Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe

As news of its demise spread across Facebook late Sunday night, comments of dismay and shock filled the shop’s fan page, nearly faster than I could keep up with reading them.
For most of us, the fact that our beloved Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe would close in three days was truly shocking news.
In a town that values individuality in its storefronts, Shelby’s has been an anchor in the Neptune and Atlantic Beaches business communities for more than a decade. It is the spot for hanging out for people of all ages – day or evening.
Coffees, incredible sandwiches named for various local streets and landmarks, live music some nights, local artists displaying on their walls – everyone loves Shelby’s. When we first arrived in Jacksonville ten years ago and rented an oceanfront condo while we shopped for a permanent home here, I parked myself at Shelby’s (the old location, for those of you who remember it) one Sunday afternoon in March, and decided, then and there, that it was Atlantic Beach, and only Atlantic Beach for me. The husband, fond of golfing, and simply euphoric about having relocated to a temperate climate, would have been content in a house on the golf course in a gated community, just a few miles away from the beach. For him, that was an idyllic lifestyle. (And actually, it is. It’s just personal preference at play here.) ‘What’s the difference?’ he told me, ‘We’d be living on a golf course, with the beach is just minutes away’.
Well, I knew the difference. And I was sitting right in front of it. Where, in a gated community, can you ride your bike to? In a world of ever-increasing subdivisions and closed communities that lack an actual town, I was completely drawn in by these coastal neighborhoods. To sit and have coffee on the sidewalk cafe in March, and then ride my bike home again? Well, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, having somehow landed here. It was at Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe that afternoon, when I made up my mind: we would live right here in Atlantic Beach (and drive to the golf course, not the other way around) In fact, I went inside and started my own Shelby’s ‘frequent coffee purchase’ card and placed it in the box, next to the register. Then I bought an ‘Atlantic Beach’ refrigerator magnet. It was as if I was planting my stake in the land; putting down my roots. I left Shelby’s, rode my bike back to our condo, and slapped that magnet onto our rented refrigerator and silently declared myself an Atlantic Beach resident.
It was Shelby’s and the neighboring shops and restaurants, just steps from the beach, that completely won me over. It was having a destination, a real town to go to, not merely a ‘clubhouse’ in a subdivision, that mattered to me when it came to where we should buy a home and make our lives. And it’s never disappointed.
So on Sunday night when the news of Shelby’s closing reverberated across Facebook, I felt awful, truly sad. I didn’t know the reasons, or the real story but the loss of this special place just wasn’t right. In a community that is also home to two Starbucks stores – each literally across the street from the other – we need the individuality of our Shelby’s. The shops at 200 First Street just wouldn’t be the same without it. None of us would.
Well, the good news came today. Shelby’s will remain! While I don’t have all the details, it seems that the shop has been sold to some local proprietors, and Shelby herself will be able to retire. It appears to be a win/win for everyone … and there’ll be a celebration soon. There we’ll gather and clink our mugs and buy the kids an ice cream and sit in the shop or courtyard and count our blessings, for happy endings, these days, have sometimes been a bit hard to come by.

The Friday Morning Photographer

Driving through Neptune and Atlantic Beaches with a camera on my lap lets me indulge in spontaneous photography. I was on my way home when I happened to see the lovely Lula opening her shop, Capri, this morning, glowing in the light of the   eleven a.m.  sun. I called her name, and she turned, probably startled.  I got my shot like a sort of paparazzo and drove off with a wink, a wave, and a wish for a good shopping day.  A little while later, I received her email:

Hi Jeannie,
You are so silly, crazy!!!  I’m going to have to warn everyone to be on the look out for a crazy (sweet) lady with a camera.  She’ll get you when you least expect it.  Have a great weekend and enjoy this beautiful day!
Your Pal, Lula
                                          * * * * * * *
Lula opened Capri at the end of last summer.  I remember watching  with interest, sad that the former shop of many years had closed – ah, the seasons of life –  but glad that the space had been snapped up right away and was being remade into something new. I drove past nearly every day, mining for clues as to its theme and eagerly monitoring the progress of the build-out.  Come on, you have to give me credit for admitting this; I can’t have been the only person who was interested! Soon, and likely because I was asking around, I learned that it was Lula who was opening a shop.  We had a nodding acquaintance is all, but  I was as excited for her as though she was an old friend.  When someone pursues a dream, I like to know their story if they’ll share it.   So one day I saw her in the gym,  got bold, and asked about her plans.  

