Made in the South
Meet the 2020 Made in the South Awards Winners
A gaucho-style grill perfect for gatherings, canned cocktails even a bartender would love—these honorees and more in the categories of Style, Food, Home, Outdoors, Drink, and Crafts prove the region’s artisans and creatives remain at the top of their game
photo: Kirk Robert
Style & Overall Winner
A Classic Reboot
Casually chic, North Carolina–made sneakers for work—and play
By Elizabeth Hutchison Hicklin
Asheville, North Carolina | $288–$398; opieway.com
Some children sleep with teddy bears; others drift into dreamland with well-worn baby blankets tucked under their chins. Most don’t snuggle up with a pair of Air Jordan 3s—unless you’re Justin James. “When I was a kid, Christmas would come around and my mom would get me a new pair of shoes,” James says. “And I don’t know, I just had way too much love for shoes, because I would sleep with them on my pillow.” Growing up in the nineties and early aughts, naturally, his goal was to design sneakers for Nike. “He spent hours reading shoe blogs,” says his wife, Amanda, who met James when they were just fifteen years old. “He was obsessed.”
It wasn’t until later, while studying industrial design at Appalachian State, that his ten-year plan shifted. He still wanted to make shoes. However, the more James learned about the industry, the less comfortable he felt about how shoes were manufactured on a global scale. “I had this tug on my heart that sneakers could be constructed a little less dirty,” he says. “And I felt there was a pretty large opportunity to make sneakers here stateside.” In 2018, the couple moved back to their hometown of Asheville. At first, Amanda was skeptical about getting into the business of micromanufacturing shoes, but eventually James’s enthusiasm and optimism won out. In November 2019, they launched Opie Way, named for their two daughters. But the road there didn’t come without dead ends and detours.
“It was really, really hard to find the machines we needed or even to connect with people who have made shoes this way before,” James says of the couple’s small-batch approach. Institutional knowledge should have been easy to obtain. After all, before much of U.S. manufacturing fled overseas, Wellco military boots were made just west in Waynesville, North Carolina. And Converse All Stars—America’s basketball shoe of choice for decades—were produced out east in Lumberton, North Carolina, until 2001. But all that know-how seemed to have vanished with the jobs. Eventually, though, the untold hours James had spent on obscure shoe blogs paid off when an acquaintance in Los Angeles he’d met online offered to sell the couple his new and vintage machinery and give them a two-day crash course in sneaker making in California. “We found our factory space, and then our machines arrived and we’re like, ‘Okay, let’s make a pair of shoes,’” Amanda says. “We couldn’t remember anything we had learned in those two days. We really ended up teaching ourselves.”
They persevered, thanks in part to a mentorship with another North Carolina company (and former Made in the South Award winner), Raleigh Denim Workshop. “I have been infatuated with Raleigh Denim since they first took off,” James says, “and I randomly reached out to one of the owners, Victor [Lytvinenko]. He hopped on a call with me, and he was just so encouraging. It’s been super helpful to have him as a mentor.”
After months of design work that included pattern development and the creation of lasts, or shoe molds, Opie Way now produces five leather and canvas shoe styles for men and women: two low-tops, a high-top, and two moccasins. The minimal silhouettes are largely made to order (expect a four-week turnaround) and come in a variety of colors and finishes. The vegetable tanned leather, which James prefers for the lack of harsh chemicals used in the tanning process, originates in two U.S. tanneries: Horween Leather Company in Chicago and Wickett & Craig out of Curwensville, Pennsylvania. The bulk of the canvas comes from a military surplus store in Clyde, North Carolina. The team then cuts, stitches, and attaches the leather or canvas to the sole using a method that allows for added durability, flexibility, and comfort. Each pair gets finished off with Italian-glazed laces or sport laces from American Legacy in nearby Hickory.
And the couple is just getting started. “I dream about shoes all the time, so there are always ten to twelve designs in my head,” James says. Up next: a riff on the classic basketball shoes of the eighties and nineties.
