By Savanah Bandy
Southwest Missouri natives Cavanaugh and Erick Studyvin loved the 9 years they spent in New York City, but they ultimately realized small-town living was the life for them.
Cavanaugh Studyvin, executive director of the Carl Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, and her husband, podiatric physician Dr. Erick Studyvin, were both born and raised in Carthage and graduated from Carthage High School in 2007.
After graduation, the two friends parted ways. Erick attended Missouri Southern State University for biology while Cavanaugh moved four hours away to study theater at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.
In 2010, Cavanaugh embarked on a year-long, nationwide tour with the Missoula Children’s Theater out of Missoula, Montana. She returned to the Joplin area in early 2011. It was then she and Erick reconnected and, later that year, got married.
“We got married super fast, but a lot of it was due to the fact that we grew up together, so we already knew each other really well,” Cavanaugh said. “We always kept in touch when I was in Columbia and would see each other when I came back home. It was easy to know he was the one.”
The same year, Erick got accepted to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine to pursue his doctorate in podiatry.
The couple packed their bags and moved to New York City December 26, 2011.
“We were excited because it was a new adventure, but it was a bit of culture shock,” Cavanaugh said. “Especially for Erick because he had never been to New York. The first time he ever went was when we flew up so he could interview for the podiatry school. Even though I had been there three times, it was still culture shock.”
While Erick completed medical school and then his residency with Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Cavanaugh worked for Kidville, a children’s enrichment center in Manhattan and the Bronx.
“In the beginning, it was great. At first, it feels like you’re visiting, and we did all the touristy things. It was nice to walk everywhere and not know anyone. We liked that we could walk out our front door and there was always something going on.”
Despite the things they loved about New York, there were aspects of big-city life they could do without.
“It takes forever to get anywhere. You could technically be a mile from work, to give an example, but it takes an hour to get there. And, it really is the city that never sleeps. It’s constantly moving, and people are always in a hurry. You’re always waiting in line. It’s a lot of people, all the time.”
By the time Erick reached residency, they knew they wanted to return to Southwest Missouri.
“Every year when we’d visit our hometown, it was getting harder and harder to leave our family and friends,” Cavanaugh said. “I always thought I’d end up in a big city, but as I got older and priorities changed, I really wanted to come back!”
On those visits home, Cavanaugh said it was the small, unexpected things she missed.
“Going to Sonic was exciting for us! Driving a car instead of taking the subway was exciting! Having that sense of community and seeing friendly faces was so nice. In Missouri, when people ask you how you’re doing, they mean it. We really missed that.”
They started making plans to return. Erick landed a podiatric physician position with Four States Foot Clinic in Joplin. In May 2020, they packed up everything, including their fur babies Darwin and Snow, and made the long drive from New York City to Joplin.
“Due to the pandemic, we actually left New York a month earlier than we had planned. Podiatry is an elective surgery and every elective surgery got canceled or postponed, so we got the green light to leave early. It was a crazy time.”
When they first moved back, they lived with Cavanaugh’s mother in Carl Junction. They quickly fell in love with the community, so they bought a home in Carl Junction and put down roots.
“I met our realtor, Gary Stubblefield, through my mom, and he introduced me to the Carl Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and other people in the community,” Cavanaugh said.
In fall 2020, Cavanaugh applied for the executive director position with the Carl Junction Area Chamber of Commerce – and got it.
“I love that I get to play a part in CJ and the surrounding area. I love being able to serve not just individuals and businesses, but the community as a whole,” Cavanaugh said.
“We enjoyed the 9 years we spent in New York City, but we are both even happier that we moved back home to our roots.”
See more photos in the June print edition of Show Me the Ozarks