reality, he created the new business with his father, Linwood, who founded the real estate company.

That this new venture is something they did together is important to them both, as is that the team at Pawleys Island Realty is involved and committed to helping it succeed.

“At some point years ago when this building was empty we looked into an outdoor furniture type business,” Altman recalled. “For different reasons we decided not to pursue it at that time.”

When Community Florist vacated the building about a year ago they talked about it again and decided to move forward.

“It may be an interesting time to start a new business,” Altman said. But the sluggish economy was actually part of the reason they opted to move forward.

The Altmans’ home repair business has five employees that take care of tasks ranging from re-screening doors and windows to furniture repair for Pawleys Island Realty clients. Their services are in demand during the summer, but in the off-season there’s less for those employees to do.

“We have always tried not to lay anybody off in the off-season, but this new economy is pushing our limits,” Altman said.

He and his father saw a furniture building business as a way to avoid having to put people out of work.

“We were searching for ways to make our operation more efficient so that our people are taken care of year-round,” Altman said. “That’s very important to us.”

Employees will split their time between home repairs and the work shop at Pawleys Lifestyles, depending on which service is in demand.

Working in the shop last week, one of the craftsmen, Billy Collicott, said the chance to build furniture for the store is more than job security.

“I always wanted to retire and do this, and Alan has given me the best of both worlds,” he said.

Collicott has worked half his life for the Altmans, even before the repair business started, and has developed a reputation for workmanship that Altman and others involved in the new business say they hope will help establish its reputation.

“He has an amazing talent that doesn’t show as well when he’s doing something like repairing a screen door. He can take this raw material and turn it into something people will be using for years and years to come. It’s really an art, what he can do,” said Julia McCallus a sales agent with Pawleys Island Realty.

She and a colleague, Megan Strickland, handle staging in the showroom at Pawleys Lifestyles and help customers in picking out items that are a good fit for their homes.

The business deals largely in outdoor furnishings, but has some interior accents as well.

“We have some things here that we don’t think you can readily find anywhere else,” Altman said.

One of the business’ signatures is bound to be custom joggling boards. The traditional length for a joggling board — a key article on many a Lowcountry porch — is 16 feet, but some homes don’t have the space to accommodate that. Pawleys Lifestyles designs and builds joggling boards that are functional in the space available.

Joggling boards can also be ordered with custom paint jobs by a local artist, Keels Culberson Swinnie. A fanciful scene she created of Pawleys Island at night is featured on joggling boards as well as canvases displayed in the store. Owners can even request their home and their neighbors’ homes in custom paintings.

There’s also a design featuring the Pawleys Pavilion.

“We’ve opened a whole world of a different vision of artwork and functionality with our furniture,” Altman said.

The store’s custom oyster tables are also sure to be a big seller. Made with hard wood, pegged and carefully painted and sealed, “if you take care of them, they’ll last a good long time, and you won’t find anything to beat it in functionality if you like eating oysters and entertaining at home.”

These, too, can be made to fit nearly any space.

The store also offers hand-built wooden rocking chairs, hammocks, custom chairs, Gloster furniture, fire pits, outdoor rugs, lighting and games.

“It’s been interesting to find the balance of what customers want and what we want to sell, and make that work,” Altman said.

“We’ve talked to a number of local restaurants about building custom furniture for their outdoor seating areas and I think there’s some opportunity there. We’re starting to work with home owners associations for pool and deck furniture that needs custom-type attention and I hope that will work out.

“But I think a large part of our business will be from folks who own homes in this area and who are looking for something unique and special.”

For information, call 314-3536.

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