SoWal People: Cheri Peebles of Grayt Coffee House

May 21, 2012 by Joyce Owen

If you want to know what's going on in SoWal, all you have to do is sit on the porch at Grayt Coffee House with owner Cheri Peebles for a half hour. And If she doesn't know what you want to know, then one of the many locals walking in and out likely will.

When she left her long tenure at Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse down the street, she didn’t know what was next for her life. However, her husband Bob had planned to relocate Beach To Bay Realty & Homewatch and her son Donald “Scooter” Reeder wanted to expand from hosting shrimp or crawfish boils and bonfires to a full service catering business.

When they had the opportunity to move into the old Magnolia House location, it seemed the perfect spot to bring those two businesses together. And to bring customers to the real estate and catering offices, why not a coffee shop?

Thus the Grayt Coffee House was born. The family manages all three businesses doing whatever is needed to keep things going, although the coffee house does have two part-time employees. Grayton Beach Catering, which has already expanded as a full service planner for everything from weddings and private parties to bonfires on the beach with s-mores, hires additional staff when needed.

It took a little while to settle into a slower pace, but Cheri realized that Bob needed her help, and she is learning she doesn’t have to do everything. She loves working with Donald. She plans events, while he does the more physical back end of the catering and event planning business.

“Putting everything under one roof, with the three of us working together,” Cheri says, “is pretty magical.”

As Cheri adjusts to her new role in the family businesses, she’s looking at ways to preserve the special qualities of the area.

“When I first got here, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I asked how can I play a role in the community. There’s so much history. How to document it?”

One idea has already taken off – story telling nights on the third Thursday at 6 p.m. at the coffee house – locals share stories that entertain, but also enlighten listeners and help to record memories that might otherwise be lost.

She’s also looking at walking tours of Grayton that would let locals and tourists know more about the history of the community..

Then there’s the Circle of Love.

Much like Cheri’s well-known hugs, she wants to encourage everyone as they go through their day to be mindful of what they say and do, to try to lift somebody else up. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – a hug, a smile, a touch – that can make a difference.

Cheri says, “No one should ever be afraid to do what God wants us to do.”

Cheri’s recent encounter in Seaside with a young woman who noticed her license plate, BGRTFUL, brings it all home to the well-known hugger. The woman tapped on the car window to tell Cheri how much she liked the saying.

“It’s a wonderful way to live and you should try to stay that way,” Cheri said.

The woman said OK, and then asked if she could give Cheri a hug. Cheri says she hopped out of her car, ever so grateful that someone was willing to reach out to her.

“You touch someone and hope that they in turn, touch someone else,” Cheri says.

It’s a "grayt" way to live your life.

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