The Greening of Sopchoppy

Small Town’s Environment Helps With Economic DevelopmentThe Greening of SopchoppySmall Town’s Environment Helps With Economic DevelopmentBy Darlyn Finch

It doesn’t surprise Sopchoppy businessman Robert Seidler that his quirky corner of the world has been discovered by best-selling novelists. The little burg is a part of the “old” Florida that’s in great demand these days, and he’s in the business of getting the word out.

Seidler has been in business since 1984 in this one-and-a-half square-mile town, located about 45 minutes from Tallahassee. His Seidler Productions focuses on educational and instructional films and DVDs, including three series for public television. Two were nature-based exploring ecosystems and habitats, while the other delved into innovations and solutions for bicyclists, another of his passions.

Seidler isn’t the only entrepreneur drawn to a town poised for progress. He finds the majority of people interested in moving to Sopchoppy are looking for stability, as well a healthy environment with natural assets.

Most arrive from Central and South Florida, or come down from Atlanta.

“Historically, Atlanta people visited or had second homes here,” he said. “Adventure travelers, cyclists and hikers will dominate the future.”

Herb Hiller, travel-writing guru and author of “A1A: Florida on the Edge,” works with Seidler on the Florida Bicycle Association-endorsed Capital City to the Sea Loop, a Greenways Rails-to-Trails bike/walk trail modeled after the St. Johns River to the Sea Loop in Northeast Florida.

Hiller said, “I first came [to Sopchoppy] for a bicycle advocacy meeting, maybe 25 years ago. A woman had set up a bed and breakfast in her house, where we all met …. The little downtown (had) a couple other storefronts going. Liked it all; all very place-y.”

Seidler said the merchants in Sopchoppy are special.

“Sopchoppy is a walk back in time and a walk into the future, with local businesses run by people who care,” he said. “There’s good food and ambiance in the restaurants. Sopchoppy is a microcosm of what community is.”

Dr. Howard Kessler, a Wakulla County commissioner, likes the warm feeling of the town when he and his wife go there to buy chicken feed. “Sopchoppy has a ‘down-home’ flavor to it,” he said. “The restaurants are great. The IGA grocery store is a hidden treasure. The Worm Grunting Festival and the Fourth of July parade and fireworks are not to be missed. It feels like a small town should feel.”

However, Kessler said there is a slight clash of cultures between the old residents and the new folks who would rather go hiking and biking than hunting and fishing.

“They’re both positive groups enjoying the area’s natural beauty, but each causes anxiety in the other,” he said.

Many of Sopchoppy’s approximately 500 residents work in the downtown restaurants and shops like Backwoods Bistro, Sally’s Restaurant, Posh, Scratch Cakes Bakery, Sisters Antiques and Uniques, Chloe Farms Nursery, Roddenberry Professional Land Surveyors and Mappers, C&L Automotive, Colleen’s Cleaning Service, Sopchoppy Tire & Auto, Crescent Moon Organic Farms, Sopchoppy Hardware Store, Senior Citizen’s Thrift Store and George Griffin’s Pottery Studio. Revell Realty helps visitors become residents. Some residents work in the seafood industry at Sanders and Sons or Nichols and Sons, or provide bait, like those world-famous, multi-hearted Sopchoppy earthworms, to Lou’s Bait and Tackle. Other families continue to grind sugar cane and make syrup as they’ve done for generations.

Another special Sopchoppy destination is Salli Squitieri and Gabriel Butterfield’s Frog and the Hummingbird, a showcase for artists and craftspeople, and their Butterfield’s Roadhouse, a family-friendly (no alcohol, no smoking) venue for local and national musicians, poets and eclectic performers.

Categories: Forgotten Coast 2011, Forgotten Coast Archive