Gale Doggette to retire after 10 years
by The Press and Standard | September 14, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: September 11, 2018 at 3:22 pm
In November, Gale Doggette plans to be unemployed.
After over 10 years as director of the S.C. Artisans Center, she sees retirement coming as a great adventure.
“I think it will be fun. I should be nervous, but I’m not. I’m excited,” she said. There are already plans for a trip to Cuba, talks with girlfriends about traveling to Canada. “But right now, nothing. I am absolutely looking forward to not being responsible for anything except me.”
Doggette began her career with the artisans center about 1998, right after moving to Walterboro with her husband of 25 years, the late Jim Doggette. She worked as a sales associate for a little over four years, then took a job as executive director for the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society. But the artisans center wasn’t done with her yet.
About 2018, Chris Bickley and Mary Hunt of the center’s board approached Doggette about running the center. “It was having some issues,” she said. “Did I know what I was getting into when I took it over? Absolutely not. It was in a whole lot more dire situation than I had any idea of. But with a good board and a lot of hard work, this October — 10 years later — it is in sound financial shape. When I leave, I’ll leave with a lot better bank account than when I got it.”
And she’s proud of that. She spent many sleepless nights figuring out how to get grants and even got two from the state, thanks to casual conversations at the annual polo match here in Walterboro.
The first state funding came after she and Rep. Robert Brown were standing around talking at polo. He suggested that “this would be a good time” to ask for money for the center. Turns out, Doggette had to travel to Columbia and make a presentation before the House’s Ways and Means Committee. “I was presenting with the like of the Medical University, the McKissick Museum, the Columbia Library and the College of Charleston. And then there was little ol’ me.” But then she saw a familiar face — friend Chip Limehouse — and all went well.
That first grant provided $50,000 to fix up the driveways and building. But it was the second grant — $500,000 — that made the difference.
“We were able to do some great things. We started off hiring a company to do a new strategic plan, new branding, determine what we were doing right and what we were doing wrong,” she said. Now they have new logos, new billboards, new signs. And they are currently working on the building to get everything fixed, “so it will be like a brand new center.”
The new part of the center, built about 15 years ago, is in pretty good shape. But the main building was built in the late 1800s and is on the National Register of Historic Places as The deTreville House. That part of the structure needs more updating.
And they are moving forward with the center’s new café. At a Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Doggette learned that “visitors are looking for experiences — they just don’t want to go buy something. They want to feel the culture where they are.” And the idea of a café offering local cuisine was born.
“That’s my goal, my exit strategy,” she said. “Get the café up and running, a golf tournament in October, and then the 25th anniversary of the center in November. The café should be open by then, and it’s just a good time to have my retirement at that celebration. It will be a great celebration of a job well done by everyone who’s been involved in keeping an art gallery running for 25 years. And it’s a perfect time for me to exit.”
The responsibility of running a business that houses some 300 small businesses (the artists), 6-8 employees and is the single largest draw to Walterboro can be a burden at times. “And I’ve reached the age where I don’t want that responsibility any longer. After 10 years — even though I’ve still got some ideas of things that could be changed — I think it’s time for somebody to look at it with clear, new eyes,” she said.