BT Column: Please Help Me, I’m Lonely And Want to Get Fired

Here’s the link to my opus on the joys and pitfalls of working from home.

And in case the link goes dead, here’s the text.

Please help me, I’m lonely and want to get fired 

OVER MEDIUM

Tim Wood

Working from home is a lonely world.

No one wants to hear this from me. They dream of working from home. Their commute, their cubicle, the endless memos they are forced to follow like drones in an emotionless society.

Me, I look at commuters around here and I too dream. Ever since I left Bluffton Today as a full-timer four years ago, I have been working from my house.

Before I came to the Lowcountry, I did the most awful commute ever. I spent four hours of my day either taking the train or driving back and forth between Newburgh, N.Y. and New York City.

I dreaded it, until I was able to write a column about the commuting life. Then I found a way to actually appreciate it.

Now, my commute is four minutes if I walk down the hall … really, really slow.

Again, I get it. Poor me. But before you judge, hear me out.

Before I started hosting trivia nights, folks thought I had moved out of town because I had become such a hermit in my home office that folks rarely saw me.

The Wendy’s drive-thru women knew I hadn’t moved. The folks at Amazing Creations could account for me – they saw me dropping off my son.

But other than that, my days have been filled with conference calls and online chats with co-workers. And they are good people, or at least I think they are. Most of them I’ve never met, so they could be as fake as most of my “friends” are on Facebook.

When I worked for sports website Bleacher Report, I’d go out to the San Francisco main office every couple months for a week at a time. And it was the least productive time of those couple months.

Folks talking to each other during the workday. People actually taking lunch breaks and talking by an actual water cooler. Gym memberships actually being used. Co-workers going out for drinks after work to talk crap about other co-workers.

Oh, I missed all of this so much. It made me realize I had been way too productive and cared way too much about giving the company a proper workweek. All these drones still had jobs and I was no better off for all that work.

Just a sedentary hermit with ever-shrinking social skills.

My workplace loneliness has lessened dramatically since former BT co-worker Barry Kaufman moved back to town, took a job working with me and moved in next to me.

But we still care way too much about productivity. Now, there are two people that care about an honest day’s work, so it’s doubly hard to be slackers.

So I’ve gone rogue. I’ve decided to bring in the work-in-the-office environment into my work-at-home cellblock.

I have developed a commute that takes me eight minutes with a stop at the Keurig in the middle.

I am sending myself memos about sexual harassment and company picnics. I have set my pug up at a fake water cooler and made her watch memes and YouTube videos and we laugh and laugh.

It’s just not the same. No matter what I do, I can’t duplicate the joy of the shared camaraderie of wasting company time.

And that’s what it is. I have received the flyers from Regis and these other shared-office spaces meant to create social spaces for work-at-homers.

These businesses are booming in bigger cities and I’m sure eventually it will take hold here. I’ve talked with many work-at-home folks and even talked about starting my own shared-space club for us all to use.

But at the end of the day, we just want the freedom to feel unproductive. Working from home requires a self-discipline that overloads the system. Pretty soon, we’re planning out our days so perfectly that the efficiency becomes a contact high.

That leads us to keep working well past 5 p.m. We know there’s no commute, so we can squeeze every ounce out of the workday.

But none of us want to give up that contact high. We just want to feel like it’s OK to have a life and be less unproductive from time to time. Get up from the computer every once in a while. Take a walk. Play with our kids before dusk.

And so, I’m trying to be a crappier employee and better at living life.

So when you see me at Corner Perk, please, show me a YouTube video of a guinea pig playing trumpet. Tell me about your awful co-workers. Give me a copy of a completely useless memo from your office.

Just please, do it fast. I’ve only allotted 15 minutes for this willy-nilly craziness.

Tim Wood is a freelance writer living in Bluffton. He welcomes your story ideas and comments at timmaywood@gmail.com.

Hilton Head Monthly: Don Ryan Innovation Center Profile

Here’s the link to the story that appeared in June 2014 Hilton Head Monthly.

