The Interview: Charleston Restaurateur Steve Palmer
All roads lead back to Charleston for restaurateur Steve Palmer, a successful businessman who seems like everything he touches turns to gold. As Managing Partner for The Indigo Road, Steve was a leading force behind the transition of Oak Steakhouse and then the conception, development and management of The Macintosh, The Cocktail Club, O-Ku and The Oak Table. He also spends most days overseeing their newest venture Indaco, an Italian influenced concept opening this summer on Upper King Street.
Many may know Steve from his daily appearances in one of his various restaurants, but few know the story and flavored history of this top food and beverage entrepreneur. The Daily Meal sat down to learn more about this leader’s past, present and future visions and inspirations:
The Daily Meal: You have been part of the Charleston hospitality industry for many years now. What were the early days like?
Steve Palmer: I tease when I say all roads led me back to Charleston but they kind of did. I first fell in love with the city when I moved here from Atlanta to attend the College of Charleston. At the time, Hurricane Hugo had come and gone and restaurants like Magnolias began to open. I started out as a server there and then moved over to Blossom when it opened to run the wine program. To say the least, I learned a ton and became enthralled in the hospitality community.
Steve also met David LeBoutillier, a restaurant consultant who over the years has had a hand in most every significant opening in town. The two joined forced and worked together for many years. Steve eventually followed David back to Atlanta to work at the famed Canoe restaurant and then back to Charleston to concept and open Peninsula Grill followed by Hank's Seafood. It was during this time that Steve had to come to grips with a deep, dark addiction.
TDM: Can you share a little about that part of your life and how it influenced you today?
SP: I was in a dark place doing what was really the norm but in an unhealthy fashion. I credit Hank Holliday (owner of the Holliday Company) who gave me two options while working at Peninsula Grill--go to rehab today or say goodbye to the job. I chose rehab and the rest is history. Hank and that ultimatum saved my life and I have been sober ever since.
Steve was nervous being a recovering alcoholic would make working in the industry, but actually it was easier than he expected and he now serves as a go to with others with similar struggles.
Leaving Charleston again he moved to Florida to work for the Ginn Company and designed and opened all of the restaurants and bars for over $100 million development projects including bars, golf clubs, hotels and more.