Bringing a Vision to Life: Callahan’s of Calabash

By Eric Callahan

Forty years ago this spring, my grandfather, Clark Callahan, and my dad, also Clark Callahan, bought a 2,500 square foot building in Calabash that had housed a gift shop. My grandfather lived here and was one of the original developers of Carolina Shores. He convinced my dad to move here from Akron, Ohio, with my mom, who was pregnant with me, and my brother and sister who were five and three. Callahan’s of Calabash opened with the help of my cousin, Dean Spatholt, who also moved here to work in the company at only 20 years old. Dad had very limited retail experience, he was working in sales at a trucking company in Ohio before moving here, but his personality and vision – plus a lot of hard work – made us successful. Today, Callahan’s is 35,000 feet of retail space housing everything from Christmas items to clothing to jewelry and much more.

Dad opened the store with the same type of merchandise the former owner sold – seashells, souvenirs, tee shirts, etc. In 1984 we started selling Christmas items – Dad realized that people like taking home a Christmas ornament to remember their vacation, and it took off. A lot of people still call us “The Christmas Shop.” He added on to the original store nine times through the years, each time expanding the variety of merchandise offered.

One great example of my father’s foresight is the nautical room – we have antique nautical items and artifacts that were originally placed to entertain the men while their wives shopped. He then added benches on the porch and a ring toss game – it’s no secret that women spend most of the money in a store like this, and Dad knew entertaining their husbands would allow them to shop longer. Now we have the Yeti line, men’s clothing, Fish Hippie, Costa Del Mar sunglasses and more just for men. Dad always wanted to do something just a little different for his customers.

Soon after opening, Callahan’s began doing well, and Dad saw its potential. He kept investing in the business and opening new businesses. Today, we have 220-230 employees and are opening a new restaurant this month. Dean still works with the company and has been integral to the success of the restaurants. Even though Dad has now retired, he left his stamp on our company. His hard work and outgoing personality inspired loyalty – and is much of what made us successful. I admire him so much and hope to continue on his path of success for years to come.

About this writer

  • Eric Callahan

    Eric Callahan is the Manager of Callahan’s at Calabash and Marketing Director for The Boundary House Restaurant, Clark’s Seafood and Chop House and Sea Island Trading Company. Their new restaurant in Calabash, The Oyster Rock, is now open! Visit www.callahansgifts.com for more information.

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