NEVER FORGOTTEN COAST

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in October 2018 and left the town of Mexico Beach, FL completely devastated. A team of storytellers from Tallahassee, FL partnered with individuals and entities from around the country to do something to help. Through purchasing apparel and generous donations from people like you, we can help get their community back up and running. Read their stories. Buy a shirt. Give. Together, we can make sure they’re never forgotten.

 
 
 
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THE WHY

On October 10th, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle leaving a level of devastation and destruction never before seen by the state. Michael was the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the Florida panhandle and was the third strongest storm in U.S. history. The storm had its most dramatic impact on the small coastal town of Mexico Beach, in Bay County, Florida. The storm leveled everything in its path, the homes and businesses that made up this vibrant community are gone, leaving many with nothing to return to.

The Workmans, a husband and wife creative team in Tallahassee, Florida, were personally affected by the storm. Chelsea Workman's father is a small-business owner in Mexico Beach whose personal business was severely impacted. The Workmans saw his struggle and the struggle of many other community members trying to recover and knew they had to help. The Workmans partnered with Tallahassee designer, Jesse Taylor, to start the Never Forgotten Coast campaign. The team designed a logo for their project and is actively printing and selling merch both online and through local pop-up shops to raise funds for the recovery efforts. They also partnered with award-winning Nashville photographer, Jeremy Cowart, and Tallahassee drone pilot, Jonathan Smith, to capture the stories of Mexico Beach and put faces to the city that has been a home and a destination for people all over the world.

The funds raised by the Never Forgotten Coast campaign will be used by local non-profits in Mexico Beach to provide micro-grants for small businesses and individuals to help cover what insurance will not. Our goal is to help the local economy get back up and running so that locals can get back to work and return to their normal lives. If we can provide opportunities to shop, eat and do business, then we can speed up the rebuilding process and help the community recover. Even something seemingly small, like a micro-grant, can have a significant impact on the region's economic recovery. Mexico Beach is filled with character and they have the grit and determination to rebuild better than before.

 
 

KEVIN & CYNDI LANIER
- KCSPORTFISHING -

 
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In 2016, we began looking to move closer to family, and had looked at Destin and Panama City Beach, but after taking a fishing trip with Bonita Thompson (98 Realty) out in Washington State, where we lived, and talking with friends all over the country, we decided to check out Mexico Beach.

We had never heard of it, but we found that we really liked it and it filled the requirements we set, being on the water to move the charter business over, within a day’s drive of our family. Our favorite parts are the small town atmosphere and the quietness and peacefulness. It’s never that crazy here and you still feel like you get nature and a quaint little town all in one. It doesn’t take you long to get to know who everyone is.

With Hurricane Michael approaching, we had no intention of evacuating. It was supposed to be a Tropical Storm or a Category 1 Hurricane, which to us wasn’t a big deal since we’ve been through a few of them. On Monday, we really just felt like we were prepping for a big rainstorm and anticipating losing power for a day at most.

When we saw that it had been upgraded to a Category 3, I realized I needed to do something with the boat. I stopped on my way back from out of town at a Home Depot in Alabama and got a generator and some gas cans. Having a boat in the water with a storm coming adds a different level of stress because you have to make sure you’re compliant with insurance rules. I was able to move it to Panama City and take it out of the water to put it in a boat yard.

Monday night, we just went to bed and Tuesday, we kept on with our routine. My daughters called, asking what we were doing, and when it was teetering on being a high Cat 3, we started really debating it. The final straw was when both girls conference called me around 10pm very worried and I knew I couldn’t put them through it, so just before 11pm, we packed the car and headed to Atlanta.

 

We thought maybe a window would break because we couldn’t board our house, but we were not thinking we could come home to nothing. We began to realize the magnitude of the destruction about the time we hit Marianna. Thousands of trees were down for hundreds of miles. It took us 4 1/2 hours to drive 57 miles.

Someone was able to communicate that our house looked to be ok and we got so excited to round the corner and see the shed still standing with our generator inside. But we felt guilty. Cyndi started crying because we kept asking “Why did we have a house when we have seen so much destruction? Why us?”

