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Pioneer Women of Seaside Part 1

Posted on Jan 01, 2015 in Pioneer Women , Daryl Davis , Heavenly Dawson , Jacky Barker , January-February 2015

Daryl Davis

These leading ladies are the moving forces that make Seaside a better place by Wendy O. Dixon

Seaside is one of the most respected small towns in the world, luring people with an appreciation for the town’s new urbanism design and the principals the town has come to embody. Women are a large and inspirational part of that vision; women who know what they’re working toward and who are doing what matters.

Instead of playing it safe, these women have sought opportunities, faced challenges and overcome obstacles in starting (and selling) a town, and running several businesses at once. They have dug deep, shown courage and had the foresight to see what Seaside could become in mere decades. They have rolled up their sleeves and put in long hours to cultivate their dreams. And their shared vision has helped to produce what Seaside is today.

These women are leaders in small business, and have inspired many more women to open businesses in Seaside. They’ve shown that working with each other can make all the difference between floundering and succeeding in business. With a generosity of spirit, they extend a helping hand, share resources and give credit for a job well done, knowing that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Here they share their thoughts on Seaside and offer sage advice for women who want to get ahead in their careers and life (though it’s applicable for men, too.).

Daryl Davis

Daryl Davis, co-founder of Seaside with her husband, Robert Davis, had 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. While Robert was busy planning and designing Seaside, Daryl used her entrepreneurial ingenuity to create a buzz in the once remote new town to spur interest in buying real estate. She started with a Saturday market. Similar to the Mediterranean towns in Europe that have a beach side markets, Davis’ market offered fresh vegetables, baked bread and off-the-boat shrimp, displaying her wares on wooden picnic tables under canvas umbrellas on the beachside of town. “While Robert was showing the architectural side of Seaside,” she says, “I was showing the visual side.” Thirty-three years later, Davis owns five shops in Seaside — Perspicasity, Pizitz Home & Cottage, Seaside Beach, Seaside Classic and Seaside Kids.

What do you think of when you consider how far this town has come, how many people visit here and invest in the Seaside lifestyle?

Part of success in life is being in the right place at the right time.

What’s the single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses and great ones?

A desire to keep improving by raising the bar for your company, and a willingness to be open to change and revise.

What are some principles you’ve developed over the past 33 years?

Be patient and kind. Don’t expect folks to read your mind. Give them the skills they need to be successful.

Cross train. Build you business from the ground up not from the top down. Give staff opportunities to learn new skills and the opportunity to grow.

I work with mostly women and women have many demands on their time such as caring for children, husbands, elderly parents, medical issues and so on. If a staff member needs personal time off for an unexpected life event then others will fill in regardless of their own personal schedules.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take chances.

Heavenly Dawson (left) and Jacky Barker (right)

Heavenly Dawson

Seaside is a special place for Heavenly Dawson. Her husband, Bill, from Florence, S.C., met town founder Robert Davis when only a few houses were built in Seaside. He appreciated Davis’ vision for the town and bought a lot right away, soon after opening one of Seaside’s first businesses.

Dawson’s Yogurt & Fudge Works opened July 4, 1988, and has been serving sweet treats ever since. Bill later introduced the heaven-sent love of his life, aptly named Heavenly, to his little piece of paradise. “He proposed to me in Seaside,” Heavenly tells. “We opened Pickles in April 1993 and got married at the Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion in May.”

Their new eatery was a modest snack shack with a cute name. Pickles Snack Station, which started out as a 48-square-foot hut, was referred to as the temple. Since its early days, Pickles’ evolved and expanded a little every year, and is now known as Pickles Burger & Shake. Heavenly and Bill currently operate five eateries in Seaside — It’s Heavenly, Pickles Burger & Shake, The Shrimp Shack, Dawson’s Yogurt & Fudge Works and Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs.

What was it like in the early days of Seaside?

While we were building these businesses, there weren’t nearly as many people here, and we didn’t live here fulltime. But as more people came to Seaside, it created more opportunities and challenges. We started coming here more often, too, and eventually moved here in 2000, knowing that for the businesses to be successful they needed our attention. We thought it was a wise move to exit corporate America and be here on a daily basis, and see the growth in and outside of Seaside.

What do you think of when you consider how far this town has come?

Bill believed in the vision the Davises had from the start. We had other income when we started the businesses, so we had long-term staying power. We didn’t generate a lot of volume in the early days, but incubated these businesses over time. They evolved so nicely and it was a wonderful fun challenge to build a business from the ground up. For me finally coming to run the businesses full time was like a dream come true.

What’s the single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses and great ones?

If you want to be a great business you have to have your eyes wide open, paying attention to market trends, as well as your staff and customer base. Focus on what the public wants, and stay fresh and positive.

What are your principles for success as a leader in your community, and also in life?

Being passionate about what you do and always helping and giving back. Bill and I are able to employ staff who like coming to work, because of the great atmosphere, it’s fun and challenging, and we teach them the principles of the business. The most important principle though is to be honest and always do what’s right.

What’s it like working with your husband everyday?

We developed the businesses together — from the menu package, design and training, everything about the business. When you do that together, you always have a lot to talk about. I love working with him, he’s the wind beneath my wings. I married my mentor, lover and best friend. He’s everything.

Jacky Barker

Jacky Barker began working in Seaside as a receptionist at Seaside Community Realty in 1983, and later became a real estate broker. She works only with real estate in the town of Seaside, yet she was the Emerald Coast Association of Realtor’s highest volume real estate broker in 2012 with sales of nearly $37 million. In 2013 her sales represented over $33 million.

What was it like in the early days of Seaside?

Because we had so few people and so much to accomplish, we learned to do everything. I was not only a sales person but also answered the phone, handled administrative duties and managed the rental program. Keeping all of these functions closely held in our office and under our control allowed us to set standards for Seaside that we believe remain today. At the same time, while remaining professional, we also learned the importance of having fun while we worked.

Did you see starting your careers here as a huge risk?

In my case, it was not a risk. I was brand new to real estate brokerage and development and saw Seaside as an amazing opportunity. Of course, who knew at that time that it would become such an opportunity.

What do you think of when you consider how far this town has come, how many people visit here and invest in the Seaside lifestyle?

It is actually quite humbling, realizing where we started and where we have come. I never take it for granted.

What’s the single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses and great ones?

Addressing every detail, no matter how big or small.

What are your principles for success as a leader in your community, and also in life?

I truly believe that actions speak louder than any words. I try to work and live as though everyone feels the same way. c

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting women who have contributed their beloved community of Seaside.