The Southport Sisters: Barbara and Francine Make a Fresh Start

by Jan 5, 2017Art & Culture, Brunswick County Life, People, South Brunswick, Southport Oak Island

“Hey, Sister,” I said. “I found where we need to live.”

“Where?” she asked


Do you ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says you are making the right choice? That is how I felt when I traveled to Southport last summer.

Six years ago my sister, Francine, and I relocated to Asheville with our mother, Irene, who needed round-the-clock care.  It was a promise we made to her. Mom gave us every opportunity to follow our dreams in whatever direction we chose as long as we were all together.  And we stayed together until her passing last year.

“Now what do we do?” I asked my sister.  “I’m ready for a fresh start, what about you?”

“Sounds good to me, but where?” she asked.

Gypsies by birth, we began the search for our new home.

My sister and I were born in Los Angeles, where we spent many weekends at the beach.  Mom would cook all day Saturday and then we would load up the car on Sunday morning and head to the beach.  I can still taste the warm sloppy joe’s, the creamy deviled eggs and Aunt Peggy’s famous brownies.  The beach sounded like the perfect place to call home, once again. But this time we were looking at the Carolina coast.

After much research, I contacted two friends.  One friend lives in Wilmington and the other lives in Leland.  I spent a week visiting the area and looking at houses, but I never felt like I was home until I took a day to myself and drove to Southport.  As I drove down Howe Street, I knew this was going to be the place for that fresh start.  The small-town feeling, the quaint shops, the pier and the smell of that sea air reminded me of home once again. I pulled into Burney’s Bakery and ordered a couple of chocolate croissants, drove to the City Pier, sat in one of the swings and called my sister.

After a few short months of cleaning, packing and saying goodbyes to our friends in Asheville, we hit the road for Southport.  For the first couple of months we trekked to Southport, Oak Island, Shallotte, Calabash and Wilmington in search of coastal shabby chic furnishings for our new home, since we had left everything behind.

We are not interior decorators by any means, but we know what we like, and lucky for us, we have the same taste.  Well, for the most part we have the same taste.

When we were looking for a statement piece for a wall, she knew exactly the thing. We drove to Mad River in Southport and found the iron gate that would become the perfect piece.

“Now we need a window for the other wall,” I said. We drive over to 424 Shops of Howe Street, where Marcia and Dan were more than happy to oblige. The fellowship we have developed with shop owners is reinforcement that we made the right decision.  In Asheville I was known as The Cookie Lady, so in my own way of saying thanks to our new friends, I baked up a batch of my signature Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt and delivered them around the holidays.

Barbara Sammons PhotographerI worked as a professional chef for much of life and I’ve also been a photographer for more than 45 years. Now that we are at the beach, days with my camera have shifted to capturing shorebirds, sunsets and fishing tournaments.  I am often asked what type of camera I use, what settings, and what lenses.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter the equipment if you don’t have that feeling in your heart.  You are capturing a place in time, not just a snapshot, and I am excited about the possibilities here in Brunswick County.

Francine is an avid reader but you can only read so many books in a day. She also hand-paints children’s growth charts with designs ranging from books to fishing to robots to owls.

We have lived in Southport for just a few months, but we already know we are home, once again.  And how do we know?  Because we walk into Wildlife Restaurant and Grill on Oak Island and say “Beverly, we’ll have our usual.”

Neighbors of Barbara and Francine refer to them as the “Southport Sisters.” To follow their adventures, try out new recipes or learn of their craft shows, be sure to visit their blog:

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