It was love at first sight.
When Kay Stanley and Curt Seymour first visited Daufuskie Island around 2004, they knew they wanted to build a home there. The ocean, the marshes, the wildlife, the history. What was there not to love about the secluded island in the South Carolina Lowcountry?
"It's just a very pretty place," Stanley said. "It's a nice getaway from the rest of the world."
What the newlywed couple did not know was that just a few years later they would launch a line of women's accessories inspired by the beauty of the island. They also did not know their products would be sold at more than 1,200 stores nationwide.
Named after the local marsh grass and the couple's lot number on Daufuskie Island, Spartina 449 produces handbags, jewelry and other accessories that are sold in retail stores around the world.
Stanley and her team of artists on Hilton Head Island design the vibrant patterns that are turned into scarves, bags, bracelets and more.
While Stanley does the designing, Seymour oversees the back end of the business -- staffing, purchasing the inventory and making sure customers get their products. He also came up with a line of golf accessories. So now Spartina lovers can have golf club bags, ballmarkers and other golf items in their favorite patterns and colors. Spartina's golf line is sold at most upper-scale golf pro shops across the country.
"I think our product line has this kind of fresh look to it," Seymour said. "And the price point -- it's not really high end. We're more moderately priced. I think it's the patterns, and the look is kind of what helps us drive that market."
Stanley and Seymour launched Spartina in January 2009, after selling their scrapbooking business, K&Company, in August 2007 and moving to South Carolina from Kansas City, Mo.
The new company has been featured in Southern Living, Southern Lady and Victoria Magazine. And Stanley said Spartina also will be featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and People StyleWatch.
Spartina products are sold locally at: Lettrs, Fresh Produce, Currents and Island Girl on Hilton Head; Sprouts in Bluffton; Rossignol's in Beaufort and What's In Store on St. Helena Island.
The product line has become a popular seller at Fresh Produce in Coligny Plaza. Owner Kim Mischik said visitors to the Lowcountry like the bags because they are designed by a local company.
"They're very attractive, I would say sophisticated-looking bags," Mischik said. "They're very coastal-looking, and the patterns are just beautiful."
Made with heavy linen and real leather trim, the handbags have a unique look, Seymour said.
"People are starting to kind of recognize the look when we come out with a new pattern," Stanley said. "They can see our bag and say, 'That's a Spartina' because of the specific material we use."
But perhaps more appealing than the bright colors and unique designs is the bags' link to the Lowcountry.
"Each pattern has a story behind it," Stanley said.
The Calibogue collection, for example, is named for the Calibogue Sound, which wraps around Daufuskie. Other collections include Shell Beach, Summer House and Sailor's Watch.
"We wanted to do more than just, 'Here's a handbag,'" Stanley said. "We wanted a lifestyle, a story behind it."
She said it's nice to hear people from all over the country ask about Daufuskie at trade shows. And she enjoys telling people about their favorite little island in South Carolina.
"It's kind of neat to have Daufuskie Island all over the country," she said. "And we're even in Japan, Australia. The Lowcountry is going everywhere."
And while the charm of Daufuskie travels the world, the island gets a boost from the sales of Spartina products. A portion of the company's proceeds goes to the nonprofit Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation, which works to preserve the culture and history of the island.
"I just think it's nice to give back to the island," Stanley said. "It basically helps preserve the stories of the past."