It was shocking driving into Mexico Beach. What we saw on TV was nothing compared to real life. You can hardly believe what you’re seeing. It was hard to reference what you were looking at on TV because the landmarks were gone, but your heart hurts when you see this little town that you’ve fallen in love with so badly damaged. We never expected there to be so much damage.

Once we found out we had a home that was livable, we opened our doors to do whatever we could to help. It will be a long time before there’s anything “normal” in Mexico Beach. We were in survival mode at first, making sure people have food and water and generators. But now we’ve moved into reality. The adrenaline has worn off and we are all tired. We know that Mexico Beach will never be exactly the same, but we hope it comes back similar to what it was. Our intent is to stay put and help rebuild. Professionally, we will have to adapt to things as they come because so much right now is up in the air. The canal where our boat was parked is full of debris and filled in with sand. It’s hard to say if KCSportfishing will look any bit like it did at the end of last year, but we want to rebuild and that’s what we’re going to do.

VISIT KCSPORTFISHING
FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | KCSPORTFISHING.COM

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“IT’S HARD TO SAY IF KCSPORTFISHING WILL LOOK ANY BIT LIKE IT DID AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, BUT WE WANT TO REBUILD AND THAT’S WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO.” - KEVIN

 
 

NATE & MELBA ODUM
- MEXICO BEACH MARINA -

 
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We were both born and raised in Miami and we started vacationing on St George island in the late 80s, so that's how we discovered the Forgotten Coast. For our 20th anniversary, we went to Mexico Beach and began to wonder what it would be like to retire and move there to be near the beach and own a little business. In 2006, my sister, Debbie, and brother in law, Bill, ended up buying a condo in Mexico Beach, right next to the marina. He and I had always joked about retiring and buying a marina and shortly after they moved there, the marina became available for sale. So in our mid-life crisis of sorts, instead of buying a Harley like normal people, we bought a marina.

They started talking about Hurricane Michael on Saturday and kept saying it wouldn't be more than a Category 1 or 2 and by Monday, when we realized it was going to be more than that, it was almost too late to do much. When we woke up on Wednesday, we were watching the news and we could already feel the winds. Melba really held it together but when she started panicking, that's when I knew we needed to take this seriously. Debbie had just had knee replacement surgery so she wasn't super mobile, so Bill and I had to weigh our options and figure out what was best for our families. We went into it saying we are staying no matter what and in the past, they've always veered right or left. There is usually dry air, but this time, there was no reason for it to slow down and by the time we realized it was going to be bad, we weren't about to get 7 adults and 3 pets in a car to try to beat it out.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? It was very similar to an earthquake. You could feel it in your feet. If you pictured the eye wall, we were always on the wrong side of it. It was bad an hour before the eye came around, but it was a complete white out.

I don’t know why they called it a Cat 4 because we were experiencing 200+mph winds and holding onto doors, wondering when it was going to end because it seemed like it was so long.

We didn’t have boards on the window so we could see the whole thing. When the white out was over and you could start seeing damage, you knew it was going to be devastation. When you look for ground zero, it’s us.

 

We didn’t get out until the next day. The street was covered. There were houses in the road. Our nephew, we don’t know how he did it, but he came in the next day from Alabama through Panama City, before people even got out with chainsaws to start clearing road, and took Debbie and some of the other ladies out. All of our cars were flooded. You wouldn’t believe how many people we fit in his small SUV. We made it out of town to our ranch a few days later.

It’s a long road, mentally and emotionally and you’re going to get tired of looking at it. That’s when the insurance money and the offers get tempting. We saw it happen after Andrew.

Right now we want to focus on things are town need right now. The fishing side of this is going to have to wait because people need bread and eggs and things you can’t run 20 miles to get. We might just be the ones to get that up and running sooner than later. We can’t wait 3/6/12 months to clean this beach and canal up. We need to be thinking about that now. It’s a fishing village and it’s a lifeline here. We need commerce back. Restaurants, beach stores, another Tommy T’s for the kids. It’s all wrapped into the water. You’ll see other interests coming in, but there’s room for more.

