Upon entering the Key West Express boutique, whether you are a resident or tourist, you immediately begin to relax and enter a vacation mode. Soft Calypso or Caribbean music plays in the background, and the distressed wooden flooring gives one the feeling of walking on a dock. The walls are painted soft pastels and the dressing rooms are surrounded by sand (literally) and designed to look like beach-side changing cabanas.
You are greeted by laid back shop owner Soozy Naylor, who seems more interested in your comfort than making a sale. Naylor even keeps a basket of shells, indigenous to Clearwater Beach, for children to enjoy, while their parents spend time perusing the tropical merchandise.
A British citizen by birth, Soozy Naylor first visited the United States in 1989. While working at a summer camp in Rochester, New York, Soozy decided to visit Florida and happened upon Clearwater Beach. "As soon as I came over the Courtney Campbell Causeway from Tampa, I fell in love with Clearwater," reminisces Soozy. "I immediately quit my job teaching art in England and never looked back."
Naylor has a degree in printed textiles, and it is evident in the clothing and accessories she sells. Soozy carries colorful designer fashions, such as Jams and Fresh Produce, and almost everything she sells is made in the USA. Her shop is not large, but packed with interesting clothing, hats, flip flops, handbags, duffels, t-shirts and jewelry. Beautiful sweaters align two walls, and brightly colored outfits for little girls (size 6 months to 14 years) are displayed next to matching clothing for mom.
Naylor has worked at Key West Express since moving to Clearwater in 1989. She purchased the shop from owner Jean Blaine in 1998. Soozy has a new location now, due to the JMC development of the Sand Pearl Resort, but Naylor takes the move and the minor construction displacement in stride: "JMC has a quality team in place," explains Naylor: "I am looking forward to working with them as they develop the old Clearwater Beach Hotel property."
Stop by the Key West Express any day of the week from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Come by to shop, have a cup of coffee or glass of wine, or just catch up on all the beach news with Soozy. The store is located at 490 Mandalay Avenue; the phone number 727-461-6462.
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