AMI Outfitters Coastal Gear and Apparel
Anna Maria Island Hospitality/retail
Business: A former commercial photographer and software developer, Steve Traves opened the outdoor products store last year. It sells kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and fishing equipment, in addition to gear from Patagonia, Simms and other brands. Traves spent about $100,000 to open the 1,000-square-foot store, a renovated Sears & Roebuck mail-order-kit home from the 1930s.
The first year in business, says Traves, exceeded his projections, and he doubled the inventory for 2014. He also plans to move ahead with a small business staple of growth: hiring employees. He intends to hire at least one clerk, probably in January. Says Traves: “We are expecting to have a real solid year.”
Industry: Like several other Anna Maria Island entrepreneurs and business leaders, Traves says the hospitality sector is booming. “Anna Maria Island continues to get more and more visitors,” he says. “Real estate on this island has been fantastic for the last two years.”
Traves says tourism officials have done a great job promoting the region, both in Florida, to places like Tampa and Orlando, and abroad, to Canada and Europe. The result has been an influx of customers. “Anna Maria was one of the best kept secrets for a long time,” says Traves. “But secrets don't always stay that way.”
Region: In Traves' retail/hospitality world, he sees the regional economy doing much better. That's what he hears from other business owners and customers. He has no regrets in opening his own business, though he says he did it based on how the economy was in 2012, which was somewhat on a wing and a prayer.
“The economy has been climbing out of the hole,” he says. “I think the economy will be strong.”