When Brad and Jenny McDowell moved to South Walton from Memphis, Tenn. in 2000, it was to build a life on the beaches they had each visited on childhood vacations.
Now, 14 years later, the beach isn't just where they spend the weekends, it's where they have built their business.
In 2003, Brad opened Sunny Sands Beach Service, serving families while they relax on the Gulf Coast Beaches from March to October. Like clockwork every morning, he and his crew had the beach chairs and umbrellas ready and spent the day keeping the beach clean. After years of handling chairs, Brad got the idea to build his own.
"I saw a lot of changes that needed to be made," he said.
And so Brad took his background as a contractor and his love of the beach and started to manufacture his own brand of wooden beach chairs, creating Sunrise Chair Co. with business partner Steve Hill. Together, the two have more than 50 years of beach service expertise.
"We're not just selling chairs," he said. "We're selling a lifestyle. When you're tailgating at a football game in Ohio with your Sunrise chair, you've got the beach with you."
A part of the Sunrise Chair Co. philosophy is quality craftsmanship. The chairs are built locally with parts made in the United States.
"We build them for the beach," Brad said. "They're meant to go out in the salt air and harsh elements."
In a nod to sustainability, Brad and the Sunrise team also refurbish wooden beach chairs with new fabric and a fresh coat of varnish. Between manufacturing and refurbishing, Brad is able to provide work to beach service workers such as himself during the off-season.
"There's easily 1,000 beach guys between Panama City and Destin," Brad said. "These guys work the beach and then in the winter they have to find new jobs."
Even though he's a successful business owner, selling chairs across the country and expanding into barstools, Brad isn't hanging up his flip flops.
"I'm still a beach guy," he said.
SIT BACK AND RELAX: Purchase your own locally crafted beach chair from Sunrise Chair Co. at www.sunrisechairco.com.