When leaving Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and heading north on Highway 17, there comes a point when you’re finally free of the traffic lights, strip malls, auto parts stores, and mattress shops. The sprawl loosens up, and the Lowcountry regains its languid hold on the landscape. You’re in Awendaw now, where it is believed that four thousand years ago, Native Americans built a massive oyster-shell ring for ceremonial reasons. It’s still standing. In 1696, the area was settled by folks who had had enough of Salem, Massachusetts, and its witch conspiracies. These days it serves as a jumping-off point for the Francis Marion National Forest and the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, two of the most untamed wild places near Charleston and maybe in the entire state.
By the time you zoom past the huge metal swallow-tailed kite that signals the Center for Birds of Prey, go ahead and tap the brakes, because just ahead lies a pit stop like few others.
You can pull into Sewee Outpost for gas, but that would be like going to the Louvre to just stand outside and stare at the Pyramid. Need a couple of crab traps and a pot to steam the blue claws in? Want to buy a locally made porch swing? Looking for live crickets to fish the bream pond? How about a crowbar and a sledgehammer to help with the house demo? Forgot your grunt tube for the afternoon deer hunt? Seeking an extendable camping fork for the firepit? Need some training bumpers and an O-ring collar for the gundog? Interested in perusing the finest collection of guidebooks in the state?
Well, may I suggest you go inside anyway? Follow your nose past the cooler of boiled peanuts and the obligatory bottles of soda in the fridge, beyond the cast-iron cookware, pocketknives, Hubs peanuts, and duck decoys carved from used crab trap buoys, till you reach the hot shelves loaded with biscuits, stuffed with either sausage or country ham. Since you’ve come this far, might as well buy two. (I always double up on the country ham.) This simple decision vexes many a hungry customer, but there’s no wrong choice. Inside each paper sack is a scratch biscuit that’s as light as camellia petals and gently browned—the perfect vehicle for the meat.
Too late for breakfast? Get a fried chicken and cheese sandwich. Or crack open the fridge door and grab the shrimp salad sandwich, which some locals call the best in the biz. (That is not something they say lightly in these parts.) Want to grab dinner for later? The seafood quiche always delivers.
A paean to the Lowcountry, Sewee Outpost had its genesis at the Christmas dinner table in nearby McClellanville, when brothers Brooks and Arthur Geer were home for the holiday in 2001. The idea was a three-in-one store that combined hardware, food, and hunting and fishing gear. Their father started scouting properties, and instead of a one-acre corner lot, the trio opted for twenty-two acres with a live oak frontage that would become the store’s calling card. All the better for a disc golf course threaded through the land (you can play all day after you spend five dollars in the store) and Barn Jam, Awendaw Green’s BYOB Wednesday night concert series with plenty of bonfires and good vibes. They wanted the structure itself, which they had built with corrugated-steel siding and a peaked roof (reminiscent of a tobacco barn), to serve as the billboard.
It turned out the brothers are a natural pairing for the kind of throwback country store they envisioned. Arthur mans the kitchen, drawing on his legendary tailgating roots and sourcing ingredients locally. And Brooks handles the rest. While that may seem like a lot, he lives by a simple rule: “If I don’t personally want something, then I don’t want it in the store.” It helps that his eclectic “wants” span from coffee to the ideal pair of flip-flops.
If it’s not obvious by now, I never miss a chance to stop at the Outpost. In fact, some of my favorite adventures begin there, whether I’m grabbing a quiche and other goodies for the host of a Santee Delta duck hunt or nabbing biscuits and tackle for a bass fishing expedition. But it’s the rare times when there’s nothing pulling me down the road that I enjoy most at the Outpost. Every aisle seems to speak to me with a mix of nostalgia, authenticity, and purpose. And for some reason, I never feel like I’ve explored them all. Do I need a hundred-quart pot or a Daisy BB gun? Not really. But it’s nice to know they’re there.