Hampton Road Designs
Silk Eye Masks
Austin, Texas | $89; hamptonroaddesigns.com
Lisa Davis, the founder of the Austin, Texas, handbag company Hampton Road Designs, has an accessories closet that would make a fashion editor envious. “I gravitate toward purses and jewelry and shoes,” Davis says, because anyone can wear them, no matter their size. But she never loved donning scarves, beautiful though they are. Her search for alternative ways to show off those elegant designs by the likes of Hermès, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton led to Hampton Road’s Heirloom Collection, which stars one-of-a-kind eye masks made using vintage silk scarves from Vestiaire Collective, a Parisian online retailer for pre-owned, authenticated designer duds. Davis and her husband, Bruce, pattern and cut the scarves before the San Antonio tailor Calley Rivera stitches the final product, adding organic, allergen-free cotton stuffing for comfort and structure. Bonus: They’re machine washable (on the gentle cycle).
Blacksburg, Virginia | $185–$235; fieldtripbrand.com
While juggling three children and working a marketing gig from home, Dominique Paye acquired a uniform of tired athleisure wear. “There was this disconnect between who I saw myself as and how I presented myself to the world,” she says. Paye realized she lacked staples that offered comfort without sacrificing style or quality. As did the market. So she quit her job and launched Field Trip, focusing on well-made blouses. A program through the Carolina Textile District—which links makers to domestic supply chains—connected Paye with Sew Co., a female-run North Carolina factory where she worked with veteran patternmaker John Daina-Palermo, whose résumé includes Oscar de la Renta. Paye’s sophisticated pieces come in three silhouettes: the flutter sleeve, half sleeve, and balloon sleeve. Made from chemical-free cotton, the tops look polished enough for cocktails but practical enough for a day at Disney.
BR Design Co
Polymer Clay Earrings
Charleston, South Carolina | $16–$64; shopbrdesignco.com
Respectively a first-grade teacher and a nurse by day, sisters Carlene Browner and Cassandra Browner Richardson spend their evenings crafting polymer clay earrings the same way their mother taught them to when they were young. “It’s just part of who we are,” Richardson says. A few years ago, they reintroduced one of their mother’s favorite designs—impressionistic florals in sunny colors and simple geometric shapes—and their customers went bananas. Each time they release a new batch of florals (just one Sunday a month because of the labor-intensive process), the twenty to thirty pairs they can squeeze from a single clay slab sell out in minutes. Inspired by runway shows, paintings, shop windows, you name it, the duo dyes, rolls, cuts, and fires the earrings by hand before sanding and buffing. The more minimal neutral designs, Richardson’s favorites, are almost always in stock.
A low-sugar spread with a spicy kick lets summer’s bounty do the heavy lifting
By Wayne Curtis
Habanero Peach Spread
Griffin, Georgia | $4–$16; georgiajams.com
“Here you go,” Lori Bean’s father said to her about a decade ago. “Have at it.” He had handed his daughter her great-grandmother’s canning equipment and a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The items had been languishing for years. “The art of preserving hadn’t carried on past my great-grandma,” Bean says, “and it wasn’t going to carry on unless I picked it up, and that bothered me.” Bean went to culinary school in Florida but focused on pastry. “When I was a kid, I was always in the kitchen with my grandma or great-grandma, watching their cooking techniques,” she says. “Baking taught me that there was always a method.”
Logic came in handy when she set out to teach herself canning. “I made some batches with muscadine grapes that all were inedible in different ways,” she says. A batch of blueberry jam “was like cement, it was so firm.” She eventually worked out the kinks and developed a fondness for Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which needs less sugar to trigger gelling. All this experimenting led her to found Georgia Jams, based in Griffin, which specializes in low-sugar fruit and pepper spreads that capture the delight of peak summer fruits and berries. Bean’s Habanero Peach Spread is a study in balance—the sweetness of peach rushes in, followed by a faint shimmer of heat at the end. Bean opted for habanero peppers because of their round fruitiness. “I knew that would go well with peach.” She was right.
Sweet Magnolia Gelato Co.
Oxford, Mississippi | $8; sweetmagnoliagelato.com
After moving with his wife, Erica, and their three children from Washington, D.C., back to Erica’s hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Hugh Balthrop began experimenting with making all-natural ice cream for the kids. In 2011, he turned the family dessert into a family business—Sweet Magnolia Gelato Co.—and eventually moved production to Oxford. For the tasty, dense, Italian-style treats—offered in area shops and restaurants and in the gelateria he opened last year in Memphis—he uses local milk and cream and obtains mix-in ingredients when possible from Mississippi farmers. What flavors does he offer? Better to ask which he doesn’t. Balthrop has crafted more than six hundred to date, many of them custom options for restaurants. Highlights include his almost-chewy Blueberry Cheesecake, and a bright, refreshing Yellow Watermelon sorbet. NEW FLAVORS ALL THE TIME is his slogan. GET ’EM WHILE THEY LAST. Good advice.
