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Preserving South Carolina’s Iconic Palmetto Tree: The Story of Calmettos USA

By Haley Brandon

As South Carolinians, we are intimately familiar with the sight of palmetto trees gracing our landscape, serving as our state tree, a symbol of our beloved state. From the tranquil shores of the coastal plain to the vibrant vistas of the Upstate, the palmetto embodies the essence of South Carolina. Enter Cal Harrelson, a man whose artistic prowess has breathed new life into this cherished emblem, earning it the endearing moniker of “Calmetto.”

With a lineage deeply rooted in the fabric of South Carolina, Cal’s connection to his home state runs as deep as the palmetto’s roots. Drawing inspiration from his familial ties to figures like John Calhoun, former U.S. Vice President, and Dr. Wilford Harrelson, Cal’s grandfather and the first major of Myrtle Beach, Cal channels his love for South Carolina into vibrant, colorful paintings of the iconic palmetto tree.

By day, Cal navigates the world of resort real estate along the South Carolina coast. But his passion for painting truly captures the essence of his South Carolinian spirit. Through his creative expression, Cal has not only captured the hearts of locals but also garnered attention from luminaries such as Jack Nicklaus, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys, and political leaders both within the Carolinas and beyond.

“Our artwork is inspired by those beautiful Southern Palmetto trees that have withstood hurricane-force winds for decades and even British cannonballs from more than a lifetime ago,” Cal tells us. “It’s rewarding to see people enjoy our products because of their love for this icon.”

Fueled by encouragement from friends and inspired by the allure of his artwork, Cal partnered with longtime friend William Russell to transform his passion into a thriving business venture. Russell, whose own lineage boasts ties to South Carolina’s rich history, brought his expertise from The Marketing Beacon in Upstate South Carolina to the table, paving the way for the birth of Calmettos USA.

Together, Cal and William have curated a collection of merchandise that celebrates the spirit of South Carolina through Cal’s distinctive artwork. They offer ceramic coaster sets, notecard sets, birch wood wall decor, prints, totes, and garden flags, all of which bear the vibrant imagery of the Calmetto, serving as a testament to the resilience and beauty of the palmetto tree. Today, the merchandise is sold on the company’s website and in retail gift shops throughout the state.

William adds, “People have a direct and personal connection to the state palmetto tree. Even those beyond South Carolina relate to the Palmetto because they come here to vacation, see family, or have property here. Our merchandise provides a tangible way for people to enjoy the palmetto tree artwork in their home, office, or vacation house.”

As they continue to expand their business, Cal and William remain steadfast in their commitment to honoring South Carolina’s rich heritage and ensuring that the iconic palmetto tree remains at the forefront of their endeavors. To celebrate the beauty of our beloved palmetto tree and to support Calmettos USA, please visit www.calmettosusa.com.

Haley Brandon

Haley Brandon

Articles: 17

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