Her birthplace was in the US Virgin Island, but she moved to Wilton, a small farm town in New Hampshire, when she was three. Her parents bought an old apple farm, where they still live. Her father started a construction company and her mother, now retired, worked as a classroom aide in a neighboring town.
“That meant that my sister and I got to go to a better school, since we went with my mom,” said Emily. “On the other hand, it meant that if we did anything, the principal knew exactly where my mother could be reached.”
Emily was an active student, playing lacrosse and soccer. During her senior year, she left soccer and started running on the cross-country team.
“I was recruited more for that one year in cross country than I was for my entire soccer or lacrosse career,” said Emily.
After graduating from high school, Emily attended Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Her neighbor was a nice young man names Miles. The two stayed in contact even after she moved on for school.Her next move took her all the way around the world, to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
“I majored in marine biology, and that’s where I ended up,” she explained.
While in Australia, Emily was able to visit one of the wonders of the marine world, the Great Barrier Reef.
“It was so beautiful,” said Emily. “My parents took us sailing in the Caribbean every three years or so when I was growing up, and I watched the reefs there fade and die over the years. The Great Barrier Reef is bright and colorful, so it was a wonderful thing to see.”
While Brisbane is a far cry from Wilton, Emily found much of the same sense of community in the big city.
“There were a lot of suburbs,” she said. “People got to know each other in their little areas.”
One of her favorite aspects of life in Australia was the daily trip to school.
“I had a one-hour ferry ride each way,” Emily recalled. “It was beautiful and the weather was perfect.”
Even driving had its own special hazards in Australia.
“Kangaroo were everywhere, just like deer are here in the US,” explained Emily. “You would see where people hit them with cars. Australians have a tradition that if they hit a kangaroo, they stop and check for any babies if it is a female. If there is a baby in the pouch, then they take it to a wildlife rehab center where it can be cared for until it can be released.”
Not long after Emily graduated from the University of Queensland, her aunt, island resident and business owner Kim Newlin, had surgery on her shoulder.
Emily came to Boca Grande to help her aunt with her children and her store. Like so many people who find Gasparilla Island by chance, she really never has left it entirely.
In 2007, realizing that jobs in marine biology were not thick on the ground even in Florida, Emily consulted with her family. After some thought she opened her own island shop, Aqua. This year, she opened a second Aqua in Rhode Island and is working on another shop in Boca Grande, called Salt.
“I wanted a simple name that had a nautical flavor,” Emily said. “That, and salt is a necessary element for life, just like water.”
Emily is not doing all of the work alone. Joining her is Miles, the nice young man from Rhode Island.
“We never really lost contact,” she said. “Then last year, we really started talking to each other again.”
The talking led to a date at the Saigon Cafe, a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant that they had visited during their days as students and neighbors.
The couple was married in September of 2011.
Miles’ family owns a fishing company in Rhode Island, and the water had a starring role in their big day.
“We were married in Little Compton, R.I.,” said Emily. “We had a gorgeous old New England farmhouse that was right on the water. It looked out over the fleet of fishing boats bobbing in the water.”
Rounding out the family is Emily’s 3-year-old daughter, Ella.
During the summer, they live in Rhode Island. The rest of the year they come down to their home in South Gulf Cove.
“I fell in love with Florida when I was down here with my aunt,” said Emily. “At least Florida in the winter. During the summer, I would much rather be up north.”
Little Miss Ella is a quick learner, with a love for Mickey Mouse and another brightly-colored cartoon character.
“I don’t really watch TV,” said Emily, when asked about her favorite show. “Right now I watch a lot of Spongebob, since that’s what Ella loves.”
According to her mother, Ella is a quick study.
“My mom sings the song ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to her,” Emily said. “She was eating noodles the other day, and I came around the corner and saw her twirling one in the air as she sang the song to herself.“She would sing a few words, then eat a handful of noodles,” Emily continued. “It was adorable. Unfortunately, she seems to have inherited my voice.”
Another thing she has inherited is her mother’s love for elephants.
“I have a stuffed elephant that I have had since I was her age,” said Emily. “It’s the one thing I won’t give her. She has a bunny that I offer to take in trade for the elephant, but so far, she hasn’t gone for the deal.”
Emily’s employees say that you can tell her mood by what she orders for her shop.
“I’m in a really good place right now,” she said. “I have the best husband in the whole wide world, a wonderful daughter and everything is going great.”
So it should come as no surprise that the new shop she was busily putting together is decorated with pictures of smiling elephants and quotes about love.
She has a busy year ahead, between the new store and the original Aqua, but Emily is looking forward to the fun.
“I’m planning a five year anniversary party for the weekend after Thanksgiving,” she said. “I want to tell everyone thank you for making it possible.”
It may not be what she went to school for, but Emily is doing what she loves. The elephants on the wall are all smiling.
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