By Ilene Denton

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Ric Wetzel

Salesman, Aadvantage Displays and Graphics

“We produce large-format trade show displays for businesses, and this is our 10th anniversary in Sarasota. We’ve provided displays for companies like Fyzical, The Inn Keeper in Venice and the Sarasota health department, and we work closely with the Manatee Chamber.

“We also work with several CVBs in Florida and nationwide: Bradenton, Naples/Marco Island/Everglades, Charleston area, Eastern Connecticut and Santa Fe.

Our bigger clients include Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy division and FedEx. But it’s not about the big names, it’s about the little guy who needs to get the word out. Our most popular product is the retractable display.

“Business is awesome right now. People are looking forward to getting the word out about their companies.”

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Jay Roper

Co-owner, A to Z Baby, Beach & Bike Rentals

“We rent 85 different items: cribs, car seats, high chairs, beach umbrellas, bikes, toys, white-noise machines, humidifiers; everything you need when you’re traveling with children. Sarasota is grandparents central and that’s a big part of our business, but a lot are tourists, many from Canada and the upper Midwest, who’ve come to visit the No. 1 beach in America.

“We’re entering our seventh season on Siesta Key. Business doubled every year for the first three years. We recently opened in Venice, and that’s been very successful. And we’re now offering an affiliate program. It’s not technically a franchise, but they can organize their own business and become a member of the A to Z network. Our first affiliate has opened in Madeira Beach.”

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John Horne

Owner, Anna Maria Oyster Bar

“I opened the first Anna Maria Oyster Bar in 1996 on the Anna Maria city pier [it’s now closed], the 14th Street restaurant a year later, then Cortez in 2002 and Ellenton in 2004. I now have 264 employees.

“Business has been up every year, and not from raising prices. The 14th Street restaurant is up 18 percent this year. I credit a lot of that to the open-air deck and tapas bar we built there last year. Tourist season is gravy for us. We have such a loyal, local clientele; we see the same people year in year out. They become family. We serve over a thousand people a day in each of our restaurants. It keeps us hopping.

“I tell young people, ‘You’ve got to have chutzpah, that’s what it takes to start any business.’”

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