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Date of Issue: July 21, 2010

Friction pervades Beach Shop transition

Dee and Gene Schaefer plan to move their Beach Shop at Manatee Public Beach to Cortez before Aug. 1, but they’re not happy that someone has allegedly been taking notes and photos of their inventory.

United Parks Service will take over operations of the concession and gift shop July 21. Mark Enoch of UPS said the concession will be called the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe.

The Schaefer’s held the concession contract for 18 years, until the county opted to seek new bidders and in May awarded the operation of the restaurant and shop at MPB, as well as the concession at Coquina Beach, to UPS.

Gene Schaefer said that during the last couple weeks, someone, presumably affiliated with UPS, began writing down information on items, and, after Schaefer ordered the man out of the shop, came back to take pictures of the store inventory.

This, Schaefer said, he believes to be a most unethical business practice. Schaefer said he sent a report to the Manatee County parks and recreation department July 16 requesting no one from UPS be allowed to enter the Beach Shop until the Tampa-based company, which runs a concession at Fort DeSoto State Park, officially takes over operations of the building.

Phone calls to UPS and the parks and recreation department were not immediately returned.

“This guy was taking pictures, rack by rack and shelf by shelf,” Gene Schaefer said. “They’re obviously trying to duplicate everything we’ve got. Yet, according to the criticism of this store by the county’s recommendation committee, this store needed to be re-branded.”

Enoch said UPS had a graphic designer show up to the Beach Shop to take pictures for layout work outside the concession, but that he was unaware if the graphic designer, or anyone else, was taking pictures or writing down stock numbers of items inside the Beach Shop.

“No one told me they were,” Enoch said. “Everybody buys their stuff from a few different places anyway.”

Enoch said he has begun interviewing some of the restaurant employees.

Cafe on the Beach manager Tommy Vayias said Enoch told him he would return the afternoon of July 16 to interview more employees. Vayias is staying on with UPS after the changeover.

Gene Schaefer, meanwhile, said he is perturbed and disappointed because he was under the impression a main reason UPS will take over operations of the concession and gift shop is because of what the county called its “creative vision.”

“I’m terribly disappointed for the taxpayers because I don’t think these people are creative at all,” Schaefer said. “At least I’ve seen no evidence of it. I hope for the county’s sake (UPS) is who they say they are.”

Dee Schaefer agreed about the ethics of UPS’s alleged attempt to copy the Beach Shop inventory.

“I think it’s the most unethical thing to be doing,” she said.

But the Schaefer’s were kept busy last week preparing to move their multi-million item inventory to their new location, a new Beach Shop at 11904 Cortez Road W., Cortez, and updating the new store.

They planned to vacate the public beach location before the July 21 deadline and reopen by Aug. 1 in Cortez.

Most of the present Beach Shop staff will move to the new shop, formerly the home of Simply Put home furnishings.

“We’re Dee’s kids,” said Beach Shop employee Dana Kamp.

“I’ve been here 15 years,” said Patty Naylor, also a Beach Shop employee, “and I wouldn’t think of not going to the new store.”

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