Carolina Waters takes off: Locally born brand built on the water marries performance and design

Posted 8/19/20

BEAR CREEK — Two longtime friends, countless fishing expeditions and a love of small-town life have added up to a young business for Chatham native Chris Callicutt and his friend Brad Terry. …

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Carolina Waters takes off: Locally born brand built on the water marries performance and design

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BEAR CREEK — Two longtime friends, countless fishing expeditions and a love of small-town life have added up to a young business for Chatham native Chris Callicutt and his friend Brad Terry.

The two men have regular day jobs — Callicutt is a physical education teacher at Chatham Charter School, and Terry is a store manager — but each manage to spend a decent amount of time on fishing expeditions across the state. This year, their hobby crossed over from an intense pastime to a business venture: a performance and lifestyle clothing brand called “Carolina Waters.”

“The more I researched it,” Callicutt said, “there’s not a ton of North Carolina-based outdoor companies … And I thought that was a little market that we might be able to take advantage of and really succeed in. You have your ‘Lake Life’ and your ‘Salt Life’ (brands) … but there’s not a whole lot of North Carolina-based stuff.”

Starting with a company name and a logo, the two set out to change that in between their daytime work and duties as fathers to young kids. It took around four months for the brand to move from ideation to its debut online last month.

“We’re trying to get our dad time in, to do a little fishing on the side,” Callicutt said. “But we wanted to do something extra with it this year. And the more that that evolved, we wanted to get a branding for our little adventures. And that’s where we came up with the name Carolina Waters … we like to fish throughout the whole state, so we wanted to find something to encapsulate that.”

Each member of the pair brings a certain specialty to the project. Terry has worked in retail management for around 15 years, while Bear Creek native Callicutt did some sports marketing work before his current positions as a P.E. teacher and basketball coach at Chatham Charter in Siler City.

But the engine behind the Carolina Waters project stems from a longtime love of fishing and being outdoors. Though Callicutt is the only Chatham native of the duo, they both spent plenty of time fishing in the county’s waters. According to Terry, the Cape Fear, Haw and Deep River are all “home waters for us.” They’ve both made sizable catches in Harris Lake and Jordan Lake, too.

“I love seeing the sunrise on any body of water,” Terry said. “It feels like the closest I am in nature — when you see the sun come up. So that’s one of my favorite traditions, being on any body of water and watching the sun rise and getting the first snippet of light over the water … It’s gorgeous.”

When Callicutt and Terry dip their lines into a pond owned by Terry’s family, it’s evident they’re not too worried about scaring fish off with competitive banter and dad jokes. When one of them hooks a tree with a line, it’s jokingly called a “tree-pounder” instead of what they’re really after: a three-pound fish or an even bigger catch.

Neither of them make a practice of eating their catches — Terry said he doesn’t like the taste of bass — but by the end of an evening of fishing they’ve caught a few nice-sized largemouth bass. One tips the scale at five pounds.

Brad Terry, co-founder of the fishing and lifestyle brand Carolina Waters, holds a largemouth bass he caught in a family-owned pond in Tramway. His business partner Chris Callicutt walks behind him.

Their expertise and real-life hours out on the water have translated to a line of clothing that’s conscious of the needs of fishermen. The clothing line, hosted on the website of an outdoor clothing company called Nuthreads, offers performance fishing shirts and cotton T-shirts. Callicutt and Terry also sell Carolina Waters-branded hats and decals.

“Our performance gear is sort of that dri-fit, moisture-wicking style gear,” Callicutt said. “It has SPF 50 sun protection, so it minimizes the use of sunscreen and it also keeps you covered from pretty much head-to-toe with the long sleeves. And you still remain cool, because it’s lightweight.”

According to Terry and Callicutt, the design of the Carolina Waters logo was created just as intentionally. After Callicutt created a base design, local designer and Chatham resident Elgin Marsh took the original mock-up and, in Callicutt’s words, “brought it to life.” The final design includes an outline of the N.C. border, a fishing hook and waves that represent the ocean along the state’s coast.

“I was excited to get on board and help bring (Callicutt’s) vision to life,” Marsh said in an email. “I wanted to create something eye-catching but symbolic of the name ‘Carolina Waters.’”

Though the business is still in its infancy, Terry and Callicutt are using social media to spread the word. They recently reached an agreement with Gulf’s J.R. Moore & Son to sell their product in-store.

Julie King-McDaniel, the co-owner of J.R. Moore & Son, said partnering with another business to sell a successful product “is a win for both us and the vendor.”

“When we have an opportunity to support a local business by offering and showcasing their goods at our store, we try to make that happen,” she said. “We think that local businesses should be supportive of one another.”

Callicutt and Terry said they’ve felt supported by the community, especially during a pandemic that has disrupted supply chains across the nation.

“During this time, if you can support your neighbor, whether that be the small shops downtown or people with creative ideas like ourselves … if there’s mutual support between neighbors and families, then that’s going to keep our area positive and our community on an uptick no matter what situation comes our way,” Callicutt said.

“As far as where I see us going in the future,” Terry said, “I think as long as the interest is there we’ll keep broadening the horizons as far as designs and new additions to the logo and different color palettes … I think if we can tell a story with our colors and our designs on our shirts, I think they’re going to continue to be popular.”

Still, both seem to care more about showing pride for their state and perfecting their fishing technique than maximizing sales.

“I don’t want it to be this huge fad because I’m not a big numbers guy,” Callicutt said, “So I really don’t care if we get a huge amount of sales. I just want the customer to appreciate the product that’s in their hands and the design that they have, and they take pride in wearing it.”

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