There’s no sibling rivalry here. Charlie and Carmel Modica work side by side daily, and their passion for their work shows.
They are passionate about the products and services they provide. They are passionate about the people they work with and those they serve. And they are passionate about carrying on the family business started by their parents 30 years ago.
Charles Modica Jr.—Charlie—started his career in the idyllic beachfront town of Seaside at the Sipin’ Dip. The young entrepreneur sold ice cream, sandwiches and beer.
When his parents, Charles Sr. and Sarah, sold their grocery store in Alabama and opened Modica Market in Seaside, Charlie joined his parents in that endeavor.
He has never looked back.
Charlie views the market not only as a business, but a legacy.
“It’s part of who we are,” Charlie says. “It’s part of our heritage. There is a common thread that keeps running, and it’s such a nice thing when people come up to us and say, ‘Your daddy would be proud.’”
Carmel visited and helped in the store when she could while living and working in Atlanta.
“It’s always been my second job,” Carmel says.
However, when her father became ill and died in October 2008, there was no question in her mind: This was her calling.
She came to work at Modica Market full time.
“It’s what our family does,” she says.
Like her brother, she considers the market a family legacy, and says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Her family has done it well. What began as a modest general store has become one of the most recognized businesses along this stretch of the Panhandle.
Business is booming. The large selection of specialty meats, baked goods, fine wines and craft beers draws throngs of tourists.
While the siblings make time for themselves and their family, they love the excitement of those busy times.
“I love being in the middle of it all,” Charlie admits. “Sometimes I’ll just stand in the middle of the store and watch. And hey, it would be really sad if it wasn’t busy.”
Even on the busiest of summer days, the Modicas know and welcome locals who have become friends.
They love it when—with cooler temperatures and a slower pace—the beachfront hamlet returns to the small community of which they are such a big part.
“People who come in on a regular basis, we know their names,” Carmel explains. “But summer is just completely different now. My parents told stories of how, when they first opened, they’d sit outside with people and entertain. It was pretty slow the first few years. It was a nice little quiet community.”
Even 30 years later, the market is still a big part of that community. It is still a place where local teens get their first job and local vendors get their first commercial outlet.
“We use a lot of the local people,” Carmel says. “Our cakes come from a family-owned bakery. We have Southern Craft Creamery.”
Modica Market was the first store to feature goods from that ice cream business in nearby Marianna.
“I do a lot of local and regional products because it’s a community,” Carmel says. “We like to support the local businesses. It gives them exposure.”
Carmel spends a good bit of her time writing checks to those local vendors. She writes those checks by hand in a checkbook that looks like something from decades gone by—because it is. It was her father’s.
It is yet another family tradition that continues.
She says they they have defined business roles, and love working together.
“I handle the books, he’s the boss and he’s in charge,” Carmel says of her brother. “To be together as much as we are, we get along great.
“I’m the opener. I like being here for breakfast. It’s a completely different crowd. I love coming here, working the mornings.”
“I’m the spender,” Charlie says, laughing. “And I’m the prep guy. I’m not really a cook.”
“He also makes the banana pudding,” Carmel adds with a nudge, noting the popularity of the classic Southern dessert.
“It’s not that ours is better than everybody else’s,” Charlie says modestly, “it’s just that it’s become a tradition. You have to have it.”
The two are following in their parents’ footsteps.
“We learned from the master,” Charlie says. “I had the best teacher.”
Although their father is gone, his business lessons remain firmly in mind—and their mother, Sarah, stops in to check on things.
Banana pudding is just one more family tradition in good hands with the siblings.