Take a tour of AMI Outfitters
Seven years ago, Steve Traves wrote up a business plan that incorporated his love for the outdoors, and his passion for helping locals and visitors alike enjoy it with state-of-the-art equipment and clothing.
The result is AMI Outfitters Coastal Gear & Apparel at 401 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, located between Olive Oil Outpost and Island Cabana, a women’s clothing store.
Even though AMI Outfitters offers cutting-edge merchandise (such as lightweight clothing that dries quickly and provides protection against the Florida sun), and trendy offerings (such as inflatable paddle boards that fold up into a relatively small pouch), the store has a bit of an old-time feel.
Maybe it is the wood plank front porch. Or the dark wood-and-glass display cases that are older than the proprietor. Or even the high ceilings and shotgun shape of the shop.
“It’s a surprise to a lot of people when they first come in here,” Traves said.
Customers seem to find AMI Outfitters irresistible as they look around, taking in the Florida-style paintings and photographs, the carved, painted and highly polished wooden fish, the kayaks and the sports clothing.
And then there are the craft beers, dozens of them curated to include local brands such as Motorworks Brewing and Darwin Brewing Company, and other Florida brewers.
Yes, AMI Outfitters is a package store, and most of the beer cans seem to have a fishing theme.
“You can mix and match your six pack,” Traves said. “You can get your beer and your gear in the same place.”
Traves sells spin fishing and saltwater fly fishing equipment and accessories. He makes many of the flies at a work bench near the front entrance.
“Most of the flies you buy in shops are made overseas,” Traves said, adding that he seeks to stock his store with merchandise made locally, in Florida or the United States.
“Saltwater fly fishing is very challenging. We like to sight fish and deliver the bait to the fish,” Traves said.
Traves offers his customers a free fly fishing lesson and is so skilled with his casts that he can drop the fly right into their shirt pocket.
His personal preference is for catch and release, and he removes the barbs from the hooks he uses so they don’t tear the fish’s mouth.
“Every day, we hear customers say that this is their favorite store on the island,” Traves said.
Returning customer Bill Murrell of Delray Beach was shopping for Father’s Day shirts at AMI Outfitters.
“We have been coming to the island for years. It is nice to have someone who is so knowledgeable,” Murrell said. “He has a great selection of shirts.”
As a Manatee County resident for more than three decades, Traves knows the area and the climate well, and with that in mind, does all the buying for AMI Outfitters.
“People come here from all over and often are not prepared for this kind of heat. What we are selling is sun protection,” he said.
The business is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and is closed on Mondays.