ANNA MARIA -- An Indiana van customizer has bought a Gulf-view home once known as the island's epicenter of teddy bear culture.
Just 1 1/2 years after paying $2.09 million for a vacant beach lot in Anna Maria, Timothy Gray and his wife, Deborah, of Bristol, Ind., purchased the adjacent home for $1.83 million. According to Manatee County property records, the couple bought 104 Park Ave. on June 10.
The Grays now own a combined .8 acre with direct beach access on the Gulf of Mexico.
The sellers in the most recent transaction were Richard and Patricia Friday. The home is best known in relation to its original owners, Stephen and Virginia Walker.
Once dubbed "Teddy Towers," the mid-century home housed Virginia Walker's extensive teddy bear collection. Purchased from locales around the world, the bears at one time occupied several rooms of the home.
Mary Anne Schmidt, the listing agent for the property and an agent with Sun Coast Real Estate in Holmes Beach, said the home is well known in the area. It still retains custom stained glass windows depicting teddy bears.
Schmidt said Walker and her notable collection of the stuffed animals are missed. Walker sold the home in 2005, according to property records.
"It was kind of sad to see it go, in a way," Schmidt said.
Gray is founder and president of Midwest Automotive Designs, an Elkhart, Ind., company that does custom conversions of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. He and his wife have had a presence on Anna Maria Island for several years, having purchased another beachfront home in Holmes Beach in 2012. The Grays paid $1.85 million for the 5-year-old home they still own, according to records.
Their new property includes the 3,700-square-foot, five-bedroom house the Walkers built in 1959.
Originally listed for $2.1 million, the property now becomes part of a rare, large residential parcel on the Gulf. Schmidt said big beach properties are difficult to assemble on Anna Maria.
"It's just become so valuable," she said.
Records also show the couple own a 15-acre rural estate in Bristol, Ind. The home there spans more than 4,000 square feet and includes four bedrooms and a swimming pool, according to real estate website Realtor.com.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.