Lynette Sumner—Defining Outer Banks Success
By Kip Tabb –
Lynette Sumner is bright, well-spoken, creative and driven to succeed—although success for her may not be the classic definition. Her restaurant and spa, Aqua, on the south end of Duck, certainly seems to keep its seats filled, and the spa has built a well-deserved reputation for taking care of its clients—both her regular customers and the growing number of wedding parties that she serves.
She is proud of what she has accomplished, but what really excites her is that touch of humanity that seems to link us all. “People come back and thank me and bring their babies,” Lynette says. “And even come in for a glass of wine a few years later on their anniversary, and I love them. I just love them.”
The facility has become one of the Outer Banks wedding success stories, but when the restaurant opened four years ago, Lynette had no idea that weddings would become so much a part of the Aqua story. “I was kind of caught off guard,” she says. “The first year I did ten events. And now I’m over 50 weddings a year.”
There are, of course, many reasons for the success of a business. Certainly Aqua as a venue is just about picture perfect for a wedding. Perched on the edge of the Currituck Sound, it includes radiant sunsets as a backdrop to a gathering area that features an outdoor deck and plenty of room for even mid-sized parties. The food is outstanding, the wine list excellent and the staff professional and engaged.
Yet at the core of the success story is an attitude toward the people who come to Aqua. “Keeping it human and connected,” Lynette explains. “People want to feel goodness, for lack of better term, loved and cared about. Like you’re valuable.”
The facility has a lot to do with people feeling loved and cared about. With a full service spa upstairs, the pampering often begins early. “We get a lot of bridal parties during the day for manicure, pedicure and massage,” Lynette says, pointing out that many of the people arriving at the spa live tension-filled lives. “People are coming from cosmopolitan environments where they are coming from high stress environments back home, and this doesn’t need to be high stress.”
She makes it clear, though, that as good as Aqua is, it is the Outer Banks that is the setting that brings brides and grooms together. “Every couple has a link and a thread here,” she says. “They have this thread that brings them here for one of the most important events of their lives.”
There is as she speaks, though, more than a pride in her own business—to Lynette, the reason the Outer Banks has become one of the most popular wedding destinations in the country is a source of professional pride. “The professionals who are in the Outer Banks Wedding Association have really upped the bar,” she says. “They are really making it happen it for people. I like going to the wedding shows and seeing my peers as a group. Checking out the flowers, the photography, the food. It’s fun.”
That theme of fun seems to run throughout Lynette’s conversation—and it seems to have worked its way into her business model. Most of the time Lynette and her staff are waiting tables, preparing dinners or helping individual clients in the spa, but a wedding party represents a chance to shine in a different arena. “I love it. It gives my staff a change of pace,” she says. “Watching people get excited and seeing families together. It’s just joyful. It’s awesome.”