For those who have been visiting or living along 30A for the past couple of decades, James Murphy, the owner of Barefoot BBQ in Seaside in Walton County, Florida, is better known as “Murph.”
Murph has been a fixture in the town for 18 years, 15 of those running his much-loved BBQ business out of one of the first Airstreams along the 30A. His Airstreams are the ones covered in thousands of stickers.
“I moved here from the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he recalled. “I’d visited in 1992 and thought WOW, this is a cool place to hang out! When I moved here, there was actually a little business network of people who’d been out in the Islands. There were about 20 people who’d either been living or working out there, including longtime locals Wendy and Jean Mignot, so it was an easy fit.”
The entrepreneur was looking for a business opportunity.
“I’ve always been in and around the restaurant business, and I’ve pretty much done every job – manager, front of the house, back of the house, waiter, bus-boy, dishwasher,” he recounted, “but mostly in high-end, white tablecloth establishments.”
There were already plenty of those on 30A, so Murph went looking for something fresh.
“No one was doing BBQ. I thought, perfect – great food you don’t need to dress up for.”
Murph knew his clientele. He envisioned a dad on vacation who was looking for an alternative to putting on a clean shirt and a jacket for dinner. “Someone who wanted to be in his shorts, smoke his cigar, ride his bike, and have a great plate of BBQ and a cold beer,” he explained.
Barefoot BBQ was born.
“I was looking to provide a different experience,” said Murph. Luckily for him, so were Seaside founders and visionaries Robert and Daryl Davis.
“Airstream Row was just starting to take shape,” he recalled. “Jen had just opened the original Raw and Juicy, there was the sushi guy who used to go swimming looking for seaweed, and my neighbor, Frost Bites, was already here.”
Initially, there was some reservation about the line of Airstreams. Some people were worried it would make the town look like a trailer park.
“But I think everyone now agrees and recognizes Robert and Daryl’s genius – it really adds character to Seaside,” said Murph.
As does Murph’s other passion – the stickers.
“From the very start, I didn’t want to give you something you could get in Dallas or Atlanta or Memphis. I wanted it to be unique, an experience.”
Murph has been a collector of stickers for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve got this huge collection of stickers – it’s out of control!” he laughed. “As a kid, I was a skater, I liked skiing. I just started collecting stickers and never outgrew it.”
But this lifetime obsession means a lot to Murph. He likens it to an art form. Many of the stickers – Murph estimates there are about 5000 layered across every surface of the Airstream – tell a story.
“People bring me or send me stickers from all over the world – Alaska, Zion National Park. My ex-wife Jen brings me them from her travels – she brought me one back from Antarctica,” Murph said.
And, of course, Barefoot BBQ provides diners with their own stickers too. They distribute about 8000 stickers a year.
“I had a customer come in and show me a photo of a car he saw in Berne, Switzerland, with a Barefoot BBQ sticker!” he told me.
Next time you are standing in line for a plate of delicious Barefoot BBQ, why not have a look at the stickers? While it may look entirely random to the untrained eye, this is a carefully curated collection. And there are rules.
“No politics, no sports, and they are all family-friendly,” said Murph. “I don’t do doubles, and surprisingly, I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car!”
But they are on the Airstream. And on the tables. The counters, The napkin holders. Even the doggie drink station is festooned in brightly-colored stickers.
Many of them are 30A businesses, including those who some may consider competitors, but that isn’t how Murph sees it.
“We have BBQ stickers from everywhere. Every kind of business up and down 30A and, of course, the famous 30A.com sticker!”
As well as refreshing his collection with gifts from customers, Murph is in touch with sticker dealers worldwide. Yes, like the world of fine art collectors, they do exist.
“I only deal with the well-known and respected dealers,” said Murph.
Apparently, some stickers swap hands for thousands of dollars, and where there is fast cash to be made, there are fake stickers and forgeries too. But unlike paintings in a museum or gallery, these stickers are an evolving art form.
Every couple of years, the stickers need replacing. The sunlight fades them, and Murph can be found pouring over his counters planning which new ones will go where.
“I do it early in the morning,” said the BBQ master. “I put headphones on and apply new stickers – scrape the old ones off, put new ones on. People look at me weirdly. The number of hours I have invested in these stickers… but it’s a little glimpse inside my head for people! I’ve got about 10,000 stickers to choose from. Surf and skate stuff, the lifestyle brands like Nike, vintage Marilyn Monroe, Japanese Car, and Bike racing stickers, and weird stuff only a few people will recognize.”
And as Murph scrapes and reapplies new stickers, a 30A history is revealed.
“As I’m peeling them back, I find some of the original classic stickers from 30A businesses. Some are the old designs, and in some cases, the stickers have outlived the businesses that issued them,” he said.
But like any great artist, Murph is constantly looking to evolve his masterpiece. You can contribute to the collection, and Murph welcomes you to send him your stickers.
“Like Barefoot BBQ, this is an expression of creativity. We keep evolving and changing the stickers, so every time you come back, there will be something unique and different to discover. That’s what I love about it!”
1. Supreme Red Box – This is one of the most sought-after stickers out there. Supreme, the fashion brand, produced what was one of, if not the first, quality stickers for collectors. There are many different Supreme stickers available, but the Red Box is the holy grail.
2. Red Bar – A 30A institution was among the first local businesses to provide stickers, and the original designs are among Murph’s favorites.
3. ONO Surf Shop in Seaside produces a range of stickers that rank high on Murph’s list. The ONO designs – surfboards, vintage VW campers, and more – are iconic, and the quality of the PVC sticker makes them highly sought after.
4. Going Seanile – A trendy store in the US Virgin Islands, now called Players, is a personal fav for Murph as it reminds him of his time in the Caribbean and remains a collectible for those in the know.
5. Military and Uniformed Services – Surrounded by military bases, 30A has a strong connection with the uniformed services and veterans. Murph receives many air force squadron, firehouse, police department, and other stickers that have pride of place.