Story and Photos by Nikki Hedrick
“We are trying to go back to the roots,” explains Chuck Stiles of the new Graffiti & Funky Blues Shack location that will open Jan. 30.
The restaurant and music establishment first opened in 1995 in Destin, and then in 2006 at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Now, both of those locations are permanently closed and Stiles is putting the finishing touches on transforming a Chili’s location into a Graffiti & Funky Blues Shack—complete with many of the fixtures and items of interest that gave the previous locations their charm.
“We were Graffiti before we were Funky Blues Shack,” says Stiles of the business’ evolution. “We became the Funky Blues Shack because we were losing customers on wait. So I kind of progressed, and then put a guitar player outside, and in the summertime people were dying out there. So I poked a hole and we did that.”
The business expanded, taking over the open space next door on two occasions. But Destin’s changing business landscape began to drive more traffic to the harbor area, and Stiles let go of the location. It changed hands several times until its recent closure.
Stiles remains positive about the opportunities a new location can provide. “I found a spot that I feel is centrally located to everything and gives us a fighting chance,” he says.
Changes include having the restaurant portion and the music venue portion behind the same door. After 9 p.m., the lights are turned down and the stage is lit up, a simple transformation that helps serve as the barrier between the two concepts.
“We want to be for everybody. Graffiti, when we started that, it was for kids—so we still want to be that family friendly restaurant by day and a nighttime venue.”
Other changes include a larger kitchen, leading to a more versatile menu that will include small plates, gluten free options, and some health conscious choices.
Stiles is looking toward reclaiming Funky’s crown as a must‑visit music destination, by supporting local and regional bands who are focused on original music. Also in the works—resurrecting Funky’s famous open mic nights, which played a prominent role in the formation of many area bands.
“I had my reasons for selling at both,” says Stiles. “But here I feel like we’re on equal footing to generate the business. As long as we offer a good product, good entertainment and friendly people, we should be fine.”
On March 6, Beachcomber will be descending on the new venue for the Ninth Ever Beachcomber Music Awards. Stiles is happy to host the event, sharing the impact this publication has had on the business through the years.
“Chris (Manson) has been such a big supporter of ours,” he says of our editor. “At the very beginning, Beachcomber helped us to be the success we are.”
For the new Graffiti & Funky Blues Shack, the proof will be in the coming weeks. But Stiles is happy with the response and feedback he has received from the community so far—especially those who have stepped into the new space. “The end result is people coming in telling me they love what they see. And they say this one feels the best.”
Discover more at graffitifbs.com.