Fox and Otter
Sweet and Spicy Pickles
Grapevine, Texas | $8.50; foxandotter.com
It started as a Christmas tradition: Rick and Patsy Daussat made jars of homemade pickles to give as gifts. They tinkered with a family recipe at their Texas home until they struck just the right balance of sweet, spicy, and crunchy. “The more we handed out, the more we heard back that we should think about selling them,” Rick says. So they did. They named their company after Red the Fox and Ollie the Otter—the stars of bedtime stories they once told their sons. They visited fancy food shows and passed out jars to sandwich shops near their Grapevine home, where the pickles secured a regular place on menus. Made with local cucumbers, aged red peppers, sugar, and garlic, the pickles pair with just about anything, but Rick goes for simplicity: a Ritz cracker, a spread of cream cheese, a pickle on top. “Be careful,” he says of the combination. “It will become a meal.”
Spicy Cajun Caviar
New Orleans, Louisiana | $55; cajuncaviar.com
“The three of us loved Champagne and caviar,” Amy Hollister Wilson says of herself and her two partners in Cajun Caviar, Alison Vega-Knoll and Alden Lagasse. “We couldn’t afford a Champagne company,” she explains with a laugh, so instead “we bought a caviar company.” When they acquired the New Orleans brand several years ago, it had been around for decades—just under the radar. Since then, the trio has worked to boost the profile of roe harvested from Southern waters, which caviar from Northern climes often overshadows—aficionados claim Southern roe lacks the proper briny pop. But Cajun Caviar partners with a vendor to specially select and process Louisiana bowfin roe during the harvest. The spicy version, kicked up with the delicate but discernible edge of ghost peppers, stands out. “We’d like caviar to be more approachable,” Wilson says. “Think deviled eggs and oysters and nachos at football games.”
A New Light
An artist illuminates the aura of New Orleans with her fixtures
By Caroline Sanders
New Orleans, Louisiana | $1,200–$12,000; julieneill.com
As artists are wont to do, Julie Neill tends to wax poetic about her craft. “Once I realized art could be a source of light, I knew I’d found my calling,” says the New Orleans designer, who fashions elegant, imaginative light fixtures for both private and corporate clients in the Crescent City and beyond. Her style varies: The Palmer shade leans toward minimalism, the Constantino chandelier flirts with midcentury modern, the Robyn candelabrum nods at rococo. But perhaps her most enchanting creations are those directly sparked by her beloved city. “Inspiration is everywhere around here: in the architecture, in the music, in the amount of creative people who live here, and in the beautiful natural environment,” she says. Take the flora-influenced Lucienne chandelier, shown here, which hangs from dining room and entryway ceilings like the boughs of live oaks over St. Charles Avenue. “Just like a tree, no two are alike.” After Neill sketches the design, her local fabricator hand forges the chandeliers’ basic shape in metal before Neill and her team of sculpting artists plaster on limb-like appendages. Neill makes every piece to order, altering shape, size, and color to fit her clients’ needs, constantly expanding her repertoire. “There are so many designs I have that we haven’t built yet,” Neill says. “I’m just waiting for the right project.”
Lexington, Kentucky | $400–$600; zembrodhouse.com
“It’s a mad scientist kind of thing,” says Kim Comstock of her Italian marbled wallpapers. In the Zembrod House studio, named for the aging Victorian manse in which it resides in Lexington, Kentucky, Comstock experiments to hone her designs, transferring the swirls created by pigments floating in a water-based solution onto paper. While she does use the traditional paint and gel employed in the process of marbling, she augments them with additives to make the patterns flow larger to fit the scale of the wallpaper. Comstock does not digitally print Zembrod’s made-to-order sheets, which range up to twelve feet long, so they differ slightly. “I might do fifty pieces of experiment paper before coming to a final design, but once you get it right, it’s easy to repeat.” The resulting wallpapers—those with pops of color and the more muted marmoreal designs—add drama in powder rooms, on accent walls, even on ceilings.