Here’s the text

Innovators Wanted

Bluffton’s new-business accelerator helps small companies take large steps

By Tim Wood

Innovation isn’t just about apps or computers.

That’s the message that Executive Director David Nelems is emphasizing as the Don Ryan Center for Innovation begins its third year of operation in Bluffton.

When the new business accelerator first opened in May 2012, the first under the Clemson Technology Villages program, the buzzwords around town were “tech park.”

While bringing more high-tech jobs is still a goal of the nonprofit cooperative between the town of Bluffton and Clemson University, it’s not the sole focus.

“We want innovators, period,” Nelems said. “That’s a big message I find myself spreading around the community. High-tech companies have been our focus, but above all, we’re looking for innovation. If you have an idea that can grow into a regional, national and global business, we want to talk to you.”

The 49-year-old has been hard at work evolving the mission and scope of the center since he took over as its second executive director in August 2013.

The Atlanta-area transplant seems tailor-made for the tall order. He founded his own startup in 1999 with a vision for taking focus groups and broadcasting them over the Internet. His idea took hold quickly, as Nelems worked with many Fortune 500 companies before selling ActiveGroup in 2007.

He came to Bluffton with his wife Janelle in June, more for the lifestyle and to be closer to his son Michael, a sophomore at The Citadel.

“I wasn’t really looking for a job, but when I saw this job description, it’s everything that I did in my former life. It was impossible to pass up,” he said. “I wanted to pass on my years of experience to others and really help a community grow through evolving businesses.”

Companies accepted into the DRCI are put through an 18-month program, helping to evolve ideas into businesses and scale smaller companies into larger operations.

The center has “graduated” eight companies thus far, with seven companies currently working under the tutelage of Nelems and a team of mentors, innovators and potential investors.

“We’re extremely blessed to have so many retirees in this area that have incredible industry experience,” Nelems said. “It seems like every month, we are able to bring more and

ore of these folks into the center, because they want to keep a hand in the game and pass on their learning.”
The range of companies currently involved is impressive. They include:

  • MobiPET, a mobile app that serves as an Amber Alert for missing pets;
  • Surface Scientifics, a company evolving an epoxy coating meant to kill germs and bacteria;
  • CERAS, a company marketing an eco-friendly, rapid-assembly shelter system;
  • Elongator, a tailgate extension system for flatbed trucks;
  • U-Auto-Fixit, a do-it-yourself, full-service repair facility concept;
  • Page 1 Media, a video production company specializing in video search engine optimization;
  • Village Features, a company specializing in 3D rendering services.

“It’s really a wide range of issues and objectives,” Nelems said. “A company like U-Auto-Fixit, he had a great idea and we’re helping him evolve it into a business. Elongator, they want to take the next step and need help figuring out the manufacturing part of the business. Whereas a company like Village Features, they’re an established company that is trying to figure out how to scale the business. So we provide tailored assistance for every step of a business.”

Those part of the current class say DRCI, and more specifically Nelems, has been everything they were hoping for.
“I’ve been in the program for a couple months now and it’s just what I was looking for,” said Joshua Hale, founder of Village Features. “I’ve been a one- or two-man operation for a while now. David and the mentors, they’ve helped me get better at what I do, showed me how to run a business effectively, and how to find the right kind of clients with proper marketing.”

Hale, who received his master’s degree from Clemson, said having the university as a resource is a huge bonus. But Nelems was the marquee draw for him to join the center.

“Here you have a guy who has done exactly what I’m trying to do and had great success,” Hale said. “That’s invaluable. I don’t feel alone, he knows all the stresses I’m dealing with and how to tackle them.”

David Ropes, one of the owners of MobiPET, shares those sentiments.

He moved to Bluffton from Connecticut a decade ago after a successful career as an executive for international brands such as Reebok.

He and his partners had a vision but said Nelems and the center have helped with the growing pains of getting a business off the ground.

“I had the brains of someone who helped evolve businesses and managed people. David has that entrepreneurial experience that I lack, and has really helped take us to another level,” said Ropes, who recently worked with fellow DRCI company Page One Media to develop one of its first commercials. “We’ve been testing this product in the area for the past year and DRCI has helped us prepare our business plan to go out and get the seed funding that we’ll need to roll this product out nationally to every vet, clinic and pet boarder.”

