The River Club Six Months After | Callawassie Island

A Vision Comes to Life at the River Club

Callawassie Islanders imagined it. Together we saw it come true. It started with striving to find out how to make the Callawassie Island River Club even more a part of the residents’ lives. Already a kind of home-away-from-home for many residents, the Club was a setting that people enjoyed so much they said they’d like to experience something like that on even more casual occasions. Staying special and still becoming more of an everyday experience for the residents, was the balance that needed to be struck with the new River Club. Six months now since the opening, we can take stock with real satisfaction of achieving that goal.

For generations, the River Club had offered families, couples, and individuals a relaxing, away-from-it-all feeling – for an hour, a day, an afternoon. Islanders enjoyed the River Club so much that it grew and evolved over time to become an experience that was well beyond poolside refreshments. The gorgeous vantage point and the memories people made there drew Islanders back for cocktails, dinner, or an evening with loved ones getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives..

Residents and staff combined nurtured a vision of the casual yet classic Callawassie Island Club experience at the River Club. The true teamwork of residents and staff streamlined the process to make the assets and resources of the River Club as first-rate as the experiences people had grown to expect there. What began as a poolside experience would come to rank among the best of all the private residence clubs on the coast.

The Sum is More Than Its Parts

The first six months of operations at the new River Club has borne out this vision and fulfilled these expectations, and more. Like a company that adds a jet and then sees that its business is transformed, rather than just made faster, the

River Club turned out to offer even more that we saw in the vision.

The feeling residents have at the River Club in some ways seems altogether new. “Owners seem to circulate, to visit at each other’s tables at the River Club,” Assistant General Manager David Spivey observed. “The feeling there is even more relaxed, and you can see that in the way people connect.”

Yet the Parts are Pretty Spectacular

“It turns out this isn’t just an improved version of what we had,” David said. “It’s something altogether new.” Residents say this is the best view of the river anywhere, as the building was sited to be parallel with it. More tables oversee the river in this new design, and the screened-in porch adds even more river-view dining than ever before. The porch also provides a way of dining outdoors without the insects, citronella, or the Skin-So-Soft. Ceiling fans and outdoor heaters make the porch a year-round option.

What’s served on those tables has a different slant, too. The idea was to meet the same high standards as at the Callawassie Island Clubhouse, yet to offer a menu that fits a place where nice jeans qualify as “dressing for dinner.” Executive Chef Jim Spratling created a menu that you might call “fine casual.” In addition to original creations that continue his tradition of blending Lowcountry freshness with hometown traditions and big-city originality, Jim turned the powerful new commercial kitchen at the River Club into a place where burgers and pizza get the same attention as elegant cuisine, and where local and craft beers are curated as carefully as the wines.

Speaking of pizza, the new pizza ovens at the River Club are just the outward and visible signs of another example of Chef Jim’s careful attention to owners. “You just listen,” Jim said. “When people talk about what they loved in their hometowns, food is a part of that. It doesn’t take a survey; all you’ve got to do is pay attention.”

Nevertheless, Chef Jim realized that pizza is a particular subject on which people do not always agree. “If you’re from New York, it’s a slice you could eat on the run if you had to. If you’re from Chicago, it’s deep-dish, for sitting down and tucking-in. If you’re from Cleveland, it could be either, both, or another approach.” So, he took care to formulate a River Club version of pizza that everybody’s glad to see come to the table. He even imports dough from NYC. “People say you can’t match it anywhere else because of the Catskill water it’s made with. So, we got it,” Jim said.

Parts of the River Club experience are not as visible as the cuisine but still adds into this equation where 2 + 2 = 5. A heated swimming pool by the river, taking a page from the Callawassie Island Clubhouse book, plays a role in this. Cooling the swimming pool in the height of summer and warming it through the winter, with an efficient, geo-thermal heat pump, means residents enjoy swimming many more weeks a year. And just beside the pool, another environment-friendly design lies beyond the overhead pergola. A “rain garden” was designed-in there, with rocks and grasses that slow and evaporate runoff, easing the demands on drainage.

Our Warm and Balanced Connection

Now that we’ve settled-in to the new River Club, and we see it returning even more than we envisioned, more than we put in, there’s a moment to reflect on what the success says about Callawassie Island as a whole. We listened to each other and cooperated. Our trusted management and staff recognized the importance of what we were talking about and added the resourcefulness and will to see it through.

It’s the spirit of Callawassie Island that sets us apart. Our lovely region offers much the same beauty to everybody (although our vantage point is undoubtedly second to none). The facilities and assets we enjoy can be found in some fashion elsewhere, too. However, the true leadership that inspires such confidence as we move always forward, and especially the warmth that Callawassie Islanders show in their regard for each other – these are the assets of a higher order. The gratitude we feel for this is part of the satisfaction that comes from living on Callawassie Island.