As long time fans of Garden & Gun we are thrilled to introduce you to our newest FACE of the South, founder and CEO Rebecca Darwin. After reading through this interview, we all found ourselves understanding why we enjoy this magazine so much: it stems from the top.
Where does the title Garden & Gun come from?
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a club in downtown Charleston called The Garden & Gun Club. When I heard that combination of words—garden and gun—they just seemed to epitomize everything we hoped the magazine to be. The garden represents the land that plays such an important role in defining what the American South is all about. The gun symbolizes the sporting life that we enjoy as a by-product of that land, including the surrounding water. I also liked that garden expressed the more female side and gun the male because I wanted to create a magazine that would appeal equally to men and women. And it has.
Is the magazine different than what you originally envisioned?
Not really that much. I knew it would be lush and well-written. I was confident that it would have a broader appeal than just the South, and indeed, we have a national circulation at this point. I do think it has improved dramatically from the first few issues in its editorial architecture and flow, thanks to the best editorial team there is!
How has the magazine evolved in the past six years?
Again, thanks to some brilliant editors, it has become more organized, more readable. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. We chose six pillars of content that we touch on in every issue. Those include: the sporting life, land & garden, food & drink, travel & adventure, style & design and arts & culture. Of course, we have moved into the digital space with the launch of our digital edition this past summer. We were thrilled to hear recently that we took home the award for Best Digital Edition at min’s Editorial & Design Awards. Garden & Gun’s strong editorial base has allowed the magazine to evolve into a brand that represents not only a place, the South, but a lifestyle. This has afforded us opportunities to connect with our audience well beyond the printed page.
How has creating a magazine out of Charleston given G&G a different DNA than it would have had in a city historically known for magazine publishing?
Charleston is certainly a delightful place to live and work, so we have been very successful in recruiting some of the best talent from those better-known publishing cities and companies. But I think being based in the South has kept us true to our roots and more authentic. And because the South has offerings that span from the high end to the low end, we are dedicated to making sure that is reflected in the magazine — the perfect $3 biscuit next to a gorgeous johnboat, for example, is not uncommon to find our in magazine. Because we are a smaller group than one might find with a New York City publishing company, I believe that we really put our souls into every page and everything that we do, and I think that comes through to our readers. They trust us.
Is there any one article that meant more to you personally than the others?
One? That’s hard. In the second issue of the magazine — when we were literally without an editor and I was doing it myself, which is not my background — I got to write an editor’s letter and wrote about my two Southern grandmothers. That was a real treat. Most recently, I loved Julia Reed’s piece, in the current December/January issue, about resolutions. Read it! This year, I, too, am chucking all those bags I carry back and forth and giving up on ever catching up with my email inbox. There are also a couple of issues that are particularly important to me. I thought our issue on Southern women a few years ago was powerful, and perhaps my favorite of all is the Dec. ’09/Jan. ’10 issue that we pulled together after having to skip an issue during the dark days of the recession.
Can you share any advice that has helped you in your role as CEO/founder of Garden & Gun?
It really goes back to my parents instilling in me the belief that one can do whatever they want to if they don’t give up. So, I guess, my mantra is all about guts and being willing to do things a little differently. The letter that hangs in my office from a reader in 2009 that says, “If you close this magazine, I will hunt you down and shoot you!” was also a pretty good motivator to overcome the odds.
What recipe have you discovered through G&G that has become a favorite of yours to make?
I’m with Thomas Jefferson when he wrote that he preferred vegetables as the main part of his meals and meat as a condiment. With that said, I really enjoy the unique combination of flavors in the curry-roasted cauliflower with almonds and grapes side dish we featured a couple of years ago. Easy to make and has something for everyone! Here is the recipe: gardenandgun.com/article/curry-roasted-cauliflower-almonds-grapes.
There are obvious differences living in Charleston vs. NYC. But, are there not-so-obvious similarities?
I think there are lots of similarities. Ten years ago, when my husband and I were deciding where to move, I knew I wanted a place that had great food, a strong cultural scene and good shopping. I wasn’t going to give those things up! Charleston has them all — just on a better-edited, more manageable scale.
Are there any events you are looking forward to before the turn of the year?
I would have to say that this year, I am particularly excited for our G&G employee holiday party. This dedicated team has worked so hard this year, and we will have quite a few “firsts” under our belts to raise our glasses to. Our first festival here in Charleston, Jubilee, is planned for Dec. 6-8. That is something we created as the ultimate expression of the magazine, and we expect visitors from all over the country. This fall we launched our first of three books with Harper Collins, The Southerner’s Handbook, and it debuted at No.13 on the New York Times best-seller list — where it has been for the past few weeks! That was a huge undertaking by our staff. And, for the shopping enthusiasts like myself, we have our first retail catalog out in time for holiday shopping, called G+G Mercantile, it is filled with gorgeous things you can wear, eat, live in or play with. Whew!
What’s your favorite luxury or indulgence?
Luxury? That’s easy. Shoes! Indulgence? I would say quiet time. With two young daughters, a husband who is a preacher, running a business and traveling nonstop, it’s a rare commodity.
How important is it to keep a close group of girlfriends?
It’s important, but honestly, at this point in my life my 9- and 11-year-old daughters are my best friends. They are the people I most like to spend time with, and they keep me grounded.
Can you recommend a great vacation spot?
Only one? That’s tough. Since it’s already been outed on the cover of G&G’s June/July 2013 issue — I’ll share my family’s special annual getaway spot, which is The Moorings in Islamorada, FL. We head there the day after Christmas every year, so it’s top of mind for me right now. I grew up spending time at Pawleys Island, SC, and my family and I go there every summer for a week at the Sea View Inn with the same group of families from all over the country. And, of course, there’s Charleston. It’s been voted the number one destination in the U.S. three years in a row now by Condé Nast Traveler readers, so y’all come!
What books are on your bedside table/e-reader?
Our book, The Southerner’s Handbook, is definitely there. I enjoy reading an essay or little article or two before I turn in. I’ve never had a chance to read Logan Ward’s See You in a 100 Years and recently added it to my stack of hopeful holiday reading.
What meal have you had recently that you keep thinking about?
At our recent G&G Annual Shoot, where we had a spirited group for a round of sporting clays, chefs Linton Hopkins and Anne Quatrano, both from Atlanta restaurants, prepared us an unbelievable al fresco feast at Arrowhatchee Farms. It included flounder with fennel and herbs, white shrimp with buttermilk and benne sauce, and a gorgeous hummingbird cake. Yum.
What things are always packed in your carry-on bag?
My iPad, of course. A good magazine (I do enjoy reading things other than G&G!). Some almonds to nibble on. A memento that my daddy gave me on my fifth birthday that goes everywhere with me, and probably a pair of shoes or two (see above photo). Travel is never easy for me. I’m a terrible packer after all these years; I blame it on all those shoes I have to take.
We have to know, cat person or dog person?
Definitely dog. Our handsome springer spaniel, Phillip, will turn 2 on Thanksgiving, and he’s growing into being a very sweet dog.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding God, family and friends).
Tomatoes, peaches and Diet Coke. I guess that they are all food- or drink-related says something about me.
Thanks, Rebecca! And thank you, Amy Lesesne for today’s beautiful photos!