Port Saint Joe

I am sitting at a bar in Port Saint Joe. It’s a dark place. It smells like onion rings and Miller Lite. I might be mistaken, but I believe there are dartboards here. Waylon Jennings is singing.

It’s hard to believe this town used to be the largest city in Florida. Once upon a time, in 1838, this little place had 12,000 people and, amazingly, only one McDonald’s.

This was where the Florida constitution was first penned. That’s how important this town was.

They don’t teach us stuff like that in history class anymore.

There is a guy at the bar beside me. He’s from Chicago. He’s here for leisure. He is a columnist, like me. Except this man is pretty famous for writing political rants online. He is incognito this week.

I have never met another columnist in a bar. Let alone a famous one. What are the odds?

We did the whole “what do you do?” thing, and we figured out that we were both writers.

The difference is that he writes for huge newspapers and drives a Benz. Whereas my career is still undetermined. I write for small-town papers and I drive 22-year-old Ford.

Even so, I’m not unsatisfied with my life. I have a good dog and most of my original teeth.

The man has never been to this town before. Florida is my home state. I grew up just two counties over. So I welcome him and tell him he’s picked the right time to visit.

October on the Gulf Coast is the season when—any meteorologist will tell you this—all the tourists go home.

I have spent many an October in Gulf County. This place has changed over the years, but it hasn’t changed too much. The fishing is still good. The barbecue is still stellar. The beer still flows like the mighty Apalachicola.

The famous man asks what my favorite part of Port Saint Joe is.

I shrug. Because it’s hard to say, really. I have a lot of favorite facets. If I were forced to choose, my favorite spot would probably be the Piggly Wiggly.

“The Piggly Wiggly?” He laughs. “A grocery store? That’s your favorite place?”

Some men are Methodists, other men are Presbyterians. I am a Piggly Wiggly man. I have visited Piggly Wigglys in 18 different states.

There are, for example, only two Pigs in the great state of Texas. I have been to them both. The only Piggly Wigglys I haven’t frequented are the ones in Wisconsin. But I’m holding out hope.

“Why do you like Port Saint Joe’s Piggly Wiggly so much?” the man asks.

I have no real answer. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of good memories there. I remember walking the aisles of The Pig when I was younger, in town for vacation. I was swollen with invincibility. Sunburned. High on summer romance. The air was filled with promise.

The Pig is the one of the first major landmarks you see when you get into town. So when you are inside The Pig, it means that you are finally here.

That’s why everyone comes to The Pig as soon as they hit Joe. They walk inside the pneumatic doors to stock up on essentials. They load their SUVs, then head to Cape San Blas or Indian Pass for the week.

People come to The Pig when they are still giddy with irrational vacation excitement. Before the end-of-vacay blues starts to set in.

You can see the different kinds of shoppers, meandering through the lanes.

You have the locals. They come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, and income-brackets. Some have been here since their great-great granddaddy dog paddled these waters. Others moved here from Buckhead because they can afford it.

You see the affluent. You see the down-and-outters, spending their last paychecks on Marlboro Lights.

You see guys who are in town for a weekend fishing trip. They are the ones whose carts contain only Natty Light, coffee, and hotdogs.

You see tourist families with loud, happy children. You see yuppies purchasing organic foods that cost more than naval aircraft carriers. You see newlyweds, hanging all over each other.

You can buy Piggly Wiggly-themed T-shirts that say stuff like: “What Happens at The Pig Stays at The Pig,” or “I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie.”

You see people. For better or worse. You see the human experience. You see men who work hard for a living. You see women who work harder.

You see families who come here to rediscover why they are a family. You see hopeful anglers. Old married couples. And young people, holding hands, kids who just want to be loved.

The cashiers call you “sweetie.” The employees actually smile when you ask them questions. Even the music playing overhead is pretty good.

The famous guy at the bar is amused by all this. “It’s just a grocery store,” he says. “Nobody writes columns about grocery stores.”

Well, if you ask me, maybe it’s time to start.


  1. Ed (Bear) - October 4, 2022 7:08 am

    Of all the columnists I’ve ever read, you are my favorite. Because you’re genuinely funny and you write about how much you love other people. Your natural gift of gab is apparent in your work. Just like your love for others.

