During the pandemic, Seaside experienced a surge of visitors - whether that meant college kids who had classes online coming for a weekend, families whose children were in Zoom school staying longer, or people moving to Seaside full-time to embrace the new normal.
I moved here from Brooklyn in August expecting to stay for a few months, but quickly realized that Seaside offered everything I loved about Williamsburg on a smaller scale. Plus, there was constant access to the beach and I no longer had to live in a tiny underground studio apartment. Once I moved, I realized I wasn’t the only one who left New York for warmer climates, far more outdoor activities, and New Urbanism at its finest.
The Seaside Times spoke to folks who moved to Florida full time during the pandemic about why they chose to spend the last few months here.
Gallery owner Anne Hunter has split her time between New York and South Walton for the past decade and owns galleries in Seaside and Soho. Anne explained that no matter where she’s lived, “Seaside has always been home.”
In recent months, “What has been wonderful is that it has brought an amazing group of people down that vitalizes the community, with fresh ideas, creativity and talent,” Anne says. “That’s essential for the area to continue to flower.
“As a local who has lived here a long time, we like when we know people who come are choosing to be a part of the culture and the community,” Anne said of the new faces.
Lisa Ferrero was working in finance in New York City when she decided to venture down South. She brought her partner Scott Campbell, the marketing man behind Montauk’s wildly popular Surf Lodge. The couple found themselves in Seaside last summer and stayed for months.
Lisa left a cold, dark, rainy morning in New York and drove 19 hours to sunny Seaside, and immediately went to the beach.
“I had some preconceptions that were totally blown away once I got to spend time down here,” Lisa said. Now, she and Scott have started looking at buying a home in the area.
Lisa was impressed by “the incredible beaches,” which is quite the feat, as she’s spent time on beaches in Thailand, the Maldives, the Caribbean, the Hamptons, Capri, and more. “I was not prepared for how amazing the white, sugar-sand beaches were,” she added, naming Seaside’s beach as one of her top three of all time.
“Overall, we feel like we've discovered our own little secret gem that all the other New Yorkers don't know about. We're happy to have them flock to Miami - we'll stay right here,” she said. “After living in the hustle and bustle of Soho for the past 18 years, I love the laid-back, casual vibe. We've spent almost every sunset at the beach since we've been here.”
Erica Johansson Greene moved from the Upper East Side to Seaside in August of 2020 to stay in her family’s home, Mojo Biblio. She planned on coming for one month as an escape from the city.
“My grandfather, Sture Johansson, was one of the original architects of Seaside and was the driving force behind my lifelong love of the town,” she said. “I grew up coming here every summer and always dreamed of living here permanently. After being in New York, the pace of life, the Southern hospitality, and the community were all a welcome change.”
Madison Spence moved from New York City in March of 2020 because her office was closing for three weeks so she decided to work from home. “I left the winter and came to sunny Florida for a few weeks,” she recalled. “And that eventually turned into a lifetime.”
When a job opportunity came up it felt like a full circle moment, she described, because she was able to come back to a town that meant so much to her and bring what she learned back home. She had interned in Seaside during college and was happy to return as an adult.
“The reason I wanted to move to New York was because everything was at my fingertips and I still feel that way in Seaside. I can walk downstairs and get lunch, shop around and everything I need is within walking distance, which is unique. The people who make up Seaside are charming, friendly and pleasant to be around,” she raved.
While Seaside won’t be transforming into SoHo anytime soon, the influx of New Yorkers is adding a little special something, from fresh business ideas to new energy in town.