I’ve often wondered why my wife Tina, our son, Ricky, and I didn’t load up the few belongings that we had left and go back to where we were from. We had only lived in the 30A area for little over a year when we lost our business. Our home was foreclosed on, and our cars repossessed, so why stay? If I was looking for a sign from God that a place was not where I was supposed to be, how many did I really need? How many suggestions from God did I need to get the hint? We lost everything except the last 19 dollars and 70 cents. Every credit card we had was closed out, so when I say we had 19 dollars and 70 cents, that’s exactly what I mean. We didn’t have jobs. Just us three, Tina, Ricky and me. We had no family here, not many friends were here, so why? Why did we stay?
Most people would say that’s an easy answer to a stupid question. It’s the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Nobody wants to leave the most beautiful beaches in the world. These beaches are why millions of people a year flock to our little section of paradise every year and there’s no doubt, these beaches are the predominant reason, with anything in second place, distant in the rear-view mirror.
What about the sunsets, the sunrises, the food, the sandy trails and state parks, the creeks and dune lakes, fishing, wildlife, golfing, tennis courts, and on and on. All of these things are certainly outstanding reasons to stay on 30A, but none of these were the reason.
Even I couldn’t figure it out until I sat on the beach one evening thinking about my home. My 30A home. Even though we didn’t have a home any longer, our home was still 30A. As I sat, with my wife, and we talked about our options, we talked about people. The people of 30A.
In the small amount of time I had lived here, I had encountered a few people whom I didn’t know, but who had impacted my life. They had a swagger. They had confidence, not your typical cocky confidence, but a confidence with kindness. That was what I saw in 30A. People who were confident, but kind. A perfect combination. There’s no doubt, this is why I wanted to be here.
We talked about that guy who was trying to get a 30A bumper sticker campaign going. We didn’t know him, or his wife’s name, but we knew they were beautiful and when we saw them, we knew we wanted to be like them. They had that “it” factor that you know when you see it. Now, that little bumper sticker is known all over the world, and I’d dare to say that it is one of the most recognizable marketing campaigns in the United States. Of course, the people I’m referring to are Mike and Angela Ragsdale, founders of the 30A Company. For those of you who know them, you know their kindness and love of life is what makes their personalities so magnetic.
We had heard about a great place to eat but had never tried it — Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant in Seaside — and saw owner Dave Rauschkolb a few times with his surfboard, with not a care in the world. Every time we passed him on the sidewalk, he took time to speak to us. The more we listened to some television and radio interviews he’s done, we knew he’s the real deal, and a guy who cares deeply about this new love we had found. He loved 30A long before we did, and we appreciated his aggressive stance on anything that he thought may be harmful to the beaches, the people and the community in general.
We decided to do the one thing that could earn us some fast money, cleaning houses in the area. We cleaned a small cottage in Seaside one morning and afterwards, we walked through the town square and I saw this man, dressed extremely well, with a magnificent Fedora hat. People were walking up to him shaking his hand, taking pictures. The magnetism was obvious between him and every person he passed. He took time to speak to every person that wanted to speak to him. I thought he was a well-known politician to this area, but discovered it was Robert Davis, founder of Seaside. There would not be a Seaside without him.
We walked around Seaside a lot because we didn’t have many places to go and no money for gas. As we walked past Sundog Books, we knew this place was special. We spent many days looking at books inside this store. The vintage feeling in a modern small city will never be captured by another bookstore. It’s an attraction to walk inside that cannot be resisted, and once you’re inside, you’ll see why.
The Airstream trailers with food, drinks, and other items just topped off Seaside for us. It was like the town was built around these little trailers, that would be tossed out of most modern cities, but Seaside seemed to make this the coolest part of town, other than Modica Market. If you walked past Modica and didn’t go inside, you may need to have your pulse checked. This grocery store is a nod to the 1950s, with retro stands, displays and even the courteous customer service that is rare these days. Anything you need was there and I felt like I was at home and 10 years old again.
A couple of other places that had that 30A “It” was The Red Bar and Charlie’s Donuts. The Red Bar is a masterpiece of retro/graffiti/classical/abstract/ and any other type of art you can think of mixed into one building, and not just the building, but the people. It is the chillest place I’ve ever been, and I’ve searched the world over. Charlie’s, a little motor home that sits in stark contrast to one of the most elegant, sophisticated neighborhoods in the world, calls to me every time I pass. I guarantee you it will be good. It has that 30A “It” factor.
Now we knew. It wasn’t the Gulf of Mexico, or the food, or even the trails or golf courses. It was the people. They had that 30A Swagger, and even though I had only lived in this area for a little over a year, I already had it. I still have that 30A swagger and I’m proud of it. I’m a guy who was down on his luck, and because of the people of 30A, my family and I are on top of the world doing what we love to do.
To an outsider, 30A Swagger may seem like our nose is in the air, but that’s nothing near the truth. 30A Swagger simply means that you are filled with the type of confidence that only comes from being grounded by kindness.