It's More Than Just a Hammock in a Box
Hammocks are more than a purchase; they are memories. Memories of a time and place, people in our lives, and those no longer with us. My memories that are interlaced with an Original Pawleys Island Cotton Rope Hammock go back as far as my early childhood. The pictures tell me it was 1983, and I was five years old.
My Earliest Memories
We had family that had a place in Pawleys Island, SC, where we were invited to spend time during what I thought to be endless summer months. Growing up on a tobacco farm in the Piedmont of North Carolina, it might as well have been the Bahamas, BVI's, or the Seychelle Islands to my young mind, even though, at that time, I had no clue those places existed. To me, that place was an adventure and time with my extended family that left an impression on me that would ultimately guide my path to where I sit today writing this story.
On these trips, I learned a love for saltwater. Not just the water beside the sandy beaches so bright that you had to squint when the sun was high, but the marsh where my cousins taught me the art of catching crabs and the simple joy of walking through the estuary to see what you might find, and the glorious feeling of the mud between your toes. I can smell it now.
"To me, that place was an adventure and time with my extended family that left an impression on me that would ultimately guide my path to where I sit today writing this story."
The days there were filled with family coming and going; out to the beach, over to the marsh, maybe golf for my dad and uncles. Always a lot of eating; sandwiches on the beach, big pots of steaming seafood at night, my mom's homemade cinnamon buns, and my uncle's famous pancakes at breakfast.
Through all the comings and goings and the ins and outs of the house, there was always one constant, one place sought after, one coveted: the hammock on the porch. It was always occupied. My aunt's favorite spot for coffee in the morning, my mom's place to read her summer novel, and all of the men's favorite spot for an afternoon nap with the gentle offshore breeze. The time, the place, and the hammock are all woven together to create my memories and, unknown to me, my path for the future. More on that a bit later.
In my parent's infinite wisdom and on one of their comings and goings during those days, they decided to stop by the Pawleys Island Hammock shop and make a purchase. At that time, it was just a hammock in a box, but it would become so much more.
Also, around that time, my parents decided to acquire a small cabin beside Lake James near my father's birthplace in the mountains near Morganton, NC. The hammock in the box was promptly hung on the screen porch shaded by the mimosa trees and surrounded by mountain laurels.
"At that time, it was just a hammock in a box, but it would become so much more."
The summers following, that cabin and the hammock on the porch followed me through my childhood into adolescence. Whether it was a quick drive up on a Saturday after I finished up my little league baseball game or weeklong vacations with family and friends in tow, it became my new place for imagination and adventure.
From days on the lake fishing and jumping off the rocks to heated ping pong matches at a friend's cabin and endless card games at night, family was always present. Coming and going, in and out, and of course, eating and relaxing. My family is very adept at the art of relaxing, and the constant, once again, was the Pawleys Island hammock.
Relaxing, It's a Family Tradition
I have memories of my late Grandpa, a tobacco farmer who came from generations of farmers and did not know the word relax, finding time to lay in the hammock, swaying away the early evening hour listening to the cicadas and crickets begin their nightly orchestra. These days were not wasted but time spent purposefully with this same gentle sway. Times when we would all pile in and swing and smile, creating moments and memories that would last.
As I grew older, the cabin was sold and the trips to Pawleys Island were replaced with Oak Island, North Carolina, where the hammock was once again hung, and the memories continued.
"...a family business steeped in tradition and the values that permeated my childhood, and where the hammocks are still handcrafted in the Carolinas to this day."
Now back to that "a little bit later part." In the fall of 1996, it was time for me to head off to college. The yearning to be close to the salt air I knew from my early years guided me to The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. These years passed in a flash, and after graduation, I decided to follow in my dad's footsteps returning to my roots in High Point, NC, and begin a career in the home furnishings industry, more importantly, the casual outdoor marketplace. Throughout this time, there were always trips to Oak Island and to the family cabin at the lake where the hammock hung, the comings and goings, the ins and outs, and the memories grew.
After 18 years of pouring my heart into my work, a new opportunity arose, or should I say, swung by. It was to be a part of the company that has been hand-weaving those simple hammocks in the box for over 130 years–a family business steeped in tradition and the values that permeated my childhood, and where the hammocks are still handcrafted in the Carolinas to this day.
Continuing the Tradition
I didn't start as a part of the family that brought The Original Pawleys Island Hammock to the world, but I feel like family and am proud to be a part of it. I'm pleased to bring those hammocks in a box to other families so they can sway, swing, laugh, smile, nap, and, most importantly, capture those moments in their minds, creating their memories and weaving their own stories for years to come.
Today, Todd Nifong is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Hammock Source, the parent company of The Original Hammock Shop in Pawleys Island. His continued dedication towards crafting memories shows in his successes. Nifong is an industry award winner and has been Chairman of the International Textile Alliance and International Casual Furnishings Association board member.