Floridians are used to preparing for hurricanes and tropical storms. But a Sarasota business owner has taken preparation to otherworldly proportions. Think zombies.
Be prepared. It's the Boy Scout motto, but it's also the guiding principle behind Survive Anything.
Mike Crea's Sarasota store full of survival and outdoor gear opened in 2012, next to his other venture, Z-Edge Tattoo and Body Piercing. There, Crea does some of the piercings himself, alternating between working at Z-Edge and heading next door to the adjoining Survive Anything store to help customers.
“I always had an interest in the outdoors, camping and hiking,” Crea says. Then he wondered: “How can I make money doing something I like?” Crea, who is involved in Cub Scouts with his children, decided to open a store dedicated to just that.
Customers shop at Survive Anything to buy, as Crea puts it, “anything to help you prepare and survive.” But survive what? The store's website lists some of the eventualities: hurricanes, civil unrest, zombies, floods. Normal stuff.
During hurricane season, Crea says, people buy supplies in case bad weather hits nearby. The store also sees sales spikes during election seasons, particularly presidential and gubernatorial elections, he says. Those periods are usually marked by more worries and increasing purchases of guns, ammunition and water purification supplies.
Crea stocks the shop based on what people ask for, he says. Overall, his bestselling products are knives, water purification supplies and emergency food such as meals, ready to eat, known as MREs. Crea says MRE cookies are also popular with a key demographic — his two-year-old daughter, who sometimes comes to the shop with him.
Soon, Crea will offer his customers an expanded product line. He's re-launching his business website SurviveAnythingFL.com. When he's done, he aims to have 500,000 survival items up for sale there. Customers will be able to shop from home or in the store, where he plans to have a touch-screen display of the website.
Another big move for Survive Anything is also in the works. In September, the store will add to its current footprint by taking over the beauty salon storefront next door. The expansion will double the size of Survive Anything and allow Crea to carry additional products.
The expansion will lead to a bigger staff, too. Crea plans to hire two people as dedicated Survive Anything employees, in addition to the eight employees currently shared by Z-Edge and Survive Anything.
But just like more traditional retail, the perfect person can be hard to find. He wants someone who knows his products and has good sales skills.
Crea says sales are growing, though he declines to release specific figures. He expects increased sales after the expansion, and five years from now he wants to see the ecommerce part of his business do 20 orders a day. He also seeks to host survival skill classes and excursions, such as camping, survival and exploration trips in Florida.
Crea says there isn't another retail store in the area offering exactly what Survive Anything sells. As a result, he has customers from Sarasota, Venice and Bradenton. The customer demographic depends on the item, he says. The store's younger demographic of high school students and people in their 20s buy backpacks and clothing. The store's older demographic of 30- to 50-year-olds buy disaster preparation items and tactical gear.
In short, many of Survive Anything's customers are survivalists — a term that for some can engender thoughts of people living on the fringes of society, preparing for a worst-case scenario that may never come.
But Crea has a simple, more inclusive definition of a survivalist. His definition speaks to a greater group of people and a larger pool of potential customers — “anyone who has the will to survive.”