BY MARK E. LETT | PHOTOS BY ROB KAUFMAN
BILLY WOOD APPLIANCE HAS BEEN A GO-TO RETAILER FOR 50 YEARS
Susie and Don Drobny learned a thing or two about buying appliances during 53 years of marriage, living in nine states and two countries — and owning 19 houses. Among the lessons: Count on Billy Wood Appliance for outstanding service and remarkable choices.
The couple turned to the venerable Hilton Head retailer to outfit their home in Leamington in 2001, and returned to Billy Wood when they made a move 13 years ago to Colleton River Plantation.
“We’ve always liked them for quality and service,” said Susie Drobny.
“They do a wonderful job installing and they have every appliance you could think of,” added Don, a global business executive and co-founder of Perot Systems Corp. with Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.
Heartfelt praise from the Drobnys, and others, helps explain how Billy Wood Appliance has survived — and thrived — for 50 years as a go-to retailer and island mainstay. Founded and still operating on Marshland Road, the retailer is an essential stop for Lowcountry homeowners, builders and renovators.
The Drobnys’ kind words also serve as validation for current owner Brantley King as she guides the company into its second half-century.
For King, a 1989 graduate of Hilton Head High School, Billy Wood Appliance is a business, a passion, a creative outlet, and a Hilton Head connection to be nurtured and preserved.
After college at Clemson University and a marketing career in the Northeast, King returned to the Lowcountry in search of a business to own and operate.
After hearing that Billy Wood Appliance — established by a respected local appliance repairman — was on the market, in 2016 King became the fourth owner in the store’s history.
Since then, King and her team at Billy Wood have kept a busy pace.
Drawing upon her experience and enthusiasm for cooking and design, King transformed the store at 6 Marshland Road into an appliance showcase. The showroom features an array of products, from ranges to wall ovens, microwave ovens to refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers and specialty items — all displayed with custom cabinets, tailored lighting and luxury countertops.
A visit to the store feels like meandering through a freshly remodeled or brand-new home, featuring familiar and upscale specialty brands.
In 2019, King added a second location for Billy Wood Appliance — a 5,000-square-foot store at 1223 May River Road in Bluffton.
The store’s gleaming showroom features a “living kitchen” and appliances displayed to help buyers and builders envision how products will fit in new and redesigned homes.
“Shopping in this setting helps people tell what it will be like in their own home,” said King, adding that “there’s always a work in progress” at Billy Wood Appliance.
“I love what I do, and I feel very blessed,” she said.
The Bluffton store will host a 50th anniversary celebration from 4-7 p.m., Sept. 22. The public event is expected to include food, cooking demonstrations, music and product giveaways, including a wood-fired pizza oven.
The event provides King an opportunity to thank customers and tighten a community connection. King is active in the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Education Foundation and other local charities. Among the groups’ outcomes: college and technical school scholarships and support for trades workers and women.
It’s all part of fulfilling a mission for a Bluffton native who happily returned to a life in the Lowcountry.
“When I was young, I couldn’t wait to leave,” King said. “Then, I couldn’t wait to get back.”