Lula has a serene and genuine spirit, with a gracious smile. There is no pretense about her: she allowed my inquisitiveness, and I got to know  her a bit in the process. After that, I could call her by name, and felt emotionally invested in her success. And it’s good for the community to have a thriving, walkabout environment: who doesn’t love a  small-town storefront shopping experience?  Lula’s Capri is a great shop for casual clothes, resort wear, skin care and accessories, all priced right ( read: the every day shopper can find something there).  It’s in Atlantic Beach,  on Ocean Blvd. just north of Atlantic Blvd.,  across the street from from One Ocean  and the next door neighbor to Ocean 60, where I had so much fun one night a few months ago. 

It’s the entrepreneurial, sole-proprietor that I can’t help but root for, and I’m really rooting for Lula and Capri ~ Beach and Beauty.  

Good Morning, Atlantic Beach

iPhone was the only camera I had in my purse yesterday morning. It was such a lovely, Spring morning so I went onto the beach for just a few minutes.  I’m not a beach walker … just a girl with a camera and a passion for the coastline and the burgs that thrive beside it.
This picture was altered with iPhone photo apps Camera Bag but it came out of the camera strangely underexposed, the morning sun resembling a setting one,  in a night sky.

 This oft-trod path to the beach shows the actual daylight illumination at that morning.
And this picture was altered from its darker original,  to bring it into the light of day!
I think that Spring is finally here and can I just say, once again, how much I appreciate iPhone, because it’s quite simply, always there for me.

Spring Break, Baby

A pretty day drew me to Jacksonville Beach again this afternoon. The sunshine and blue skies belied the crisp reality of the air temperature and a vigorous sea breeze.  As I zipped my cute, green pleather motorcycle jacket all the way up to my chin and stepped onto the dune walkover, I was still shivering in the wind that  snapped the yellow ocean flag like a sail.  iPhone told me that it was a mere 57 degrees so I was stunned to see people in bathing suits – bikinis and baggies – prone on their beach towels for the requisite spring break tan … and even, someone in the water with a boogie board, bare skinned and all.  Hell-to-the-no, I would not be swimming or sunning today. Not even spring break could entice me to remove my adorable pleather jacket (thank you, Nordstrom in California.  I do still need you after all).
These high schoolers were vacationing from Austin, Texas.    They asked what it was like to live at the beach and said that their nanny had brought them on a road trip to Jacksonville – an 18 hour drive from Austin to get here.  I told them it usually wasn’t quite this cold  halfway into March, sorry for them that it wasn’t warmer after such a long journey, for just a two-day beach vacation.  I was totally flattered because they assumed I was the reporter from First Coast News, which was setting up to do a live segment at the 5:00 hour there on the walkover and I certainly looked the part, now that I think about it.

  No, I told them regretfully, I’m not.  But I should be….  I guess I was camera-ready owing to my fine-looking lime pleather jacket and my Ocean Waves sunglasses, plus my hair… swept into a knot courtesy of Jonna, whose chair at Picasso Day Spa I’d left just minutes before showing up at the coast the same time as First Coast News.  No, it’s just another day at the beach for your faithful atlantic beachlifer, embellishing the everyday with her own signature, beach-blogger style.
After several minutes of shivering and incredulously observing those who were undeterred by the temps in pursuit of their tans, I offered to host tonight’s First Coast segment from the beach.  I’m sorry to say that the camerman declined, so I left them there to handle my beat on their own.  (Are you listening, First Coast News?)  Although too cold for tanning it was a lovely day for paragliding… don’t you think? 
Paragliding holds no interest for me other than an eyes-to-the-sky treat and a chance for a good photograph which would have been far more interesting had the Canon Rebel’s telephoto lens been on the task but with the little Canon Elph, my sturdy, hard-working, always-there sidekick, I take the shots  I can get.
Now if I was skateboarding, I’d certainly have shed that stylish, chartreuse pleather jacket, because, well, pleather doesn’t breathe … and heck, it’s not even skaterwear anyway.  Soon and very soon  the temps will be climbing and I’ll be packing it away for the several months, so I am going to wear it, along with the darling yellow trench coat* (also compliments of Nordstrom, Los Angeles and cannot go unmentioned and speaking of, did I really say I didn’t need Nordstrom in a blog post recently?) as long as I possibly can.  I know it’s spring break and people want their tans… but I love the chilly spring and looking like a news reporter in my outerwear.  The beach is my beat, after all.
Reporting straight from my laptop and certainly not live, I remain,
atlantic beachifer, at your service.
*some reader(s), and you know who you are, might be interested to know that the yellow trench coat I mentioned is by Ellen Tracy, and was purchased by both my sister and me, on the spot, the minute we saw it.  The pleather (i just love saying pleather!) motorcycle jacket in chartreuse was an instant old friend, but the sister had her sights on a different style.  As she was trying on trenches, I spotted the yellow number from across the room and knew before either of us slid our right arm into it that it was going home with both of us. I had it on before I could help myself and convinced her that ‘this’ indeed ‘was’ the coat she was seeking.  Pictures of her wearing it still startle me because for half a second, I think, hey, that’s me!

