Beach boutique links three generations of artists

Mother-daughter team pays homage to the woman who started it all


Cathy Thomasson and Cara Burky know what it means to be busy.

When the mother-daughter team behind Jacksonville Beach’s Sidney Cardel’s isn’t running their store, they’re everywhere: zipping from city to city at home and abroad finding the varied assortment of furniture, accessories and decor that make their boutique; or redecorating and re-imagining their space for the latest collection of items that adorn its walls throughout the season.

But for all the bustle at their two-year-old storefront, time seems to slow at Sidney Cardel’s. Burky and Thomasson greet incoming customers and bag goods with the movement and expertise of a pair born to helm a seaside beach boutique, the two moving around one another with the familiarity of best friends and business partners.

“We have fun here,” Thomasson said. “When you’re working with your mother or daughter, there’s just a level of trust that comes from having a family member with you.”

The sentiment was echoed by her daughter.

“We both want this business to work and be wonderful,” Burky said. “And it’s nice being involved in something with someone who is as equally emotionally invested as you are.”

Sidney Cardel’s brick-and-mortar origins began with a more obscurely located store on Second Street by Jacksonville Beach back in 2011. But in a manner of speaking, it started more than 30 years ago with Thomasson’s ambition and a vow shared between mother and daughter.

Many visitors are surprised to learn that “Sidney” is neither Cathy nor Cara, though she’s every bit as much a part of the store as they are.

“Sidney Cardel was my mom’s pen name,” Thomasson explained. “She was a writer, a poet and we wanted the store to be a reflection of her and in her memory. In everything she was an artist, and her originality and thinking was passed on to us.”

Indeed, “Sidney” operates as a motif that appears everywhere from the store to the logo to the website – an enigmatic force evident in the styling of each nook and cranny. She overlooks the floor from the perch of a framed, sepia-toned print behind the counter with all the spunk one might imagine for the origin of a business spanning three generations of women. Thomasson and Burky can’t hide the fondness that plays about their features when they look to a photo of Sidney posed with her back to a palm tree, hips cocked and sporting a winning smile,

“I love it when people ask, ‘Who is Sidney Cardel?’ Or ‘Are you Sidney?’ and we get to share that with them,” Burky said. “We get to share her story and she’s as much a part of the store as we are. And I think her spirit is here … I think people walk away from our store having felt her spirit in them.”

The two credit her with the artistic, entrepreneurial instincts that led them to start the business after Burky graduated from Florida State University and moved to Tampa, Fla. for a job. Thomasson had always been interested in opening a store, and said the timing was right, so she called her daughter with her plans and Burky moved to Jacksonville.

The pair split duties, whether that includes buying merchandise, re-stocking and styling the store, or more collaborative efforts like providing personal design services. The combination of their work and shared vision is what makes it possible for them to cater to a variety of tastes and age groups.

The progression was natural; for all their differences, Burky and Thomasson say their contradicting styles and taste for spontaneity have only helped them run a business together, even with the challenges that inevitably come with working as a mother-daughter team.

“It can be difficult working with your mom or daughter 24/7, but there’s a lot of great perks to it as well,” said Thomasson. “I get to see my daughter a lot, which is great. And Cara’s got a flare for design. We’re both artists and so was my mom, so we got that artistic creative gene and Cara got that in an even bigger way. So it works out well and we have a good time.”

Ultimately, Thomasson and Burky hope that Sidney Cardel’s doubles as a shopping destination and a source of inspiration for anyone who comes through their doors, be it artistically or professionally. And they encourage other mothers and daughters to take the opportunity to work together, as well.

“More than anything, we want people to come in and leave feeling inspired, whether they buy something or not,” said Burky. “And hopefully other mothers and daughters will take away the fact that even if it’s hard, striking that balance between business partners, friendship and mothering is very rewarding.”