The storied history of Seaside: Davises talk about building a town together

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 01:08 PM.

In attempting to sell his vision to outsiders, Davis used the marketing tool he learned as a child: storytelling.

"We told our stories to would-be buyers in an effort to convince them to pass this tradition down to their grandchildren," said Davis.

Fortunately, the news media is always on the lookout for something new and different to write about, and the concept of Seaside was just that.

The Davises were fortunate to meet Louis Joyner, an editor at Southern Living magazine, before breaking ground. Later, he came down and was able to tell the story, thanks to long-lens cameras, since there was not much here, Davis says with a chuckle now.

Other breakthroughs that helped put Seaside on the map were a timely architectural exhibit in New York, and an article that came out in the Wall Street Journal.

"We were doing something different and reviving small town living. Kids had grown up in suburbia, but suburbia is not safe and the kids were spending a lot of time in cars, strapped in car seats," said Davis. "Here, we sat on the porch and tried to get people to slow down long enough to hear what we were doing."

With no real marketing/PR budget to speak of, the Davises did their own. They began creating events like sand-castle building, watermelon spitting, showing movies, bringing in storytellers from Port St. Joe — all in an effort to draw people out from Panama City. Some events went well, and the Davises kept repeating the popular ones and brainstorming new ones.

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