The Bitter Southerner is a publication dedicated to sharing real stories about the real south. They have been an Acuity customer for almost two years. We sat down with the Founder and Editor-in-Chief Chuck Reece to discuss The Bitter Southerner’s story and how they have evolved over the past few years.
What inspired you to start The Bitter Southerner?
It was in late 2011. I was with my then-fiancée (now wife) in New Orleans. We’ve always had an appreciation for craft cocktails, so we spent a good portion of the trip trying the best that NOLA had to offer. We were so impressed with the bars, bartenders, and cocktails. There was this rich blend of cultures and flavors, and you could tell these people had really mastered their craft.
A few weeks later I came across an article about the fifty best cocktail bars in the world. It was by Drinks International which is essentially the global Bible of the bar business. I was shocked to see that none of the New Orleans bars that we’d visited had made the list. And beyond that – there wasn’t even a venue in the entire American South represented.
It got me thinking. So much of the world – and even the rest of the country – knows so little about the south. And what they do know or what they think they know comes from stereotypes from movies and TV shows. But the south has so much more to offer than that.
That’s where the idea came in. Let’s start a publication to show people the south that I know and love. We started brainstorming ideas for the name. The light bulb moment was when we thought of “bitter,” because it represented our feelings on the way the south is perceived, but it also ties back to cocktails which inspired this whole concept in the first place.
I had a background in Journalism. My buddy Dave had experience in design, and together we started drafting up the first idea. We were both working full-time jobs, so this became a side project. There were a lot of long nights, but our passion paid off. Our goal was to publish one feature story every Tuesday for an entire year, and I’m so proud to say that we published fifty-two really good long-form feature stories all on our own.
Have there been any memorable milestones along the way?
On our 1 year anniversary, we did a membership drive, very much like public radio. That was really memorable. A couple of years later, we formed a partnership with Community Newspapers Inc. in Athens, and that was the first time that we had a partner that could bring the business discipline and processes that we needed to take us to the next level. Along the way, we also started our General Store. There’s some pretty cool merchandise in there, and all of it funds the creatives who work on our projects. Last fall our first print publication came out, which is exciting in itself, but we were even more thrilled when it sold out! And along the way, we’ve created a passionate community. That has been the best part.
What has been your favorite story to-date?
Phew! That is tough. We have had some great pieces come out over the years. We work with some really talented folks. But I do have one that comes to mind. One of my favorite parts of this job is having the opportunity to develop young talent and giving them a place to shine. I used to serve on the board of directors for The Red & Black – the University of Georgia student newspaper. I specifically recall after one meeting, the managing editor of the paper approached me and said that he had a story idea for me. It’s called A Carolina Dog, and it’s been one of the most widely read stories on our site for the last four years.
How did you come across Acuity?
When we started working with Community Newspapers Inc. and tightening up our processes, we realized that we needed to outsource our back office tasks. We searched around and considered a handful of companies, but ultimately Acuity was the best fit for us.
What about Acuity makes it a good fit for The Bitter Southerner?
Up until the print publication last fall, our entire business had existed online. Our site is on Squarespace, and our General Store is on Shopify. We were pulling financial data from a handful of different sources, but Acuity made this easy. Their ability to streamline the process was really the deciding factor for me. They also got us set up with tools like Bill.com to help with payments and other tasks.
What has been your favorite part about working with Acuity?
Honestly, it’s the people. You have one dedicated person to lead your account, and we’ve gotten to them know them and trust them. And if they do have to switch teams around, they make sure you’re taken care of in the transition. They really prioritize the service piece, and that’s a good feeling when they’re handling something as important as your business’ financials.