Hospitality is in the DNA

Hospitality is in the DNA
Words by Christiana Roussel
Photos by Katie Desantis


In the heart of Florida Route 30A’s coveted 24-mile slice of heaven, lies Alys Beach. This Mediterranean-influenced enclave has long been considered one of the most well-considered placemaking communities in the region. From the architecture to the landscaping, the siting of community amenities to the curated array of retail tenants, Alys Beach is singular in its vision. 

Almost from the founding of the community, Fonville Press Market + Café was one of those bespoke retail outposts: a small but welcoming space where residents popped in for something sweet, maybe a cup of coffee, and a morning paper. It was always a vital third space or community gathering spot—locals traded updates on life and visitors convened for a nosh. In that iteration, Fonville Press played an invaluable role, helping create and establish the cohesive feel of this resort destination. 

In this seminal position, it is hard to imagine Fonville Press not being a part of Alys Beach. But longtime visitors to 30A know that the beloved spot almost ceased to be—with the original version closed in 2018. It was not until chef Jeremy Walton resurrected the concept, breathing new life into this storied institution, that Fonville grew into the place so loved today.


With a long and esteemed career in the hospitality world—extended stints at Sea Island as well as Montage and Auberge properties—Jeremy Walton was recruited to Alys Beach by the Stephens family in 2014, as vice president of resort operations. Noting that Fonville Press was one of the first amenities the family added to the development, he recalls the distinct feel of that original Fonville Press location. “It was small, kind of quaint with a blended indoor-outdoor space, a courtyard, and an outdoor game room. There was a big hill just beyond, where kids would play. From the beginning, it was a community gathering spot where people would meet to plan their day and enjoy time together.” 

Walton’s mouth turns up in a wry grin when he shares what happened next. “In 2018, the developers decided to lease the Fonville Press space to another concept. In my role as VP, I had the very unenviable task of overseeing its closure.”  Amidst the 1,500 sad and sometimes irate Facebook posts and neighbors donning ‘Save Fonville’ T-shirts, there was a feeling of losing something precious and special. Walton felt this deeply. He recalls telling one particular resident, “If it were up to me, I would reopen Fonville Press and add the market that everybody has always wanted to exist here.” What felt then like nothing more than a passing remark would soon become a line that tugged at his entrepreneurial heart.

In the years that followed that shuttering, Walton’s role continued to be one of leveraging his extensive relationships in the food and beverage and hospitality worlds, to recruit high-caliber restaurateurs to bring their vision to the area. All the while, Fonville Press was always on his mind. After courting chefs from Nashville and Savannah and Charleston to bring their talent to the area, Jeremy’s wife Angie looked him square in the eye one day and said, “You have spent your whole life, your whole career doing just this. Why don’t you recreate what you want Fonville to be?” With this idea, Walton decided to transition out of his role as VP so that he and Angie could found Quest Hospitality, curating and developing the concepts they’d always dreamt of.


Hurtsboro, Alabama is a mighty long way from the pristine white sands and sun swept stuccoed façades of Alys Beach. But in a way, it was the ideal starting point for what Walton would go on to create with Angie at Quest Hospitality. Jeremy’s grandfather, Lafayette Everett Walton, owned and operated Walton’s Grocery in this rural Alabama town. While Jeremy spent his fair share of time there—practically raised in the back of the cinderblock building—he fully concedes that there might not be too many parallels between Hurstboro and 30A, save being a key placemaker in their respective communities. In the days before social media and the buzz of cell phones, Walton’s Grocery was where the townspeople of Hurtsboro gathered to catch up with one another, discuss current events, and collect sundry goods needed for that evening’s supper. 

This visceral memory surely helped shape the Fonville Press of today. “Places like Walton’s Grocery and Fonville Press really are those third spaces we crave. They are the connection between food and beverage and hospitality—it is how I was raised.” The newly reimagined Fonville Press bookends the amphitheater with the Walton’s other restaurant concept, Citizen. Bright, light, with pops of pale pink and sage green, this version of Fonville Press is larger than the original with design elements that organically draw guests in all day long. 


Walton shares, “Design-wise, the space is meant to have this vibrant, warm, colorful Palm Springs feel. With Citizen at one end and Fonville on the other, we have this prominent outdoor space in between.” Large bar windows open wide, inviting the Gulf breezes in, blurring the lines between indoor and out. “We are still working to expand the landscaping and shade structure outside to make it even more inviting.” Two towering palm trees anchor each end of this plaza where live music takes place. Walton has that wry grin again as he notes, “We jokingly call that space ‘Between Two Palms’, a loose reference to the comedy show ‘Between Two Ferns.’”

“For the People,” the Fonville tagline, is a genuine expression of the intent Jeremy and Angie have had from the beginning: “I believe our primary job is to build genuine relationships and create memorable experiences for our guests. We wanted this to be a place for the community, for everyone. As we aspire to think about what service looks like, at both Citizen and Fonville and beyond, we want to serve.”