From The Desk Of … Marti Tolleson
St. Simons Island, nestled in the southeast section of Georgia as part of the Golden Isles, is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. With its moss-covered old oak trees and beautiful beaches it calls to me during the winter months offering its perfect weather and relaxed way of life. I know I am not alone when I say the moment I drive over the causeway I am immediately transformed and the stress immediately begins to melt away replacing it with visions of long walks on the beach and perfect sunsets.
One of my favorite places on the island is the darling shop, Two Friends, owned by my friend and fellow Summit alum Marti Tolleson. If you have ever visited St. Simons Island you know my Marti and her wonderful shop. With its bright yellow door and wonderful selection, Two Friends is a beautifully-curated shop offering the best selection of wares for your home and your life. You can find a gift for a friend, a perfect hostess gift or celebratory occasion and the best in women’s clothing and accessories. Marti’s mission for Two Friends—”to capture the essence of this Southern resort destination and her style and philosophy on life”—is evident the moment you cross the yellow door’s threshold and step foot in the shop. As you begin to take it all in you will instantly realize why she has become such a success and you will want to take one of each and have it wrapped and shipped home.
After this year’s Summit I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Marti and get the behind-the-scenes from the owner of this very popular shop. I wanted to know it all—how did it start, how do you set yourself apart in a place where so many things are so beautiful, and how she became a must-see shop for both residents and visitors. When I stopped in before leaving the island in February, I had the pleasure of spending some real time and soaking up the atmosphere and when I left I had so much knowledge of the comings and goings of her shoppers and the magic behind that stunning yellow door.
First of all, tell me all about Marti Tolleson. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your life and your business today?
I grew up in small-town USA, Hazlehurst, Georgia to parents who were entrepreneurs and small business owners. They taught me the value of hard work and that you get out of it what you put into it…always give more than is asked!!
How did the journey to Two Friends begin?
One day a realtor friend told me about a new couple moving to town (Perry, GA) and asked if I would invite them to our church. I did, and we were fast friends. She (Francie Hargrove) was an interior designer and a newlywed. She had a great eye for design. I grew up in a family-owned business and had a penchant for retail. Our combo was perfect. We grew the business for 9 years until she & her family moved to Cashiers, NC and my family & I moved to St. Simons Island, GA in 2010 and opened the St. Simons location. I kept the Perry store for three years after moving and then sold it to a gal who is our friend and at one time our store manager. Lea Fountain still owns & operates the store in Perry.
Anything you wish you had done along the way and didn’t do?
I could certainly look back and see where I’ve made plenty of mistakes but we worked through them and at the end of the day I wouldn’t change a thing…it has all been part of God’s perfect plan!
Share two people who have inspired your journey and why?
My Mom & Dad…they are the hardest working people I know. They do it because they love it and it’s truly a challenge every year!
How would you describe your darling store?
Well, it’s a lifestyle kinda store….creating the life you love with style! It’s the store where you can get a baby gift for your best friend, a little something sweet for your hubs, a birthday gift for your mom, a wedding gift for your college roommate and a fabulous outfit for yourself because you have a night on the town!
What do you think sets your store apart from another in the area?
We strive to make it a happy store and it starts with the Two Friends girls. Customers tell us they feel it from the moment they walk in the door. It’s an all- white store from floor to ceiling. I designed it that way so that the products would pop! It hits all the senses!
I love your cute pups … they seem to be your shop mascots as they greet all who walk in. Tell me all about them.
Lucy & Roxy are definitely the “managers in charge” of our “greeting committee”. We have customers who come back time after time just to see the girls!
Is there a fun story behind your beautiful iconic yellow door?
When I was formulating the look and feel for the St. Simons location I kept thinking about my colors and yellow was always in the mix…it represents happiness and sunshine and that’s just what you get when you come to our island!
What is one tip you think everyone should know about their own store?
It is HARD WORK…don’t stop even when you get so tired you can’t even see straight!
Anything people shouldn’t do?
Don’t borrow a lot of money…If you can’t pay for it don’t get it! (wise advice from my dad)
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Working in my yard and watching a sunset on our beautiful island.
Favorite thing to do on the beautiful island you call home.
I love to be on our boat! Fishing or just cruising…it really doesn’t matter. The water is so soothing!
Five must haves.
Mount Veeder Cabernet, a good pair of tweezers, my favorite pillow, antique bangles, fresh clippings from my yard
Favorite quote …
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
In a place where beauty abounds Marti has designed a location where you can shop and visit and walk away with the perfect purchase and a wonderful recommendation for dinner for two. She has created a community and it is apparent in her customers and her staff. Marti doesn’t just own a store, she has built a spot where customers and friends shop and visit and leave with so much more than a bag filled with exactly what they were looking for. It is apparent that she is living out her mission and so much more.
The photos above do not do this incredible shop justice, It is most definitely worth a stop on your next visit to St. Simons, but you don’t have to visit the island to be able to shop the amazing selection from Two Friends. Follow them on Instagram for the latest arrivals and you can shop their many selections on their website. As Marti talks about above the Two Friends girls are so very helpful. They can help you with anything you need in the shop or from afar. They pride themselves on their customer service and it is so evident the moment they answer the phone. And when you call … make sure you tell them I sent you!
I love visiting Two Friends every time I’m on the island, which isn’t as often as I would like, but I’m working on that. The first time I met Marti, she made me feel so welcomed. That’s the sign of a great hostess and owner.
So proud of Marti and her successful shop!