The center is currently funded by the town of Bluffton with help from a number of corporate partners. It provides business advice and helps connect the businesses with funding, but doesn’t put any money into the companies or take equity out.

The long-term goal is to become self-sufficient financially, and potentially to even start providing seed money to the center’s companies.

Nelems recently won their first grant, $100,000 from the S.C. Department of Commerce, which will be used to market the center and to grow various programs for both local innovators and area high school and college students. In addition, DRCI will also buy a 3D printer and eventually make the exclusive technology available for public use.

“We’re really focused on bringing the local community into the center, making Bluffton the capital of innovation in the area,” Nelms said.

DRCI has launched a series of successful monthly workshops for the public, focusing on everything from writing a business plan to applying for a patent. Those sessions will resume this fall.

DRCI is working to launch an annual innovation summit, bringing in big thinkers from around the nation to witness and foster success in Bluffton.

“A company or a person doesn’t have to be in the program to get help for us,” Nelems said. “We want to grow this into a resource and a place that fosters folks on the local level to really think big.”

BT Column 7/23: Pizza is Personal and We’re Taking the Failures in Bluffton Personally

Here’s a link to the column:

http://www.blufftontoday.com/bluffton-opinion/2014-07-23/pizza-personal-and-were-taking-all-these-failures-very-personally#.U9BB-oBdUpw

And in case the link goes dead, here’s the words:

Pizza is personal and we’re taking all these failures very personally

OVER MEDIUM

Tim Wood 

Talk to many folks and it’s one of the most important non-essential decisions in their life.

What’s my pizza place?

That sounds like one of the most absurd statements ever uddered, right? Well, think about it. Pizza is the one food that usually bridges the dietary discussion. Simply put, fat people eat too much of it and my-body-is-my-temple folks usually obsess about it as their reward food.

I have lived in places where rents were literally elevated because the property was within the delivery area of a top-notch pizzeria. Yes, this is a thing. My landlord in New York City made no bones about this being a thing and defended the policy to me for 20 minutes when I questioned him.

A great pizza place is usually recession proof, because no matter what financial difficulties folks have, they can always make room in the budget for a pizza night. Yet, here in Bluffton, the depth of options has risen and fallen with the economy.

As opportunity was abundant and development dollars were free flowing, a bunch of great options bubbled up around the area’s mainstays.

Then, as the economy went south, shockingly, so did our options.

I don’t mean to be stepping on Best of Bluffton territory, but it really struck me to see Napoli close a few weeks back on S.C. 46. So much money and time was put into renovating this building after its former tenant, Badabings, was booted in favor of an owner-operated Italian eatery.

An outside seating area had just been finished. Many I talked to said that Napoli felt too high end for Bluffton, that service was spotty and that the core product, the pizza, was not up to our discerning 29910 standards.

Yet, those are all issues that could be worked out. Instead, Napoli just went poof, gone.

They’re not the first. Monster Pizza was one of my first pizza passions in town. When the initial owners sold and the McCarthy family took over, I hoped this meant that the place had a true long-term future in Bluffton. The pizza was good, the concept was unique, the people were friendly. The location was a little out of the way on Burnt Church Road in an older plaza, but it just felt all felt right.

The outside area around the restaurant was used for family-friendly events, for cornhole tournaments and for watching big sports events projected larger than life on the side of the building.

Then, Monster tried to expand. Some say it was too much, too soon and the result was not only did the Sun City location go away quick, but so did the Burnt Church location.

Upper Crust Pizza was a fixture in Moss Creek, then they jumped ship and took on the former Monster location in Sun City.

Honestly, I can’t keep up with all the movement here, and I’m one of the folks who keeps track of such things.

I loved Jersey Joe’s, first when it was on S.C. 170 (though that was a bit far of a ride to be a regular thing) and then when they were in Buckwalter Place. They had great pizza and they were consistent. It seemed like they had a good regular business, but it wasn’t enough.

