One of the most popular places for residents and those in the know on Folly Beach is Bert’s Market, located just off of Center Street at 202 Ashley Avenue. Bert’s is a 24 hour grocery and convenience store that is known for its “We may doze, but we never close” motto. The store is considered the apex of the island from where everything revolves. People come in to search for lost dogs, ask for directions, socialize with friends, or to purchase casual reading material. Hats, fans, and other handmade sweetgrass items welcome visitors in with an enticing hello as they enter the front door.
The store’s personality can be felt as soon as you walk up and see the mural, painted by graffiti artist Douglas Panzone, of Cap’n Bert with a devilish smile on his face and wielding a large hook. The colorful display covers the entire north side of the building, and Bert’s likeness reminds you of a rebellious yet friendly pirate, red bandana and all. His welcoming smile greets those who meander up the street with a knowing nod and a virtual wink. When you see the delightful mural, you know you’ve come to the right place.
When Bert opened the market, his goal was to be as family oriented as possible. As Omar Colon, the current owner and husband to Bert’s daughter Julia states, “He always cared about the people, and ran a business that cared about the people.” The store still runs under the same guiding principles, as Omar and Julia took over the store on January 1, 2010 and continue to provide consistent service to the construction workers, surfers, children, families and all of those that call Bert’s home. Although Bert is not directly involved in the day to day business, he still keeps up with the trends and informs Omar and Julia when bad weather is on the way. His gentle reminder to stock up on batteries, bottled water, candles and flashlights are welcomed by the next generation, as Bert has years of experience in handling these types of extenuating circumstances. Omar and Julia will still go to Bert before making major changes to the store to inquire as to his expertise and advice on the subject.
Even though Bert’s has been a staple of the community for so many years, there have also been hard times. Omar divulges that in the summer of 2012, the city wide ban of alcohol on the beach affected their bottom line. “We have (since) bounced back. The effects (then) were immediate surrounding the ban, and the relevance of it was that it was the middle of the summer when they all but cut off the normal stream of people from coming to the island,” he says. Noting that they were able to bounce back, he also has shown concern for other businesses who did not have a backup plan in place. Thankfully for all of us, Bert’s did find a way to overcome the diminished business during that unfortunate time.
City employees, retirees and young adults come in throughout the day to pick up yummy sandwiches, hot dogs and corndogs from the deli. Salads and specialty snacks are made daily and include organic ingredients. Southern style boiled peanuts are a tasty treat with their salty juicy goodness available by the cup. Employees make chili daily for the hot dogs, and the locals eat it up for just .79 cents a dog.
Everyone is welcome at Bert’s, and middle of the night beer runs are common. With growlers available and a huge selection of bottled or canned beer, Bert’s is a great place to stock up on adult beverages. They also have a lovely selection of wines for connoisseurs to choose their favorite grape varietal. Above the aisles, there are dozens of tap heads used to pour favorites from the draught beer bar. For those who enjoy tasting different styles of beer, there is no better place to try new and tantalizing ales/pilsners/lagers than the Market.
A nice cigar selection sits beside the wine section, and those who enjoy a nice puff of a wine dipped stogie can pair up their favorite flavors. Cigars from Montecristo, Gold Honey, Bella Vanilla cigarellos, and Estilo Cubanos are a small sample of the choices available. Combine these with one of the lovely bottles of vino in the well stocked cabinet, and you’ve made a cigar and wine afficionado’s dream come true.
Bert’s grocery section comprises of commonly needed fridge and freezer items, such as milk or eggs and ice creams. One can simply stop by the market to pick up fresh veggies from their organic produce section, or stop by the dry food aisles to get sugar, canned meats, cereals and more. The store has a little bit of everything for hungry visitors to choose from, and don’t forget the store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! It’s virtually impossible not to find what you need at Bert’s Market. It will soon become your favorite place too.