Celebrating the women who make Seaside a better place by Ann Lewis
Often celebrated are the architecture, town planning and beautiful beaches that encompass Seaside. However, it becomes evident that Seaside’s hospitality evolves from its community, particularly women who helped establish the “hometown” many now call home.
Each represents herself and her business with the utmost integrity and appreciates the opportunity of being a part of the Seaside experiment, now known as the Seaside lifestyle. Here, they share their experiences and perspectives with us.
Linda White came to Seaside in 1983, moving here from Mississippi. Originally, she and her husband, Bob, helped open the Paradise Café, the Red Bar’s predecessor. A few years later, they opened Sundog Books.
With no cash register, everything was put in a cigar box and written out by hand. Although much has changed since the early days of being forced to unpack boxes outside because of a lack of space, the vision remains the same. Sundog Books has always been founded on individuality, the classics and current works.
Then and now, you find a loving canine sidling up to visitors for an impromptu belly rub. Glover is the main attraction these days with his playful bounce and love of people.
How is it that when so many bookstores are out of business, Sundog Books is still thriving?
Location, staff, selection, gifts. The Sundog staff all love books, like working with people, like talking with people. Our team has always consisted of independent-type spirits.
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?
The Seaside lifestyle involves the ability to slow down and be inspired by something you see or hear, or having a conversation with someone.
The children who have come to Seaside growing up now return with families of their own. Many remember coming to Sundog and finding a book in here that changed their life.
What is the single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses from great ones?
Honesty first. Honesty in everything you do with yourself and everyone else — vendors and everyone you work with. It is the most important thing. It’s a real privilege to get to do what you like to do, what you love.
How did Seaside founders Robert and Daryl Davis guide or inspire you when you started Sundog Books?
In 1985, Sundog Books opened its doors in Palm Plaza. Robert Davis asked if we wanted to open in Seaside. We opened by Memorial Day 1985. He wanted a bookstore here. He felt it important for the community to have a literary place. It was included in his main criteria for a town and so it was one of the first businesses here. Robert had a great vision, and we are all seeing fruits of that now.
What are your principles for success in this community and in life?
One principle is, “the customer first,” meaning we are open seven days a week year-round so that people will feel good about coming in here to relax and look at books or talk about books.
Yet another guide for me is a respect for individuality and independence. If someone wants to work, we let them work some. Many different people come in to work here, and young people especially need a good place to start out and build their confidence. All walks of life have a job here.
In 2016, Pat Day will celebrate 30 years at the Seaside Post Office. She moved to Seaside to “get out of the rat race” in South Carolina. Her family had land in the north end of Walton County, and she knew this area well.
When she first came here, she wore many different hats, holding many part-time jobs. In fact, she started at the Seaside Post Office part-time. In those days, the other worker in the tiny, quaint post office brought her baby to work because she could, and Seaside even in its infancy had family at its heart. In 1986, Day became postmistress. At that time, one end of the counter was a community book swap, inviting locals and guests to share stories, information and books.
Centrally located in the heart of Seaside, the post office, built in 1985, is a gathering place, a photo backdrop and an information center. In the early days, this iconic building was surrounded by sand with nothing around it but a growing sense of community.
“There was so little mail then that I could carry all mail for Seaside in a basket on my arm, delivering business mail to the Seaside office on Tupelo in the morning and picking it up in the afternoon”, she says.
How many times per day do people take pictures in front of the post office?
While I’m at the counter on any given day, I see 20 to 50 photos taken at the post office. It’s pretty iconic in the sense that it was the first public building. Originally, it stood on a pit of sand. People have always gone there to have pictures made. At times, there is a constant stream of picture takers, making it difficult for customers to get in and out.
In what ways have Seaside founders Robert and Daryl Davis been a part of the Seaside Post Office’s fame?
Robert wanted to give it that nice hometown feeling. His good vision has come to fruition. All in all, it’s a wonderful place. It’s been a wonderful place for me to enjoy people from the U.S. and all over, and slow enough to talk with them.
What do you think of when you reflect on 30 years in Seaside?
Year after year those who have invested and bought into the Seaside experience bring their children, creating a feeling of closeness. After 30 years, we have come to know one other. The Seaside lifestyle can be described as an easygoing, whimsical, special flavor. It’s a fun place to be. Families come here. Children can run around free.
What’s the single most important attribute in differentiating good businesses from great ones?
Your people who meet the public, because they provide your first impression. It is essential that we all are very open, very friendly, and welcome them to the area. So many of us share great Southern hospitality. Consider how different the Seaside Post Office and its parent office in Santa Rosa Beach on Highway 98 are when it comes to that hometown feel.
If Seaside were a body, what would the post office be?
The pointing index finger.
Annette Trujillo describes herself as evangelical about art. For her, it is a human need. In 1993, The NewBill Collection was born as a showcase of North American three-dimensional art, including clay, metal, sculpture, glass, paper and fiber, original paintings and photographs. It was the second gallery and the fourth structure of the proposed art district in Seaside now known as Ruskin Place.
Her background and spirit paved the way to success. Working as a prominent leader in the food industry and growing up with parents who were entrepreneurs, as well as representing artists nationwide, she understood what it takes to make a gallery successful.
“The Storm of the Century,” as it was called, accompanied The NewBill Collection’s opening Memorial Day weekend that year, providing perhaps a metaphor for the beauty and passion that overtakes you when you step in and see the striking variety of unique pieces.
How would you describe the Seaside lifestyle?
The Seaside lifestyle is laidback, casual, free of stress in a day-to-day setting. In part, it’s possible because we are surrounded by the fine art, architecture and beauty of Seaside. Inside the gallery, I am surrounded by beauty. From a cultural perspective, we are a community. We see our neighbors. It’s the new town with the old ways. I try to practice that. When someone walks in the gallery, it is the door to my home.
In what ways have Robert and Daryl guided or inspired you when starting your business?
Robert gave me a great opportunity to start a business in a designated arts-related business zone, providing a nurturing environment. There is not a better place to conduct business than a place where everyone is happy.
What are your principles for success in this community and in life?
Honoring individuality is important because art is the manifestation of authentic expression of the individual. I believe strongly in recognizing the individuality of a person and respecting their choices, regardless of the difference in opinion.