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Business Beacon: Inside South Walton Designs

Editor’s note: This month’s Business Beacon is a spotlight on South Walton Designs, a local business creating custom live-edge wood art. Owner Cory Peterson talks to us about woodworking, hand-picking slabs that tell a story, and how character equals art. Find him on Facebook and Instagram.

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Cory Peterson, owner, South Walton Designs

1. How did you get the idea or concept for your business?

CP: [There was a] lack of local businesses doing live-edge wood art.

2. Let’s discuss numbers: What year did you open? How many locations do you have? How many people do you employ?

CP: [Opened in] 2023, I have been in woodworking for 10 years on the side. [I have] one location and no employees.

3. What do you sell or what service do you provide? What’s your best seller?

CP: Live-edge wood art and epoxy wood tables.

4. What’s unique about what you do or offer?

CP: I find unique live-edge wood with mesmerizing epoxy colors to create art that is one of a kind. All my artwork is hand-made, and no two are ever alike. A balance of nature, adventure and artwork that will never go out of style.

5. How would you describe your business to a potential customer?

CP: My customers come to me because they want something that nobody else has. I offer unique, hand-picked slabs of wood that tell a story. Sourced from various wood mills in the southwest U.S., each live-edge slab of wood must have a unique character. My signature surfboard series of art is unique and attracts the eye for the perfect centerpiece to any home decor. Using epoxy, I can match any home decor color.

6. What do you love most about your line of work?

CP: From start to finish, you never know what a piece is going to look like. I have purchased live-edge slabs that were rotting and about to go to a burn pile and ended up being the most beautiful art I have ever made. Each slab has unique grains; then, adding colored epoxy to accent gives the wood new life again.

7. What sorts of trends are you seeing in your industry?

CP: COLORS. What’s great about doing custom work is that I work with the customer to get their color ideas, accents and species preferences.

8. Tell me in just a sentence or two what you feel sets you apart from your competitors.

CP: I do not feel I have any competition. Every customer or even every person who has seen my work says, “These are breathtaking pieces that you have to see to appreciate.” I do not feel there is anyone who can match the time and craftsmanship of what I am doing. Also, I am very particular is the wood slabs I buy. When I am talking with a seller, I ask for photos or what they have that is ugly. I want character — character equals art.

9. Who or what inspires you? This could be a family member or celebrity, a particular quote or even a book/movie/podcast. The sky’s the limit!

CP: I get ideas from Instagram, but every piece that I make is in my head the moment I purchase or see a slab of wood.

10. What’s the best thing about being a part of the Emerald Coast, personally and/or professionally?

CP: We know that our water and beaches are what bring people here. When I incorporate emerald colors into a project and then the client sees it for the first time, that jaw-dropping moment satisfies me.

11. Are you/your business involved in the community in any way? Volunteering or giving back? If so, how?

CP: I built a surfboard art piece for Mattie Kelly’s charity auction. It was one of my favorite pieces. I used a very unique slab of ambrosia maple with white and gold epoxy. I have run into a few people who have said they saw that piece in the show and loved it.

12. What does a typical day in your business look like? (Pretend it’s Monday (or Friday!) and take me through the highlights of your day.)

CP: With epoxy art, it’s a lot of designing, building a mold, and even prepping. Then, epoxy takes two to three days to fully cure, so there is a waiting period. So I try to have multiple projects I am working on, so when I’m sanding one, there is another waiting for another to dry.

13. How do you recharge or relax when the day is done?

CP: My two Yorkies keep me plenty busy.

14. Just the deets, please! Where are you located? Business hours? Social media profiles and/or website links we need to know about? (Please feel free to add social media handles or direct links!)

CP: [I am] located in Miramar Beach and a shop in Freeport. Find him on Facebook and Instagram under South Walton Designs.

15. One final question: If there was just one thing you wish the public knew about your business, what would it be?

CP: I have only been in business full-time for one year, so right now, it’s just getting my name out here. I recently placed a few products in “Not Too Shabby” in Miramar Beach, and that is helping to show off my work. I do not have a showroom, as most of my products are either custom-made or sell fairly quickly.

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