Charlotte, North Carolina | $425–$1,500; coleyhome.com
Fresh out of North Carolina State University with a degree in textiles and living in New York City, Coley Hull found getting furnishings into her tiny walk-up “a pain.” So the granddaughter of two North Carolina furniture makers engineered a way to fit a durable foam headboard and bed frame into a shippable box. Her twin, queen, and king beds come in six customizable headboard styles, each upholstered with exclusive fabric—olive-hued velvet, natural rattan, linen printed with pink palms. Hull moved back to her hometown of Charlotte last year to launch her company, armed with the power of the state’s textile and furniture legacies. “Springs Creative textile mill, for instance, is one of the oldest in the country and right down the street,” she says. “They have some of the greatest archives in the world and bring so much knowledge.” In October, Hull also released a line of chairs, poufs, and benches.
Trust Stone Collection
Cast Stone Planters
Covington, Georgia | $206–$445; truststone.net
As a longtime Atlanta landscape architect, Lucinda Bray has an eye for what ties a backyard together, and often, the missing link is the perfect planter. Bray established the Trust Stone Collection out of her Covington, Georgia, farm to make cast stone pots versatile enough to fit into any of her projects. The eight designs come to life at the Louisville Mega Cavern, a cave system in Kentucky where the planter molds are poured. “The cave creates an atmosphere that never changes and makes the concrete harder and more durable,” she says. “That controlled environment allows us to create a product with a lifetime warranty.” Each planter comes with a story and a name derived from the much-loved cows Bray showed as a child through 4-H clubs, which a percentage of sales now goes to support. “Cherri was my first cow,” she says. “Nicole was my favorite. Millie is a calf born last spring at my friend’s dairy farm.”
A versatile wood-fired workhorse with Florida roots and a South American legacy
By T. Edward Nickens
St. Augustine, Florida | Starts at $3,199 ($3,629 as shown); urbanasado.com
Within six months, Nick Carrera and his wife, Christie, lost both of Christie’s parents, and Nick’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “That was the turning point,” Carrera says. “Christie and I had a passion for a lifestyle that revolves around family and community, and then suddenly we lost half our family.” Inspired by Carrera’s Argentinean father, and the communal nature of gaucho-style cooking, they parlayed their grief into a grill that would inspire gatherings.
Built to order in the company’s waterfront workshop on the shrimp docks of St. Augustine, Florida, the 320 Freestanding Grill features American-made, hand-welded 304 stainless steel finished with an artisan’s approach to metalwork. And while the company offers a half dozen models, three parts compose Urban Asado’s basic system: the brasero (the fire basket in which the wood burns), the V-grate grill with drip pan, and the crank that raises and lowers the grill. Coals fall through the bottom of the brasero and then get raked under the V-grate grill. “Those V-grates and the drip pan allow you to capture all the flavor from the meat,” Carrera says. “By adding spices and cooking oils directly to the pan, you repurpose the juices as bastes and sauces.” The design prevents flare-ups from grease dripping onto hot coals, and the entire grill can be easily raised and lowered to allow for precise temperature control. But much of the appeal of the Urban Asado approach to grilling happens before the dinner bell rings. “Making a meal this way is a communal process,” Carrera says. “People are drawn to the dancing fire, the aromas, and the beautiful architecture of the grill.”
Diamond Brand Gear
Canvas Wall Tent
Asheville, North Carolina| $1,649–$1,949; diamondbrandgear.com
Lauded by generations of horse packers and backcountry anglers and hunters, the canvas wall tent may be an idea whose time has come again. Luckily, Diamond Brand Gear, which was founded in 1881 in Philadelphia, has been making big wall tents in Asheville, North Carolina, since relocating south in 1942. The new Hestia model offers a modern take on a timeless design: Named after the Greek goddess of hearth and home, the tent swaps out cotton canvas for a water-resistant, anti-mildew, high-tear-strength, UV-resistant poly/cotton fabric, and sports zippered windows and a galvanized steel frame. While you can pitch it on the ground, the Hestia shines when erected glamping-style on a permanent tent platform. “It’s crazy how many people ask about this tent,” says Diamond Brand’s Bradlee Hicks. “Everyone from folks in the music festival scene to private landowners.” Grandkids would most likely go bonkers over it, too.
