The "A" List

03 May 2019

Get to know these seasoned entrepreneurs, business owners, and leading women in the greater Charleston community

Photo by Cece Boykin

Peter Oakes

Axon Homes Inc.

(937) 271-1151

My/Our Business:  Axon Homes is a custom and semi-custom homebuilder.  We serve the greater Charleston market from Mount Pleasant to Kiawah.

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received:  Hire the right people!

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women:  Manage customers expectations and always be honest.

Why I/We Chose This Career:  I followed the footsteps of my mother.  She is a custom homebuilder in Ohio.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way:  Not everything will go perfectly throughout a build but fix things the right way and you will be ok.

You’d Never Guess That:  With my previous employer I worked on two homes in Nassau, Bahamas.

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston:  I love to fish, hunt and golf.  Being able to work in Charleston is a huge bonus.

Sharon Campbell and Darla Miller

Backyard Retreats, Inc.


My/Our Business:  Backyard Retreats is the #1 Premier outdoor Furniture showroom in the Lowcountry.  We feature many name brand USA manufacturers, offering exceptional quality and value.

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received: Balance your business life with your family life. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women:  Believe in yourself and always think positive!  We  encounter enough negative issues, so do something positive daily.

Why I/We Chose This Career:  We wanted to learn more and grow more in the designs of beautiful outdoor spaces.  We enjoy working with people to create beautiful Backyard Retreats in their own yards.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way:  To always sell the higher quality products with great manufacturers located in the USA.

You’d Never Guess That:  We have been in business over 22 plus years.  Also, Sharon is an accomplished competitive Gold Medalist winner in Ballroom Dancing.

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston:   We find that there is no better place than here to dress up porches, outdoor kitchens and backyards.

Contessa Perez

Booze Pops


My/Our Business: Locally & Veteran Owned by Woody Norris. Bringing communities together one Booze Pop at a time.

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received: You can never reach your maximum potential but you can strive.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: If I don’t go, I don’t get.

Why I/We Chose This Career: Building a company to pass down and putting people to work.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: What can go wrong, will go wrong.

You’d Never Guess That: Our mascot is a Pug named “ Pèso the Pugsicle”

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston: Booze Pops was created in Charleston and supported by Charleston. We love our city. Voted best food truck  in Charleston. Amazing art, people and Food in Chucktown. Wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Bob Fleming

Classic Remodeling & Construction, Inc.


My/Our Business: Design/Build remodeling company focused on upscale residential renovations. 

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received: I joined a remodeling contractor’s roundtable about 25 years ago. Receiving (and giving) advice from others and being held accountable to improvement goals has led to our greatest success.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Find the best talent available, hire and train them, and acknowledge their contribution.

Why I/We Chose This Career: As a child I loved putting puzzles together.  Remodeling is just a larger puzzle that enriches clients’ lives.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: For years I was afraid to charge the correct amount for our work.  I see many other contractors charging too little for what they do, and in doing so they are not able to deliver their promises.

You’d Never Guess That: When I was 5 years old, I got a first-hand look at the construction of the Washington National Cathedral. Our next door neighbor, who was the construction liaison for the Cathedral, took me to the top of the scaffolding to watch the stone carvers setting the gargoyles figures.  

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston: Where else could I go to work every day in sub-tropical weather crossing multiple bridges to get to our projects.

James Selvitelli

Herlong Architects

(o) 843.883.9190

(m) 843.743.5178

Our Business: Herlong Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm specializing in custom coastal home design.

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Never stop asking questions. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Architecture is about collaboration; no one person ever creates a building by themselves. The client’s goals, the designer’s vision and the tradesman and contractor’s skill all influence the final product. 

Why I Chose This Career: When I was in kindergarten, I visited my aunt and uncle’s home as it was being built. My uncle, who was a contractor, showed me how the drawings conveyed the architect’s ideas to the builder. I have been fascinated ever since.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: If the project scope, the client’s goals, and the firm’s goals do not align, you can end up with a final product you are not happy with. 

You’d Never Guess That: I nearly dropped out of architecture school to switch my major to sculpture.  Eventually, I realized architecture allowed me to satisfy my interests in both art and construction.

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: The city is still small enough that there is a tight-knit building community.  Over the years, I have gotten to know subcontractors, suppliers, designers and fellow architects.

