ANNA MARIA -- When Anna Maria Island's Green Village needed an anchor tenant, Lizzie Vann immediately thought of the Anna Maria General Store.
It turns out she didn't have to work hard to convince Brian Seymour, the store's owner, to move down the street to a bigger space at 503 Pine Ave. The building's efficient and eco-friendly cooling system, rainwater conservation and use of solar power further enticed him.
"We never had the ability to go for the look I wanted at the old store just because of space," Seymour said. "That was my driving force in coming down here. We took 18 months to create something timeless."
The new store has reclaimed pine flooring, along with shelves, a wine rack and signage made by local artisans using vintage wood.
His next door neighbor, Steve Traves opened Anna Maria Island Outfitters Coastal Gear and Apparel in October 2012 at 505 Pine Ave. in a green-retrofitted building. He is still growing. Traves plans to open a second location at 401 Pine Ave., doubling his square footage.
Paddleboarding wasn't as much of a trend three years ago as it is now, Traves said, and the same goes for fly fishing. The new store will allow people to shop for paddleboards, Yeti coolers, fly fishing poles and materials without being "elbow to elbow" to merchandise or other shoppers.
Both locations will have a mix of sporting goods and apparel.
Vann, the property owner, calls herself an "old hippie" who is passionate about the environment and motivating businesses to sign on to using green energy. She produced organic baby food in the United Kingdom before she moved to Florida. She figured the abundant sunshine would provide a ripe opportunity for green energy initiatives.
"I wanted to showcase it so others can convert and say, 'hey, if they can do it then we can do it,'" Vann said. "It's like eating up a pie. Why not do it if it's there?" Using green energy methods is easier and more cost-effective than it used to be, Vann said.
Her new anchor tenant and Traves agree. The stores both have net zero electricity, meaning they're connected to Florida Power and Light but produce more energy than they take from the company.
"As long as we have more than they send, we have no electricity bill," Seymour said. He's also connected to the city of Anna Maria's water lines in case of a fire or lack of rainwater. The solar- and hydro-powered systems save money for both the Anna Maria General Store and AMI Outfitters.
Traves describes Vann as "really remarkable and forward-thinking." He hopes to see other business owners and eventually residents benefit from the green energy models.
"For you and I to green retrofit our homes it's very expensive," Traves said. "Developers can get rebates and grants and incentives, and then people would buy homes and it would factor into mortgage costs."
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter@jayohday.