Once upon a time there was a smart, talented couple living in old Seagrove Beach who were content owning and operating the hamlet's first and oldest cafe, where they served up good old Southern cooking every day.
The couple was living the good life of residing just across the road from their business and George could walk to work — a car was hardly needed.
That formula had worked for the owners of Seagrove Village Market Cafe since 1949.
But in 2008, just down County Road 30A, there was a brand-new sparkling-white community being built named Alys Beach. The developers of Alys Beach thought it would be a great idea to offer the same homey concept at Alys.
Alys Beach developer Jason Comer came to Seagrove Village Market owner George Hartley when Alys was just getting off the ground and told him he would love to have a concept such as Seagrove Village Market at Alys Beach and asked Hartley if he would be willing to bring it there.
Hartley said he would.
Ann Hartley and Alys Stephens sat down and began planning. They wanted to give the new town and its visitors a dining spot as soon as possible. Opting to bypass the time construction would take, the decision was made to move in the cottage that formerly housed Sandor's restaurant in Seagrove.
However, the realization came that Seagrove Village Market Cafe, which opened in 1949 stands alone as an icon that cannot be replaced or duplicated. Any eatery Alys Beach had would need its own identity.
The Hartleys, Comer, and Alys Beach's marketing guru went out to dinner to brainstorm.
"Businesses are drawn on the back of napkins," said Hartley. "We tossed around some names and concepts and eventually came up with the name George's."
Now a mascot was needed.
"The marketing guru said, 'Tell me a story about you two,'" remembers Hartley. "Ann and I looked at each other and thought of our linen hand towels."
The linen hand towel story goes back to before the Hartleys were married in May 1983 when they were receiving shower and engagement gifts.
One of George's close relatives gave the engaged couple a set of linen hand towels from Neiman Marcus. The towels were embroidered with the likeness of a couple of green frogs.
"Ann thought they were ugly and wanted to return them for stemware," said George. "I said no, they are from my cousins and they are staying. You can always get stemware. We almost broke up over that right before the wedding."
Ever since, George tells everyone that is the only argument he has ever won.
The memory of how they almost broke up over frogs on a set of linen hand towels became a private joke with the couple over the next 25 years and every time they saw a frog on anything, one of them would buy the item as a gift for the other as a reminder and as their private inside joke.
When the Hartleys related this story to the marketing guru, he said "That's it!" recalls George.
George's restaurant opened on July 1, 2008.
And when one visits George's restaurant at Alys Beach, you will encounter frogs — a frog on the sign before you enter, frogs on the artwork, frogs on the T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains, and round, green lily pads outside. It's a frog's world.
However, there are no frog legs on the menu.
The menu at George's, originally designed by Ann and Alys Stephens, tends towards upscale, with a "behaving" and "misbehaving" side.
The "misbehaving" side is inspired by the deep-fried love dishes the Hartleys serve at Seagrove Village Market.
The "behaving" side is spa inspired, said George.
"Because it's Alys, we decided to do upscale," he said.
For lunch choose between fried oysters or shrimp, burgers, salads, Senora Anna's fish tacos, grilled salmon, grouper, wraps, or chicken salad.
At dinner, choose between lobster dishes, oysters, ribs, crab fritters, salads, lamb, shrimp, snapper, chicken, cioppino, steaks, seafood bowls, or Senora Anna's fish tacos.
Finish it off with the chocolate toffee goo, which has been described as "to die for."
Beer and wine is available, as is a menu for your tadpoles.
Open for five years now, last year the Hartleys added 30 more seats, updated the restrooms, and increased the size of the kitchen.
And somewhere at the restaurant are the now infamous linen hand towels embroidered with green frogs.
George's is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5-9 p.m. There is indoor, porch, and outdoor dining, on what is referred to as the lily pad.
While there you may purchase the book "Princess Ann + Prince George", a very satisfying love story, between frogs. Ann + George Hartley's love story interpreted and illustrated by artist Nancy Swan Drew.