We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Belfry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
As a parent, I have tried to impress upon my children the importance of compassion and acceptance. Although we might not agree with everything going on around us all the time, I want my kids to understand they need to be mindful of other people’s beliefs and values and just because they are different than our own, that doesn’t make them wrong or right. My kids learn this through travelling. Mark Twain said it best in that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” This summer, after we were stuck at home for so long, we were all getting a bit restless. So I did what any sane mom would do, I packed up my kids and we went on a 30-day cross country tour. We drove nearly 9,000 miles, visited 20 states and the whole way, we never had a real plan. We just visited states and towns that were open for business. It was eye opening to physically see and experience as many towns that we did during a world-wide pandemic. It wasn’t nearly as scary as what we were seeing on television however my kids were able to witness first hand how the pandemic was affecting different areas of our country. Last year, my husband and I took our kids to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. We were met in PR with massive protests and military presence because of the political unsettling and in the Dominican we drove through the country side and saw the negative impact created by no landfill system. Of course we fit in a ton of fun things to do, however it was also really important for our kids to see the real-life side of these areas.
What should our readers know about your business?
People who know me call me a ‘serial entrepreneur’. When people ask me what I do, I always chuckle and say ‘well I suppose that depends on the day!’ My husband and I own our own businesses in multiple industries. Some would think if you are going to own several businesses, they should be in similar industries so that they can cross market and support each other. But that would be too easy! The majority of my time is spent supporting my husband’s business The Louver Shop of Greater Savannah. I manage his marketing and hr as well as work behind the scenes on goal setting. I also run our storage facility business, Buckhead Storage. When we purchased the business, nearly 4 years ago everything was done by handwriting on paper. With over 200 tenants, it was a beast to figure out who was parked where and we really didn’t even know who was paying on time and who wasn’t. I have since turned everything digital and completely revamped the security system so even though I might not physically be there, I have eyes on the entire facility 24/7. I also recently sold my blowdry bar, Hustle & Blow so that I could concentrate my efforts on the wedding industry. I am working towards opening an event space that can host weddings, receptions, farmer’s markets, art shows, and more all with glamping accommodations for our guests. This is a major undertaking both from a planning and financial perspective, so the timeline on this coming to life is still 4-5 years out. When I’m not ‘working’, I am volunteering my time. I sit as head chair of the advisory board for SD Gunner Fund. With that foundation and the collaboration of some major girlbosses in Savannah, we created the award winning annual event, Savannah Carnaval. It’s a fundraiser that raises money for the training and care of service and therapy dogs that serve our local veterans and exceptional children. Carnaval is my absolute favorite part of my day. Anytime I can work on Carnaval things, I feel energized, excited, and my creative capacity is pushed to the limit. When we won Best Fundraising Event in the inaugural year, I was beyond thrilled! And as if I don’t already keep busy enough, this year, I became a certified mentor with SCORE. SCORE is a free program through the SBA that assists people who are looking to start their own business or are already in business but want to grow or pivot their strategies. I currently mentor 25 entrepreneurs. It is my happiest moment when my clients tell me that after talking to me they feel energized and empowered. I’m like YES!!!! I absolutely love having a positive effect on someone’s day and future career. With all of this going on PLUS having a family, learning the importance of work-life balance is key! My life heavily relies on a planned schedule pretty much all the time so I have learned along the way to also put the fun and ‘non-work’ things in my calendar too. When I get that appointment reminder that a beach day with my best friends is coming up, it gives me the focus to get everything off my to-do list so I can truly unplug and unwind.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am THE biggest advocate of Savannah!! This town has so much to offer and my husband and I regularly plan staycations in our own backyard because it’s fun to play tourist in the hostess city. Here’s a week long agenda I highly recommend for couples or a girls trip! Accommodations – if you are here for a week, definitely check out an airbnb. It will be a bit more budget friendly. I would recommend looking in either the Starland District or the Historic District so that you are w/in walking distance of much of the things to do. If you want to switch it up, maybe stay in an airbnb Mon-Thursday and then go over to The Alida and get a hotel for Friday-Sunday. The Alida is amazing! They have a (low key) vegas-style pool area complete with a pool side bar, cabanas, fire pit & great music. Their staff is always friendly and welcoming. The beds are soooo comfortable!! and you have 3 restaurant/bar choices each with a different vibe. Day 1 – all vacations need to start with some R&R. Head out to Tybee for a sunrise or sunset walk. Park at North Beach, grab a mojito to-go at North Beach Grill and then walk the beach. If you get hungry, there is plenty of good food options between North Beach and the Pier. When you get back, you’ll need a good massage, so hop on the free water ferry and go to the Westin. Their spa is inclusive of all the amenities you would expect and if you’re significant other isn’t really into spa services, there is a workout facility, golf course, pool, and tennis courts. Day 2 – now that you are relaxed and unplugged it’s time to have fun! A beautiful morning walk happens at Forsyth Park. Each lap around the perimeter of the park is just shy of 1 mile and you will commonly find a pop up Yoga session going on in the morning. Next, head over to Bodega for a made from scratch NY style bagel and then visit Superbloom Coffee Shop for a hand crafted drink made by