Seaside entrepreneurial couples excel at making business personal By Wendy O. Dixon
Many of Seaside’s galleries, restaurants, markets and shops are run by married couples who share their talents, strengths, burdens, long hours and business know-how. Some came together, some met in Seaside and later got married. Using a delicate balance of personal and business, these couples demonstrate that working in harmony is a vital part of what makes Seaside a special town.
Thanks to the vision of Seaside co-founders Robert and Daryl Rose Davis, the town has been recognized as “the most astonishing design achievement of its era, and one might hope, the most influential,” by Time Magazine.
Working with the Davises were town planners and husband-and-wife team Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, architects who conceived the movement in land planning known as New Urbanism, with Seaside as the birthplace of that movement.
As additional couples moved to Seaside, the town began to thrive, and the Davises’ vision flourished. Charlie and Sarah Modica opened Modica Market, Bill and Heavenly Dawson opened Dawson’s Yogurt and Pickle’s Burgers & Shakes, and later three more eateries.
Along with their better half, these couples add to the character of Seaside.
Tom and Jenny King
Longtime friends of Bob and Linda White, who occupy Sundog Books on the lower level of the building in Central Square, Tom and Jenny King run Central Square Records on the second floor. The couple worked in the record shop since it opened in 2003 and bought the place in 2010.
Tom and Jenny met in Seaside in 1995. Tom, who has lived here since the mid-80s and was mostly working in the restaurant industry, was a waiter at Bud & Alley‘s for more than 10 years. Jenny’s family started vacationing in Seaside in 1986, and Jenny moved down in 1995 in between college semesters to work and live in Seaside for a month. “The first week I was in town, while I was working the muffin counter at Modica Market, Tom came in,” Jenny recalls. “We have been together since.”
With a great balance of work, family and fun, Jenny and Tom are living and working their best life in Seaside. “Tom basically works the store and I am more behind the scenes,” Jenny says. “He is the one that is there day in, day out. He also handles all the music side of things. I handle all the non-music gift items, cards/journals, t-shirts, etc. I also handle all the money and scheduling side of things. It is a great balance because I can work from home and manage the kids, while he can be the one managing the store.”
Having a fantastic crew at the store is also vital to the successful business, Jenny adds. “Ed Jack, manager, has been with us since the start of Central Square Records and is a major part of our team. We all love what we do. All of our staff, both past and present, have made Central Square Records what it is today. We are very thankful for such a talented, passionate and creative staff.”
Jenny can’t imagine having Central Square Records anywhere other than Seaside. “Over the years we have watched Seaside grow and evolve,” she says. “We love working in Seaside, but also being a part of the community. Seaside is not only where we go to work, but where we gather on our time off. We feel very fortunate to be a part of the town.”
Bryan and Stacy Pritchett
Specializing in American-made, Earth-friendly, cause-related merchandise for ladies and their men, including clothing, shoes, jewelry, and gifts, Mercantile is one of Seaside’s fun shops run by Stacy and Bryan Pritchett. And next door, Duckies Shop of Fun caters to kids and kids at heart with a whimsical store full of toys, beach gear, fun gifts and kids’ clothing. Both Mercantile and Duckies were recently named “South’s Best Shops” by Southern Living magazine.
Stacy and Bryan have been working together for nearly two decades. “We made the decision to move to Seaside 17 years ago sitting at Fermentations Wine Bar on our honeymoon,” Stacy recalls. “It’s like a dream all these years later to own Mercantile and Duckies that are now adjacent to the former wine bar (now Amavida). We love working together and have found that while we often put in long hours, it’s always rewarding because we’re working toward the same goal.”
Giving back is at the forefront of the Pritchetts’ business strategy. “Fortunately, our employees all have huge hearts,” Stacy says. “And we know that the more we sell, the more we can give.”
James and Jenny Murphy
Married for eight years, and divorced for six, James and Jenny Murphy have together run Barefoot B-B-Q, an Airstream eatery serving up award-winning barbecue and all the sides that go with it. Though the couple are divorced, they make great partners in business. “We work very well together and have a good balance,” James Murphy, known in town as Murph, says. “We make it look easier than it is.”
As Jenny and James were planning their lives together as business partners, they pondered some ideas. “We talked about starting a restaurant. At first Murph said he’d never do that. But he’s such a natural, and good with people, good at problem solving. He saw that an 18-wheeler was converted into a barbecue place, and we thought we’d do that with an Airstream to make it Seaside friendly,” Jenny says. “You give Murph a ball and he’ll run with it. He’s very creative, very detail oriented.”
Working together as a married couple was difficult, Jenny recalls. “But post-divorce is awesome!” she adds. “The day we got divorced there was a 180-degree change in our dynamic. We walked into the courthouse holding hands and walked out holding hands.”
With their different personalities and skill sets, the couple work in harmony and divide their tasks in a way that fits them best. “Murphy is a passionate problem solver and visionary creator,” Jenny says. “Whereas my patience and diplomacy is well suited for behind-the-scenes administrative tasks like payroll, legal, technical issues and large order planning.”
While James is the main face at Barefoot, Jenny does a lot of things behind the scenes. “And people give me credit for a lot of things she does,” he says.
Mutual respect is key when continuing to run a business together after divorce, Jenny advises. “Murph has more integrity than almost any man I’ll ever know,” Jenny says. “He is a gregarious, friendly, big grizzly bear. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for anyone. He’s very authentic, for better or worse. Mostly for better.”
“I trust her,” Murph says. “And I can’t think of anyone better to be a business partner with.”
Partners in Life and Buiness Stories continued