Surroundings on the Harbor is by design, not by accident

Jessica Coker
Located in the Mae Center, 385 Harbor Blvd., suite 102, Surroundings is marked by this piece of unique advertising.

After nearly 10 years of scouting business locations and bouncing ideas off family and friends, Bridget Carnley finally opened the doors to her dream business last month, Surroundings on the Harbor.

Unique in both concept and design, Surroundings provides something for everyone.

"Surroundings on the Harbor is both a retail store with home furnishings and gifts, including jewelry, apparel, inspirational books and cards, unique signs and art work," Carnley said. "But it's also a deli that is open for lunch and dinner."

When you walk through the doors at Surroundings, nostalgia immediately overwhelms you as you're taken back to the heart of old Destin. And Carnley said that is not by accident, but by design.

"I wanted to bring people back to the harbor," Carnley said. And, in browsing Surroundings retail area it's clear that she hit the nail on the head.

Every corner of Surroundings is dripping in Destin. Artwork and signs paint a picture of the harbor way of life through artwork and signs that depict various Emerald Coast locations like Crab Island and the beach.

Carnley is no stranger to the business world, having owned the Destin Racquet and Fitness Center for about 25 years, until 2005. But, she told The Log that this business was different, more personal.

"Surroundings is a cooperative effort between friends," Carnley said. "It was an opportunity to bring friends, dreams and stories together," Carnley said.

Carnley told The Log that she's also excited because her granddaughter, 14-year-old Saylor Carnley, will be helping out around the business during her summer vacation.

In addition to home wares and decorations, Surroundings carry a number of unique jewelry lines including Miska, a line of designer jewelry that's made entirely by mothers and daughters living in third-world countries who support themselves with the jewelry proceeds.

Surroundings also carries a one-of-a-kind furniture line that Carnley came across while in North Carolina — Four Seasons.

"Four Seasons gave us a private label, so no other retail shops in the area offer their products," Carnley said. Carnley calls the merchandise in Surroundings "new-cottage-style."

Surroundings also supports local businesses by carrying various products from local merchants, including La Place, a line of hot sauce and spices that’s made in Fort Walton Beach.

Open for lunch and dinner, the Surroundings deli, or Kitchen and Pantry, offers hungry diners selections like waffles, oatmeal, sandwiches made to order and specialty coffee.

"The deli is geared towards locals," Carnley said. "I wanted this to be a place where people could stop and grab lunch during their breaks."

Carnley told The Log that although they are so close to the harbor, they aren't close enough to have harbor views, so she got creative. She turned some old windowpanes into works of art in the deli, with large Destin harbor pictures.

The folks at Surroundings will even pack a cooler for you for your day out on the water.

"As you're heading out to the beach or on the boat, call us and we'll pack a picnic for you," Carnley said.

According to Carnley, the May 31 soft-opening went well, with at least 50 or so people attending, "milling in and out throughout the event." Surroundings will join the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce, hosting a ribbon cutting on June 20.

Surroundings on the Harbor is located at the Mae Center, 385 Harbor Boulevard (Highway 98), suite 102, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A sign sitting next to Carnley's desk sums up the atmosphere of Surroundings. "It's not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and now is your time."

"That quote really inspired me, it spoke to me," Carnley said.

You can reach Surroundings by calling 460-7311.