Fiddlehead’s, which went into the former Monster spot on Burnt Church, had incredible high-end taste. Another place that went away far too soon.

And yes, I loved Badabing’s. The staff treated my kids like they were princes and they did a stellar job on such a wide array of Italian dishes, it was just always a good night out. And their carryout was consistently strong.

So, I won’t lie, I rarely went to Napoli. Wanted to try it but I was bitter over Badabing’s going away. It’s passing still effected me more than I thought it went, because it’s yet another option gone.

Romeo’s in Kittie’s Crossing was a quiet gem. Small joint, not great for eating in, but the tomato sauce and their baked ziti were heavenly. Gone.

Paulie’s at Berkeley Place left us for the island. The list goes on and on and on, and I know I’m missing plenty.

The margins are small in the pizza business. Building regular clientele is so key. Then there’s the chains. The locals could survive when it was just Domino’s and Papa John’s in town.

Then Pizza Hut opened next to The Pig. That took a slice of the pie.

Little Caesar’s wrecked the local game with its $5 hot and ready. Hey, I love me some Italian Cheese Bread, but I’d always rather go for the local option.

For now, Giussepi’s is seemingly holding its own in its parking-is-awful location at the entrance to Kittie’s Crossing. Their Wednesday madness specials always keep them in our budget rotation.

New York City Pizza lives on next to Kroger. A few of my friends obsess about this place. I don’t get it, but I truly hope they have enough diehards to take a stronghold here in addition to their island location.

Moon Mi Pizza is my current local go-to spot. Great location, fresh ingredients, homey feel. The pizza at Station 300 is the sneaky good option. If you haven’t tried it, you should. And Vineyard 55’s pizzas are a delightful indulgence.

Mellow Mushroom has the formula right, making it work in a very odd spot in the Walgreen’s plaza. A chain that doesn’t feel corporate.

Where does all this history lead us?

If the economy is truly rebounding, we can only hope that means we’ll draw some more pizza pioneers to the area.

Uncle Maddio’s has opened in Savannah. It’s so good and like Mellow, does the chain without feeling like it. Maybe they come here.

I know it’s a volume game to make any money there. And I don’t have the demos and the financials. All I know is what I hear.

And what I hear is we’re dying for more options. They say high tide raises all ships.

Hopefully, it raises some pizza dough as well.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Send him comments and story ideas at timmaywood@gmail.com.

Bluffton Today Column 7/16: Could Bluffton Use Youth Curfews?

Here’s the link to the story, published July 16.

Here’s the text

Curfews sound scary, but it’s certainly not a silly idea

OVER MEDIUM

Tim Wood

Hardeeville’s interim police chief has spread the word that he plans to propose a 9 p.m. curfew for kids aged 17 and younger.

A few friends in the town next door texted me over the weekend and said they were hearing some of these rumblings. Then, The Island Packet reported the story Monday morning, as interim chief Sam Woodward threw a test balloon in the air to see how the public would react.

Well, here’s a reaction, chief: Not only is it a great thing for Hardeeville, but I think Bluffton should adopt the same rule.

Hardeeville already has a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. but Woodward is looking to propose the rule to town leaders soon that would extend it to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

It’s an age-old saying: Nothing good happens after midnight. And it’s never been truer than in what’s going on in Hardeeville currently.

The police are investigating a string of 15 car thefts in Beaufort and Jasper counties between March and June. Woodward thinks those thefts could have been prevented with an earlier curfew.

That might be a stretch and a way to deflect the conversation away from the fact that the thefts are happening and that crime is spreading in the town.

Nonetheless, the idea holds a lot of merit for both Hardeeville and Bluffton.

Tell me one good thing that happens when tweens and teens congregate without adults at night. You could think for a week and you couldn’t come up with one.

Go to the movies at Cinemark on a weekend night and you’ll likely have to work your way through a cluster of youngsters hanging out in the outside pavilion. Why? They have nothing better to do.

We have done a horrific job of creating family-friendly activities in the Lowcountry. As the parent of 11- and 5-year-old sons, I can vouch for the criminal lack of entertainment options.

