The Tin Shed, Apalachicola, FL
“Apalach, it was founded by 19th-century sponge divers and cotton and lumber barons. Their restored Georgian and Victorian manses and cottages idle along the bay, and their descendants work hard hauling shrimp, fish, crabs and oysters. Meanwhile, newcomers trickle in (the population is barely 3,000), opening fashionable boutiques, cafes and antiques stores in former cotton warehouses.” - NY Times
I have yet to read Simon Doonan‘s book, Wacky Chicks, but I believe it would be a new favorite. For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to interesting, eclectic, and often, bizarre people and places. I find I almost always learn something from them – be it good or bad. There was darling Mabel. I will never forget the 80-something year old neighbor to our cabin growing up, who always wore the most eclectic glasses. She would have a highball in the middle of the afternoon, operated a running waterfall in the middle of her living room, adorned her entryway with gigantic bronze zodiac figures, and the walls of her guest bathroom were covered with old newspaper, The New York Times. I would go over there as often as I could growing up just to listen to her stories. She would complain that her mouth would begin to dry out after talking for some time – so I was always sure to have a glass of water ready. My mom and I were sure that almost everything in her small town Indiana home (in the middle of nowhere) was from Neiman Marcus and much of it had the tags to prove it. Then, there was Hilda. I met Hilda when I lived in Florida. She was heavily involved in the arts and always wore the most exotic scarves. She set me up on a date with an equally interesting architect just days after meeting me. She lived in a treehouse (with electricity and modern appliances of course) and she was one of the only people I know that’s looked me in the eyes and said, “you are young – you have nothing to worry about” that I actually felt confident believing.
Vintage Buoys – did you know there’s a National Data Buoy Center?
My seemingly endless quest for the unknown, unordinary, and unexpected is the reason I always comply when my mother requests to take a random adventure. After all, it is far more likely I will find inspiration in a new location than within a routine of any sort. On our most recent trip, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived in the historic fishing village of Apalachicola, Florida. Deemed Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” I haven’t seen such undisturbed weathered beauty in some time. As the New York Times stated, “It has long been famous for its oysters and lately for its demeanor: a historic fisherman’s haven with stylish inns and galleries but solid Old South roots. Known locally as Apalach, it was founded by 19th-century sponge divers and cotton and lumber barons.” And, yes, our first stop was Boss Oyster where I tasted the most unbelievably fresh fish seafood dip and oysters in my life – brought in right off the dock where we were lunching!
After lunch, we made a visit to the Tin Shed Nauticals & Antiques where we were greeted by a colorful wall of antique buoys. And, stepping inside the antique store, I didn’t even know where to begin. There were so many treasures! From antique maps, to stone mermaids, seashells, bronze lanterns, and rustic old fishing boats – I felt as if I’d traveled back in time on the Forgotten Coast. There were bits of seafaring history each and every place the eyes traveled.
Apalachicola Sponge Company and Smokehouse Antiques - the owner, Jerry Garlick, has been a certified diver for over 20 years!
Another favorite stop, was the Apalachicola Sponge Company and Smokehouse Antiques housed in the historic Montgomery Building. I was lucky enough to meet Jerry Garlick, who owns the shop with his wife Joyce. Jerry shared that he has significantly revived the sponge business and ships his products all over the country. And, sponges can be used in more ways than one could even imagine- from cleaning, to painting, for medicinal purposes, decoration, gift baskets, and many more. Sea sponges are a renewable resource when harvested with the practices Jerry and his divers employ. “When harvested, the sponge diver cuts the sponge off from the bottom leaving a portion of it to grow again. The sponge is then squeezed to release the sponge spores into the same area to repopulate before tucking it into a catch bag to be brought on board,” he shared. The store had a little bit of everything- jewelry, vintage clothing, antique furniture, sea sponges from the Gulf of Mexico, and of course, handmade goat’s milk soaps. I certainly left with a heightened respect for the stylishly plush sea sponge and a strong desire to take a bubble bath. This store is a must visit when you visit this adorable town!
Overall, if you are looking for a place to take a step back in time in a quiet picturesque fishing village, Apalachicola is beyond perfect. On my next visit, I definitely plan to try the Owl Cafe (doesn’t it look adorable?) and possibly stay at the Gibson Inn – a charming example of “Florida Cracker” architecture built in 1907 and listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. In fact, I think the Gibson Inn’s Murder Mystery Weekend might be the perfect antidote. If that doesn’t quench my thirst for adventure for just a bit, I’m not sure what will.
* More: Who knew? Apalachicola has a gem of a pottery studio as well! Feature and interview to come on the talented artist behind the shop….