Eleanor is a true southern gem filled with love and joy. She grew up in Charleston and graduated from Coker College. Eleanor and her husband, Bill, lived in Kingstree, South Carolina, when she first opened up her shop. She explained to me that it was very small at the time and was located inside her husband’s pharmacy. After fifteen years, the couple was blessed with the opportunity to move to the beach and be a part of a new shopping complex in Pawleys Island, The Shops at Oak Lea. Although they moved the business here right before Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Eleanor Pitts Jewelry and Gifts evolved gracefully over time and has now been in business in that same location for thirty-one years.
Eleanor and Bill’s children, LeAnne and Jennifer, were young children when the business first opened in Kingstree. They helped out in the store with duties such as hand-painting boxes, engraving, and printing stationery. The two daughters assisted their mother with anything she needed through high school and until they left for college.
After LeAnne graduated from college, she moved to Charleston where she worked in pharmaceutical sales for seven years. She and her husband, Franklin, then moved to Pawleys Island right before their first child was born. LeAnne changed careers and started working in the family business again which allowed her more flexibility. This change of work also gave her children a chance to play in the store where they entertained each other with games of hide-and-seek in the display cabinets. With both children now in college, LeAnne is able to spend more time in the store.
Eleanor and LeAnne describe their mother-daughter work as fun and always interesting. They genuinely enjoy the time they get to spend together and love helping others find their perfect gift for that special someone. LeAnne is in charge of most of their marketing and social media and is a big help to Eleanor with choosing and ordering new products. Eleanor’s husband, Bill, handles all of the financials for the company. Eleanor is there all day, every day, and clarifies that “when you own a small business, you do a bit of everything yourself.”
When I asked the family what it is like to be in retail during the holiday season, they replied, “We basically live here. We bring all but our beds.” This is their busiest season of the year. They learned to get most of their shopping done early so they can devote their time to the needs of their customers. They also do a lot of their shopping at the other wonderful shops within the complex. The family somehow still manages to find the time to decorate as well. Their holiday décor is displayed in the shop the day after Halloween. Eleanor decorates her house very traditionally including lots of nativity scenes. LeAnne’s daughter begins dressing up their house the day after Thanksgiving and their tree goes up the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The Pitts’ family traditions also consist of the whole family coming over to Eleanor’s house for Christmas Eve dinner and to open presents. LeAnne informed me that Santa does not wrap Christmas presents in her household, and when Santa did wrap them one year, LeAnne’s daughter was very upset – Santa never wrapped the presents again. Eleanor was equally surprised and amused that LeAnne had tried this out one year, as she agreed that Santa does indeed not wrap Christmas presents.
Eleanor Pitts Jewelry and Gifts is a unique shop, especially for the area, which carries exclusive designer jewelry and hand-painted china. They offer bridal registries as well as a wish list to help significant others when they shop in the store for one another. They keep up to date with the trends by attending several jewelry shows and markets throughout the year. Family businesses have unfortunately been replaced more and more through the years with the development of the internet and larger corporations, but what Eleanor and her family have grown here is proudly established and here to stay.