Guest opinion: Forty-five years of learning on the Outer Banks

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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By Clark Twiddy

It’s been a long time since Doug and Sharon Twiddy started a small two-person business over an oyster-shucking table in Duck. Duck, then, was a very different place to the occasional visitor willing to wander up a still primitive road to the small village of the time.

That was 1978, and even Doug couldn’t have imagined the Outer Banks of today.

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Forty-five years later, the company they founded remains a locally owned and operated family business. Many things have changed since then, as they always do, but the core of the company today remains true to the kind of thing Doug and Sharon envisioned around that oyster table so many years ago. Doug grew up in nearby Edenton and met the South Carolina Sharon on a blind date in Winston Salem more than 50 years ago. Since that first meeting, the business they’ve built has been working quietly away at being a good place for people to work and a good partner for both homeowners and guests to trust.

Among the things they’ve learned along the way is the enduring importance of people.  Technology has changed, surely, and the popularity of the Outer Banks has simply transcended what they thought possible, but the business remains, in Doug’s words, all about the people. “If we get the people right, a lot of other things will fall into place, too. We will forget that at our peril.”

They’ve also learned that while the destination itself has grown and developed, it’s equally as important to have real links to the past so that both residents and visitors can understand how the place came to be. Doug and Sharon have both worked to develop historic links to the past as the company grew, from moving the original Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station north to Corolla in 1986 (it was the only land I could afford, Doug mentions) to the preservation of much of the Historic Corolla Village today. They also restored the Wash Woods Coast Guard Station in Swan Beach for use as an office in the more remote sections of the Currituck Outer Banks.

They’ve learned that no matter what, customers still like to be treated with real hospitality – we still, Doug mentions, stand up and smile when a guest arrives in an office. “I am very proud of that” he says, “and it seems simple, but to do it over and over and over again gets tough. I’m so proud of this group in that they go the extra mile to treat guests well. I have tried to teach the idea that the extra mile is seldom crowded.”

They’ve also learned that while there can be a lot of new aspects of a property management firm, there are few secrets – it’s just a lot of hard work, they say, and you just have to keep showing up every day. “I think staying focused has been important for us. To each their own, but our focus in doing what we do every day has just always fit my hand.”

Looking back on that oyster table in Duck – it still exists, just off the side of the office as a visual reminder to the next generation – Doug and Sharon both share that the journey has been “just wonderful memories. Wonderful people, too. Many of our early homeowners stayed with us for decades. And proud. We’ve asked a lot of people to trade a day of their life for something that we believed was important. And they did, and we’re just so proud of them.”

Current CEO Ross Twiddy, Doug and Sharon’s son, mentions what a humbling responsibility it is to be a current steward of what his parents worked so hard to build. “I’m just always humbled,” he says, “but at the same time I’m also excited about where we can go from here. I think the Outer Banks is still just as great a place as it was in 1978, and we’re honestly more excited about the next 45 years than we are the previous 45. That, and I can always hear Dad reminding me of his secret to success – it’s just all about the people.”

Clark Twiddy is president of family-owned and operated local business Twiddy & Company. His brother Ross serves as CEO of the second-generation vacation rental company along the Outer Banks.