Shades Bar and Grill: 25 Years on 30A

A lot of hard work, late nights and family support has made Shades Bar and Grill a local success for the past 25 years.    

Co-owners Joe Freer, John Freer and Greg Wakeham started Shades in 1994 in Seaside’s town square. Their first building is now home to the Great Southern Cafe. The need for a bigger space lead to a 2006 move to Inlet Beach at the eastern edge of Hwy 30A.

“Inlet beach wasn’t ready for us when we moved here (in 2006). It was kind of a black sheep for a little while. We struggled in the beginning, but we knew it was the right move,” Joe Freer said.    

Today, Shades is packed seven days a week. Its family-friendly atmosphere has made it a staple on 30A. “It’s become a staple on 30A. Mom and dad can come and have a cocktail while the kids can play in the game room, or play corn hole outside. There’s always something going on,” Joe Freer added.    

Shade’s serves 600,000 people annually. Its strong customer loyalty has led to building lasting friendships with their customers. “There have been a lot of crazy moments with customers that are still loyal to this day. The people that we’ve met and carried on friendships with those people over the years has been a determining factor in our success,” John Freer said.     

On a busy day, Shades will have 40 people working in a single shift and sell an equivalent of 20 kegs of beer and 300 pounds of French fries.

“Just the success of our concept through the locals and tourism has been amazing, and we’re excited about the future. Shades will be here for a long time,” John Freer said.  

Early days of Shades in Seaside

After 25 years, neither of the owners have plans to slow down. You can still find them working any night washing dishes or bussing tables. “It’s a different experience every day. We get together as a family and knock it out,” Joe Freer said.    

SARAH O’BEIRNE is a summer intern with 30A. She is majoring in journalism at the University of Illinois and has vacationed here for many years.

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