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Remembering RB: Shem Creek Restaurant Pioneer Bids Farewell

Mount Pleasant’s self-made man who helped build Shem Creek up and gave back to the community will be remembered fondly in the hearts of many. Ronnie “RB” Boals came from humble beginnings and built his businesses from the ground up.

Photo of Ronnie “RB” Boals.
Ronnie “RB” Boals.

Always working, RB started with odd jobs as a child and worked his way up to become extremely successful. As a boy, he did everything from delivering papers and holding rummage sales to selling peanuts.

Even when he moved into the restaurant industry, he always had a sideline business. RB’s son recounts the times when his dad told him stories about growing up and having to have a cobbler replace the soles of his shoes. He would wear the shoes until there was no life left in them. Growing up not having much taught RB the importance of hard work and giving back to those in need.

Ronnie Boals: The businessman, the myth, the legend

In 1962, RB began working at Piggy Park in Mount Pleasant. He eventually toiled his way up to leasing the restaurant while simultaneously working on building Trawler, his most well-known establishment. He was 23 years old when he opened the restaurant in 1967. Trawler began as a one dining room restaurant and gradually grew to include 14 dining rooms.

From there, he continued to expand Shem Creek. In 1979, he built the eponymous RB’s. In 1985, he opened Water’s Edge, then in 1989, he launched Vickery’s, and so on. RB also constructed the lighthouse on Shem Creek. His footprint is all over the popular area today. He was the driving force that made Shem Creek a destination location for restaurants.

RB Restaurant, Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant (closed)

Among his restaurant accolades are the Lorelei, RB’s, Cappy’s, Ronnie’s, Johnny’s Seafood Market, Josie Joe’s and the Noisy Oyster. His love of food and the restaurant business is evident in his legacy and continued success in the Lowcountry. Boals was recognized as the longest continuously serving independent restaurant owner in the community. He was the most consistently open operator over the last 50 years.

In 2016, with the help of then-Mayor Linda Page, Church Street along Shem Creek was renamed Ronnie Boals Boulevard. This was something that made RB immensely proud, and he spoke about how honored he was to receive the recognition. Next time you drive over, be sure to note this memorial to his legacy.

RB’s business success came from his unwavering perseverance and unmatched work ethic, but his compassion came from within. Always willing to help, Boals gave to others often under the shroud of anonymity. He never wanted anyone to know that he was the one giving and did it without seeking praise or acknowledgement.

Wade Boals, son of RB, remembers shopping for families and dropping gifts off every Christmas with his dad. A philanthropist at heart, he was always looking to help families in need no matter the cost. RB often paid for hotel stays for families that were struggling with housing and fulfilled any need requests that were presented to him. He took care of his employees like they were family even if it meant inconveniencing himself. Employees speak highly of him and can share accounts of times in which he helped them and extended kindness when they needed it most.

Always a connoisseur of fancy and shiny things, RB never forgot where he came from. He loved to buy items that he could only dream of owning as a child and that included shoes. With a closet stocked full of shoes, he could rest assured that he would never need them again, which was not something he could claim as a child. Although RB enjoyed material things, it was his family and friends that brought him the most joy. His wife, children, grandchildren and Yorkies remember him fondly and know that they have big shoes to fill.

Ronnie Boal’s impact and legacy on the Lowcountry is unlike any other. His commitment to his business and growing Mount Pleasant is something that will remain unchanged. We can all learn something from his work ethic and service to others. A major figure in our community, he will forever be remembered as someone who could fill us up with great food while modeling how to live a life with meaning.

By Cari Lawson

Shem Creek Restaurants

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About Shem Creek

Shem Creek offers waterfront activities, picturesque views of its marshes and the Charleston Harbor, a boardwalk, as well as a park and many restaurants. Dive in and read about this Mount Pleasant, SC gem and all of the yummy treats it has to offer.

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