If you’ve ever enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the front porch at The Cottage, just know that it might never have been.
Before she was the brilliant business mind behind The Cottage, The Juice Hive, and May River Coffee Roasters and the expansion of The Village Pasta Shoppe, Leslie Rohland was an actress and filmmaker who very nearly got her big break.
We spoke with Rohland about her journey from the stage and screen to building a business portfolio that helped bring the buzz back to Old Town Bluffton.
Q: What do you like to do when you get a chance to unwind?
A: Well, I have to say I do have free time now because I have such an amazing staff. But in my free time I like to do a lot of reading and dabble in some pottery. Mostly I love to just hang out with my family.
Q: What drew you to the restaurant business?
A: I finished college and went to graduate school for a master’s degree in theater arts, and I spent a lot of time in New York City. If you’re an actor in New York City, you’re gonna have side jobs or jobs that pay the bills. I started working in restaurants when I was 14. I worked at a really high-end restaurant, and I loved it. That supplemented my acting income. Then I went back to school for a master’s certificate in film production. I wanted to be involved in the independent film market in New York City, but at that time it was not very friendly to female directors. So I went back to the restaurants, because that’s what my bread and butter had always been.
Q: When did you make the pivot from the film industry to restaurateur?
A: When I was kind of tapped out on New York, my parents, who live in Savannah, knew the owners who opened The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head, and they really wanted someone they knew they could trust to run it. I loved the idea of The Jazz Corner, so I got to see the process from an empty space and got to work with the architects and the designers.
Q: Are you still involved in any acting or film making?
A: I had to give up the dream. It’s a very precarious industry. I did some time in L.A. where I was very, very close on some big soap operas, and I was really close on some TV shows. But the doors kept closing. You can’t fight it when you witness the doors closing. At some point you kind of have to say to yourself, ‘OK, so is it me or is it just not meant to be?’ I had to do that, and it’s tragic because I love those industries as well.