Our world has been turned upside down, but the thought of not rebuilding has never crossed my mind. A lot of us aren’t built to give up. Is it bad? Heck yes it’s bad, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get fixed. It won’t be the same, but a lot of things might come back better. I think we’ll always be able to keep that charm that brought people here, but it’s going to have to change a little bit to grow. We need to be smart about it. The people that we work with and see on a daily basis at the Marina are incredible. This whole journey has been a dream. It speaks volumes to the people who live here and visit here and that’s why you have a lot of people that want that special piece of Mexico Beach back.

VISIT MEXICO BEACH MARINA
FACEBOOK | MEXICOBEACHMARINA.COM

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“Have you ever been in an earthquake? It was very similar to an earthquake. You could feel it in your feet.” - Nate

 
 

PEGGY & SHAWNA WOOD
- DRIFTWOOD INN -

 
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Mom decided she wanted to get the kids out of Atlanta and raise us in a small town, so we came down here in 1970 and my parents bought a beach house on 34th Street. A year later, we moved here and she wanted to find something to do where she could be home with all 3 kids, so they bought the Driftwood. It had 7 units and as they could, my parents built on, one more unit at a time. Over the years, as my dad made money in advertising in Georgia, mom was taking that money and putting it into the hotel. In 1994, it burned down and it was rebuilt it, but the front wall and inside 6 feet has remained the same.

Eighty percent of our customers were repeat customers. We weren’t a Ritz Carlton by any means. Our rooms had antiques, they had all tile floors, and we were the only place that allowed pets, but the repeats kept us alive. We had potlucks, movie nights, craft parties and painting classes. We built a chapel and had hundreds of weddings here. Vow renewals and memorials. It was such a special place.

Our favorite things about this community are the special things that we get to do. We have the special events committee that helps put on the gumbo festival, the wine festival, christmas tree lightings, etc. We did a campaign where you got a palm tree with a plaque and those trees have lined the beach for a long time.

We evacuated for Hurricane Michael at the last minute. We had guests that didn’t want to leave so we couldn’t go until they were all gone. We went up to Dothan and rode it out with the family. There was a lady at the Summer House that had a camera so we could see what was happening and when you saw the Driftwood from the front, everything looked relatively ok. We were so excited. But when we got back, man, it was such a hard blow.

We knew the houses were gone and the cottages were gone but we really felt ok knowing that the main building was there. But now they’re telling us they have to tear it down.

 

We came back from Dothan full time about a week after the storm and we moved back into our house about a month ago. The bottom floor will be completely gutted, but we’ll renovate it so mom can stay in it, since she lived in the top of the Driftwood.

Everything was gone. It was so heartbreaking. Pictures didn’t show what it was until we got here. I cried for 2 weeks. All these people wanted interviews but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it.

We’ve already got an architect, a contractor, and a structural engineer talking about plans and how we’re going to rebuild, but at this point we’re waiting for the city to let us know what we can do. We’re moving forward as much as we can right now and we want to be back in business as soon as possible. There was a meeting with local business owners and everyone was asked to raise their hand if they weren’t going to rebuild, and not a single hand went up. So the spirit is still here.

I want my kids to experience the Florida I did. I was the one that fought my mom the most when we moved here because I couldn’t believe that she would take me away from Atlanta to a small town with only a few kids. And now I fight her the most for not wanting to leave. I know everything will be shiny and new, and I think that’s ok, as long as they still keep the charm of Mexico Beach. We have a lot of property and there could be a lot of money if we sold out, but we don’t want to and we don't want to see big condos and big money come in. My parents got this property less than everyone else bid for it because they promised they would never put a big condo on it. And they never will.

VISIT DRIFTWOOD INN
FACEBOOK | DRIFTWOODINN.COM

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Everything was gone. It was so heartbreaking. Pictures didn’t show what it was until we got here. I cried for 2 weeks.” - Shawna

 
 

MICHAEL SCOGGINS
- KILLER SEAFOOD -

 
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I’ve been living in Mexico Beach for 15 years. I moved here from LA with my girlfriend and my business partner, who is also my girlfriend’s brother. I found this place because my brother had moved down here from Atlanta about 5 years before I did. When I moved here, I figured I could take things I learned out in LA as a bartender and open up a little restaurant here.

