Her Sister's Shoes

By: Ashley Farley



Lovie and Oscar Sweeney had been providing vacationers to the South Carolina coast with fresh-from-the-ocean seafood since opening their doors in May of 1959—and little had changed since then. Not the quality of the service or the layout of the store. The same brass ship’s clock still hung on the wall above the door, ticking away the decades. The customers didn’t mind the outdated decor as long as the knowledgeable staff served superior product with a friendly smile. The creaking floorboards and dusty shelves welcomed them back year after year, just as the pungent odor of the marsh at low tide greeted them upon arrival in the small inlet town of Prospect.

When it came time to do something about the termites eating away at the floor joists—and to replace the electrical system that was one spark away from a catastrophic fire and the refrigerated display cases that were held together with hope, prayer, and a wad of electrical tape—Samantha Sweeney, the middle daughter of Lovie and Oscar, decided their market was way overdue for an upgrade. Their local customers encouraged Sam to remodel in the same vintage that had brought them success for more than fifty years, but she ignored their advice. Following her gut instincts, Sam had opted for a radically different approach.

After years of planning and saving, the renovations were nearing completion. With exposed ceiling pipes and pendant lighting, subway tile wainscoting and concrete floors, Sam had envisioned a minimalist style, the seafood being their main event. But as she surveyed the gleaming new showroom, she worried the results were more operating-room sterile than upscale industrial.

Sam suspected her sisters shared her concerns.

Faith turned in circles, contemplating the empty space. “Once the shelves are stocked and the refrigerated cases filled, the place will come to life.”

“Why don’t we paint the walls?” Jackie whipped her color wheel out of her oversized black patent bag. Sam had hired her older sister, an interior decorator, to offer guidance on trim selections. Jackie thumbed through the color strips, eventually holding out the wheel for Sam to see. “Here we go. I’ve used this linen color many times before. It’s neutral, but at the same time soft and warm.”

Sam barely glanced at the color. “But the painters have already finished. They’re out back cleaning up.”

“I’ve never known a painter to turn down more work.” Jackie tucked the paint wheel under her arm, and, like a cheetah in search of her prey, she glided toward the kitchen in the back. With mahogany hair styled in a sleek bob, dressed in a tailored black sleeveless top and white pique cropped pants, Jackie embodied the picture of elegance.

“Don’t tell her I said so,” Faith whispered to Sam, “but I think she might be right this time.”

Sam smiled at her younger sister, who was every bit as pretty as Jackie but in a less sophisticated way.

“She better be. We can’t afford another mistake with only two days left before the grand reopening.”

Sam took a step back and closed her eyes, trying to imagine the showroom walls washed in linen. She pictured the wooden wine racks stocked with bottles and specialty dry goods arranged neatly on the metal shelves. She envisioned fresh produce overflowing from baskets on the carts in the front of the store, raw seafood on display in the refrigerated cases in the center of the room, and prepared meals filling the merchandisers along the sidewalls. She imagined customers moseying about, sipping wine from little plastic cups while the staff offered advice on the best practices for grilling tuna.

Sam drew in a deep breath of confidence and exhaled any leftover feelings of doubt. She respected her sister’s tastes. If Jackie thought linen-colored walls were the finishing touch the room needed, then who was she to argue?

Jackie returned with a self-satisfied smirk on her face. “The painters promised to have everything wrapped up by noon tomorrow. There’s hardly any wall space to paint, considering the pass-through to the kitchen in the back and all the windows out here.”

Sam ran through her mental checklist. “Noon tomorrow means we’ll lose half a day of cleaning and stocking. We’ll have to work around the clock in order to open on time on Saturday.”

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