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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Turtle store folding, director absent
Islander Image
The soon-to-be-closed turtle store in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Jo Ann Meilner

Validating an old business adage, relocation of the store and education center established by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is proving fatal. The store is shutting down effective March 21.

It had been doing reasonably well at its original location in the Island Shopping Center in Holmes Beach, but moved to Bradenton Beach last July to a location where the rent was $300 a month less than in Holmes Beach.

At the time of the move, Turtle Watch director Suzi Fox told some of her volunteers and her landlord in the shopping center that the "deal to move was too good to pass up," adding the new space was "free."

"Business has dropped since the move" in July 2004, said manager Linda Kapisak, who confirmed the rent at the Bradenton Beach location was $600 per month. "Remember, the three most important things in business are location, location and location. It was good at the (Holmes Beach) storefront, where there was a lot of pedestrian traffic. But there's nothing like that here in Bradenton Beach."

Kapisak said they had about 100 customers a day before the move. Business was very good there, she said, and "we were self-sustaining."

"Business is off [in Bradenton Beach] about 50 percent. We can't survive as a destination. It's pretty good right now, because we're selling off our stock at 50 percent off."

Fox could not be reached for comment - she has been crewing on a trawler headed for Central America and looking into marine turtle matters via "long distance."

She reportedly plans to continue the organization's basic task, monitoring the beaches of Anna Maria Island during the six-month sea turtle nesting season starting in May.

Other members of Turtle Watch declined to comment, saying they were told that nobody was permitted to speak for the organization but Fox.

The Islander learned that the board voted in December to close the store, but waited until late February to announce its plans.

Mum's the word from AMITW

Last week Turtle Watch director Suzi Fox blasted the Sandbar restaurant with alleged "violations" of turtle-protection ordinances in a letter to the Anna Maria building official.

Sandbar owner Ed Chiles vehemently denied Fox's allegations and a review of 2002-04 Islander stories confirmed no violations at the Sandbar.

Fox alleged that her board members had relayed to her while she is traveling their "concerns" over the Sandbar site plan. The Sandbar's site plan includes building renovations to allow the facility to come into compliance with the Americans with Disablilities Act.

"My board has been following developments with the site plan for the Sandbar restaurant," Fox said. "They've been relaying some concerns with modifications that are being considered on the grounds of the business. I am developing serious concerns as well."

AMITW's two board members, Debbie Basilius and Ed Sterba did not return messages left for them by The Islander regarding the Sandbar. Basilius, who was contacted regarding the store closure, said she was instructed by Fox not to comment to the press.

E-mails sent to Fox resulted in no response.

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