Jan Snook, Paul Burton, Darshon Moody, Jackie Hess, Julie Hallman, Patsy Radford

Snook & Associates


Our Business: Our Real Estate team is dedicated to providing the highest service and education in the market.

Best Business Advice We Ever Received: Hire for your culture first. Know what you and your team stand for.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Be patient. You’re not supposed to know everything when you start.

Why We Chose This Career: We chose Real Estate as an avenue of service that allows us to be competitive and works as a creative outlet.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: We’ve learned that leverage is a huge factor in our success.

You’d Never Guess That: None of our team was born in the Charleston area, yet we love it so much we feel like we’re locals! We’ve been here a collective 80+ years!

We Love Doing Business In Charleston: The culture, environment, weather, and hospitable attitude are the driving forces of our  success.

LaJuan Kennedy

Fred Holland Realty


My Business: I own and operate Fred Holland Realty. We specialize in resort properties, but also work the greater Charleston area. We have a large weekly management business that keeps everyone moving.

Why I Chose This Career: I was recruited by Fred Holland in the 70s and fell in love with the job. I have worked for 40 plus years, and still enjoy what I do.

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Work hard and know your market.

Best Advice to Other Women: It is not always easy, but you must prove you can do the job as good as anyone.

My Greatest Strengths: Handling difficult situations, staying focused and helping others solve problems.

On a Typical Day: Check on properties listed. What activity am I seeing and how can I get more activity on my listings. Keep reservationist and vendors doing their jobs with the management side. Encourage others to work hard and be successful.

Why I Love Doing Business in Charleston: Charleston is a beautiful city and the coast where I do most of my business is the best on the East coast. I would not want to live anywhere else.

Tracey Wonnacott

Lavender Hill Designs

(843) 352-7042

My Business:   European Home Accents and Gifts

Best Business Advice I Ever Received:  If you do something you love, it shows.

Why I Chose This Career: I love to travel in France and England, and I love to shop. Shopping in Europe for the store seemed like a good fit.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way:  Pay attention to the costs of ordering and shipping merchandise from Europe. It’s not just the cost of merchandise and shipping, it’s the hidden costs. I have learned to ask questions. 

You’d Never Guess That: There are so many Francophiles in Charleston. Every day someone tells us they’re happy we carry French items in our store as well as items from around Europe. 

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston:  People in Charleston have an appreciation for European style. We get to talk to the locals and meet interesting people who are visiting from other states and countries.

Ted McClelland, Krista Pernell, Shawn Sherman, Harris Nussbraum

Locals Bar


Our Business:  Combination Sushi and Sports Pub in North Charleston and Sushi Sports Tacos in Mount Pleasant.

Best Business Advice We Ever Received:  If you don’t have good people, you can’t give good service or have a good product.  

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: It’s not easy to build anything from the ground up. But it’s worth it in the end.

Why I/We Chose This Career: Hospitality/F’n’B offers more freedom than a traditional career, and we get to meet people and exchange stories.  

One Thing We’ve Learned The Hard Way:  You have to have a plan going in. Things change constantly, but you can’t just throw money and expect success.

You’d Never Guess That:  Locals was boot-strapped out of an old coffee shop with very little money.  Four friends wanted to build a hangout spot, and everything was built by hand.  

Why We Love Doing Business In Charleston:   We have an influx of people, beautiful weather and water, history and a growing economy.

Dr. Drew K. McPhail

McPhail Clinic for Regenerative Medicine


My Business: We focus on the advanced treatment and restoration of chronic degenerative conditions without the use of unnecessary drugs or surgery. Conditions treated include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, osteo and degenerative arthritis of the extremities as well as many forms of neuropathy.

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: 80% of a person’s success is developed from 20% of their actions. Find that 20% and make it 80% of your actions.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men: Find an insatiable thirst and passion for knowledge in your field. If you cannot find something that excites you, do something else, or focus on personal development. As you better yourself, your products, services or business will improve.

Why I Chose This Career: My love for people and the opportunity to assist them in regaining their health and quality of life.

You’d Never Guess That: I used to surf, barefoot and skate half-pipes.

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: It’s the greatest city in America!

Wes Bishop

More Space Place


My/Our Business: The More Space Place is a custom furniture store focused on finding creative ways to implement “space saving” furniture to help clients with organization, functionality and maximizing space.

