Wesley Garland “Honey” Varnam
The Man and his Legacy
Wesley Garland Varnam was born October 22, 1916 in Brunswick County, North Carolina. He was one of four children born to Wesley Barron Varnam and Dora Dixon Varnam. His father was a lighthouse keeper and he spent his early life up and down the east coast, wherever the family was sent for duty. the family was in Florida when his other and what would have been their fifth child passed away during childbirth. After finishing his duty in Florida, his father was sent to Bald Head Island, NC. Soon after, his father married Roxie Kirby and they had two children. garland spent his teen years on Bald Head Island. He would row his siblings from Bald Head to Southport, where they attended school. At times, he would stay in Varnamtown, with his maternal grandmother, Cornelia Dixon. While there, he attended a one room school house, taught by Lola Swain.
Garland left Bald Head when he was eighteen and moved to Carolina Beach. While there, he was hired by Ethyl-Dow Chemical, where he worked until 1941. That same year, he married his love, Beatrice Holden. They had four children, Barbara, twins Donald and Ronald, and the youngest, Garland Nicholas. Garland sought employment with the US Corp of Engineers. He was hired to help survey the land that would become Camp Davis, in Holly Ridge, NC. When World War II started, he worked in Wilmington building Liberty ships. He was drafted but the war ended before he had a chance to serve.
After the war, he built a grocery store in Varnamtown. During this time, he also tried his hand at raising tobacco. The store was sluggish, so he worked, for a few years, on a US Governmet dredge. He eventually closed the store and decided to start a seafood business. He purchased some land on the Lockwood Folly River from a cousin, Harry Varnam. He had just opened the business when Hurricane Hazel came through in October of 1954 and destroyed it. It was then that he decided to work at Sunny Point Army Depot, welding the cutter heads that were used for breaking rock. He worked there for several months until he decided to rebuild the seafood business, which became known as “Garland’s Seafood”
He ran the business for many years, with the help of his children, grandchildren, and other family members. Today, he would be thrilled to know that his family has grown to include 10 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren with another due in December.
Garland always greeted everyone with his infamous, “Hello Honey”. Many loyal customers would return, time and again, to get the fresh seafood, every time greeted with the same “Hello Honey,” so much so, that even today, Garland’s Fresh Seafood is often referred to as “Honey’s Place.”
Garland loved painting, especially pictures of shrimp boats and shrimp. He would paint on whatever was available, a piece of wood, a shell, the wall or a piece of paper. Numerous drawings can be seen around the interior and exterior of the business. Several pieces of his work and other items from the store, were used as props for the Nicholas Sparks’ movie, “Safe Haven,” which was filmed in Southport.
Sadly on December 12, 1985, Garland died of Cancer. However, Honey’s Place was kept alive.
In 1984, Garland’s son, Nicky and his wife, Jackie, took over the business which today is known as Garland’s Fresh Seafood. Nicky has owned three shrimp trawlers, Commanche, Miss Chandee, and the Chan-Dana, which were named after daughters, Chandee and Dana. Nicky runs the daily operations of unloading boats, sizing, pricing and packing the seafood. Jackie manages the sales office and schedules pick-up and delivery.
When the season begins, customers call and request fresh shrimp and fish. The availability of fresh seafood is becoming more difficult, due to the growing demand and the loss of commercial fishermen.
Nicky and Jackie have three grandsons, Wesley, Holden and Garland. Whether either one of them desires to continue the legacy of their great-grandfather and grandfather, remains to be seen. Only time will tell.
October of 2014 marks the beginning of the 60th anniversary of Garland’s (Honey’s Place) and the 30th for Nicky and Jackie. As when Garland opened the doors in 1954, his mission still stands; “to have the freshest, locally caught seafood available.” The warm and friendly atmosphere has brought back generations of satisfied customers….a proud tradition that would certainly please Garland.
Chandee V. Champion
Beatrice H Varnam
Jackie S Varnam
Faye G Edens