Daryl Davis recognized as 850 Magazine Pinnacle Award winner
By Wendy O. Dixon and Anne Hunter
Daryl Rose Davis, co-founder of Seaside, is among 10 women honored at the annual Pinnacle Awards, presented by 850 — The Business Magazine of Northwest Florida. The Pinnacle Awards spotlight leading women in business who hold themselves to high standards and contribute to the betterment of the community. "I was very surprised to have been nominated for this award by a co-worker,” she says. “That itself is a very big honor for me. We work side by side all day for years with our co-workers and we never really know what they think about the job we are doing. I was just flabbergasted when I received notification about being one of the Pinnacle Award winners."
Kerri Parker, executive director of communications for the Seaside Community Development Corp., nominated Davis. “I have attended the Pinnacle Awards for many years. The event always inspires me to be a better person, a stronger woman and to always choose to do good for others,” Parker says. “Daryl Davis was an obvious nominee. Her philanthropic nature is an inspiration.”
Daryl and her husband, Robert Davis, founded the community of Seaside, established in 1981 and described by Time Magazine as “the most astonishing design achievement of its era, and one might hope, the most influential.” The town is the birthplace of a movement in land planning known as New Urbanism.
With a vision for a town where life slows down and people have time to be together, the Davises, along with other urban planners, planned the community of Seaside after visiting many urban towns — Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans, La., to name a few — taking inventory of the architectural features that give small towns their distinct character.
Daryl used her entrepreneurial ingenuity to create a buzz in the remote new town of Seaside to spur interest in buying real estate. “While Robert was showing the architectural side of Seaside,” she says, “I was showing the visual side.”
She started with a Saturday market. Similar to the Mediterranean towns in Europe that have beachside markets, Davis’ market offered fresh vegetables, bread and off-the-boat shrimp, displaying her wares on wooden picnic tables under canvas umbrellas on the beach side of town.
At the time, she did not 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.”
As a child in Brooklyn, working moms were an example for Daryl Davis. “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 to different states 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. This mantra has helped create a very successful working environment for my staff at SEASIDE® Associated Stores.”
Today, Davis owns five shops in Seaside that comprise the SEASIDE® Associated Stores — The SEASIDE Style®, the official lifestyle brand of Seaside; Cabana by The SEASIDE Style®; SEASIDE Classic; The SEASIDE Style® Beach; The SEASIDE Style® Kids; and Bump + Baby by The SEASIDE Style®.
Throughout the year, The SEASIDE Style® is involved with multiple charity and philanthropy projects. The company is a community partner with Food For Thought, an outreach program which works to fight child hunger. The SEASIDE Style® donated $25,000 in 2018 to be used at Food For Thought’s new distribution center in DeFuniak Springs.
The SEASIDE® Associated Stores have donation boxes to collect money that benefits the Seaside Institute, Alaqua Animal Refuge and the Seaside Neighborhood School. The SEASIDE Style® supports the Seaside Neighborhood School by being a major sponsor for the Seaside Half Marathon, held each spring, and is a sponsor for The Seaside Repertory Theatre (The REP).
Davis has also supported Escape to Create, Seaside’s artist-in-residence program, since its inception. This program was conceived and begun as a Seaside Institute program, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote educational and cultural activities. With Seleta Hayes Howard, Davis began the Seaside Ballet program in the Davises’ Seaside Avenue house living room. The following year the program moved to the Seaside Neighborhood School with special funding from the Davis Family Foundation. It remained there until the school phased the program out, at which time Davis and Hayes Howard morphed it into the Seaside Dance Festival with support from the Davis Family Foundation the first year. “Creating the Seaside dance program with Daryl has been inspiring and educational,” Hayes Howard says. “Working with Daryl is such a pleasure because she’s an innovator and visionary who sees possibilities, not limitations. Her passion for the arts, entrepreneurial wit, and pioneering instinct have helped us establish a dynamic program that brings together colorful genres of dance for all to enjoy in our majestic Seaside community.”
Davis and the other Pinnacle Award recipients will be featured in 850 Business Magazine’s Winter 2019 issue.