Hurricane Irma chased us from Miami to Fairhope

February 10, 2019
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Hurricane Irma chased us from Miami to Fairhope

Hurricane Irma chased us from Miami to Fairhope

“Hurricane Irma chased us to Fairhope from Miami a year and a half ago. We packed our two cars with our two kids, two cats and dog and evacuated with the rest of Florida. There was no place to stay through Pensacola. Effie rolled down her window and asked what was after Pensacola. I told her Mobile, but nobody goes to Mobile except to stop and buy gas on the way to New Orleans. Find something in New Orleans. My wife listened to me like she always does and Googled pet-friendly in Mobile. She rolled her window back down and asked if I had heard of a Fairhope. I said no, what is a Fairhope? She said all you need to know is they have a two bedroom, bathroom suite that takes pets for $125 a night. We drove 23 1/2 hours straight from Miami to Fairhope, arrived in the dark, and woke up six hours later. I looked out and the balcony was gorgeous and there was a bluff that rolled gently to the bay. I asked if we could stay past Wednesday. We took a map of restaurants that meant nothing to us so and drove into this little town with galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. I lived in Miami most of my life and this was a culture shock.”

“I said, ‘We aren’t in Kansas anymore, what is this vortex’?”

“R Bistro knocked our socks off. We walked around and saw the real estate listings in a window. Houses are a fraction of the cost in Miami. In four days, we put a contract on a house, thinking we could fix it up and flip it if we didn’t move into it.  Our business in Miami did well but had become a bit of a grind. We realized this was the time to do the Greek restaurant we had been talking about for ten years. My wife and brother-in-law, Gerry, are Greek and my in-laws are off the boat from Greece. On Friday of that week, we signed the lease for the restaurant. We left Miami on September 7. Seven days later we had a home and restaurant in Fairhope. We are entrepreneurs and saw an opportunity and chance to gain control of our lives.”

“In Miami, you lose your life. You get up and it’s the same rat race every day. We lived 25 miles from our office, but it took us 2 hours to get home and then 2 hours to get back. We commuted 4 hours every day.”

“Meeting Effie was serendipity, just like finding Fairhope. We met on and it still works 15 years and two months later. She had gone through an unpleasant divorce and was done with men. She is educated, worked for Fortune 250 companies in upper management, and didn’t need a man. Her boss put her on to get her back into living. She agreed to do it for two weeks but wrote a profile intended to scare men off. It said, ‘If you are a lawyer, keep going. I am not interested. If you think your money is going to impress me, keep walking because I am self-made and don’t need a man to support me.’ On the last day of the last week, I popped up and sent her a note saying I was looking for a well-rounded woman.”

“I responded to him and said, you must be stupid, but in case you have half a brain, here is a little bit more.”

“I am a lawyer. I was intrigued. The hunt was on.”

“I did that to make my boss happy and wasn’t looking for someone. I missed our first phone date because I was riding motorcycles with friends. I set the kitchen timer for ten minutes the second time he called so I could get off quickly. We talked for hours.”

“Our first date started with coffee at 6:15 and ended with a late dinner until we were thrown out at 2:30 in the morning. We had our first fight that night when she wouldn’t let me walk her to her car. I didn’t know her father was in her car waiting for her. She told him to call her at 6:30 with an excuse about her family so she could end our date after 15 minutes and leave. He waited in the car for over eight hours. I met her dad that night. As I walked away, I looked back, thinking it was a good night, and ran into a pole like Wiley Coyote. She and her father saw it. Her father said, ‘You are going to marry that man. I like the way he walks.’ We have been inseparable ever since.”

“I told my dad he was crazy. It was just a great cup of coffee. I knew Jon was the one, but I wasn’t going to admit it because I was still recovering from a bad marriage.”

“Our second date, I took her to see the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I found out much later she was horrified I was taking her to see it because she didn’t want me to know what it was like. My life is just like the movie, but I love all of it and was in from the beginning. She refused to call me her boyfriend, but we were engaged two months and three weeks later. This restaurant is the fulfillment of an unintended dream that may never have happened if we stayed in Miami. Our third partner is her brother. His family and her parents moved to Fairhope with us. More of our posse from Miami will probably move here. Our grand opening of It’s All Greek to Me is less than an hour away and it is terrifying. Will people show up? Will they enjoy themselves? Will we be equal to what we want to be? Have we found our place here? We will have to wait and see.”

(This is going to be a week of love stories on Our Southern Souls).

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