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Charleston Wine + Food

By: Victoria McMillin

Have you ever walked into a new restaurant or gym and thought “I wonder what goes into operating a place like this. What are their schedules like? Do they have a life? I’ll bet this owner straight forgot what pizza takes like.” I have done that more times than I can count. Being a business owner is not easy, and being one that is part of the wellness community allows for its own set of stereotypes and assumptions. I sat down with local business owners Greer Gilchrist of The Harbinger Cafe and Harken Cafe and Alan Shaw of Rhapsody Crossfit to get insight into how they view wellness, what their lifestyles are like, and if pizza and beer are ever on the dinner menu. 

Victoria: Start off telling me how you know each other? You two seem close.

Alan: We opened Rhapsody last July and Greer was one of our first members.

Greer: I joined in August.

Alan: And she just started working out and we became really good friends. Greer was incredibly skeptical of CrossFit, even to this day sometimes she’s like “hmm, I don’t know”, but at the end of the workout she’s like “I did that, I made it through.

Greer: That is still a present tense (laughs). I have been so busy since opening Harken, that I hadn’t worked out in a long time. But yesterday I worked out, and I slept like a baby. 

Tell me about your podcast Alan. I know Greer has been on it before.

A: It’s called Rhapsody Radio. It is not about fitness or food. It’s more about having coffee conversations with people about everyday life. We talk about leadership and struggles of business ownership, and life and love, all that stuff.

G: Yeah, I guess it’s kind of coming of age stories. You talk about where people came from and how they got to where they are. 

I love “How I built this.” Is it kind of like that?

A: Oh yeah, totally. My husband is a Broadway producer and people all the time tell him, “You’re so amazing and successful, I will never be there,” and he’s like, “It took me 15 years to get to this place.” I think it’s really interesting to see how people got to where they are. Giving insight into that helps give people hope. Everyone has a progression to get to their dreams.

Not an overnight success, it is something people work daily for

G: People forget that. People all the time in their 20’s think, “I already need to be here,” or even when they get older, they get upset that they aren’t at a certain point, and it takes a really long time. Hearing backstories, hearing timelines is very important. When I was on the podcast, the episode was called “Made with Love”. It’s just about needing to have a heart with anything you do. That’s what makes the difference. If you are just going through the motions, people will see through it. 

Greer, why did you open Harken? When did you decide you wanted a second restaurant?

G: We always had in the plans that we wanted a second. We opened The Harbinger in June 2017 and we were approached by the developers here in October 2017 about opening it. So we’ve been working on it for a really long time. It’s now October 2019 so it has been in the works for a while. So yeah, we felt like this area needed it. Cameron had a lot of design inspiration she needed to use up, and I had a lot of food inspiration I needed to use up, and we just always wanted a little sister for Harbinger. 

I love it. Are there any intrinsic differences in the menu?

G: Yeah, it’s a completely different menu. So its not intrinsic differences, its complete differences. (laughs) They have the same bones though. I mean you can walk in here and know that it’s related to Harbinger. 

It has a very similar vibe

G: Right, the vibe we don’t want to change, but the design is different. It still has all of Cameron [Neal, Greer’s business partner] in it, so it’s similar. 

I haven’t even eaten the food yet, but I can tell they are sisters. It’s a beautiful space. This is a question for both of you. What do you consider to be your dietary lifestyle?

G: I feel people probably think both me and Al have these really healthy diets because you are a fitness expert and I have a healthy bakery, but I don’t subscribe to any diet. (laughs) I have been told that I eat like a teenage boy.

A teenage boy? Is that like pizza and nachos at all times? 

G: (Laughs) Exactly! I had nachos for dinner with beer. 

So you don’t deprive yourself. 

G: No, I do not. I like all food.

Your menus are pretty plant-based though, right? I go to Harbinger if I want a nutritious meal. 

G: Yeah, I like veggies and I understand balance. I don’t eat pizza or nachos, usually, ever. I have to get up very early and work very late. My day is just about endurance. If I eat what I really want, which is like Doritos, I will feel terrible. 

A: I think it’s about awareness, right? We both understand what food does to your body, so we make conscious choices. Like if I am going to go to Home Team BBQ, and I am going to get nachos, then I’m making that conscious decision, and that’s okay. I’m also not going to do that every night. Just like Greer said, waking up at 4:00 am and not leaving until 9:30 at night, you have to be an endurance athlete, so you have to fuel your body in that way which is really essential. 

And you probably know your body more than most people. So you know that if you have 10 beers, you’re going to feel like crap for a few days. 

A: Oh yeah, if I have 10 beers, you won’t see me for a couple of days. (laughs) That is game over. I’m a cheap date. Give me 2 beers and I am good to go. 

G: Oh my God, I ate those nachos because I had one beer and was like, “I’m so drunk, give me the nachos.” (Laughs)

A: (Laughs) Oh my God, I love you. I mean, we live in Charleston. It’s food central. When you live in Charleston you get spoiled on the food. When you go anywhere else, nothing can compare to what’s going on here. That being said, it’s also really, really rich in food here. Our entire population at Rhapsody, I don’t think there’s anyone that completely restricts their diet from something.

