MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A Mexico Beach business owner is living her dream and finding the positive after surviving Hurricane Michael.
Ashley Taunton, her two children and her contractor husband evacuated to the west before Michael devastated the Panhandle.
But Taunton couldn’t keep her spouse away from the area for long.
“My husband came back during the storm, kind of followed it home and just helped however he could, helped cut his way back into Gulf County and Bay County and just started helping out neighbors, putting tarps on roofs, removing trees and just jumping right into action. And he’s a builder, so he hasn’t really quit since,” she explained.
The family lives about 10 miles inland. The Tauntons knew they would be busy in Mexico Beach, aiding in repairs, so they began to look for an office closer to the Gulf.
They bought a small green cottage along Highway 98 but the building was required to house a retail space to help the economy of Mexico Beach.
“Well we found the building and [we] were so excited that we would have a place for him to put his office in but it did need to be a retail store for the market’s boardwalk here,” Taunton explained. “So I was happy to take on that project and we went ahead and it was an easy choice to do a home interior store and gifts and books and we just went ahead and jumped right in.”
Seagreen Salvage & Co. opened in July. Taunton said it’s always been something she had wanted to do.
“One of those things that when we look back we see how all the things that were set in motion to kind of make it happen. I definitely didn’t see it coming, but it’s been a great time,” she said.
The family was lucky. Their home wasn’t damaged, but Taunton said it did “look like a bomb went off” outside.
She’s very proud of her own little community and how folks came together after the storm.
“It was an experience. It was neat to see our neighbors kind of band together and we had cookouts and kind of helped each other,” she said. “So we saw a lot of good things about our community during that time.”
Taunton has a message for those thinking of coming back to Mexico Beach to visit, one year after Hurricane Michael.
“I think we want people to know that Mexico Beach is still here and businesses are open that need their visitors to come back,” she said. “And it looks very different here but it’s really the same Mexico Beach that you know and love, the same small town on the beach. It’s still as charming as ever and there are a lot of businesses here ready to give you a warm welcome back.”