Get up to the teens, and the options nearly disappear. No teen clubs, no afterschool hangouts. There is nothing.

The lack of financial attention paid to recreational activities is equally disturbing. While The Boys & Girls Club and Beaufort County PALS do admirable jobs with the resources they have, we as a region are just not doing the things to stay out in front of the demand.

So what are kids left with? Get in trouble online or loiter somewhere they shouldn’t be.

The Bluffton police have bigger issues to deal with at the moment. But this is one of those issues that can creep up on us real quick and turn into a real burden.

I’m not going all “these kids today” on you, but there is a idiocy mixed with a rebellion in today’s children, where common sense is tossed aside at the prospect of doing something crazy that may go viral on YouTube.

I have heard too many stories of busted up mailboxes, random fires started on lawns (yes, I actually put one of those out for neighbors as the kids ran away from their little joke), cars getting keyed and community spaces like pools being vandalized to tell you there’s no problem in Bluffton.

Community watches pay dividends and keep a lot of the after-dark street wandering to a minimum. But as communities grow, the volume of incidents is going to increase.

It would be much easier to pin a lot of the stories we hear to kids being kids, “getting all the stupid out,” as my friend puts it.

Sure, this might fall into excessive policing, but in a day and age where we all want to feel safe in our houses, keeping kids out of harm’s way to make bad decisions is resonating with today’s parents.

But there’s a core concern that resonates just as much in Bluffton as it does in Hardeeville: There is just no point to kids being out past 9 p.m.

The ordinance currently in place in Hardeeville is rarely enforced. The fines aren’t bankrupting anyone — it’s more of an inconvenience and a deterrent than something that is going to turn into a profitable law.

What may save lives in Hardeeville is more of an isolated nuisance in Bluffton. For now.

Make no mistake about it. This is a problem that is brews beneath the surface for a long time. The more we take for granted now, the more we morph into a Hardeeville situation.

I wish we were in a situation where we could let our kids roam until all hours like we did in our youth.

Curfew sounds like such a militant word, but it doesn’t have to be.

Really, when it comes down to it, we’re in a time when we’re being forced to enforce common sense.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at timmaywood@gmail.com.

BT Column 7/9: Do We Really Need Cursive Writing Anymore?

Here’s the link to the column that ran July 9, 2014 in Bluffton Today.

Here’s the text

When signatures equal budget dollars, they’re just not worth it

OVER MEDIUM

Tim Wood

It’s tough letting go. I’m not one that’s much for change.

I might have gone in to Blockbuster eight times over its time in Bluffton but it felt like a major loss when it closed. I loved The Pig and wrote the corporate owners to tell them how stupid they were when they closed ours.

And when Badabings suddenly closed on S.C. 46, I swore up and down that I’d never go to its replacement — and then inexplicably proceeded to feel sad when Napoli closed its doors a couple weeks back.

So when the movement began all across the country to get rid of cursive writing instruction in schools, I was crushed. This isn’t a store closing or a new way to fold the bathroom towels. This was major change.

Cursive writing felt like a basic rite of passage that was just the latest victim of our seemingly never-ending need to cut school budgets and play roulette with our country’s future.

Well, for once, I was on the same page as a politician. Gov. Nikki Haley brought back cursive writing in a big way by signing the Back to Basics in Education Act last month.

Beaufort County elementary schools never stopped teaching cursive, but state standards have not required cursive in five years.

Now, instead of just teaching it in second and third grade, there will be guidelines and statewide assessments to make sure students are mastering the writing style.

I appreciate our school administrators fighting for cursive. Good for you, Gov. Haley, right?

Wrong. This whole cursive thing is a waste of time and money. Sometimes, change is good and necessary. It goes against every fiber of my being to say that, but we need to take the emotions out of this argument.

And that’s what this is, folks. This fight for cursive is an emotional reaction. I saw Brian Williams telling me that this basic rite of passage was going away and it felt wrong. You’re taking away my youth. You’re making me obsolete and you’re making my kids into mindless robots.