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received: Keep it simple. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Operating a small business is to learn to delegate. 

Why I/We Chose This Career: The cabinetry business provides me the opportunity to interact with clients on a daily basis. 

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: Understanding the limitations of the products that you offer and when to walk away. 

You’d Never Guess That: I did not have cabinetry experience prior to opening More Space Place. I could build you any product that we offer now, but I did not grow up in the construction or cabinet business. 

Why I/We Love Doing Business In Charleston: The amount of growth in our region has provided an eclectic mix of people I get to interact with on a daily basis.

Cara Jenkins

Morgan Creek Grill


Our Business: Morgan Creek Grill. A Seafood Restaurant on Isle of Palms - a multi-level restaurant, with a casual lighter fair outdoor bar and Upper Deck menu, and main level Southern style seafood dinner menu, overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway with some of the best sunset views in the area. 

Best Business Advice I/We Ever Received: The best way to maintain a productive and respectful team of staff and coworkers to remain fair, consistent, and lead by example. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Be a leader who also jumps in and isn’t afraid to get dirty. Your staff will see that you are not willing to let them sink and they will respect you and remain loyal to the work family. Remain calm, positive, and resistant to any negativity that presents itself to you.  Keep smiling! 

Why I Chose This Career: Being in the restaurant industry keeps me on my toes and out of the cubicle. I enjoy the constant challenges that are presented, and no one day is ever the same or boring. 

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: That I can’t do everything on my own. Having a strong, trustworthy, and close team makes the world of difference in success. Utilize the team and delegate responsibilities to them. I’ve learned this not only helps you as a leader but it also gives them more time to grow and learn. I was once told that I ‘can’t hold the weight of the world on my shoulders’, and I’ve had to learn the hard way that I cannot do everything, and it’s important to utilize help. 

You’d Never Guess That: I received my degree in Psychology at Northern Illinois University (NIU), but always felt a connection and love to F&B. Years ago I worked at Starbucks as a Barista to learn all things coffee, with the dream of starting a coffee & pastry shop. I later started working part time at Morgan Creek Grill waiting tables while working at Starbucks and found my niche. I learned the restaurant quickly, and worked really hard to advance my career, where I am now the General Manager. 

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: I love working on an island where the views are amazing and tranquil, and the cliental is more down to earth and laid back. Life is better on an island.

Rick Jackowski and Gregory R. Johnson 

Pleasant Family Dentistry

843 881 8881

Our Business: Pleasant Family Dentistry

Best Business Advice We Ever Received: The key to success is to follow up.  - Dr. Jackowski. 

Give more value to your customers than what you charge. - Dr. Johnson

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Do something you love; it makes sacrifice worthwhile.  -Dr. Jackowski. Do your best every day, and take time to reflect and see where you could have done things better!  - Dr. Johnson

Why We Chose This Career: The joy of changing a person’s life by creating a beautiful smile is a reward you can’t measure. -Dr. Jackowski. My dentist was a role model for me growing up. He nudged me toward the profession, and I haven’t regretted my choice. -Dr. Johnson

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: Don’t do business with someone you haven’t done business with in over 10 years without checking their current status. -Dr. Jackowski. Don’t do everything yourself. Do the things you do well, and delegate other tasks. -Dr. Johnson.

You’d Never Guess That:  I floss every time I brush. - Dr Jackowski. I sing in a rock band.-Dr. Johnson.

Why We Love Doing Business In Charleston: Who doesn’t want to work and live in a vacation destination! -Dr. Jackowski. We have patients from almost every state and many from different countries. I enjoy hearing their experiences, and I learn a lot from them. -Dr. Johnson.

Virginia L. Gregory, D.M.D.

Virginia L. Gregory, D.M.D.,LLC


My Business: Our goal is to provide exceptional dental care to patients in a relaxing environment. We focus on our patients’ overall oral health with an emphasis on aesthetic treatment. 

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Life is about constant growth. Never stop learning, and never stop trying to get better at what you do. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Always have a five and ten year plan. It may change as you go along, but five or ten years from now you’ll at least be somewhere or the someone you wanted to be. 

Why I Chose This Career: I love working with people. I enjoy the one-on-one we have with our patients, and seeing the results my art can have on my patient’s health. 

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: Charleston is the best city in the country! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Friendly people, great restaurants, the beaches, and warm weather…who could ask for anything more?

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