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From This Day: Gambles pay off for pair

Crafton Bryant and Heather Stewart put their burgeoning romance to the test by hitting the road in a mobile hair salon.
Published Oct. 3, 2013

SOUTH TAMPA — Crafton Bryant would not consider himself risk averse.

Not while snowboarding in Vail, Colo., nor wakeboarding on Lake Weir. Not shooting craps or playing three-card poker in Vegas.

Physical peril was fine, but put his career in jeopardy? Never.

So why, after dating Heather Stewart for just three months, was he gambling their relationship would work?

At work.

Crafton, 30, roved the country as a marketing tour manager, promoting clients like Kodak and Corona.

As his hotel soap collection neared a Guinness World Records level, Facebook became his Daily Gazette for updates on friends across the country.

Heather, 28, transformed into a New Yorker within a week of graduating from the University of South Florida in 2007. She navigated subways, tracked Manhattan's best cupcakes and kept current with college friends on Facebook, Crafton among them. The two met at USF through one of her Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters.

"Heather and I usually chatted about travel," he said. "I'm a small-town boy and she is a fan of big-city life."

Online messaging turned real when Crafton's trip to Mexico suddenly fell through. He called Heather and asked if she'd like company that weekend.

Two days later he stood at her door with a bouquet of flowers, his first time in New York.

"I didn't know what I was getting myself into," Crafton jokes, six years after both NYC and Heather won his heart.

Two weeks later, she flew to La Jolla where he was hosting clients, her first trip to California. The West Coast and Crafton won her over.

The thought of a long-distance relationship was no thrill. So when another marketing company recruited Crafton three months into their romance, love overruled his professional instincts.

His new employer needed to hire a team member to join him on the tour. Should Heather apply? Would working together bring them closer — or send them running — in a hurry?

Heather gambled her career, too, when she interviewed for the position. In fact, she said, "I received a bonus the same day I quit my job in New York."

Soon they were taking turns behind the wheel of a mobile hair salon, promoting Maybelline up and down the California coast, to San Antonio, Texas, Nashville, Chicago and a dozen other cities.

You get to know a person really well when you're living on the road for weeks.

"Like that being on time for him is five minutes early," Heather said.

"And that she likes attention morning, noon and night, all day, every day," he teased.

Happily, they discovered compatibility at work and play.

Eventually, Heather took her organizational skills to Orlando to work as a wedding planner. Crafton continued to travel extensively for work.

In April 2009, he moved to Tampa for the next step of his career. Heather ran her own Tampa event planning business, Stylish Traditions, until being hired by a furnishings rental company in July 2012.

In September, Crafton planned an engagement "tour" in a four-part proposal.

"She thought we were going to Malio's Prime Steakhouse to celebrate my new job with Bloomin' Brands," he said. En route, they detoured to a favorite spot in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park where, down on one knee, he slipped a diamond on her finger. Her family was waiting to celebrate at the restaurant.

After dinner, they all walked back through the waterfront park, where his sisters and a boatload of friends greeted them with Champagne. From there, they cruised over to Harbour Island, docking at Jackson's Bistro, where more friends were part of the surprise.

Of course, Heather knew all the tricks of the trade for their June 21 wedding at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. About 150 guests started with cocktails, took seats for the ceremony, then headed for dinner and dancing in the conservatory.

Mr. and Mrs. Bryant saved the best tour for last: a 17-day honeymoon in Europe.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3332.

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