Step back and think about it. When is the last time you actually used cursive writing? And yes, Sun City friends, I know you’re shaking your head right now. Many of you still write hand-written notes and that’s beautiful and it’s something I want to pass on to my kids because that personal touch means so much more than hitting keys on a keyboard.

But is that worth adding expenses at the cost of other more necessary programs? I would say there was never fat in a school budget, but we are truly at a time when administrators are forced to make “keep this, cut that” decisions that alter our kids’ futures like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

We can’t afford waste, and money spent to teach cursive is waste.

Friends say to me, “How will our kids sign documents?” Oh, the horror.

Have you seen your friend’s signature lately? It’s not cursive. It’s some indescribable lazy mutation of that art.

Technology has evolved that makes that chicken scratch for us. Electronic signatures are becoming more and more the norm and by the next generation, it will be the standard.

So, what else then? Tell me one other thing we use cursive for. There’s nothing.

Listen, that signature might be enough to make the argument. With identify theft running rampant in our world today, it may just be necessary enough to warrant these costs.

I never thought I’d be making this argument. On an emotional level, it bothers me that my 11-year-old doesn’t know how to sign his name. This basic thing we learned in past generations is a relic in today’s world.

This isn’t a popular sentiment, but oddly enough, it’s a stance that county education executives are voicing. That’s how dire our state of funding education is.

We’re forcing educators to argue against long-established basics because they know that in today’s world, any monies spent teaching cursive could be put to better use to promote skills that have long-term real-world application.

This opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts when it comes to these choices. I’d argue that algebra and calculus should be next — and not just because I’d rather eat feces-flavored dirt than ever take another algebra class.

Same argument as cursive — it’s a useless skill for most of society. Once a kid determines he’s going down an engineering/computer science career path, then work that in. But that’s an argument for another day.

I get it. To say cursive isn’t worth it, it somehow invalidates our life experience, makes us feel old and increasingly obsolete.

I’d argue that having the guts to make this decision makes us relevant and responsible guardians of the future.

I take pride that I can have a decipherable signature. That pride shouldn’t be a line item in a school budget.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at timmaywood@gmail.com.

Hilton Head Monthly: Target the Band feature

Loved talking to Brian Raehm. Hope it came through in the writing for this Hilton Head Monthly July 2014 edition feature.

Here’s the text

Let the good times roll

TARGET THE BAND TURNS EVERY PERFORMANCE INTO ONE BIG PARTY

By Tim Wood

It’s a Tuesday night in Bluffton. The bowling lanes at Station 300 are mildly crowded, a typical lull after the weekend.

But the same can’t be said for the complex’s Zeppelins Bar & Grill. The crowd started to build at 5:30 and by 6 p.m., there was a velvet-rope atmosphere just to get in.

A sell-out crowd of seniors on a Tuesday night? That’s the norm when the headlining attraction is Target the Band.

Brian and Michelle Raehm are in their fifth decade in the business of entertaining people. They’ve travelled close to 2 million miles on the road, but have called Hilton Head Island and Bluffton their home for the past 20 years.

They are joined by long-time collaborator Mike “The Sicilian Song Bird” Carletta to form the musical powerhouse trio that continues to be one of the most popular nights out in the Lowcountry.

“Boy, it’s been a beautiful ride, I’ll tell you that,” Brian Raehm said. “I never thought I’d be happy being tied down and not on the road. But boy, once we came up over the Hilton Head Island bridge the first time, it was game over. We found home.”

Home was originally upstate New York. That’s where Raehm first got together with Michelle Lapaugh to start making music in 1973.

“I gave up my dreams of pro hockey stardom to perform with the love of my life,” he said. “Not a bad trade.”

The group started with fellow musicians Dean Blask and Vinny Esposito and became a veteran of the road very quickly. They achieved fame when their song, “Give Me One More Chance,” became a Billboard soul pick of the week. The record went on to sell more than 100,000 copies.

As the record became a hit from New York to Michigan, the band became a touring force. At the height of their fame, they toured in a 28-foot bus with a three-man road crew and a traveling nanny to help watch their kids.