Burls and Steel
Charleston, South Carolina | $300–$850; burlsandsteel.com
Even his dog, Charlie, knew Ben Spurrier was destined to make knives. His rescue pooch often brought the former horse trainer gorgeous deer antlers from the woods near the family farm. “They made the best knife handles,” Spurrier says. He began forging blades for farm work, and soon enough he and his wife, Sydney, started selling them at farmers’ markets and online. Three years ago, they launched Burls and Steel full-time. Their Camp to Kitchen knives do well what their name implies, with a just-right size that allows them to move with ease from the duck camp to the countertop. Any frills the blades have come from an elevated approach to materials and design. One of the above knives, for instance, features sixty-layer Damascus steel forged into a five-and-a-half-inch blade. The handle nods to Spurrier’s home state—Hawaiian koa with a brass spacer, mosaic pins, and a dyed black ash bolster.
Grand Slam Turkey Calls
Reidsville, North Carolina | $200; grandslamturkeycalls.com
Given the hours of handwork and the days of curing involved, Fred Cox takes about a week and a half to craft his exquisite wing-bone turkey calls. “Of course, that doesn’t count the time it takes to kill a turkey,” he says with a laugh. “That can be pretty quick. Or not very quick at all.” The former North Carolina schoolteacher has been making these traditional calls from the humerus, radius, and ulna of felled birds for close to thirty years, and while he also makes box and pot calls, he is drawn to what he describes as the pure sound of a wing-bone call. He produces simple, less decorated models, too, but his more ornate calls stun: The joints are sanded and sleek, painstakingly wrapped with thread like a fine bamboo rod, and painted with turkey tracks and feathers. Cox acquires bones from hunter friends, but many customers supply him with wings from their own harvests.
Shaker Not Required
These midcentury-inspired libations let you play bartender—anywhere
By Wayne Curtis
Tip Top Proper Cocktails
Atlanta, Georgia | $4–$5; tiptopcocktails.com
Tip Top Proper Cocktails occupy the place where past meets present. With the midcentury swagger of the 1960s cocktail boom, partners Neal Cohen and Yoni Reisman have tapped into the present canned-cocktail trend—mixed drinks in cans you can easily toss in a boat cooler or a picnic basket. “If you unearthed Grandpa’s bomb shelter from the Cuban missile crisis and found these, you’d think, well, he was well stocked,” Cohen says. The same could be said for the 2020 home bar.
Both Cohen and Reisman worked in the world of music festivals and mega-events, where thirsty festivalgoers had developed tastes beyond wine and beer. The duo began selling batched mixed drinks that were easy to serve from a tap or a spigot. “We thought, let’s make these available on demand,” Cohen says. But canned cocktails are tricky, and it’s easy to end up with a cloying mess, as anyone who has ever tried to find one that matched what they could mix themselves knows. So, when it came time to develop recipes, they enlisted the expertise of Miles Macquarrie, an Atlanta bar wizard whose beverage program at Kimball House has earned seven James Beard Award nominations. The result is a delicious, mixologist-level trio of budget-conscious classic cocktails reminiscent of the Mad Men era—a Manhattan, an old-fashioned, and a negroni—packaged in cunning and compact steel cans due to their high proof.
“We tell people we’ve only been around for a year, and they say, ‘Wow, we felt like you’ve always been there,’” Reisman says. Which might be the grandest compliment of all.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Asheville, North Carolina | $15–$30; wickedweedbrewing.com
If Asheville is the center of the South’s craft beer galaxy, Wicked Weed is one of its brightest stars. Founded in 2012, the company flared onto the scene with exotic beers more commonly associated with Europe and the West Coast—Belgian sours and crisp IPAs. Less than a year after opening, the brewery took home a gold medal for its 100 percent Brettanomyces beer at the Great American Beer Festival. Since then, Wicked Weed has continued to blaze trails with its Cultura series of spontaneous beers, made with local grains, naturally occurring yeasts, and long fermentations, and enlivened with unexpected pairings. That includes Cultura Blend #3, which incorporates North Carolina muscadine grapes. “They’re very sweet and a little funky,” says Wicked Weed cofounder Walt Dickinson. But here, the fruit gives the ale a tart, complicated, and vinous edge. “It’s a really juicy beer that makes you salivate,” Dickinson says.
