Water's Edge from across Shem Creek

Water's Edge restaurant and bar on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant is now under new ownership. Warren L. Wise/Staff

An upscale, waterfront restaurant in Mount Pleasant is now operating under new ownership following a $7 million buyout deal.

Affiliates of Charleston developer Gramling Brothers Real Estate & Development bought Water's Edge at 1407 Shrimp Boat Lane on Shem Creek earlier this month.

Veteran restaurateur Gary Whitman of Charleston sold the land of the longtime dining establishment and its parking lot for $6.5 on Jan. 17, according to Charleston County land records. An adjacent condominium in Shem Creek Inn rounded out the deal, selling for $500,000. The business itself sold separately for an undisclosed amount.

Gramling representative Mikell Harper confirmed the sale but declined to elaborate about the purchase or what it means for the future of the restaurant. It was operating normally Friday.

"They told me they are going to keep it as Water's Edge and not change anything about the restaurant," Whitman said.

Water's Edge restaurant and bar on Shem Creek

Water's Edge restaurant and bar is a popular staple of Mount Pleasant's dining establishments on Shem Creek. It now has a new owner. Warren L. Wise/Staff

The dining establishment made up just over half of the selling price. It sold to Gramling affiliate GH Shem Creek LLC for $3.333 million. The 1.19-acre parking lot, bought by Gramling affiliate GH Shrimp Boat LLC, fetched $3.167 million. The condo is listed under GH Cabana LLC.

Whitman said Friday he decided to sell the restaurant and property so he could enjoy more time on his 60-acre farm in the North Carolina mountains.

"I have been in the restaurant business for 42 years, and I'm tired," he said. "I was ready to take a break."

Whitman, a Charleston native, said he was reluctant to sell because of his fondness for the Shem Creek area, which he visited often growing up.

"They tried to get me to sell for probably a year and a half, and I wouldn't even speak to them," he said.

Whitman started out working in management for Burger King, acquiring several restaurants in North Carolina before selling them in 1997. He also bought more than two dozen Applebee's restaurants in Kentucky, Indiana and South Carolina before gradually selling them off by 2013. 

He said the decision to let go of Water's Edge was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

"It was very, very, very difficult for me to sell Water's Edge," he said. "It wasn't about the money. It was just time. It's a great restaurant, and I will miss it."

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Whitman bought the property from Ronnie Boals of R.B.'s Seafood Restaurant across Shem Creek for $2 million in 2001. It was originally called Ronnie's, which dated back to 1985. After Whitman renovated the site, it opened as Water's Edge in February 2002. He later purchased the cabana bar and folded it into Water's Edge.

Gramling Brothers, best known as the developer of the 4,500-acre Cane Bay Plantation master-planned community in Berkeley County, is no stranger to Mount Pleasant. The acquisition gives the firm a fifth commercial property along Coleman Boulevard.

Last fall, the company submitted a site plan to Charleston County to build a 35,928-square-foot, mini-storage facility, possibly three stories tall, where Peach Orchard Plaza now stands at 423 W. Coleman Blvd.

Water's Edge on Shem Creek

Water's Edge restaurant and bar is on Shrimp Boat Lane next to Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. It is now under new ownership. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Three years ago, Gramling bought the former Boulevard Diner site at 409 W. Coleman Blvd., where Vicious Biscuit restaurant now operates.

In 2015, Gramling Brothers acquired the site of the former Fonduely Yours cafe and Oriental Garden sushi restaurant at 835 Coleman and redeveloped it with new tenants, including The Granary restaurant, which closed in December.

The company also redeveloped a former gas station site at 349 Coleman into a 30,000-square-foot retail and office building now anchored by Kickin’ Chicken restaurant.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.