I wanted an open line kitchen and I thought it would be unique. People liked that view a lot. They knew nothing was hidden. Our building had previously been a post office, a police substation, a real estate office, and even someone’s vacation home, but we created something pretty special here.

I was never going to evacuate for the hurricane. I never have for any of the other ones we’ve had. I just wanted to be here for it. I obviously didn’t think it was going to turn and be as bad as it was, but I would do it again. Maybe I’m that protective of my things, but I would rather be present instead of watching it from a far. Had I not known that a tree was on my roof and water was pouring into my house, I wouldn’t have been able to get back the next day to start working on it. If you went away, you weren’t getting back in quick.

Near the beginning, the wind picked up then kind of died down a little bit, so I went down to the beach and took some pictures. I went back to the house standing in my garage, I was just watching this misty rain, painting a beautiful picture across my garage. My experience was relatively mild. I knew the safest place for me to be was my garage because no trees on my property or my neighbors could crush me where I was there. So we sat in the car in the garage for about an hour and a half in the height.

 

My property sits a little bit higher than everyone around me and we didn’t suffer near as much damage as some. I had two 100-foot pines come through my roof and I’ll have to replace the floor, but my neighbors across the street, they don’t have the front of their house anymore. But the storm cleared out of here really fast and I walked down to where the Lookout Lounge was. I saw some city folks riding around checking on people and Al Cathey, our Mayor, and his son came by and helped me check in on my neighbors. I figured when I saw the Lookout right after the storm that Killer Seafood didn’t stand a chance, but I wasn’t able to get far enough to see it the first night. I just went to bed early because I had no power or a generator at that point, then went out the next morning to explore. We just started to walk down 98 and it was ugly. It’s just utter devastation.

I would like to see everyone come back. How they come back and what it looks like will depend on codes and. It’s not going to be the mom and pop shanty looking place it was, so we’re going to have to come up with some other creative ideas to make ourselves look unique again. What form will Killer Seafood take when we rebuild? I don’t know. We have 2 lots here so I’ve envisioned a number of different configurations on how to make it a bigger better building. Even using shipping containers to make it a rustic bohemian place. The last thing I want is for it to be a shiny stainless steel kind of place.

Despite getting up every day for 15 years, coming down and tending to the business, we were thinking about what it would be like to sell or retire. I don't need to be doing it forever. But we’ve pretty much decided now that this isn’t the way I’m going to lose the business. I’ll decide when it’s time to turn loose of it. Not the other Michael.

VISIT KILLER SEAFOOD
FACEBOOK | KILLERSEAFOOD.NET

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“But we’ve pretty much decided now that this isn’t the way I’m going to lose the business. I’ll decide when it’s time to turn loose of it. Not the other Michael.” - Michael

 
 

GENE CLINE & SUSAN WADE
- PEOPLESSOUTH BANK -

 
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I’ve been coming down to Mexico Beach since the early 80’s and Susan started coming in the 70s. We met at Toucan’s and started dating in 2010. I retired from the state banking department in Georgia, I went to work for another bank for a few years and retired from that. So I moved down here and started doing beach patrol during the summer and then I joined the volunteer fire department. I was also code enforcement for the city. In 2013, the president of Peoples South called me and asked if I wanted to come back. Since the city manager was leaving and I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else, I decided to leave the city and go back into banking. So we bought the building and opened in June of 2014. We started at 0 and grew the bank to $16 million in 4 years. It was a lot of hard work.

I didn’t think too much of the storm. I thought it would go around Mexico Beach. Susan was pretty worried about me. I was in Georgia at her house for Columbus day and she didn’t want me to leave, but I knew I needed to get things ready, so I came back down and put up some sandbags to make sure water didn’t come in We closed the bank around 12pm on Tuesday and I was driving to Susan’s house by 2pm. I kept watching it, but I didn’t realize it was going to be this bad. Friends of ours told us that my house and the bank were gone, so obviously the sandbags didn’t help.

 

The first 10 days I drove 2 ½ hours back and forth to work every day. The president of the bank told me I could go and work at any of our 29 locations, but I chose to come back here. We moved our operations to the Port St. Joe office and I felt like I was obligated to do that, because I knew more about the area than anyone else. I’ll be at that office with my employees until we open this branch back up.