    Me. I’m an introvert who doesn’t talk much and my wife works harder than me… I cannot lie.

  2. Carol from GA - October 4, 2022 9:03 am

    My daughter and 4 yr old grandson recently had on Piggly Wiggly tee-shirts and I was so confused….until now! Thank you as always!

  3. Debbie - October 4, 2022 9:08 am

    That old southern icon, Piggly Wiggly, America’s first self – serve grocery store! Brings back memories of going grocery shopping hand in hand with my grandma in the 50s. One memory leads to others. Krispy Kreme donuts. Krystal Burgers. McDonald’s hamburgers – 15 cents. TG&Y where Grandma bought her Flapper Red lipstick and my Blue Waltz perfume! Wonderful little memories come flooding back from reading your stories, Sean. I love it. ❤️

  4. Trudy - October 4, 2022 9:22 am

    Sean, I read your column first thing every morning. You are real, down to earth and use language that anyone can understand. I wouldn’t give a wooden nickel to read what these high paid columnist from big newspapers write, who have over inflated opinions of themselves. I wish your columns were in all newspapers. I’m afraid that the readers of The Times and The Post are too persnickety to appreciate your writings though. Keep writing and keep loving for the everyday person. We love you.

  5. Meredith Smith - October 4, 2022 9:40 am

    Sean! I can’t believe, compared to such a well traveled individual such as yourself ~ I’ve actually been to a Pig, many times in fact! But I suppose that’s bc I grew up in Wisconsin. Your description is spot on. Piggly Wiggly is an experience! Be safe out there in your travels good Sir.

  6. Julie Hall - October 4, 2022 9:47 am

    Sean, you are the columnist for the rest of us!! Thank you for helping me see the world and the people around me a little more clearly. God bless you!

  7. Carol - October 4, 2022 10:07 am

    Any columnist who doesn’t “get” the local grocery store needs to go back to Square One (nope, don’t care how famous he or she is!). Ride on, as we, uh, used to say.

  8. Jocelyn. - October 4, 2022 10:33 am

    I always visit the PIG too when I see one. I even have PIG wear and stuff.

  9. Michelle Stewart Walsh - October 4, 2022 10:50 am

    We have a Pig here in Lake Geneva, WI that has a similar feeling, except that there’s only one cashier who smiles and calls anyone “sweetie”. She is always color coordinated down to her eyeshadow though, and that kind of makes up for it.

  10. Sheron Corl - October 4, 2022 11:32 am

    I’m here this week, too! Been coming to the Cape for a get-away since 1989. You’re not wrong about the Pig; it’s a tradition to stop in there first thing. I enjoy your daily column Sean. You have a gift—you understand people and you know the power of words. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

  11. Johnny blevins - October 4, 2022 11:35 am

    Been to Port St Joe thus the pig many times, October is my favorite time also.

  12. paul - October 4, 2022 11:43 am

    my wife and i were at the pig in crestline the other day and i had a neon green shirt and hat on. at checkout the manager who was wearing a bright pink shirt looked at me and said you lookin kinda bright there. after my credit card processed i looked up and said you kinda lookin bright yourself. everyone at the checkout had a good laugh.

  13. Pat D - October 4, 2022 11:58 am

    Love me some Piggly Wiggly ….My sister has a camp on the River in Wewa and the Pig in Port St Joe is our go to store…BTY their brand of cocktail sauce is the bomb… Real writers know what to write about and you Sir are a Real writer…

  14. elizabethroosje - October 4, 2022 12:01 pm

    Sean you have a better life than some fancy unknown rich columnist. You touch lives and give hope. And I love, including this collumn, reading about real people and real places.

  15. Joseph B Mizereck - October 4, 2022 12:08 pm

    Good morning, Sean. My wife and I live in Port St. Joe and we love our Piggly Wiggly. It’s everything you said and more…much more. Well done young man.

  16. mccutchen52 - October 4, 2022 12:10 pm

    I had a “Pig” in Arkansas that was fairly close but where I live now in Georgia thee isn’t one. You don’t miss something till someone reminds you. Thanks Sean

  17. Debbie Kee - October 4, 2022 12:19 pm

    As a child in the 50’s, my family would often travel from our home in Sparta, Tennessee to Huntsville, Al to visit our relatives. There were two places along the route that I would beg to see in Fayetteville, Tennessee as we passed through. One, was a very large ornate White House with beautiful woodwork, unlike any I had ever seen. As my father would slow down and let me gaze at the “Wyatt” house, I would then start my plea, “ Please, please, please take me to the Piggly Wiggly”. I do not remember any specifics of the store at all. I honestly believe I just loved saying the name. Ahh, childhood memories.

