Small businesses take off on Pine Avenue

ANNA MARIA -- In the city of Anna Maria, just a sliver of the island is reserved for businesses.

Commercial zoning is restricted to 1 percent and mixed-use developments with residential, office and retail space is limited to 2 percent.

In the heart of the business district -- most of which is on historic Pine Avenue -- is a tourism destination marketed worldwide for its sugar white sand, welcoming waterfronts and low-key relaxation. And it is steeped in history, preparing for the Anna Maria City Pier Centennial celebration in May.

It is in this small business district that entrepreneurs feel they have the most opportunity.

“As soon as we opened, people would come in and help us out offering little pieces of advice,” said Nancy Lee, owner of The Island Cabana, at 403C Pine Ave. “It was like everyone wanted us to do well. It’s a whole community affair out here.”

The Island Cabana, a home decor and fashion boutique, opened in November and is among a collection of 10 eclectic boutique shops that occupy the Pine Avenue Restoration developments.

The boutiques pack the sandy half-mile stretch of Pine Avenue with jewelry, apparel, accessories, furniture, artwork, olive oil and home decor.

Ed Chiles and Michael Coleman, the creators of the Pine Avenue Restoration project, formally brought the plans for the mixed-use retail and residential structures to city planners in 2008.

Now the development consists of six, two-story cottage-like structures with retail units ranging from 1,200 to 2,500 square feet.

As of this year, the retail space became 100 percent occupied.

Among the most recent businesses to open was Pink & Navy in December.

The shop at 216 Pine Ave. is a mix of modern and vintage goods that range from clothing to furniture to wedding and baby shower gifts.

Janae Rudacille, owner of Pink & Navy, said the decision to open on Pine Avenue was an easy one.

“I think the restoration projects are going to be really big and I believe in it,” said Rudacille, who is also the daughter of Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “There’s no brand-name stores and I don’t think it’s going to ever be that way. Already since I’ve been open I’ve been busy nonstop.”

The island regularly hosts festivals and events that draw tourists and residents to pop into businesses.

Last weekend the island hosted the fourth annual wedding festival; this weekend is a Heritage Festival; every third Friday night Pine Avenue hosts Porch Parties; and on May 14, the historic street will close to vehicle traffic for the Anna Maria City Pier Centennial.

Chiles is organizing a “Food and Wine on Pine” from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. May 14 that will feature 25 to 30 island and mainland restaurants and 55 to 60 artists.

Admission will be free, but guests can buy tickets to redeem for food and wine in which restaurants will get 75 percent of the profit and 25 percent will go to the festival costs.

“It should give us all an opportunity before going into our summer season to get a little bit of promotion,” said Sean Murphy, owner of Beach Bistro.

As Chiles continues working on the pier celebration, he also is working to find businesses for the next two structures that are to be built over the next four months.

He expects the two new buildings will cost about $800,000 and top the Pine Avenue Restoration project off at an estimated $11 million.

Once completed, the cottages will combine for more than 10,000 square feet of retail space on Pine Avenue.

It also will complete Chiles’ longtime vision to preserve Pine Avenue as the city’s “Main Street.”

“In 1911, the tourists would promenade from the pier down Pine Avenue to the bath house,” Chiles said. “Pine Avenue has always been our Main Street. Our goal was to see that we maintained and that we improved on our business district in a way that was uniquely Anna Maria.”

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