A shot at Grayt-ness: Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet opens with unique concept

Deborah Wheeler

A colony of artists has come together on the grounds of Monet Monet in a collaboration that would make Jonathon Quinn proud.

Before the home became the area's latest studio/eatery/entertainment venue, Quinn, a Blue Mountain Beach resident, built the house in 1992. He patterned it and its gardens after Monet‘s home in Giverny, France. Constructed on a half-acre plot, it is a scaled-down version of the artist’s sprawling pink house in Giverny where he lived from 1883 until his death in 1926.

Quinn also created a Gulf Coast interpretation of Monet’s flower gardens and his famous water lily pond – Japanese footbridge and all.

Quinn held special events and talks about Monet and other topics in the gardens from time to time, and operated a small gift shop inside with artsy gift items.

The home and gardens became quite a tourist attraction.

Desiring to spend more time traveling, Quinn sold the property in 2000 to Pensacola jewelry store owners Carla and Rock Hard.

The Hards moved in and opened a second location of their jewelry store there in 2001. The Hards are now expanding their unique jewelry line overseas and need more travel time. They also desired to fulfill the original vision Quinn had for the gardens.

"For a couple of years, I have toyed with the idea of wanting to recreate here the old Bee Hive artist colony that is in Paris," said Carla. "The artists had apartments there and would meet and share their artwork, and it had a soup kitchen."

Carla shared her vision with her friend Cheri Peebles, who owned and operated the Grayt Coffee House, just down the road.

"I told her if anything changed in her situation, we should do this," Carla said.

On May 3, Carla's vision came to fruition and reopened as Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet — a collaborative effort of various artistic talents.

Rock Hard's Custom Designed Jewelry is still there, but in a more condensed space to the right of the main entrance.

Front and center at the entrance now is a combination art gallery/bakery/coffee shop operated by Peebles.

The bakery offers cookies, croissants, and more, freshly baked by the in-house pastry chef daily that can be enjoyed with fair-trade locally-roasted organic coffees and lattes. Peebles also offers catering.

In the gallery, she carries the work of six local artists, including Kay Brown, photographer Shelly Swanger, folk artist Franko "Washboard" Jackson, Eileen West, Christina Lee, and Walton County's 2013 Artist of the Year Andy Saczynski; all exhibiting their unique style and brush strokes.

Peebles envisions the public stopping in for a quick European-style breakfast, and while there, enjoying the art, taking a stroll in the gardens, and maybe resting in the gazebo while enjoying that last cup of coffee. While strolling the grounds, there may even be found an artist painting en plein air.

During special events planned for the intimate and romantic garden venue, dinner can be enjoyed, along with the house's specialty "Jonathon Juleps."

The property is available for weddings, receptions, and Peebles plans regular music ventures in the garden, which she calls the Grayt Music Project — a place where people can enjoy dinner and a show. These will be by reservation only. She also has murder mystery theaters planned, and trivia nights.

"It will be like being in your living room, but in a garden," she said.

“We all remain totally committed to maintaining the natural beauty of Jonathon's original vision and feel that by adding art, fun events and wonderful food, it allows others to enjoy his work even more,” said Carla. "We wanted to honor him and his vision. This is what this property is for. Now it is full of good vibrations and love. This was his vision."

However, not everyone is happy with the vision and the noise it will bring.

Shortly after opening, Peebles said a complaint was filed about the noise. That is an issue Peebles said she is working on, as well as adequate parking.

"We're working through stuff," she said. "But we're not doing anything that Jonathon didn't do when he owned the place. People just want to be hurtful and that is not good positive energy."

"We're working to get properly vested," said Hard. "Jonathon held events here, and we have also, from time to time. Our attorney is working with the county to get it all worked out."

The BCC's Public Information Officer, Louis Svehla, said events may have been held at that location in the past, but they have not been of that large a scale. He said the owners were cited for being in violation of code and are on notice to come into compliance and get permitted for these type events.

The first possible date they could come before the BCC is at a June 11 meeting, said Svehla.

Meanwhile, the events are proceeding as scheduled, said Hard.

As for the future, Peebles says she wants to restore the gardens to their original plantings. It's her 10-year project, she said.

For more information about The Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, any of its inhabitants or services, call 231-1090 or just stop by. Visit online at www.graytgrounds.com.  The coffee shop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 100 E. County Road 30A in Grayton Beach.