  18. Leigh Amiot - October 4, 2022 12:28 pm

    Piggly Wiggly came and went twice in my lifetime in Valdosta, Georgia, and after two of our Winn-Dixie’s closed, Piggly Wiggly came yet a third time to fill the void, one location a literal food desert, so maybe they’ll stay now. I was glad to see its third incarnation here because for close to two years, there was no grocery store for six miles from my home. That drive time is now down to 2.5 miles. Recently in St. Augustine, Florida, I saw a stucco building with Piggly Wiggly still painted on it, unoccupied, but looked like it most recently had been a thrift store.

    I’m glad political content is largely avoided here; it’s about the only safe place on the Internet from it—and I do enjoy a good political conversation, a bad habit I’m trying to break. My late mother, possessed of strong opinions, would rarely discuss politics except for the occasional “they’re all crooks” remark. Decades later, I see why. The grumpy political columnist would do well to walk the aisles of Piggly Wiggly and come up with a lovely slice of life story instead of the rancor politics inevitably involves.

    • Debbie - October 4, 2022 12:40 pm

      Oh yeah! I forgot about Winn Dixie!

  19. Sean of the South: Port Saint Joe | The Trussville Tribune - October 4, 2022 12:34 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  20. Richard Owen - October 4, 2022 12:34 pm

    Sean, are you old enough to remember riding over the bridge into Port St. Joe and the smell of the St. Joe paper mill? And the Pig? I lived for a while in Brandon, MS, that had a Pig as a mainstay of the community!

  21. Trent - October 4, 2022 12:48 pm

    Yankees – never have, never will – get “it”!

  22. Jimmy James - October 4, 2022 12:48 pm

    Now come to Texas and do HEB.

    • Jocelyn - October 4, 2022 7:43 pm

      HEB does not hold a candle to the PIG!

  23. McDonald R.N. - October 4, 2022 12:59 pm

    Wonderful observations of Piggly Wiggly in Port St. Joe.

    Born just outside Bagdad choices landed growing up in the boom of the Space Coast.
    Cocoa once had a downtown Pig but it became a parking lot. Even reaching for the stars
    folks need a place to park their cars.

    A variation about on-going destruction of Florida depicted in this humorous tune about Port St. Joe:

    SUMMER CAMP – Grant Peeples

  24. Cheryl - October 4, 2022 1:04 pm

    It was a sad day when they closed the Pig in Pawleys Island. Bi-Lo moved in. Pitiful.

  25. MARY PILAND - October 4, 2022 1:27 pm

    Today I am vacationing with family at Indian Pass so I found this especially enjoyable. Will be at the Pig tomorrow.

  26. Terry Byrne - October 4, 2022 1:59 pm

    You ARE good—really good! For you see, you brought back memories of me (now 65 years old) going to Piggly Wiggly with my mother when my sisters and I were kids. This infamous Pig was in Alberta City (Tuscaloosa), which left for a few years but came back. Following the 2011 Tornado, it is now rather nice and updated from the one I remember as a kid in the 1960s. But I can ALMOST conjure up the smell from that old store as I walked the aisles with my mother. Thanks for the memories!

  27. Bob Hughes - October 4, 2022 2:04 pm

    You need to visit the Piggly in Cecilia La. During Covid I was able get toilet paper, formula and meet.

  28. artwimberley - October 4, 2022 2:06 pm

    Thank you for reminding me of many trips to the Port St. Joe Piggly Wiggly. Having vacationed in Gulf County for more than 45 years, I have been there many times. Your comments remind me of the aisles at PW that can hold all types of items that you didn’t know you needed until you peruse the store. And, then there is the deli with hot, meals-to-go. PSJ continues to be a wonderful town with neighborhoods filled with hard-working folks who are always ready to offer a stranger directions, assistance, etc. as we visit their city. By the way, I am a northerner and I do understand. PSJ will always have a fond place in my heart. Including the Piggly Wiggly.

