Land shark presides over downtown Folly

While Folly Beach is poised to ban shark fishing around the pier, there is one shark that anyone can catch downtown — the giant one that juts fiercely from the exterior of a building next to City Hall.

FOLLY BEACH — City Council is poised to ban shark fishing in a six-block area of the beach near the pier, but even if that happens there’s still one shark that anyone can catch on Center Street.

It’s big, toothy and hovers above a sign for a lawyer’s office next to City Hall.

This is a land shark with a storied past that has stood the test of a quarter-century of time in the heart of the business district.

“It’s a landmark,” said Ed Hollingsworth.

The shark landed here some 25 years ago, not long after Hurricane Hugo, when Hollingsworth and his friend Bill Perry used a fiberglass flange and screws to affix it high on a wall outside a surf shop.

“Myself and my two boys, we helped him put it up there,” Hollingsworth said.

It was awkward getting the big fish positioned, but once in place, the predator became a unique fixture in a quirky town that calls itself “The Edge of America.”

From its prominent perch, the shark has witnessed many changes, including new mayors, bridges, restaurants and bars, booming street festivals and giant beach renourishment projects.

The shark, though, has stayed the same.

But another round of change is coming, this time to the building where the shark towers over the sidewalk.

The second floor of the structure, home to an attorney’s office for years, has a new future as short-term rental property. And the latest incarnation of the building downstairs is the beachwear shop Native.

Lawyer Keith Bolus said the shark was part of the attraction of the office location when he hung out his shingle there in 1993.

“We hate to lose that location and, obviously, the shark,” he said. “But they say time and tide waits for no man.”

Over the years, he spun some tall fish tales when people asked about what might be Folly’s most memorable architectural element.

“I told them I was deep sea fishing and we caught this huge thing and it was so great we decided to get it stuffed,” he said.

These days, Bolus, a long-time islander, practices law much further inland, from his North Charleston office.

“We’re hoping to find something else, but office space on Folly is pretty limited,” he said.

The landlord, Eli Aboudaram, said the big shark serves a practical purpose.

“It’s easier telling people how to get to the store,” he said.

When the shark came to town, it was hung outside the Ocean Sports surf shop that Perry and Betty Sue Cowsert ran. But things have changed since the big shark swam onto Center Street. For one thing, there is now a Design Review Board that would have to approve any new street sharks. The shark-in-residence, though, has a bright future.

“It is there in perpetuity as long as it stays up and is maintained,” said Aaron Pope, zoning administrator.

Perry and Cowsert bought the shark to drum up business for the surf shop, according to the Arcadia Publishing book “Folly Beach (Images of America)” which has pictures of the shark being hoisted into place.

The shark was headed to Myrtle Beach when it caught the eye of Perry and Cowsert who struck a deal for it, so the story goes.

If not for that moment, the fiberglass predator could have been just another Grand Strand theme park attraction. Instead, it continues to watch over Center Street.

“It’s probably one of the most photographed places on Folly Beach,” Mayor Tim Goodwin said. “People love to have their picture taken with the shark.”