Picnic Haven and its founders LaRhea Burke and Cai Cee Murgo serve as a story of courage, community inspiration and the importance of relishing life’s special moments.
To tell the story of where Picnic Haven really began, you have to go back a few years before its founding, to 2018. That was the year when former Ohio resident LaRhea Burke decided to change her life and make her dream of living at the beach a reality.
When she arrived at Topsail — for the first time ever, no less — she had never been to the island, let alone North Carolina, and didn’t know anyone. But she was committed to starting a new chapter of her life that would take her on a journey of physical and spiritual transformation. She began to lay down roots in her community and joined The Gathering in Surf City, where she met Cai Cee Murgo. A native of Raleigh, Murgo grew up going to Topsail Beach every weekend before settling in the area full-time when her family bought a house.
As fast friends, Burke and Murgo often had conversations about faith, the community and, sometimes, the different activities at Topsail Beach. One night when Burke was looking for something fun to do, she used the Airbnb experiences tab and her search turned up very few results. That got her and Murgo wishing that there was some type of unique memorable experience for people who come to Topsail Island, especially since so many of them visit from different states. In particular, an experience that would create an opportunity for people to build connections and create memories with one another.
After a few weeks of bouncing ideas around, Burke remembers texting Murgo, “Would you ever want to host picnics on the beach?”
“And I say this one thinking she is going to laugh at me because this has never crossed our minds before, we had never talked about picnics on the beach before,” Burke explains. But Murgo was immediately into the concept. Even though they hadn’t fleshed out the business idea much beyond its core — picnics on the beach — they say that things started to snowball into a veritable business fast.
One day after the gym, they headed to Steadfast Nutrition for a post-workout recovery treat. While they were there, they noticed there was a retail space for lease next door. Burke — who also owns apparel brand Love’s Active, inspired by her wellness journey and physical transformation — had another idea. The space could house both her clothing company and the soon-to-be-named beachside business, Picnic Haven. After securing the lease and taking steps like painting the walls and making the shop their own, they got into more detail about what they would offer.
They landed on picnic packages, starting with a classic package with cozy rugs, blankets and tableware, and luxury packages for a more elevated experience with a table and decor.
For those looking for even more things to enjoy, they also created a menu of add-ons including chocolates, charcuterie boards, fresh flowers and games, letting guests choose however many they would like.
They created a Facebook page, took some photos of their offerings and made a few posts. Even though they knew they had a good idea, they didn’t know quite how good until they announced it. The reaction was swift and positive. Inundated with messages, likes and follows, their online presence grew quickly. And in their circles within the community, they overheard people talking about their business, excited for it to come to fruition. It was then they realized the enormous opportunity they had identified — and it wasn’t about the picnics.
“We’re giving people the chance when they’re coming to [the beach] to have these special moments,” Burke explains.
The founders have noticed that the picnics they book most often are for personal special moments like anniversaries, engagements and birthdays. During the first picnic they ever hosted, which happened to be for a couple, the guy proposed to his girlfriend.
“Cai Cee and I literally looked at each other said, ‘Man, if this is all this is — to set this one picnic up and have this one marriage come together, and this one life started, this is all worth it,’” Burke says.
Another one of their favorite things about Picnic Haven transcends its services. Both Burke and Murgo are mothers, juggling parenthood with the responsibilities of being business owners, but for them, therein lies another opportunity — being a source of inspiration for those around them.
“People who we are in connection with have said things to us like ‘you guys are such an encouragement just to see you do this’ and ‘everything that you do already makes me think I can do X, Y, and Z,‘“ Burke says.
Burke and Murgo say that not only have people been kind enough to share their words with them, but they also have followed them up with action, stepping out in faith in different areas of their lives toward the unknown, just as they did.
“It is really exciting where and how this business can grow and how we can show that women can do it all and be successful,” Burke says.
Picnic Haven currently offers picnics in two locations in Surf City — one on the beachside and one on the sound side, a more secluded setting with access to a fire pit. Dozens of additional locations are coming soon in the form of travel picnics, allowing customers to book a package that comes to them at their beach house. While Picnic Haven has a popular sunset package, they are now offering the opportunity for sunrise picnics for those looking for an early morning experience. No matter where or when someone wants to have a picnic, Picnic Haven can help create a special memory.
Book a picnic at thepicnicchaven.com.