G: Yeah, you guys never talk about it which is so great. There’s no shame around anything, which is something I love so much. It’s not about getting the bikini body. In fact, I think the last Christmas party, they served pizza. And not like cauliflower crust, like real true pizza. Everybody type is there, every fitness level is there. Everyone is embraced

A: The last thing I want to do is shame anyone. That is not helpful in any sort of fashion. Everyone is coming to health and fitness in a different way. If someone wants help with nutrition, we are there to help you with that, but I’m not going to shove it down your throat. I just want you to show up every day and get your hour of fitness in. If you can do that, I guarantee you will see results. That maybe being happier in your everyday life, but you will see a difference. It’s about the community that we’ve created there. It is inclusive for everyone. There is not a cookie-cutter mold of “this is what a Rhapsody member is”.

G: It’s not about getting a six-pack and just eating lettuce. I feel like it’s always focused so much more often on not physical goals.

We have a whole wellness component to Charleston Wine + Food this year. Wellness has become a buzzword and people think, “I go to the gym and I eat salads and I’m practicing wellness,” but there is a whole picture to it, like what you were saying. How would define wellness or what is wellness to you? 

A: Wellness encompasses every aspect of your life. Wellness is how you sleep. It’s how you interact with your family members. How your drive to work is, your fitness level, what you put into your body, what you are drinking, and also, meditation and mental clarity. All of those things are incredibly important. If one of those things is out of whack or out of sync, that is when we start to feel unwell, right? But I think more and more, it’s not just about looking good naked. That’s easy. Stop eating, drink water, and get on the treadmill for 2 hours and you’ll lose weight. 

Right, calories in, calories out.

A: Exactly, that has nothing to do with wellness. What it has everything to do with your mental state. If I feel good about myself, then the rest will align. Most people are trying to focus on “if I look like this, then this will fix that.” But we need to focus on past history. I used to be a big guy, I used to be 230 lbs. I was really unhealthy and used to hate to look at myself in the mirror and didn’t like myself. But, at the same time, once I started to focus on my inward beauty, and that started to line up, the rest started to line up. I started to eat better, I started to sleep better, hydrate, meditate, go to the gym. Once I started to focus inward and like myself, and my mental clarity started to happen. People like to start on the outside, but that’s not how it works. It starts on the inside and works its way out. And I am the living proof of that.

G: That’s the hardest stuff. The internal. The outside stuff is easier. 

Greer, what about you? What do you consider wellness to be?

G: I’m probably going to agree with what Alan said. I don’t think that wellness comes from what you eat, or how many miles you run, or anything like that. I think it’s all about how you feel and how you take care of yourself. For me, I am a little bit neurotic, so I have very clear definitions for myself of what my wellness is, and when I stray from that, it becomes very obvious. For me, it is very important that I pay attention to what I eat because I love junk food, and if I eat that, then I feel terrible, sleepy, have brain fog, so I need to eat a lot of veggies, talk to my friends and family, exercise, I need dessert. (laughs) So I need all those things in my everyday life. When we opened Harken this week, I fell off and it was really obvious. Yesterday I felt awful and at the end of the day was like, “I still have a million things to do, but I am going to give myself the gift of exercise.” And I felt so much better afterward. 

And it’s therapy. You’re probably better at your job when you take care of yourself.

G: Right, and you have to remember that you don’t win a prize for treating yourself crappy. It’s not like “I’ll run myself into the ground for this” because then you’ve just run yourself into the ground (laughs). And that sucks.

A: Yeah, I feel the same way. You’re not a martyr. 

G: And you could brag about it, I guess, but hopefully someone is there to be like “shut up.” (laughs)

I love that you two aren’t the quintessential idea of what a gym owner or restaurant owner is considered to be like. Alan, you aren’t sitting there being like, “everyone needs to go keto all the time”. And Greer, you seem to have a well-rounded lifestyle. There is a kind of belief that the restaurant industry is like a “hard knock life.” Work hard, play hard, drink until all hours of the day. 

G: It’s so funny because my mom is an ER doctor and raised 4 babies, and my dad is a doctor too. People think, “Oh, you work such grueling shifts,” and I’m like, “No, my mom worked grueling shifts.” There she is, 5 months pregnant working overnight shifts saving people’s lives. Maybe I work 14 hour days, but at the end of the day, I’m not saving anyone’s life. I think what I do does matter, but it doesn’t have to be this big dramatic thing. Like I am not going to work a double shift and then feel like I have to rip shots, and that makes me a hero. 

A: It’s a mind shift right like you can look at it like, “This is going to be really grueling,” and go down that rabbit hole, but it’s the get to versus have to mentality. Words are powerful. Even its 4:30 in the morning, I get to go to my Rhapsody home. 

G: Even if it’s dishes and it’s 9:30 at night and I’m mopping, I could think, “This sucks,” but I get to mop the restaurant that I worked so hard for. 

Thank you guys for all the insight and the time, this was awesome. 


Victoria McMillin is a wellness and lifestyle blogger based out of Charleston, SC. She is also a member of the Charleston Wine + Food Brand Ambassador team. You can connect with her on Instagram at @apenneformythoughts and on her blog, www.apenneformyhtoughts.

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