Spring Forward

The first sunset hour of the spring forward evening that brings us into daylight savings time era,  always quickens my being with the promise of summer and easy living.

Evening approaches:  Sunday night in Jacksonville Beach.

Oh, that sky. The cool Spring air.  It’s coming.  The heat and humidity of summer.  Every season has its joys, and at this moment, it’s Spring.  The deliciously fresh air, warmer afternoons.  Cool nights, still, for sleeping under the covers without the furnace on.

I am enjoying the cool while it lasts.  Welcome to daylight savings time in the Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) zone.

And for the record?  I  do despise waking up in the dark on these spring forward mornings.

March Morning

 This morning’s sky wasn’t  so beckoning but yesterday’s, oh it was lovely.  When I noticed several wet-suited surfers hurrying to the beach, I followed.  I’ll take their lead any day; they watch the rhythms of the ocean and as much as I’m a water girl, surfing’s a whole other thing.

 I’m not a part of their tribe, but an observer and appreciator – of their skills and the passion for surf that’s  a fire in their soul. 

I observe the water in different ways.  Sometimes I like to be in it.  Other times, to watch it as it comes and goes from the wet sand.  Some days, it leaves puffy sea foam and other days, the beach is scattered with jellyfish.  It’s usually March when the scads of jellyfish come in with the tide.

It won’t be long till wet suits are shed and the air around us closes in with humidity and tropical rainstorms are afternoon expectations.  

Our yard is a sorry mess of plants burned from freezing temps and a lawn that’s somehow up and died altogether.  But these little weeds are as cute as they are pesky, and  as sure a sign of spring as anything else these I’ve seen these days.

(What’s your wish?)

Raison d’etre

What is this space I’ve created for myself? 

I’m practicing here.  

I’m a girl with words and cameras;  moods and anecdotes.  Sometimes a bit of prose emerges and when that happens it’s always quick and natural; the patter of words light up the screen as my fingers tap the keys.  Okay, I’ll think, now that was good.

It feels right,  to be here and create vignettes and embellish the ordinary with words and pictures of my own making. Behind the lens, I can be in the world but absorbed in its details. When the images are purged from the camera onto the laptop’s hard drive it’s a delicious moment of discovery because oftentimes the pictures are so different from what I’d anticipated.

Part of a comment that I’ve culled from a different conversation has stayed with me because it felt a bit derisive:  “… from living at the beach which you obviously find so important …”  reading that I knew that the writer missed the point of what I’m doing here.  Being happy with where I’m at is a wonderful gift,  when so much of life is chaotic and unexpected and even disappointing. So yes, I’ll write about it and photograph it and celebrate lifestyle because in doing so, it facilitates my getting to the something  that’s inside of me, whorling about, unnamed as of yet but making its presence known.

Writing and photography is the only way I know to coax it from within so that when it’s mature and we are both ready, I will make something big.

Tee Shirts for Every Body

Introducing Tami, who lives on Florida’s Emerald Coast, in the western Panhandle area.  Now there’s a place I’ve never been but have been longing to visit for a while.  I got close, last summer, but a change of plans at the last minute had us heading home, thwarting my desire to swim in those alluring green waters you see behind her in this photo. 
What’s this?  Tami’s wearing a great looking tee shirt!  Yes, Tami was the winner of the atlantic beachlife tee shirt giveaway I had last December.  It finally warmed up a bit in her neighborhood this past week so she was kind enough to step out without a parka (yes, people, we have been wearing parkas this winter) and send me a pic of herself sporting  the tee.  Tami’s originally a northern girl like me and  has been loving beachlife on the Gulf’s Emerald Coast with her family for the past seven years.
Tami likes the way the shirt fits; not shapeless like a guy’s tee, snug enough for a sleeker look, and great on its own, or under a sweater without adding bulk.  As you can see, it also looks good with jewelry! The necklace Tami’s wearing is so similar to the one I fasten on nearly every day (and with my atlantic beachlife tee shirt too).  
I’ll be sharing a couple of other photos of these tee shirts on their faraway owners in the near future. If you’d like to buy one for yourself or as a gift and you’re local, go to MOS in Jacksonville Beach, 29 South 12th Street (a favorite of mine for unique home  and garden decor) and stop in at Ellie Bing while you’re on the street, another great little shop for blingy pretties and vintage what-nots.  The tees are available in the atlantic beachlife and the jacksonville beachlife logos, in white, cream or gray.  
In Atlantic Beach, go see Carol at Shore Things of North Beach.  She’s got the atlantic beachlife logo and will have shirts in the fitted women’s style, and also a less-fitted-but-not-guy-like baggy style, and basic men’s tees as well.  Shore Things is such a great store; if you need a present at the last minute I guarantee you will walk out of there with something unique, and beautifully wrapped, within fifteen minutes.   I always take guests to Shore Things and MOS; Carol and Lourdes, the owners, have been beaches shop owners for years and years. They’re both so creative in their own way,  and I’m so pleased that the tee shirts are in their shops.  
If you don’t live here and still want one (Atlantic Beach, North Carolina? I’m looking at y’all!) email me and I’ll set you up.
I wear mine all the time and love them in gray and white.   I worked hard to find a tee shirt that’s flattering to most women’s bodies and I have to say: this one is.  Michael Stars has got nothing on me.