I didn’t know what to do. My house was shifted over and the Florida room was blown off. I was able to get some stuff out of it, but I lost all my work clothes. I also didn’t have flood or wind insurance because things were tight. We had just spent the last 2 years remodeling it and had just finished up in December, and I think FEMA is only going to give me $15,000, which won’t really help much. 

I don’t know if I will rebuild my house or not. I don’t know if I want to go into more debt. But as long as I work for the bank, I’ll stay down here. Susan has a really nice house up in Georgia and it’s only 120 miles away from here. She’s teaching for another year before she retires. And I’ll probably retire once I get everyone trained. I hope the community comes back fast and not commercialized. We want it to be the “Mayberry on the Beach” that it was.

VISIT PEOPLESSOUTH BANK
FACEBOOK | PEOPLESSOUTH.COM

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“We want it to be the “Mayberry on the Beach” that it was.” - SUSAN

 
 

SHARON CALL
- SHARON’S CAFE -

 
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I owned Sharon’s Cafe for 34 years. I’ve lived here for 35 years. I didn’t come here to open a restaurant, but it just kind of fell into my lap. I was very blessed. It just kind of took off from back in the 80s util now and it just got busier and busier. It was unique in a way that made people feel special and the customers truly appreciated the little things we would do, like the smiley face pancakes. Everyone was like family. I called my employees the cafe kids, because I thought of them as my children. We’ve had weddings here, baby showers, birthdays, every holiday we decorated. It was a special place.

I’m not a stingy person, and when one of my girls needed a washer, I’d get a washer. Someone needed a refrigerator, so I bought them a refrigerator. I spoiled my employees and I think they appreciated it. We were just very close. They’re all fine. No one got hurt and it makes me feel good to know that everyone is ok. It’s all in the Lord’s hands. I have very little to do with things but when I can do something, I certainly try my best. 

I was going to have people stay in my house with me for the storm. I really thought it was going to be ok. Tuesday night, the people that were going to stay with me called and told me they were going to leave and go to Marianna. I was so exhausted from hearing about the storm, so I went and laid down on my bed and turned on a football game. I started feeling sick in my stomach and I thought “This is strange. What in the world is happening?” So I turned the Weather Channel back on and just thought, “Oh no.” My neighbor behind me was supposed to stay with me but I called her and told her we needed to go. It took me a while to convince her, but we finally ended up leaving and getting to a friend’s house in Wewahitchka. It was frightening even up there.

 

I thought, surely we’d be able to stay in my house once it was over and I even thought the cafe might be ok. But we came in down 386 and the trees were like toothpicks all over the place. Half the time, you were driving off road, in the mud, trying to get through. We finally got back to Mexico Beach and I really just couldn’t believe it. I had to walk 2 blocks to get to my house, and the bottom half of the front door was gone. I walked in and everything was everywhere. I had 4 feet of water come up through the toilets and everything had just floated around. The smell was atrocious, but I knew we couldn’t get back to Wewa, so we stayed in my living room. Somehow, some small scorpions got into my house and began biting me while I tried to sleep, so I ended up sitting on a metal barstool for the rest of the night and just prayed for daylight to come. 

I hope the city will recover and not become another Panama City Beach/Destin/Seaside. I’m not saying anything is bad about those places but Mexico Beach was small and unique, without big condos and resorts. I hope it will become that again. As for the cafe, I can’t go anywhere without people asking me when I am going to rebuild. I do plan to rebuild. When they tell me what I can do, I plan on doing it.

VISIT SHARON’S CAFE
FACEBOOK

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“I was going to have people stay in my house with me for the storm. I really thought it was going to be ok.” - Sharon

 
 

TONY WHITFIELD & RUBY SCHELL
- LOOKOUT LOUNGE -

 
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I grew up in Wewa and I was gone for a long time, but I got a chance to move back here in 2001, to the place I had always dreamed of living. I bought a business and sold it, then I bought the Lookout. Ruby was at the Lookout before I got there. My number one question when I bought it was “Ruby, will you stay? Do you come with this place?” and if she would’ve said no, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. Then 4 or 5 years ago, we opened Shipwreck Raw Bar and last year, we opened up Paradise Crafthouse and Grill.

