Start Small, Think Big

The Jackson Companies, located in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was founded by Mary Emily and Nelson Jackson and their five daughters. It is a family-owned enterprise that includes Prestwick Golf & Country Club, Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Ocean Lakes Properties, Ocean Lakes RV Center, Ocean Lakes Golf Cars, Crystal Lake Mobile Home Village, Ocean Lakes Village, and the SayeBrook Town Center. The Jackson Companies also owns several hundred acres of undeveloped land in the Myrtle Beach area. Several divisions of The Jackson Companies have been recognized nationally in both the golf and camping industries.

The family owned business employs more than 300 teammates year-round. An additional 300 teammates are hired for the busy camping and golf seasons. In 2006, it was named one of the fifteen “Best Places to Work in South Carolina.”

It all started with Ocean Lakes Family Campground which opened on July 2, 1971. Ocean Lakes began with 30 sites and one bathhouse. Many of Nelson’s expansion ideas started with a drawing on a napkin. He thought big, and Nelson and Mary Emily took a big risk, partly to keep their land and pay the inheritance tax. It was not easy. In a 1999 interview Nelson shared part of his philosophy, “Let’s face it…when you get right down to it, we are all in the people business, and if you don’t love people, you won’t have much business.” They loved to visit with the guests, to camp in their motorhome on site HH-55 (beside their guests), and to welcome everyone to the Sunday morning Church Service in the Ocean Lakes Recreation Center. The July 4th Patriotic Golf Car Parade at Ocean Lakes was one of their favorite events. Nelson personally led the parade in one of his customized golf cars, with others driven by family and friends.

They have received many honors through the years. On February 26, 2004, the Governor of South Carolina awarded them the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto. This award recognized them for being outstanding civic and business leaders while improving the quality of life for the entire Myrtle Beach community, and inspiring others with their tremendous work and philanthropy, leading by example. Both Mr. and Mrs. Jackson passed away in 2010, and the teammates still feel the loss. Their portrait hangs near the teammate entrance to the Main Office, adjacent to the Training Room. It reminds team members, old and new, of our amazing founders and the legacy that blesses us all.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground

A Family Affair

People often ask, “Why a campground? How did the Jacksons come up with the idea?” A couple of factors influenced their decisions. Touring the country for Cloth of Gold fabrics in their “rolling home” bus helped the Jacksons realize that America needed more family campgrounds. Necessity was another factor. After Mrs. Jackson’s parents passed away, Nelson and Mary Emily had to figure out a way to keep their family’s land, by coming up with a way to make the land work to pay the inheritance taxes. Thankfully, Mr. Jackson was very innovative. The Jackson daughters often laugh, “All you had to do was give Daddy a napkin! He designed more things on napkins.” They also smile and reflect, “And so many of Dad’s ideas were Mom’s also – she was the silent partner.”

The family worked on the plans for Ocean Lakes from Tryon, NC. Mary Emily described that decade, “Nelson and the children and I traveled from Tryon 260 miles to Conway or the beach almost every weekend from mid-1960 to 1969.” Although the 3 older daughters were adults by the time the park opened, each daughter took part in building and operating the campground. The youngest daughters, Rachel and Jeanne, were still teenagers and put in charge of the entry gate on July 2, 1971 – the day Ocean Lakes Family Campground opened.

Beyond Camping

Nelson Jackson was an idea man. Mary Emily was very business minded, keeping up with the stock market and business trends. Through the years they started many businesses, most still thriving today. Crystal Lake Mobile Home Village was established in the 70’s. Buses stayed close to Nelson’s heart as he formed Sunway Charter and Tours. The Jacksons worked with Pete & P.B. Dye to design the award-winning Prestwick Golf & Country Club, opening in 1989. SayeBrook, established in 2003, is the mixed-use center that includes retail, restaurant, office and civic uses within the 40-acre Town Center area located at the corner of Highway 544 and US 17 Bypass.