From New York to Chicago to Las Vegas, the Motown-infused music carried on through 38 states and six countries. At their road peak, they logged 70,000 miles per year.

It’s taken on different members throughout the years – Blask left the band in 1977, Esposito in 1996 – but the constant has always been Brian and Michelle.

“We lived and worked together for 10 years before I finally got up the nerve to ask her to marry me,” Brian said. “It has been an absolutely blessed journey for us. I work with my best friend, I share all these adventures with the most beautiful woman in the world.”

The two grew up with similar roots in New York – both their fathers worked for General Electric, both had tight-knit families and both had music in their soul.

“Michelle has always been the creative one, I was the technical guy, setting up the equipment, booking the gigs,” he said. “Together, it’s been one hell of a pairing.”

They have their separate lives outside of music – Brian’s passion is tennis, while Michelle teaches equestrian at Moss Creek. But when they meet on the stage, it’s magic.

“I can’t remember the last time we fought. Music has truly made our lives a joy,” he said.

Even when tragedy has hit, the music has carried them through. When one of their three children, Matthew, passed away from sudden infant death syndrome at 5 months old in 1986, they were on stage five days later.

“It was more tragedy and trauma than we’d ever suffered,” Brian said. “To get on stage, it was a huge relief and release. It wasn’t our best performance, but it truly helped us honor him and start the healing.”

Home base was always New York until a chance call changed everything.

“The daughter of one of our long-time clients, she was running resorts across the country and she moved to Hilton Head,” Brian said. “They were looking for entertainers. We came down in 1991 thinking it was going to be like some rowdy resort town like Myrtle Beach. Four years later, we knew we had to live here.”

Nine years ago, the Raehms called their long-time friend Carletta, a veteran performer back to their days of growing up in Utica, to see if he’d be interested in joining them down South.

“He had just finished treatment for cancer and the timing was right. He was looking for a new adventure,” Raehm said. “We couldn’t have gotten luckier there. He’s just such an incredible talent on guitar and vocals. He’s used to being the front man and having the guitar riff to end the song, as am I. But we just blended together right away, as if it was 45 years ago.

“I’ve learned more from Mike in these nine years than in any other point in my career,” he said. “He teaches me every day in just his presence and his work ethic. What a professional.”

The trio’s song list is as varied as the band’s history. They tackle everything from the ‘50s classics of Chubby Checker and Sam & Dave right up to today’s hits.

“They did a cover of ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams a couple weeks back and it was just flawless,” said Robert Walsh, assistant food and beverage director at Zeppelins. “They don’t tackle anything halfway. They are so full of personality and harmony, it’s infectious. It’s why we have to take reservations just to get folks in the door on Tuesdays. They are just incredible.”

Raehm appreciates the praise, but he said there’s another secret to keeping the crowds coming.

“We don’t take a break. From 6 to 9 at Zeppelin’s or later at Ruby Lee’s on the island, it’s one big party,” he said. “You take a break, you give folks the excuse to leave. That’s just not in our DNA.”

Raehm said he’d never thought playing 200 nights a year mostly in one place was in his DNA either.

“This place is special. You never feel like a local band. And we’ve seen enough of the road, we know what our accomplishments are,” said the 64-year-old. Indeed, their hit song is seeing a renaissance as a dance-club remix favorite in Japan and Europe, with original 45s of the song selling on eBay for as much as $500.

“It’s nice to be recognized like that, fun to see a Japanese group remaking the song on YouTube, but we’re not chasing that anymore,” he said. “We’re at a point where we’re never embarrassed to truly be ourselves on that stage. With all the different kinds of folks that come here, it never feels like the same show twice. Even the regulars bring a different energy every week.”

The trio will soon head back to upstate New York to play their annual reunion tour in August with Blask and Esposito. But then it’s right back to Zeppelins, Ruby Lee’s and Shelter Cove this fall.

“The warmth of the people down here makes this place feel as close to home as any place we’ve ever been,” he said. “We’ll keep playing as long as they keep coming out. We’ve worked 40 years in semi-retirement, playing three hours a day. We can’t stop now.”