By Tess Malijenovsky | Most mornings local Tim Lovett can be found on his standup paddle board. Standing up on an elongated surfboard of sorts—known colloquially as a SUP board—Tim begins the day with balance and endurance, slicing through the river with an elevated perspective. Standup paddle boarding is actually an emerging global sport originating from Hawaii; but its emergence in the quaint water town of Beaufort is for the most part thanks to Tim. (Even if he won’t admit it.)
“Originally my sister turned me onto it. She and her husband eloped and had gone to Hawaii to get married. I was pretty much hooked right away,” said Tim. “It was so new and exciting to me, I felt like everybody needed to try this. It was a no-brainer you know?” As the owner of Higher Ground, Beaufort’s outdoor adventure outfitter, Tim found a means of introducing the sport to Beaufort.
Tim has called Beaufort home for over twenty years now. He was 21 years old working at the Sportsman Shop in Charleston when the company decided to open a store in Beaufort. “They asked me, ‘how would you like to run your own shop in Beaufort?’ And I said, “Ok, that sounds good,” Tim laughed.
For many years Tim managed Beaufort’s Sportsman Shop. Then one year, in the midst of a nation recession, he endeavored to save Higher Ground. Many locals recall Higher Ground’s previous owners, Ashley and Shelby Bishop, who established the store in 2004. Customers loved the girls and the laidback, fun shopping environment they created. But, in 2010 the girls decided to leave Beaufort on a new adventure, putting Higher Ground up for sale. It just happened that Tim Lovett, a water lover and outdoors enthusiast, was also looking for a new venture in store ownership. Higher Ground was a perfect fit.
“I like retail from being in it so long and I had aspirations of ownership for The Sportsman Shop. Higher Ground just fell in my lap,” said Tim.
Higher Ground isn’t just Beaufort’s adventure outfitter—carrying everything from kayaks and SUP boards to top-rated outdoor apparel. It’s the type of local business where, if you’ve ever walked through their doors, chances are the staff will welcome you by your first name. The staff at Higher Ground enjoys talking to locals and travelers alike about their adventure plans and the products that will sustain them. And they can do so with confidence because at Higher Ground it’s about quality goods and giving back to the community.
The shop still holds true to its reputation as a chill shopping environment by playing good tunes, keeping it green with plants and alive with a puppy named Hobie (named after the kayak brand). It also helps that Leslie Norris, assistant manager, has been with Higher Ground since its inception and goes way back with Tim having worked for him over at The Sportsman Shop.
Tim’s passion for water sports translates into the community; he helps outfit locals and visitors everyday with kayaks at Higher Ground. After all, Beaufort wouldn’t be the kayak friendly place it is today without its local kayak outfitter.
Aside from SUP boards and kayaks, Tim introduced running shoes to the store seeing the need in the community for quality support in running/walking footwear. Tim works with sport medicine professionals, like Kevin Greene, to learn what shoes are best for his customers.
“Quality” being a mantra of sorts, Higher Ground carries many other accessories for adventure from apparel, backpacks, dry bags, water purifiers, watches, knives, sunglasses, car roof rack systems and more, all quality name brands. “People who use the product for what it’s designed for and can appreciate the quality and the research that’s gone into it, want it,” said Tim. He’d just returned from the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival where he said people were “eating up” $160 rain jackets. “One guy came up to me and said, ‘I’ve had this [jacket] for 15 years and it’s finally worn out. Guess it’s time for me to get another one.’ [The people] want to talk about how well it works and how well it does what it’s suppose to do, which I think in today’s retail ‘buy it, throw it away, buy another one’ world people appreciate.”
In addition to retail—and, yes, kayak and SUP daily and weekly rentals—Tim wants Higher Ground to lead an important example: “I think it’s all about giving back to the community that supports your business,” said Tim.
Tim helps put on Paddle Fest each year, a kayak and SUP race in the lagoon of Hunting Island State Park. “I think a lot of people come to Beaufort just because of Hunting Island. Paddle Fest benefits Friends of Hunting Island, which does a lot to keep the park up and running, which ultimately helps everybody out here and brings more people to town.” Higher Ground is also the race headquarters for The Adventure Biathlon put on by the Rotary Club, which generates donations to numerous local charities.
Just as any locally owned and independent business, Tim’s store strengthens the community by contributing to local causes, creates jobs and funds more city services through sales tax. Not only do these independent shops build Beaufort’s personality, but when you think about it, a marketplace of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.
If you want to a meet a Beaufort local and get suited for your summer adventures (or just hangout with Tim’s adorable puppy Hobie), come meet Tim Lovett at Higher Ground. Ask him about SUP, about kayaking Beaufort or simply the quality of his gear. It’s about buying quality products that last that you love, locally. Located in Beaufort Town Center, 2121 Boundary Street, Beaufort. (843) 379-4327.