Real Men Wear Pink

A colorful conversation with The Co-Op's Jess Patterson.

Jess Patterson is an itch you can’t help but scratch. And when you do, you quickly find out there’s much more to the surface than meets the eye.

On the surface though, he really does like pink; there was always a pink bowtie to accent a suit or tuxedo. Now he fully owns it, or rather, everything he owns is pink, including his jeep.

“When it came to branding, I thought, frosé is pink, and a flamingo popped into my head, and we just went with it.” The original black and white logo for The Co-Op on Sullivan’s Island that he bought in 2012 gave way to an electric, "beachy" pink, capturing what Jess calls “that vacation within a vacation” mode, and better reflecting his intentions when transforming the "island market" into an eatery-destination. 

Bar Primi in the East Village in NYC lays claim to inventing frosé, and is where Jess first tasted it in 2016. “My wife, Liza, took me and when I found out there was a 45-minute wait to get in, I wanted no part of it,” he laughs, remembering. “But then the bartender told us they were selling 2,000 frosés on a Saturday, and well, you do the math!”

“Sullivan’s Island had always supported us, but I believe it was during COVID that the rest of Charleston realized we existed and The Co-Op really took off.” One frosé machine turned into many, and the stores multiplied, too, first expanding to Isle of Palms and Kiawah, then Nashville and Chattanooga. Charlotte opens mid-May, then Nexton, Las Vegas, and Downtown Charleston with Jacksonville, FL and Huntsville, AL on the horizon. There’s a "Flocked Up" frosé boat too, that can take a party of six out on the water, with plans for a larger bachelorette party version.

Is this all enough to keep Jess out of trouble? Hardly. But keep scratching because it’s a good kind of trouble.

Jess has a following is an understatement, as reflected on his popular social media platforms. But it’s not cultish as much as community based. Okay, maybe a little cultish. Because although he is outspoken, it is his gregarious, larger-than-life personality and honest-to-goodness love of life and family that looms large on social media, drawing people in. 

“My social media presence really started because Liza was tired of my complaining about customers and so I started venting on the internet.” Stop the presses, venting about his customers? For real? I had to know more, here.

“I spent many years in finance dealing with - let’s just call them "jerks" - with millions of dollars on the line. When I started spending time in the store and encountered the same kind of attitude over a $10 sandwich, I got upset. There’s no reason for people to be so rude to other people and so I called them out. And I think people were kind of stunned at first that this guy who owns a restaurant had no problem speaking his mind, but they also respected me for it.”

While many of Jess’ Instagram posts are lengthy, as he tackles some complex and controversial issues, you might be surprised to see that most of the comments are downright civil. “I like to think that with my page, at least, we are back to a place where we were meant to be originally, where everyone can agree to disagree, which is so far from what the world is today. It’s sort of a safe zone, where we can feel differently and still have a conversation; where it’s okay to say, hey, my opinion’s not the same but I still love you, man!”

A few years ago, Liza was diagnosed with lymphoma. “During her treatments, she met a woman with cancer who raised money for an off-the-books treatment in Mexico. We posted about it and people rallied to help this woman and I really feel those trips extended her life. I couldn’t get over how sharing someone’s struggle got such a positive response and so we started to selectively post to help where we could. You can’t do it for everyone, but we try to go with our gut whenever my wife or I come across something that speaks to us.”  

Good deeds beget good deeds. Now a survivor, Liza spent the first half of 2023 raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in her own way to pay it forward. The Co-Op has pledged $40,000 to match those efforts. Jess is proud of his wife, and thankful for a community that rallies around good. “At the end of the day, I want customers to come in to buy a turkey sandwich from me not because it’s the best turkey sandwich but because they know they are supporting good people, too.” 

“I like to think my {social media} page, reflects the place where we were meant to be originally, where everyone can agree to disagree, which is so far from what the world is today. It’s sort of a safe zone, where we can feel differently and still have a conversation; where it’s okay to say, 'my opinion’s not the same but I still love you, man!'"

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