New Orleans, Louisiana | $14–$20; elguapobitters.com
Orgeat, a traditional nineteenth-century syrup made with almonds and laced with floral notes (typically from orange or rose water), often shows up in throwback cocktails—especially tiki drinks. Christa Cotton, the owner and CEO of New Orleans–based El Guapo, grew up in Southwest Georgia, where her uncle still farms pecans. She had noticed that other producers were making orgeat out of pistachios and hazelnuts—so why not substitute in pecans instead? And while many brands use high-fructose corn syrup, Cotton eschews that sweetener in her line of classic bitters, syrups, and cocktail mixers. The resulting mildness makes El Gaupo’s Creole Orgeat superb in tiki classics like the mai tai, but also sublime when added to a bourbon or brandy milk punch, used as a replacement for a sugar cube in an old-fashioned, or even splashed into a cup of coffee. “It’s pretty versatile,” Cotton says.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey
Shelbyville, Tennessee | $50; unclenearest.com
“Distilling is scientific,” Victoria Eady Butler says. “But when it comes to blending, it’s more of an art.” Butler descends from the once-enslaved Nathan “Nearest” Green, considered the country’s first African American master distiller, who taught a young Jack Daniel the trade. When Green’s pivotal role came to light, the entrepreneur Fawn Weaver decided to launch a Tennessee whiskey in his honor, becoming the only African American woman to head a major spirit brand. While the Nearest Green Distillery is being built on a 270-acre horse farm, the brand has released a line of sourced Tennessee whiskeys filtered through sugar maple charcoal. The exceptional Uncle Nearest 1884—the inaugural release by Butler, who joined Weaver’s team in 2018—offers a rich, supple whiskey with spine and finesse. Is blending a skill passed down through genes? Maybe, maybe not. “I’m just thankful our whiskey family likes my palate,” Butler says.
A sense of place sets these sleek plates, bowls, and more apart
By Caroline Sanders
Birmingham, Alabama | $10–$75; civilstoneware.com
Sweetgrass Bicycle Baskets
Charleston, South Carolina | $650–$1,700; charlestoncarry.com
In Charleston’s City Market, on downtown street corners, and in stands along Highway 17, Black artisans have long sold intricately woven sweetgrass baskets, an art form enslaved people brought over from West Africa. In 2015, sisters Kathie Hall Rainsford and Karen Hall Caraway founded Charleston Carry and began a collaboration with the weavers, purchasing their baskets at market value and fashioning them into totes and stunning hand-coiled bicycle baskets. Currently, they’re working with ten to twelve artisans, including the master weaver Henrietta Snype, whose work has appeared in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. “The artisans spend weeks or sometimes months making these baskets,” Rainsford says. The gallery-quality bike baskets come lined with customizable, removable fabric and get finished with a metal tag that tells the story of the maker.
Musgrave Pencil Company
Shelbyville, Tennessee | $9–$37; musgravepencil.com
Most people probably never stop to ponder the provenance of a pencil, but when gripping a Tennessee Red made by the Musgrave Pencil Company, it’s hard not to. “You see the discoloration, the natural pores and knots and streaks of the wood,” says Henry Hulan, the chairman of Musgrave, which has produced pencils from the same plot of land in Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the last 104 years. While Tennessee red cedar was the pencil material of choice for much of the early 1900s, California incense cedar proved a faster-growing alternative, and by the end of the century, some pencil production had moved overseas. Last year, the company resurrected the Tennessee Red, the original wood Hulan’s grandfather built the business on around World War I. A just-off-center lead core, a quirk courtesy of the red cedar from local slat mills, and a strong woodsy aroma lend the pencils a charming homespun quality.
Davidson, North Carolina | $45; elisabeth-rose.com
As brides and grooms began favoring digital images over film, Elisabeth Connolly stepped away from her career as a wedding photographer—she liked working with her hands in the darkroom too much. Instead, she printed custom stationery and invitations in her home on an 1881 letterpress, which now sits in her Davidson, North Carolina, store, Elisabeth Rose, as a reminder of how she started. When COVID hit and weddings were canceled, Connolly pivoted to candle making. “Sometimes, the most creative moments come when you don’t have any other options,” she says. She sourced soy wax and safe-burning cotton wicks from Raleigh, and concocted the fig, lavender, and linen–scented Work from Home candle, selling more than nine hundred in less than two weeks. She soon launched a second: Sunday Brunch, with grapefruit, mandarin, and Meyer lemon. “The goal,” Connolly says, “is to bring peace to your working space—wherever that may be.”
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