In Seaside in 1986, there were more sea oats than houses, more sand than brick-lined streets, more breeze than traffic, and more seagulls than visitors. 30A existed in long stretches of wood and coast, with a few houses dotting the horizon and even fewer businesses creeping their way into history. But these simple notes would quickly become the melody for the song that plays in the hearts of all who visit today, played strongest by the visionaries who imagined much more for the delicate stretch of coastal settlement that would infamously become Seaside. Two of those dreamers were Bob and Linda White, who would eventually create a haven for book lovers under the name of Sundog Books. With a copy of Elizabeth Strout’s new book My Name is Lucy Barton tucked under his arm, Bob recounts the story that led Sundog Books to its lasting place in the 30A community.
Bob and his wife moved to the Destin area as newlyweds in 1983, where they both found jobs in the restaurant industry. Bob recalls, "I'd always loved vacationing down here. We drove down here and got a motel room in Destin and just started looking for a job. I started as a banquet waiter in Sandestin. I drove out this way, and just happened on 30A. There was a shack near what's now Grayton Corners, and we rented it for $80 a month, and worked at what was then the Paradise Cafe, waiting tables."
Waiting tables and pouring drinks lost luster compared to a different kind of dream; one of opening a bookstore along 30A. Bob had two very good friends in Mississippi that had successful bookstores, and, he remembers, “Linda and I both liked books, so we decided to give it a go.”
Because there was little happening in the area in 1986, they hurried to open the shop for Memorial Day Weekend to be available for whatever tourists were vacationing nearby. Just down from Perspicasity, Sundog Books opened as what Bob describes as a “little 8’x12’ plywood shack with a tin roof and a few lightbulbs,” and when vacation season closed after Labor Day, and so did the shop.
The next year, however, Seaside attracted a bigger crowd and the seasons for vacation grew longer. Sundog grew out of its confines and moved into what is now Amavida Coffee. Original Seaside vacationers and locals recall the presence of a very special employee during those years; the White’s dog, Patty.
“Families would come in the bookstore and say, 'We haven't checked in yet, but we had to come by and see Patty first.’ She was a big draw, a big part of it for a long time,” Bob reminisces.
The bookstore was a success on all accounts, providing ‘just the right book’ for a diverse clientele, and in 1998, the Whites moved their wares to Central Square, where it stands today.
In the face of corporate bookstore monsters and online shopping behemoths, it’s nice to see a neighborhood bookstore weather time and age with grace. The power of good literature still lives at the forefront of the bookstore’s success year after year, partnered with the welcoming vibes of the staff and the continued pursuit of the customer experience. Now celebrating its 35th year, Sundog is a vision of eclecticism, a collection of classic and new literature, unique gifts, and distinctive stationery, all bundled into the warm atmosphere that feels nothing short of coming home.