Island shops get national spotlight

jsalman@bradenton.comFebruary 4, 2012 

ANNA MARIA -- The specialty shops lining Pine Avenue on Anna Maria Island are receiving national attention.

Five mom-and-pop shops on the sandy beach corridor were featured in a three-page spread in the latest issue of Southern Living Magazine. A similar article has also been seen in the New York Post.

The recent attention already has drawn tourists to the island who didn’t know it existed just months ago. The shops featured in the publications also have enjoyed a surge in patronage.

“Everyone comes in and says something about it,” said Traci Dextraze, with the Pink and Navy Boutique, one of the five shops mentioned. “We’ve gotten calls from all over. It’s been great.”

Pink and Navy Boutique, Relish Vintage and Artisan Boutique, the Anna Maria General Store, Island Cabana and the Olive Oil Outpost were among those featured in the February edition of Southern Living. The nationally circulated magazine highlights the best of eating, travel and shopping in the south.

The article started as a feature profile on an Anna Maria handbag designer. After a tour of the island, the writer decided to branch out.

The process began with interviews last summer. Months later the magazine sent a photographer. After some fact-checking, the story appeared in the February edition, which hit new stands in mid-January.

“We knew Southern Living was around but they were very hush-hush,” said Kelly Kary, owner of the Olive Oil Outpost. “We didn’t really know what was going to happen until the end of November and then we were telling everybody.”

Since the story appeared, residents from both the Tampa Bay area and south to Venice have made the hike to scout the island’s shops. Phones haven’t stopped ringing and website traffic has increased tenfold, shop owners say.

Recent out-of-state visitors told the owners they even booked a trip down solely based on the magazine spread.

“It’s great to be recognized,” said Lizzie Trasher, owner of the island’s Green Village and General Store. “There’s been a lot of effort to make Pine Avenue a very nice place to visit. We don’t want to be overcommercialized and we’ve tried to make it very walkable.”

Tourism officials said the unsolicited articles provided thousands of dollars worth of marketing at no cost.

Several shops on Anna Maria Island also were featured in Southern Living in a previous story published last spring.

“We do know from a first-hand prospective, those articles bring visitors,” said Debbie Meihls, executive manager of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “Southern Living is one of those Bibles of the south, if you will -- especially for women who coordinate the family’s travel plans.”

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095.

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