Reece and his three partners (creative director Dave Whitling, social media guru Kyle Tibbs Jones, and insights & analytics guru Butler Raines) launched the down-home, content- and visually rich “Bitter Southerner a scant 18 months ago in Atlanta. They wanted their platform to support the best products regional artisans produced. The idea was to spotlight and sell everything from clothing to music to food on the platform's General Store.
The media company's founding quartet, who all grew up in small southern hamlets and have all toiled for big media companies from New York to Los Angeles, knew there was a niche waiting to be filled. Publishers and garmentos, mix-masters and master chefs, and all other purveyors of quality goods have found an environment that celebrates the hip side of the region. It's a far cry from the usual big media portrayal of a Dixie that's all about “Paula Dean, Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo,” says Reece.
Everything in the General Store, like the $98 handmade black canvas “Bag Named Sue,” has a distinct sensibility that celebrates the region with quality and humor.
“The Bitter Southerner's” initial lure was the offering of one substantive feature a week, free of traditional advertising, liberally complementing the written word with video and photography. Still in the toddler stage, “Bitter Southerner” has published great writing from Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood, “The New Mind of the South” author Tracy Thompson, and such well-known novelists as Thomas Mullen and Charles McNair. A profile of the Atlanta-based, platinum-selling hip-hop artist, political pundit and entrepreneur Killer Mike brought national attention. The monthly Bitter Southerner Book Club sold out its first-edition biography “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story,” signed by author Rick Bragg.
From the beginning, Reece and company knew they were using quality content as a lure to attract quality product. This would be the foundations for a media company centered on a certain progressive Southern ethos that has roots from Athens, Ga. to Austin Texas, and everywhere else that side of the Mason-Dixon line. Within months of "Bitter Southerner"'s launch, major ad agencies were approaching its team for counsel, suggesting that what they were creating could be the “Vice” of the South.
“The Bitter Southerner” has carved out a little breathing room for itself. Reece admits things are not so “hand-to-mouth” since the General Store launch. A one-year anniversary membership drive back in August, with various swag offered to those who wrote checks, helped, too. “We've got all sorts of potential deals on the table for video, with southern fashion designers and even southern coffee roasters,” says Reece. “Now we've got a little more time to make a lot more happen.”