President, Contract Furnishings International
“When I started Contract Furnishings in 1996, we primarily sold commercial-grade pool furniture to resorts and condominiums. About two-thirds of our sales are still in the U.S.—we did nearly a million dollars with Sea World last year—but now we also are the sole supplier for appropriated funds for outdoor furniture for the U.S. State Department. We sell patio furniture and umbrellas in literally every embassy— Djibouti; Kingston, Jamaica; Lima, Peru; Angola; Khartoum, Sudan; I couldn’t even begin to count them. And we’ve sold rattan and wicker furniture for ladies restrooms in embassies all over the world, too.
“I’m a service-disabled veteran; I broke my knee training for Vietnam, and that puts us in a special class for federal contracts. We just sold several hundred pieces of furniture to Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and this winter the Army bought 80 pieces of pool furniture from us for a base in Japan. We also sold to NATO, and delivered it directly to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
“I have one outside salesperson on the road, and five more plus myself here full-time.”
Broker-owner, Island Real Estate of Anna Maria Island
“Just like the last several summers, the vacation rental business on Anna Maria Island has been fabulous; 10 percent-plus growth for us over last year. Frankly, keeping up with visitors who want to visit the island can be our biggest challenge. About 85 percent of visitors are drive-ins—about a third of them from Florida—but we’re seeing more summer visitors flying in from places like Ohio and Kentucky.
“Fall bookings are strong, too. Anna Maria Island has a relaxed, Old Florida feel and families are attracted to that. When USA Today published that full-page article in December 2009, it was a fork in the road; after that Anna Maria got all kinds of press. People visit, they love it, they buy: It’s a well-known cycle on the island.”
Executive Director, St. Armands Circle Association
“Our summer was very good compared to five years ago. But I don’t know that it was as strong as last year, which was incredible, because we’d just gotten that No. 1 Beach distinction from Dr. Beach and all the promotion Visit Sarasota did around it. This year I’m not seeing it as strong, but it’s not bad, either. It’s always busier here at night compared to the day, and the restaurants are telling me they’re busy.
The stores we suspected were going to close did so, but we only have two vacancies right now, and that’s a very good sign.”