When Seaside was founded in 1981, plenty of people found their way to town – some were already living near 30A, while others were visiting or convinced to move to the area by town founder Robert Davis.
Since its early days, much about Seaside has evolved, from Central Square and the Seaside Amphitheater to Perspicasity, now known as Cabana By The SEASIDE Style®. Despite the ever-evolving New Urbanism principles, plenty of traditions are adhered to, and many people have remained hard at work for the past 20 years.
To celebrate the employees who have truly made a difference over the years, we’re spotlighting some of the folks who have worked here for two decades – and are truly the backbone of our beach town. From behind-the-scenes superstars in the accounting office and at the post office to store owners and marketing mavens, get to know some of Seaside’s longest employees.
Erica Pierce and her family moved to the 30A area in 1985. At the time, Erica was working as a flight attendant and commuting to Dallas – she would often visit Seaside to shop at Perspicasity. Once she had her daughter Makenzie in 1986, she decided she didn’t want to commute anymore, which led to her responding to a hiring sign on a sandwich board outside of Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant. Erica started as a hostess before becoming part of the waitstaff.
While working at the Seaside staple, she got to know the town founders, Robert and Daryl Davis, who often came in to dine. When she heard they were opening up the L. Pizitz and Co. store, she came on board. “My degree is in interior design so I went to work for Seaside in 1988 managing and later buying for the store,” Erica explains.
Now, Erica is a major force behind The SEASIDE Style® – the mastermind behind the newly opened Court hotel and a steady force in Seaside for decades. But through it all, she’s held almost every role. “Through the years I have been a restaurant hostess, waiter, retail manager, buyer, visual merchandiser, interior designer, project manager, general manager and currently the Vice President of The SEASIDE Style® (AKA Seaside Associated Stores),” Erica says.
Twenty years later, Erica is still just as passionate about the town. “One of the things I love about Seaside is that it is ever evolving rather than changing,” Erica says. “The town has always experimented with new ideas while keeping its traditions in place. Our guests often vocalize their dislike about moving things around, such as the Seaside Post Office and Cabana, but once the project is complete they admit that they love it. I see change as good as long as it is in keeping with the spirit of Seaside.”
Erica has also been able to see new generations step up in Seaside. “Many of the children of the pioneers are now working in key positions in town to keep the vision in alignment,” Erica says. One example is her daughter, Makenzie Carter, who joined her by working for Seaside when she was only 14 and a student at the Seaside Neighborhood School. Makenzie has held almost every job someone could at the stores – she started cleaning and bagging at Perspicasity, became a sales associate at the Seaside Store, and has worked as a content editor, marketing manager and buyer, before landing her current role.
Paula Simpler first came to Seaside in 1990 to interview for a position in the accounting department, and has been an integral part of the town ever since. Paula started out in the accounting department and now serves as administrative services manager. In between, she held plenty of different roles, including acting as an assistant to The Davis family and Pam Avera and working in human resources.
Paula has seen many changes along the way. “I remember when the employees were asked to park in the town center in the ’90s to make it look like people were in town and shopping,” Paula reminisces. “When I first started to work here Micah and Makenzie were small children not even school age, now they are grown and taking over running the operations for Seaside Community Development Corp. and Seaside Associated Stores.”
If you’ve visited Modica Market (and if you’ve spent any time in town, it’s more than likely you have), you’ve seen Carmel Modica and her brother Charles Jr. smiling behind the deli counter or check-out. The grocery store/everything you need in one place was started by her parents, Charles and Sara Modica, and it has remained in the family ever since. Charlie’s first business was Sip and Dip, and now he owns and operates Modicas.
At Sundog Books, Laney Blanchard has been working since 2001 and Bryan Beasley has been employed since 2000. Laney first came to 30A as a child with her uncle, who owned a house in Seagrove. She returned to 30A during her college years, which is when she discovered Sundog after she bought a book from Robert White – who would later become her boss. In 2001 after graduating college, she moved to the area and instantly knew just where she wanted to work, and she’s been at Sundog ever since.
The biggest change Laney has noticed since she started is who’s coming to Seaside. “When I started working in Seaside, the typical visitor was local or a tourist from the surrounding states. Now Seaside greets visitors from all over the United States and the world,” Laney says.
Upstairs, at Central Square Records (the independent record store that fittingly just celebrated its 20th anniversary), Jenny King and her husband Tom have been owners since 2010 – but both worked in town long before.
Tom’s parents met in the old Grayton Beach General Store in the 1950s and brought him to the area as a child – his father’s side owned a hardware store in DeFuniak Springs for more than 100 years before it closed its doors in 1999.
Tom grew up overseas but would spend the summers with his family in Grayton Beach, which he described as “a little bit of culture shock.” While he was in town during spring break in the ’90s, he visited a cousin who was working at a little restaurant in Seaside that was owned by a couple of surfer buddies and “noticed that there were a lot of crazy interesting people running around down here.”
The next summer, in 1987, he started working at Bud and Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, where he stayed for many seasons as he watched the town grow. Through the years, he also helped out an ice cream shop, managed Quincy Art and Toy store, and was a musician in bands in the area.
Over the last 20 years, Tom has seen the town go from one restaurant, an outdoor market and a post office to a destination for vacation, shopping and dining as well as a hub for culture. “Seaside set a precedent for many communities that have popped here on 30A over the years,” he says.
Jenny grew up in Atlanta and started vacationing in Seaside in 1986, visiting with her family every spring break and summer. “Back then, there was usually only one other Atlanta family, the Sanborns, here during spring break,” Jenny reminisces, adding, “Atlanta spring break is much different these days.”
The summer after her first year at UGA, she decided to spend the summer in Seaside so her dad ran an ad in The Seaside Times looking for a rental. She found a guest cottage on Tupelo Street and lined up a job at Modica Market. While working behind the muffin counter, she met her now-husband, Tom King. After returning to UGA for one more semester, she quickly realized she wanted to return to 30A. She moved back and has worked continuously in Seaside since 1996, with jobs at Bud & Alleys, Sundog Books and Central Square Records.
“Once I moved here in 1995, I realized that within the sleepy town, there was a vibrant and eccentric full-time population. I immediately fell in love with not only the area, but the people that lived here,” Jenny explains. While the town has evolved over the years (and is not quite as sleepy), the residents have remained as free spirited as ever.