  29. Susan Stanton - October 4, 2022 2:09 pm

    You feel about “The Pig” the way Rochesterians (that’s Rochester, NY, not MN) feel about Wegmans. A family born grocery store from the early 1900’s that now has supply lines up and down the East Coast. When I lived there, they broadcast Patriarch Robert Wegman’s funeral on tv!! It was the thing I missed most about upstate NY when we moved to Chapel Hill, NC in 2006. My prayers were answered a couple of years ago when that supply line finally reached here and now there are four Wegmans stores I can visit! I am happier than a pig in you know what!

    Thanks Sean for brightening my day, every day!

  30. Todd - October 4, 2022 2:41 pm

    Just this morning I was taken-aback by the pause and kind smile of a women cashier behind the counter at the local grocery. Oostburg Piggly Wiggly. Oostburg Wisconsin. And then I read your article. Amen.

  31. Patricia Gibson - October 4, 2022 2:43 pm

    The Piggly Wiggly is an American icon. We had one in my hometown. Sounds like a neat place❤️

  32. Dennis P - October 4, 2022 2:54 pm

    I’m new to your writing. I think you might have a future at this business. Keep doing it, please.

  33. Melanie - October 4, 2022 2:56 pm

    This makes me so wish I was there. I love Piggly Wiggly. I love that part of Florida. Sounds like home to me. Glad you are there Sean. ❤️

  34. Donna Terry - October 4, 2022 3:03 pm

    We had a house at St, Joe Beach for several years. As I read your article to my husband, I asked what he thought your favorite place in Gulf County would be. His first guess was the Dollar General Market, but next was The Pig. He’d always go there for a meat and two when he’d had enough seafood and ham or pimento cheese sandwiches with potato chips. I can relate to all your writing!

  35. Pubert - October 4, 2022 3:30 pm

    Yassir Shaun! Good ‘Urn! We have a Pig where I live too. You got ‘er down.

  36. Stacey Wallace - October 4, 2022 3:40 pm

    Sean, that so-called famous columnist must be a Yankee if he can’t appreciate The Pig. As a teenager, I loved The Pig in my hometown of Alexander City, Alabama, “Eleck” City to the locals. Back then, The Pig had a fabulous deli where you could get a meat, two veggies, bread, and tea for a small price, which I can’t remember. Also, Miss Dot made wonderful birthday cakes in the bakery. Unfortunately, the long time owners sold The Pig to a guy who took out the deli and bakery. It was really sad. Thanks so much for reminding of those times. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.

  37. Denise Graves - October 4, 2022 3:47 pm

    Love the Pig!! Homewood Pig rocks!

  38. joseybell - October 4, 2022 4:05 pm

    I’ve never been in a Piggly Wiggly but one memory I have of my Dad’s brother is that his first job was at Piggly Wiggly. We’re talking 1935 here. (I only relate what was told to me since I wan’t born yet.) The fact that the stores still exist is a testament to their appeal. Continue writing about what interests you…because it usually interests us too. Give Marigold a belly rub from me.

  39. Sissy Lingle - October 4, 2022 4:13 pm

    Dear Sean, I hope you visited our Pig in Eulonia when you were in McIntosh county, GA. It is small but we love it! The larger one in Darien closed, but our faithful little Pig stayed open for us!

    • JAG - October 5, 2022 3:16 am

      One of the last of the best ones Sissy!

  40. wfsuga - October 4, 2022 4:53 pm

    ” – all the tourists go home.”

    Then the yankees invade. I used to love winters on the Gulf Coast (my family has had a house on the Alabama coast since the 1940s), but in recent years hordes of yankees have found it. They gripe, criticize, and talk about how wonderful things are in Fond du Lac and Saginaw. So sad. I thought they would leave us alone once they conquered mainland Florida. Alas, no.

  41. Carol - October 4, 2022 5:08 pm

    Good Mornin’ Sunshine, Thanks for another great commentary on the simple life!

