As part of the management team for Savannah’s famed Club One, Travis Coles and Trey Norris have certainly made their mark in town and, in the process, have found love in a hopeful (sorry, Rihanna, not hopeless) place as the Cutest Couple in Savannah.
“Well, that’s what we were told,” Travis Coles said. “We were kind of caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting it.”
“Not at all,” Trey Norris echoed. “Travis contacted me and I was like… ‘all right.’ It was something you would not expect. Someone had told us in the preliminary voting that we’d been nominated, but I never thought—”
Trey’s comment is interrupted by Travis saying, “I was also nominated for Best Plumber, too. I apparently did some job here where I fixed something and got a nomination. I was having about as much expectation of getting Cutest Couple as I did Best Plumber.”
Travis and Trey have been together for about five years and can’t see themselves ever leaving the Savannah area.
“I was born in Australia,” Travis said in absolutely zero accent. “By birth, I’m nowhere near local and from about as far away as you could be. My dad was in the Australian Air Force and he retired and got a job at Gulfstream. That’s what brought us here. We went back to Australia in 1995 and then moved back to the Richmond Hill area. When I turned 21, I was here celebrating with friends. The owner offered to buy me a drink, then a job, and I’m still here.”
Trey is a native of the Savannah area. “I grew up outside the city in Meldrim. I got my bachelor’s at Armstrong and wanted to move to Philly for law school. I planned on moving there with his friends. We went out in Savannah for a last hurrah with friends and I realized I couldn’t leave.”
“Once Savannah gets a ‘hold of your leg, she doesn’t let go,” Coles said.
Norris agreed, “When I first started working downtown in my 20s, it always amazed me that people would choose here to visit as if it were their ultimate vacation and not just passing through. As someone who’s lived here all their life, [I see] it’s a desirable location.”
Coles said, “Those of us who live here, we’re so focused on getting from point A to B, getting to work, going to get food and such that the occasional moments we take to walk down the street and take in our own city, it’s… ‘wow, I live here.’ For me, if there’s an event in Forsyth Park and you don’t normally go to something like that, you start taking it in and seeing things for the first time. You understand why people make this a destination and what draws them to Savannah so much. I don’t think we take the time to smell the flowers in our garden as much as we should as residents.”
The couple first met when Norris originally knew Coles as a patron.
“I was managing over at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar and looking to pick up an extra gig and extra cash. I thought it would be cool to work at Club One,” Coles shared. “So, after I’d known Travis for a bit, I said, ‘Give me a job.’ You know, ‘What do I have to do to bartend?’ I feel like there’s a tiny bit more of a turnover now, but back then, no one left. People stayed here a long time and it was hard to get a job.”
Norris agreed. “We had maybe 2-3 spots that rotate out, but it only rotated every few years. It’s cliche, but it’s a family here.”
“We foster a positive environment,” Coles added.
“It’s community…it’s part of being in the LGBTQ community…it’s a safe space,” Norris said.
Coles said you can be yourself. “Self-expression. We have the shows here, too, so there’s this upbeat feeling in the air. We’re very fortunate in that way.”
Travis laughed. “I keep joking that I’m going to find some talentless bartenders to work here. It seems every time I hire a bartender, next thing I know, they’re doing drag and have to cut their shift short to go on stage.”
But to answer the all-important question of how long they’ve been an official couple, Coles admits, “I honestly don’t know how long we’ve been together. Five years?”
“It’s kind of murky because my ex and I knew we weren’t going to end up together, not as a couple or the forever thing. He’s my best friend and we’re roommates, we’ve got a chihuahua together—”
“—They stayed together for the dog,” Norris said through a chuckle.
Coles returns to the question. “My ex’s world was different from my world. This world takes a lot of my time and life. It makes more sense to be in a relationship with someone who knows and understands this world and is a part of it. Trey is very much that. We have the blessing of my ex. When we first started hinting at the idea of dating, we didn’t want it to affect anyone here [at Club One], so we were careful not to let on to anyone here at first.
“Most of our close friends already knew because we were always together... it’s sickening,” Norris interjected, laughing hard. “We developed that business relationship first and didn’t discover we had this love for each other until later. It’s always like a constant navigation.”
“You still have a business to run… one that runs us,” Travis said.
“We definitely put this business first,” Trey said in agreement. “We’re both in a management position of this company, so we have to think about everybody else when we walk in this door despite if we’ve fought before—which has happened—you just truck on, move on.”
The two have many common and shared interests such as traveling, but the love of theatre is apparent between these two. Trey has won Best Actor in Savannah several times – including again this year.
“This will be three years in a row.” Throwing his hands up, he said, “I don’t know who’s voting for me, but thank you! And for this, too. All I can say is thank you! We’re both so flattered.”
“I didn’t know we were that ‘seen,’” Travis added.
Well, you are seen, guys. ‘Cause you’re that cute.