We do First Sunday every month, where we get together and hang out as a community and eat. Everyone had routines. People came for happy hour every day. We had karaoke and music on Friday and Saturday nights. Everyone knows everyone. You watch everyone’s kids grow up and then they’re having kids. It’s all a really tight community. Regardless of the hurricane or anything else, this is where I’ll be until I die. 

I was nervous from the beginning because my brother and I were in NY for my nephew’s wedding and we weren’t supposed to come back into town until Tuesday. I was talking to some of the fisherman down here and they kept telling me that it was about to turn into a big storm. So Sunday, after the wedding, I started calling to see if I could change our flights. It was going to be about $3000 because they hadn’t announced any travel advisories, so when they finally announced it, I woke up early Monday morning and switched our tickets for about $100 to fly out that day. We worked all night boarding all three restaurants up and after a quick nap, I boarded up my house.

In the moment, you never know what to do. I went and grabbed all my computers so if all else failed, we could at least have the system to get back up and running. We got on the road to Gulfport around 4pm and the roads weren’t busy at all. We figured at that point, everyone had either left or they weren’t leaving. I was watching storm chasers on my phone and was able to see one camera in a truck parked at an old gas station. It come on shore so quickly that they abandoned the truck, but you could see the storm surge coming up and up, until it finally engulfed the entire truck. So at that point, I knew the Lookout’s floor would be underwater.

 

But that didn’t even matter. Turns out, the roof had already been blown off. We still don’t even know where it is. Coming back, nothing could prepare you for what you would see when you got off i10. Whole forests were blown over. You could see right where the eye came through. It was a mess. 

They stopped me when I came back in and I just told them they better let me through or I would find every back way to get in. I had to see what was going on. Ruby was determined to get in too. She went off roading in her little car and despite some scratches along the way, she made it all the way here. Joe, her husband, passed away right before the storm so this was a double whammy for sure. But luckily, being off the beaten path a little bit, her home didn’t receive as much damage as some.

As for now, you just have to plan for the future. We had 70 people working for us and right now, those 70 people are out of work. Our main goal is to get as many of those people back working before they leave permanently. Hopefully everyone will find a place to live. We are going to get Shipwreck open first because that’s where we had the most people employed. Then, we’ll get Paradise opened, but as the Lookout because that was our community. We miss it. We’re trying to shift the focus to be more of a community cafe. Before we were a destination for tourists, but now we’ll go to morning, noon and night. 

I want to get back to some “abnormal.” I want to get up and ride my bike, go walk on the beach, go to work, have Ruby keep fussing at me. I don’t think I’ve talked to more than 2 people who said they aren’t coming back. For us, this building is just stuff and we can rebuild, but the people that came through the doors and that community that was built…nothing can destroy that.

VISIT LOOKOUT LOUNGE
FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | LOOKOUTLOUNGE.COM

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“For us, this building is just stuff and we can rebuild, but the people that came through the doors and that community that was built...nothing can destroy that.” - TONY

 
 

DAN CLARK
- BEACHWALK & THE GROVE -

 
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I’ve been coming to Mexico Beach my whole life. Every summer we would come to the family beach house. We bought Beachwalk almost 10 years ago and then about 3 years ago, we purchased The Grove. We don’t live here full time, but we come here very often. I love the beach. I have so many memories on the beach and it’s awesome to have those memories as a kid and now all grown up, getting to experience things in a different way. To be a business owner down here was something I never thought would happen but the opportunity was just right on both properties and I’m really happy about it.

It’s always been a special place. More and more people have discovered it and I think those people have appreciated it for what it was and what it wasn’t. It’s unique.

Going through the history, storms usually turn to the left or to the right, so I never thought it would be here. We’ve never experienced anything like this so you begin to think they’re over sensationalizing it. But the one thing that really hit home was when they started saying 35 miles off Panama City, you realize Mexico Beach is now on national television. When you realize it was hitting dead on, it was a sort of shock and disbelief. You started hearing all the stories and a lot of false information, but you start worrying about people. Someone who’s helped us for almost 18 years at Beachwalk was staying off 15th street and I had no idea if she was ok.

