By Mark A. Leon
Yesterday, a horrific event happened on King Street.? A beloved employee, friend, husband and father was killed in a shameless act.? Once again, the city of Charleston is in mourning, but that isn’t the message I have taken away from the last 30 hours.
Shane Whiddon was a respected member of the Charleston community, a dedicated father, husband, hard-working chef and a man who loved to smile.? Today, he is gone, but long from forgotten. Restaurants, hospitality groups, small businesses and citizens have once again come together to show their support to the family of Shane, Virginia’s on King and the Bennett Hospitality family.
On the outside looking in, Charleston looks like a mid-sized Southern city outgrowing its pants.? Tourism has grown year over year, construction is a constant part of our lives and the world has recognized us for our history, beauty, shopping, festivals and culinary arts.
That isn’t the Charleston I see today.
I see a small community that Springsteen or Mellencamp wrote about 30 years ago.? It’s setting is reminiscent of Yo La Tengo emotional ode in ‘My Little Corner of the World”. Charleston doesn’t have a Main Street with one water tower, one dentist, one doctor, one gas station, one restaurant and a single street light, but what it does have is a bond in its people as strong as blood.
It is a place where we tip our hats to you, greet you with a smile and make you feel at home.
I can still taste the homemade asparagus corn bread and salmon omelet while sitting upstairs at Virginia’s on King.? The fans going as the heat intensified outside, classic historic art, white linens and the feel of being in the world of ‘Gone with the Wind” in my head.
Virginia’s has always held a special place in my heart.? One of my first dining experiences.? Humbling and traditional and rich in Southern flavor and values.
Today, this small town once again comes together with words of hope, feelings of sadness and an air of faith.
If you are downtown, look all around.? Look closely.? See the signs, look at the faces and know we all share in the sadness of a family that just lost a loved one.
When a loss like this strikes so deep and pierces the soul, it must be a small town, because only there can you overcome and rise the way a strong family does.
The next time you make your way to Upper King Street, go to Virginia’s and give the staff a hug.? They will appreciate it more than you know, because family sticks together.