Support Our Beach Businesses
by Donna Malloy
CLEARWATER BEACH - A few years ago, I decided to take a day off and act like a tourist in my hometown of Clearwater Beach. I pondered: "why would I want to travel anywhere else when national and international publications tout my tiny town as "one of the East Coast's 7 Best Family Beaches" (Fodor's Travel Publication) and Trip Advisor's list of the Top Ten Beaches chose Caladesi Island State Park over beaches in Hawaii and California." Not to mention that Dr. Beach named Caladesi Island the top beach in America.
Tourists from around the world visit Clearwater Beach to get a glimpse of what I blindly drive by every day of my life on my way to work. In turn, Americans travel to Europe to savor the experience of small villages and hamlets, anxious to discover that quaint little restaurant or local pastry shop.
But today, through their eyes, I once again observe the gracefulness of the Cabbage Palm as its feathery fronds sway in the balmy breeze and marvel that a bird as large as the brown pelican can actually fly. I forgot.
A storm from the night before has generously dotted the beach with sun bleached sand dollars the size of a quarter. Like pearly stepping stones, the sand dollars decorate my path on the way to my destination; Caladesi Island State Park. But when my hands can no longer hold one more shell or sand dollar, I slowly head home to wash my treasures from the sea. One day, when I have time, I'll glue these gifts from the sea onto my oval mirror.
A pleasant open air ride on the local Jolly Trolley terminates at Clearwater Beach's quaint downtown area. As music ripples along the sand from the Pavillion area, I head straight for the ice cream shop. Sitting on the street bench quickly enjoying my melting butter pecan ice cream cone, I watch as cars pass by and wonder if they know what they are missing?
Families stroll by, window shopping, on their way to lunch. Their big decision of the day will be what do they all want to eat and where? Some of Clearwater Beach's popular restaurants feature local fish that were swimming in the Gulf earlier this morning; the fresh catch of the day is now your fresh grouper of the day!
My pink flip flops clip-clop into one of Clearwater Beach's local surf shops. A red hibiscus printed dress and a straw cowboy hat invite me to try them on. I have to remind myself that I have no schedule today; I forgot what that feels like.
Shopping bag in hand, I notice a new gelato shop and stop in for a peak. The owner has shipped his red and silver display case from Europe and inside features a luscious assortment of gelato and chocolate confections. Mental note to self: the next time I'm invited over a friend's house for dinner I'm going to surprise them with a few chocolate pyramid bonbons- the ones with the caramel inside.
As my stroll continues, another storefront catches my attention. I discover that the hand-knit sweater displayed in the window is adorned with coconut bark buttons-made in California. I remind myself that this small town feeling was the reason I initially moved to Clearwater Beach some eight years ago and haven't left since.
If you Google "small towns in Europe" the town of Istria, Croatia, will appear at the top of the list. Istria calls itself the smallest town in the world "and population-wise, it might be. But so many people visit this village high in the Istrian interior that it always seems crowded. The village elders have done a wonderful job of restoring the buildings in town to make it tourist-friendly," according to Frommers.
Clearwater Beach is also a tourist-friendly town, but when the season is over, local businesses depend on residents to support them during their slow months. The movement to buy American should also include supporting our local businesses. We Clearwater Beach residents have already experienced losing our local hardware store and beach medical clinic; now even our beach post office is being threatened. One less service means one more trip off the island.
So, the next time you decide you deserve a break, try catching a ride on the beach trolley, stroll downtown, stop and listen to the music and enjoy a super grouper sandwich; your local businesses will appreciate it.
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