“We are proud of our store. We think we’re on to something. We are doing business the way it is supposed to be done.”
If heading to or from the beaches of South Walton, you may have passed a small local eatery just off State Road 81 in Red Bay called Red Bay Grocery. I highly recommend stopping into the store when in east Walton County for breakfast, lunch or dinner. To the locals that live in the small community the store is a necessity, but to visitors it is a gem of a find that draws them back time and again.
This is a story of locals serving locals. The original grocery has been in operation since 1936 and has had over 28 owners, but through time became dilapidated and closed in 2008. Leaving the community with a minimum 20 minute drive for bare necessities, and no gathering space, they rallied 64 residents/partners who chipped in money to renovate and revive the old building. These 64 joined business principal Charles Morgan (think HarborDocks, Camille’s, Chuck’s Fish and FIVE), also a Red Bay resident, in reopening the business in 2009 featuring essential items, canned goods, homemade treats and accessories.
Cooperatively, the partners own and operate the business, and a hand-carved wooden plaque on the front porch lists the owners and a picture of the red bay tree after which the community is named.
The partners grow the produce (most of it comes from Luke Langford with Cypress Cattle), cut fresh flowers, bake cookies, cakes, and pies, take care of carpentry, plumbing and electrical needs and even handle the legal issues. But mainly, over coffee and biscuits with gravy, the partners of Red Bay Grocery provide stories and daily updates of the goings on in the small town.
Patrons can request fresh produce, eggs or milk which are kept in back and typically are used for the restaurant’s food.
Manager Linda Bradley says, “This is a place for the locals. We see the same people almost daily. There’s a group of men who come here every day for their coffee and sit at the same table. We get worried and start making calls if we don’t see our regulars. Emeril Lagasse has even stopped in.”
Daily blue plate specials are posted outside and on Red Bay Grocery’s Facebook page and include Southern favorites like Fried Chicken with seasonal greens, cheese grits and cornbread, Meatloaf, and Fried Catfish for $6.99. The sandwiches, BBQ, and Key Lime Pie are also quite popular, and end of the week features all-you-can-eat dinners from 5 p.m. until closing. Thursday try the fried shrimp, $15.99; Friday BBQ ribs and pulled pork, $14.99; and Saturday, Fried Mullet, $11.99.
The Grocery sponsors sporting tournaments like the 5th Annual Bream World Championships, 4th Annual Big Buck Contest, and the 2nd Annual Boar Squirrel Blast Off.
Red Bay Grocery is part of The Harbor Docks family. Morgan is the owner of seven (and growing) other restaurants in Alabama and Florida.
Operating 7 Days a week, Red Bay Grocery opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, and 6 p.m. all other days.
Check out the menu here: Menu