by Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
Meredith Millen Deal believes the world would be a better place if more people sat down together and got to know each other over cups of coffee. Or tea. Or, well, insert your favorite beverage here. That’s why Paisley’s regional director for all 10 years of the magazine’s existence often meets prospective advertisers at local coffee shops.
“I meet everyone over coffee. My approach to sales is that if you would be kind enough to meet me in person and share coffee, I can learn more about you and what you need from your advertising. Meeting someone face to face makes for good marketing partnerships,” said Meredith, whose favorite meeting spots are Wake Up Coffee (“both locations”), Palm Coast Coffee or other local coffee shops. “I will work with people over the internet and email, but the best way is over a cup of coffee. I can also explain what Paisley is all about.”
What Paisley is about is “empowering and encouraging women, evoking thought and being informative. And I like to add, to inspire.”
Meredith said the magazine is doing just that. And her strategy of working closely with local businesses is paramount. “We had our magazine debut party at Gnat’s Landing in May 2008 before the first issue came out in July 2008. Boz (late local businessman) hosted it. By September, we were doing Partinis and had the first one at Iguana’s. Now our 10th anniversary Partini will be at Ziggy’s, which is owned by Iguana’s, too. Isn’t it great how small businesses support each other in our community?”
Her strategy is working, but her formula for business success didn’t come to Meredith overnight.
“I graduated in speech communications and government (from Florida State University) and the plan was to move to Atlanta and run that city,” she said, laughing. “Little did I know. I worked with the A. G. Rhodes Nursing Home for 16 years, and I also worked for the Girls’ Clubs of Atlanta—they didn’t have Boys & Girls then,” said Meredith, who also had experience working as a counselor at church camp every summer since the age of 15. It was at the nursing home where she gained experience in writing by putting together the monthly newsletter.
While in Atlanta, she met and fell in love with her now husband, Chuck, a carpenter and home remodeler. “We met at a bar, PJ Haley’s, in 1979. He offered to buy me a beer if I would just be quiet for a few minutes. I laughed hysterically and the rest is history!” The two wed in 1984.
The couple had visited St. Simons for years and decided to escape the grind of Atlanta for island life in 1996. They rented for several years until 2006, when they bought the distinctive little, mid-century modern home, sporting bright turquoise accents they used to visit.
“I found a job at Heritage Retirement Community, now Magnolia Manor, as the sales and marketing director. I called myself the key mistress,” she said, smiling broadly. She happily worked there for 11 years until her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Millen, came along with a new opportunity. Elizabeth had started a women’s magazine out of Hilton Head called Pink in 2004. “She said she wanted to start a sister publication here and would I consider running it for her. I said ‘sure!’”
Meredith was up for the challenge and felt her sales and marketing experience would make her a great fit. Additionally, she has a creative streak that may have come from her dad. “He was in advertising and radio and had his own sports show. I think that’s why I have a face for the radio,” she said, breaking out into laughter. “When I go into the studio every month at iHeartRadio (to record advertising spots she also writes for the Paisley Partinis), they call me ‘one take Meredith.’” She also had practice. For five years, Meredith, an avid sports fan, was one of the hosts of the local radio show, The Sports Chicks.
Paisley has also given her the opportunity to stretch her creative skills by writing for the magazine each month. “My writing style is quirky, like you are having a conversation with your girlfriend. I love creating questions for ‘Hear Me Roar” articles, and writing interesting features for the magazine.”
Another reason Meredith has been successful not only in her role at Paisley, but also in life overall, is her dedication to her friends and the importance she places on keeping those bonds strong.
“If you were one of my best friends in third grade, or in middle school or in high school or in college, you are still one of my best friends.” One way she continues to foster some of those friendships is by hosting a band camp every other year on St. Simons for her school friends. “I was section leader and All-County on the bass clarinet in school. Some of these friends I’ve known since the fourth grade. We rent vacation properties from SSI Fun (a long-time supporter of Paisley) and spend a fun extended weekend together. There is usually a field trip, lowcountry boil and twirling batons on fire involved,” she said, laughing. “Our drum major comes and leads music trivia. He plays the first few notes of a song on his fluegelhorn and we have to guess. The winning team gets a prize like a poop emoji pillow! They love it. There are usually 14 to 20 of us. At first, our spouses look like deer in headlights, but by the end of the weekend, they love it too.
“My theory is that if you do something too often, you get a small crowd and it isn’t as special. If you space them out, and keep things fun, it is more successful. That’s why we have the Paisley Partinis every other month instead of monthly and they are such a hit.”
While her job takes up a great deal of her time, Meredith is also dedicated to giving back to the community and beyond by being an active member of the Rotary Club of Brunswick. “Rotary allows you to be a humanitarian both locally and globally through all their great service projects,” said Meredith, who is going to be the assistant governor for four local Glynn County Rotary clubs.
Her favorites include global projects providing handwashing stations in southern India, desks for school children, and helping to rid the world of Guinea Worm disease. Locally, she enjoys projects helping families and school children, particularly those involving literacy. That’s why she was drawn to the Little Free Library project, a subject she wrote about in the January 2017 issue of Paisley. She even had Chuck build her own little free library in front of their home that she keeps stocked with a variety of books.
“I think sharing books brings a community together, just like Paisley does. The Partini concept allows people to gather—to meet and discuss ideas in a fun and friendly atmosphere. I love bringing forward stories of women from all walks of life. Working for Elizabeth has been a great experience. She is always giving me the opportunity to be creative and trusts me to direct her second publication. What I love about Paisley is that it is run by hardworking women, who partner with writers and photographers, and we all love what we do,” Meredith said. “Paisley isn’t just a shape, it’s a way to shape your life!”
Roots: Born in Boston, but moved to Ft. Lauderdale at two-years-old. Has one sister and two brothers. Her dad passed away when she was 12. Her mother still lives in Ft. Lauderdale.
Family Part Deux: Every September, her entire family gets together for a reunion. “Many of my nieces and nephews are Florida fans and the others are USC and UM fans. It makes for colorful commentary in person and on Facebook,” she said, laughing.
Favorite Sports: To watch: ACC and SEC college football. To play: golf, especially as part of the Paisley Birdie Golf outings. “I’ll never master it, but I have a wonderful time.
Favorite Things: “We enjoy St. Simons Island life—our neighborhood, golfing, fishing. Chuck and I love to walk the beaches, visit the Village. We also have fun with our Alexa—playing Match Game and Jeopardy with her. We find her to be very puny!”
Hobbies: Collecting coffee cups, dishes, pottery, yard art and cream and sugar sets, and art journaling.
Least Favorite Things: “Washing windows. And I’ve never started a lawn mower, and I don’t ever plan to!”
Mentor: Jill Badonsky. “I met her at church camp in 1970.”
A Rose by Any Other Name: “I believe Elizabeth really nailed it with naming the magazine. Paisley is timeless. The design has always been around and is as popular today as it has ever been. Just like stripes, animal prints and florals, it’s never going away.”