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‘People are in need’: His store had no power and no employees, but he knew he had to open

“One in, one out,” said the man manually controlling the doors into the Piggly Wiggly grocery at Coligny Plaza on Sunday.

A family of three exited past him with bags of ice. He cracked open the door to let another inside.

Just one grocery store was open Sunday on Hilton Head Island — one day after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread damage and left the island without power, water or sewer service.

Piggly Wiggly had no power either. It had no paid employees. Large trees were down nearby in the parking lot.

But it was still managing to help those who chose not to evacuate.

“People are in need,” owner David Martin said Sunday. “I know everybody was supposed to be out, but we are where we’re at … And we’re here to get people the necessities.”

Without electricity, Martin’s wife, Chris, along with a few friends, a former employee and a volunteer from the neighborhood ushered customers through the dark store with flashlights and a clipboard of prices remembered by Martin.

The operation reminds him of his father, Gene Martin, who opened the small island grocery store on May 28, 1969.

His dad would have done the same thing, David Martin said.

Each customer had a five-item limit to not overwhelm the store.

The big sellers? Necessities like ice, water, food and toiletries, but also cigarettes and lots of beer.

“You need a little something strong to wait this out,” said one woman standing in line. “I’m getting the highest alcohol content I can find.”

For another customer, Jermaine Owens, without the Piggly Wiggly he was going to get extra food by hunting and fishing.

“I can live off the land like that,” Owens said. “But I will say I’m glad this is open.”

A family of tourists from the United Kingdom who got caught in the storm still planned to spend the day at the beach.

Other customers joked and shared stories and cell phone videos of the storm.

But the toll and risk of waiting out a hurricane was also clear.

Soon after the store opened, an elderly man collapsed on the sidewalk and was rescued by an EMS crews that only recently returned to the island.

Luckily he was in one of the few places in town, the oasis after the storm, with other people there to call for help.

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