  42. Jeff - October 4, 2022 5:36 pm

    In 1982, my wife and I along with our best friends, made a trip from our home in Prattville, AL to Dothan, AL, to see a Hank Williams Jr Show.
    The night before he had done a show in Hattiesburg, MS.
    Hank made a comment that he knew he was getting close to Dothan because he was seeing Hoggly Wogglys, as Piggly Wiggly was often fondly refered to in south Alabama.
    His busses probably passed through Brewton, Andalusia, and Enterprise before rolling into Dothan. They all had plenty of them.
    For my company they did not know about The Pig. We did not have them in Central Bama. Only the north and south portions of the state.
    I being from Walker County where there were a few. I can remember The Pig when I just a younger and my granny taking me there and getting me so wonderful peppermint sticks that dissolve in your mouth.
    Long live The Pig

  43. C K - October 4, 2022 5:46 pm

    Best writer on the planet!!!!

  44. Victoria - October 4, 2022 6:14 pm

    Glad to hear the Pig is still there. We vacationed a lot over the last 30 years or so on Cape San Blas and we always went to the Pig before anything else. I always loved the fresh veggies section and of course it meant the beginning of a wonderful time was about to be had.

  45. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 4, 2022 6:23 pm

    And, Sean…don’t YOU ever stop!!! Makes me smile and even more so makes me want to visit and see the things the way you see them. Thanks always for sharing and taking me outta my own head and outta Oklahoma if only for a few moments each day!

  46. Jaymee Holder - October 4, 2022 6:31 pm

    I understand about “The Pig”. Grew up in one of those Texas small towns fortunate enough to have one. Sadly it like so many other things of those days are long gone.
    The teen hangout place in town was obviously “The Hog Lot”.
    Thanks for reminding me.

  47. Christi O'Quinn - October 4, 2022 6:38 pm

    Love this one, especially. We have a Hoggly Woggly, here in my hometown of Eclectic, a little slice of Hometown Heaven, if you know, you just know.

  48. Dee Thompson - October 4, 2022 8:30 pm

    I used to love going grocery shopping with my mama. We loved the Piggly Wriggly. You inspired me to write about that, Sean! https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2022/10/grocery-stores-of-yesterday.html

  49. MAM - October 4, 2022 10:27 pm

    You’re totally correct, Sean, that it was time to start. It’s a great place to people watch. I remember being in an HEB. (sorry, no Pigs where we lived) with my mom who had taught high school history before she was married or I was born. All these “old folks” (Mom was in her early 20’s when she taught them) kept calling her by her maiden name. She couldn’t figure out who most were, but later she told me that they sure looked old for her to have taught them. I just smiled.

  50. Roxanne - October 5, 2022 12:46 am

    I grew up with a Piggly Wiggly that became a Safeway that became a Save U Mor. Also, I like Pig Butts as they are only $.87 a pound and make the BEST pulled pork when kept in a crock pot on low for 8 hours while my husband and I teach school. Thank heavens for Piggly Wiggly(ie)s, pork butts, and crock pots.

  51. Cornelia Parrott - October 5, 2022 12:51 am

    I, too, love Port St. Joe. Was born there and grew up with the paper mill and the wonderful beaches, riding on the dunes at the cape and playing in the bay….I now have a place on St. Joe Beach and love going there from Georgia… I can not express the joy of growing up in a small community where everyone knew you and you could not get away with much foolishness. We all didn’t like it at the time, but we just didn’t realize how lucky we were to live there….so glad I read your comment and all the responses…Port St. Joe is a super place. The piggly is owned by my best friend and neighbor growing up,George Durden.

  52. Gayla Koehn - October 5, 2022 2:23 am

    Oh my we had a (Pig) in my hometown. I can see the store like it was, in my child’s eye. It’s been gone several yrs now. Very sweet
    To read bout a Pig n the sunshine state!

  53. Jane - October 5, 2022 3:01 am

    Love the forgotten coast!! I pray it stays that way, although SGI is much more crowded/expensive in the last 10 years.

  54. Tamara Sprenger - October 5, 2022 10:32 pm

    I just have to say that our Piggy Wiggly in Cedarburg, Wisconsin is the best. You should definitely come visit. Owned by Ryan Olson, whose father owned it previously. Small town vibes run strong here. You would love the rest of Cedarburg too!

  55. davidpbfeder - October 6, 2022 4:12 am

    Voila! Proof that you’re better than any big city columnist!