Marguerite. Her shop has super chic, locally made art, jewelry, & clothing too! Since you’ll be in the Starland District, definitely take the time to walk around. There are a ton of little shops tucked away on side streets and it’s fun to just stumble upon some of these things unexpectedly! Water Witch Tiki & 787 by Chazitos are two faves in this district! If you are a beer lover or you are travelling with your dog, the Starland area is probably the most dog friendly district in Savannah. Starland Yard is epic for a late lunch and right next door is my favorite brewery (female owned and operated!), Two Tides Brewing. Day 3 – Broughton Street is a must! You can spend an entire day starting at one end of Broughton and finishing on the other. I recommend starting on the West End and finishing at the East End…and here’s why: Bottomless Mimosas happen every day at The Ordinary Pub. They are so friendly and very generous on their bottomless policies! You can walk downtown savannah with open container, so be sure to also get a to-go! The key to shop local on broughton is to look up & look down! There are a ton of cute little shops on the 2nd story of some of the broughton street buildings and there are a couple ‘back alley’ shops. Don’t miss The Basement On Broughton, it’s an oddities 2nd hand store and you never know what treasures you will find! Lunch on broughton should be done at Broughton Common. It’s a mid-century modern-meets old warehouse vibe and the time and talent that went into making that menu is second to none. When visiting Savannah, a honey tasting is a must! While many people love Savannah Bee Company, I am partial to Capital B Company (both on Broughton). You can taste their honey while also shop for gifts to bring back the heart of Savannah to your home. If you are needing a bit of a rest, go north on Abercorn one block to Reynolds Square. There is usually someone playing an instrument and/or singing in that square and it’s one of the more shaded squares with benches, so you can really enjoy some nice downtime. Make sure to make it all the way to the end of Broughton b/c my absolute favorite restaurant and shop are there! Hygge is a gem! It has a thoughtful curation of ethical and sustainable goods for the home, body and mind and is owned by my friend, Cristina. You’ll often find Cristina or her mom, Ana Maria working in the shop. Ana Maria taught my son art, so if you see there is a workshop she’s teaching, take it! She is the best teacher! Finish your Broughton day by having dinner at Cha Bella. Mike and Candice are the owners and they take such care in creating their farm-to-table menu. Everything is delicious, trust me, I’ve had it all! Day 4 – Savannah has some of the most rich history in the nation, so visiting the museums is a must. You can buy a pass to visit several and they are open Thursday-Monday 10am-5pm. Check out Telfair Museums for ticket information. Since you are learning about the history of Savannah, be sure to also book a Ghosts and Gravestones Tour. Ask to be on Cheap Jack’s trolley. Cheap Jack is also my son, so I may be a little partial, but I think he’s the best tour guide in Savannah. Day 5 – Although Hilton Head always receives recognition for great golfing, Savannah has a few fun and beautiful courses also. If you are not an avid golfer, then book lessons at The Club at Savannah Harbor. Ask for Fred. He was my golf instructor and I learned so much! Plus he didn’t make me feel like a total idiot when I missed the ball completely on my swing (don’t judge, lol). After a morning of golf, be sure to check out Plant Riverside. It just opened here in Savannah and it’s a marvel in itself! It boasts the world’s largest chrome dinosaur and the Electric Moon has a legit adult slide to take from one floor to the next! Day 6 – Wake up early, catch an uber and head over to the Abercorn Plaza. Start with an intense workout. You can choose from Pure Barre or CycleBar followed by a good stretch at StretchLab. After your body is feeling good, get your hair looking good with a relaxing blowout at Hustle and Blow Dry Bar. Then plan to spend the rest of the day in City Market. I love hanging out in City Market on a Saturday or Sunday. There is always live music playing and it’s a main stopping point for all of the trolley hop on-hop off tours, so people watching is really fun. For brunch, check out Little Duck Diner. I’m not exaggerating when I say they have the best tomato soup on the planet…and I don’t even normally like tomato soup! They also serve a really fun cocktail that is complete with a yellow rubber ducky on top. If you love oysters, then Sorry Charlie’s is a must! I’m allergic to oysters, however I still bring all of our out of town guests here because it’s just so good! They have a good range of items on their menu beyond oysters plus they just opened up a new roof top deck that gives you beautiful views of the city! Day 7 – Departure day anytime I travel is always the saddest. It’s daunting knowing you have to get back to reality and you probably have a drive or flight to get there. So I highly recommend starting your morning with breakfast at The Rhett and plan for an in-room massage. My friend Mary Holstein, owner of Balance Mobile Massage, has hands & forearms of a goddess and has a wide range of services based on your preferences. Having this service in-room makes it even more special because you can literally roll out of bed and onto her table. It’s the best wake up call ever!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would never be where I am without my parents! Raised in a small farming town in Wisconsin, my parents taught my sisters and I what it meant to be an active participant in all aspects of your life. My dad was a union electrician and my mom was an x-ray tech, they worked very hard to give us a good life and encouraged us to take ownership of our actions very early on. My parents would never give us a free handout. We had to earn everything and by the age of 12, I had a job of my own. My parents were active members of our school and our church and most weekends they would spend donating their time and talent to the community to help enrich the lives of others. Every summer we would take a vacation to travel the country together. Our trips were always done by car, so if we couldn’t get there by car, we weren’t going! Because of their consistency & discipline in how we were raised, I find myself following in their footsteps. I love to work, I am an active participant in my community donating much of my free time to helping others, and I too encourage my kids to make their own dreams come true by working for it. Thanks Mom & Dad xoxo 🙂
Ivona Dixon Photography, MDB Photography