A Weekend at the Beach

Hey, all you beachlifers.  We’re having company this weekend.  That’s right, Janie and her daughter will be in town.  Somehow they found this blog and tracked me down and Facebooked me to ask about the lay of the land around here.
Naturally, I was thrilled to be of service because y’all know how I feel about life in our community and its being our secret treasure and all.  So I made a couple of recommendations about where they might like to stay and I just got an email saying they’re coming in tomorrow and are excited to explore Atlantic and Neptune Beaches! Poke around a bit; we aren’t crowded with condos like south Florida… we’re not flashy like a typical tourist town.  We’re neighborhood people, with the best beaches on the east coast in our front yard, and the intracoastal waterway in our back.  Parks galore.  It’s lifestyle, baby, and all you’ve got to do is spend a few days with us, and you’ll get it
I’m hoping for weather that’s just a little warmer than this entire winter’s been, and so that it’s a pleasant day for Janie and her daughter, for ambling around the Beaches Town Center and doing a little street shopping in our cute towns.  They’ll be like secret shoppers, these visitors, but they did ask me if we had any coffee shops, so, Shelby’s?  I’d be expecting company tomorrow if I was you.  No affront to Starbucks but it’s kind of fun to explore a city’s own, unique coffee shop when you come in to town.  I know you understand, being that you’re everywhere in the world, including the Forbidden City in Beijing, for the love of Buddha, so I kind of like to give props to the sole proprietor place whenever I’m asked.  You understand.
Beaches Town Center: you’ve got so many fun places to shop.  And me, being atlantic beachlife, I know of several other truly unique shops here at the beach.  Hidden jewels, a bit off the beaten path.  Even other beachlifers don’t know about some of these places yet.  You know that blingy bracelet I wear every day? Oh, and the stores that carry atlantic beachlife  and jacksonville beachlife tee shirts in addition to their own home and garden decor, or fun beachy gifts?  How about some cute beachwear, casual clothes and skin care?  Oh yes, we have it all right here in Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches.  
I’ll put together a little itinerary for you to explore and if you want a guide, I know of the perfect person for the job.
Janie:  you won’t even need to cross the ditch (that’s local-speak for leaving the island and driving across the bridge spanning the intracoastal waterway) for your weekend getaway, unless of course, you’re coming to Jacksonville and just staying at the beach.  Point is, we’ve got it all right here (except a Nordstrom, but you can live without that; I have all these years, and my shopping desires have been more than satisfied by all our local places.)
There’s so much to do here, at the beaches.  Rent bikes, scooters,  surf boards,  shopping, of course the beach, y’all, and all that the beach has to offer.  I’m just a beach reader but our wide and firm and white sand beaches are perfect for walking, biking or jogging, or pushing your companions in strollers or wheelchairs.
 Let’s not forget about our  great restaurants, and our newest: Salt Life Food Shack,  in particular; gawd, they pack ’em in nightly over there. It’s the hottest place in town for casual food and lifestyle dining.  Just go.  You’ll see what I mean.
atlantic beachlife, at your service.

These Old Houses

Driving home from Gainesville the other day I was passing through the town of Lawtey just before dusk.  The term out in the middle of nowhere comes to mind, although the citizens of Lawtey probably deserve better than that.  I’d driven off the main street for a moment, when these houses caught my eye.
Obviously unoccupied but at one time probably lovely, doesn’t it make you wonder about its story? I once dated a man who lived, truly, out in the middle of nowhere, in a house similar to this one.  Its condition was only slightly better.  It’d had a fire, but was already in a wretched state. There wasn’t even a proper mirror in the house, but a jagged piece of one I’d prop up against the wall to do my makeup in.
Another abandoned and interesting place, the soft light of approaching twilight muted its shabbiness and made what might have been an eyesore into a rustic sort of memory.  
They clearly aren’t shacks, but someone’s former homes.  How long have they been absent of their human residents?  Surely there were people who loved these places at some point in time.  Lawtey, Florida is not a place where gentrification is in the vocabulary.  It’s a rural area, a one-stop-light town; a place I pass through on the way to Gainesville.
Next month I’ll check in on these houses.  I do think they are lovely, albeit past their expiration date.