Saltwater Cottage celebrates 1-year anniversary Aug. 12 at The Avenue Viera
Julie Condon is co-owner of Saltwater Cottage, which celebrates its one-year anniversary Aug. 12 at The Avenue Viera. Condon’s female shih tzu Izzy is a regular at the store.
photo by mike gaffey
As Saltwater Cottage co-owner Julie Condon looks forward to the one-year anniversary of her business on Friday, Aug. 12 at The Avenue Viera, she can’t help but look back at the journey that led to her unique home furnishings and gift store.
In February 2009, on the day of her late husband Frank’s birthday, Condon was taking her morning walk along a beach in the Panhandle town of Destin when she asked God for direction.
“I want to do whatever it is that you desire me to do,” Condon recalled saying that morning. “I ended my prayer with, ‘I will share my trash if it will help somebody empty theirs.’ ”
Condon knew that statement was hugely important, because she had been a victim of rape at age 12 but had never spoken about it before. She knew the importance of sharing trauma in order to move past it, and how it opens the door for others to do the same.
As Condon started back down that beach, a wave washed a grapefruit-sized sand dollar at her feet. “When I got that, I felt that God heard me and He said, ‘Let’s go,’ ” she said of the keepsake that now anchors the store logo.
That morning walk inspired Condon to pursue an outreach to help people broken by abuse. She and partner Thomas Cowles leased and restored a small, dilapidated cottage in Navarre, Fla., to serve as a center for people who needed help, and started looking for items to sell at the cottage to help pay bills.
As the cottage attracted more customers, Condon decided to turn her outreach efforts into a full-time business. Her son came up with the store’s name, she said.
“He said, ‘Mom, we all know you’re crazy about salt and you say salt adds flavor to everything and you’re right there by the water. How about Saltwater Cottage?’ And I said salt water heals,” Condon said. “So it was so appropriate.”
Condon stocked the store with home décor, nautical items, jewelry, faith-based items, driftwood art, gourmet food and books for sale. “It’s just a little bit of everything,” she said.
In April 2015, Condon got a visit from Scott McCarthy, general manager of The Avenue Viera, who suggested that she open a second store at the outdoor shopping complex. Worried about the expense, Condon initially opposed the idea but eventually relented.
“We just took the last of our resources and they just kind of multiplied,” Condon said of her decision to open the Viera location. “It just happened and it seemed like there was just always just enough to get this or that. I can’t even explain how we managed to do it.”
On Friday, Aug. 12, the Viera store at 2270 Town Center Ave., Suite 115, marks its first year in operation from 5 to 8 p.m. Visitors can enjoy food and discounts on items and chat with the artist of many of the store's original works, artisan Rick Hill with SilverwareCreations. And they can meet Izzy, Condon’s shih tzu and a regular at the store.
“When we moved here, we did not know anyone, only the property manager,” Condon said. “And I have met some of the nicest people that I have ever met in my life.”
Her new friends include a couple from Titusville who liked the store so much that they’re opening a third Saltwater Cottage in St. Simons Island, Ga.
“It’s really a neat story because God is using these stores,” Condon said. “Saltwater Cottage is a chapel without a steeple, because we express God’s love and show God’s love here every day, just like you should do at church. So it’s kind of unique in that it is a storefront but it’s really our platform to try to help restore people from abuse.”