They showed photos and clips on the news channels and photos are great to get an idea, but to see it in person, it was even worse. You try to find the landmarks you’re so comfortable seeing daily, only to realize they’re gone. You see people’s personal belongings all over the place. You walk down the street to see beach houses that have been there forever and now they’re just gone. It’s unbelievable. It doesn’t seem real sometimes. We have a lot of damage to the home we have down here. It was more than just a weekend getaway with a lot of family ties so it’s hard.

 

But that didn’t even matter. Turns out, the roof had already been blown off. It’s like working in triage right now. You work so hard so quickly to get everything to stop bleeding, then you have to step back and figure out how to fix the problem as a whole. You start losing track and you don’t even know what day it is. There’s no sense of normal. You get lost so quickly because the landscape has changed so much that you sometimes don’t even know what road you’re on.

It’s impacted everyone. We’re all trying to get back to daily life. It’ll be nice to no longer have to rip out drywall and clean up. It’ll be nice to not have to worry about what the next rainfall will do. But on the other hand, because life was always so busy, this has made me stop and look a little bit longer. You enjoy the sunsets a little bit more. You appreciate the simplest things.

I have no doubt that this place will come back. We’ll be fine, but it’ll take time. We won’t turn into something big, but I hope it comes back the right way. You’ll have the restaurants and businesses reopen and we’ll probably see some new faces, because that’s part of life and part of growth. It will be different, but we can now have the opportunity to build things stronger than before.

VISIT THE GROVE
FACEBOOK | MEXICOBEACHGIFTS.COM

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“It’s like working in triage right now. You work so hard so quickly to get everything to stop bleeding, then you have to step back and figure out how to fix the problem as a whole.” - DAN

 
 

CHUCK GUILFORD
- CHARISMA CHARTERS -

 
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I lived in Overstreet and delivered milk to residents in Mexico Beach in the 1940’s until I was drafted into the Army. I served for over 20 years, in 2 different wars and I finally came back home in June or 1971. 2 months later I became the 2nd mayor of Mexico Beach, after the great Charlie Parker.

I wanted to be sure that Mexico Beach kept it charm and it’s quaintness, and I saw how Destin and Panama City beach were expanding, so I wanted to establish an ordinance to limit any building to 48 feet. This is Old Florida and I wanted to help keep it that way.

My brother owned a charter business many years ago and after I was done being the mayor, I bought a service station with 8 motel rooms. My brother was a bit of a party boy and would often not show up for early morning charters on the weekends and often times, his clients would come into the motel looking for him. After a while, I just started taking people out on my own and realized how much I loved it, so I bought a boat and sold the service station in the 1970’s. That’s how Charisma Charters came to be.

My favorite thing about Mexico Beach is the beach. It’s unique because of how it sits near St. Joe Bay. We don’t have undertow or rip tides so it’s relatively calm and safe. I also loved the pier. I was such an iconic part of the coast.



 

I studied meteorology at the University of Nebraska while I was in the army, so I fully expected this storm to be big. It was the most powerful storm I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Honestly, I was more concerned about my friends and neighbors because I wanted to make sure they were safe and had secured what they needed to before evacuating.

I came back to asses the damage and it was just overwhelming. Betty always tells me that I talk a lot, but I was almost speechless after I had seen everything. I had 2 cars parked right in front of my house and both were in the canal when we returned. Belongings traveled across the canal and over 98 into the woods and everything was just a mess. It was heartbreaking..

Mexico Beach has rebuilt before, and I believe we will again. I hope that they clear the canal so we can bring our charter and other charters back to Mexico Beach. I have done everything I can in my lifetime to help maintain the old time charm of this city and I think my concern, along with many others, is that it will become big money and that charm will be lost. But we want to rebuild and everyone we’ve talked to wants to as well. We are going to move forward.

VISIT THE CHARISMA CHARTERS
CHARISMACHARTERS.COM

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“It’s like working in triage right now. You work so hard so quickly to get everything to stop bleeding, then you have to step back and figure out how to fix the problem as a whole.” - DAN