  56. BillyBoy - October 6, 2022 9:48 am

    If the Pig is what you remember then you missed the real good old days when y’all vacationer’s went home and didn’t Jack the housing prices up trying to carpetbag a place right after Michael and force all the real city natives to have to move farther away from where they grew up. Thanks for ruining my paradise, why couldn’t you and yours just have gone to Alabama.

  57. Woods Gary - October 6, 2022 4:09 pm

    Best part of the Pig in PSJ is a pound of fresh steamed shrimp. And the best grits I’ve ever bought, I stock up when I’m there.

  58. Sheri K - October 6, 2022 9:46 pm

    My “baby” sister just retired after working over 35 years for The Pig in Racine, Wisconsin. She has tons of great stories relating to those years and the wonderful people she got to know. I always enjoyed the friendliness of her co-workers and, yes, the oddities you can find on the well stocked shelves. Her son played The Pig’s mascot for different fund raisers and events around Racine. The Pig has a soft spot in the collective heart of my entire family.

  59. Joe - October 7, 2022 3:31 am

    Love the Piggly Wiggly in Hazlehurst GA. It is really cool inside. The parking lot is the hottest place I’ve visited. Hotter than Texas, Oklahoma or Arizona. Haven’t been to Utah.

  60. Nancy Czechowicz - October 8, 2022 1:18 am

    Loved your story. I just retired one year and 7 days ago from Piggly Wiggly, in Racine, Wisconsin. I gave them 43 years of my life! Your story made me smile. Smiling was easy, working at the Pig. Wish I could have had the honor to escort you around. My sister lives in Dade City, Florida. She loves you to pieces and she shares all of your great stories with so many of us. Thank you, Sean for putting a smile on our face and in our hearts!

  61. Anne Godwin - October 12, 2022 2:27 pm

    While sitting with my husband after his knee replacement surgery, I finished your memoir,

    I understand your earlier writing so much more now. You and your Mom endured so much. I love how you finally made peace with your Father.

    Keep on writing your down to earth, real people stories. Our world, and one unhappy camper above, need to know that they still exist.

    I should’ve had Jamie sign your book when you were in Mobile. You’re a blessed man. And you continue to bless us with your writing. I’m glad you didn’t give up. He is proud of you.

    Your older sister.

  62. Lynda Thacker - October 13, 2022 2:24 am

    Another goodie, Sean! I live about a mile from one of our two Pigs. They have gotten out of sight with their prices, but it’s just so doggone (hey, sweet Marigold) handy! Thanks for sharing.

  63. Curtis - October 17, 2022 12:18 pm

    Great article. I, too, love that Pig, especially when it’s raining so hard you can’t see and then you have to go in all soaked and it’s *cold* in there. The shrimp company down the road is the mandatory second stop.

  64. Rhonda Traut - October 19, 2022 11:38 am

    Love this, I work in a grocery store in a tourist town and have visited that Pig while on vacation and your writing is so on point. You have a way with words.

  65. Rhonda Harrell - October 21, 2022 8:43 am

    I grew up on St. Joe Beach. My mom shopped at the IGA and the Pig . What a beautiful childhood, and beautiful place to grow up. Port St. Joe, home !
    Forever !

  66. Pink Hair Gal - October 22, 2022 12:18 pm

    Wait…The Pig sells alcohol now? It was my first job, I helped open that big store from the other location in 2000. George wouldn’t sell alcohol in the store while I worked there. It is nice that you romanticize it but I remember my time working there a lot differently. The tourists would come and spend hundreds of dollars but yell at me (a sixteen year old) when I told them they had to go to the package store to buy alcohol. It was inconvenient for them. I was often called a dumb bitch.
    Everyone of all income brackets? I used to have people, prominent members of St. Joe’s many churches, harass people who need to use EBT cards and WIC programs bc they were “taking away” or something like that. I would be preached at and constantly told I was going to hell because I had pink hair. It was super fun when people would go to my parent’s business and complain about me for no other reason then I had dyed hair and a nose ring. Don’t forgot the super causal racism that was constantly flung around in a town that was super segregated, I don’t know, it might still be.
    St. Joe worked for some people, but it is far from paradise.

  67. Deb - October 27, 2022 1:31 pm

    Got some surprisingly good sushi from that very Pig last spring while visiting the area!


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