Celebrating International Women’s Day With Seaside’s Co-Founder Daryl Rose Davis

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing the history of Seaside’s co-founder, Daryl Rose Davis.

Daryl and her husband, Robert Davis, founded Seaside in 1981. The town was described by Time Magazine as “the most astonishing design achievement of its era, and one might hope, the most influential” and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

In the early days, “While Robert was showing the architectural side of Seaside, I was showing the visual side,” she says. The pioneer started with a Saturday market, similar to the Mediterranean towns in Europe with beachside markets. Hers offered fresh vegetables, bread, and off-the-boat shrimp. She displayed her wares on wooden picnic tables under canvas umbrellas on the beach side of town

At the time, she didn’t know she would be setting an international trend in coastal style. Complimented on her simple style of dress, she began adding similar articles of clothing and home décor to her offerings. From these early experiments, a collection of stores has evolved that showcases the Seaside Style — the luxury of simple, comfortable elegance.

The single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses and great ones, Daryl says, is the desire to keep improving by raising the bar for your company, and a willingness to be open to change and revise. “Be patient and kind,” she adds. “Don’t expect folks to read your mind. Give them the skills they need to be successful. Cross train. Build your business from the ground up, not from the top down. Give staff opportunities to learn new skills and the opportunity to grow.”

“My earliest memories from my childhood apartment in Brooklyn, New York, were that other mothers went to work every day just as mine did,” Davis says. “I grew up assuming that this would be my life as well. My mother’s friends were women who worked and I have always been surrounded by working women throughout my life. I cannot remember a time when I knew any mothers that did not work outside the home and also do the majority of work within the house.”

Davis’ entrepreneurial spirit was influenced by the circumstances of her childhood and her own mother’s enterprising drive to provide for her daughter. “My biological father died before my mother gave birth. As a young 20-something woman in the 1950s, my mother was left with the responsibility of taking care of herself and me. Schooled in accounting, she was able to secure employment at a firm in Manhattan. This was followed by a stint in retail sales and then relocation to Triple Lake Dude Ranch in Succasunna, New Jersey, where she took a job as the ranch manager and social director.”

Mother and daughter would relocate seven times by the time Daryl was in junior high school. “These moves were precipitated by the death of another husband and then a divorce from a third. Each time, she found employment in a different field,” she says about the influence of her mother. “She worked as a surgical nurse, a home economics teacher and in various other professions before she decided to go back to college to study psychology, eventually graduating and having a very successful private practice.”

The lesson her mother drilled into her was self-reliance. “I was to be able to support myself at any time, in any situation that life throws at me and not depend on a man to take care of me. I took this to heart and it became the mantra for myself, as well as for the women I have employed in SEASIDE® Associated Stores. I believe in fair wages, benefits and flexible schedules to accommodate families.”

Today, Davis owns five shops in Seaside that comprise the SEASIDE® Associated Stores — The SEASIDE Style®, Cabana by The SEASIDE Style®, SEASIDE Classic, The SEASIDE Style® Beach, The SEASIDE Style® Kids, and Bump + Baby by The SEASIDE Style®.

In 2019, Daryl was among 10 women honored at the annual Pinnacle Awards, presented by 850 — The Business Magazine of Northwest Florida.

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