A line is a line is a line.
Like a line in the sand.
Or the long line of cars on Manatee Avenue that stretches to 63rd Street West on the mainland. A line of patrons forms at the order window. People stand three deep at the bars. Shoppers with carts jam the check-out lines in Publix and the line never seems to go down at ice cream shops until long after the sun goes down.
One way to describe life on Anna Maria Island: It’s downright busy. Queue up.
The consensus among business owners is business is booming and has been since the end of January, when an unseasonable cold snap headed north and chamber-of-commerce weather settled on AMI.
“We are definitely busier than last year and be patient, because we are going to get busier,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Feb. 27. He said officers are seeing spring vacationers even with the start of spring break still a week or two away.
Eric Irons, co-owner of AMI Beach Fun Rentals and Adventure Center, 3228 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, said rental equipment is moving briskly in and out of the store on a daily basis. Weekends are leaving certain inventory scarce and his concessionaires, Zegway and Surf’s Up Watersports, are benefiting from the uptick of visitors.
“There’s at least one Segway tour going out every day,” Irons said. “And somedays, more.”
In Anna Maria, hungry patrons fill the seats at eateries and lament the loss of the Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant, closed since September 2017.
Meanwhile, in Cortez, Liza Kubik, director of marketing and events for the Seafood Shack Marina, Bar and Grill, said it is “busier this winter than last year.”
Kubik offered one of several theories regarding the influx of visitors. In addition to seasonal snowbirds, who come year after year, new visitors have found the area beautiful, accommodating, easy to access and undaunted by storms.
“I think we are getting visitors who used to frequent areas fArther south, like Marco or even the Caribbean. People know there was a lot of damage in these areas left behind by (Hurricanes) Irma and Maria. They don’t want to take a chance going where it might not be easy or repaired,” Kubik said Feb. 27.
“We are tourist-driven here. People have found us.” Kubik said. “We are just keeping our fingers crossed it lasts for a long season.”
Dan Alderson, who is part of the family-owned Tyler’s Homemade Ice Cream stores in Cortez, Longboat Key and Bradenton, says he is seeing “way heck of a lot more business than last year” at his shops.
“Dan Alderson is one happy man,” he said Feb. 26. He said January was slower than January 2017, but when February hit, it was game on.
“It’s been a really bad winter up north. Maybe folks just had enough and came on down. Either way, it’s great for us here,” Alderson said.
Suzette Buchan and husband John own the newly remodeled Rod and Reel Motel, 877 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria.
They say business is good since the motel re-opened Jan. 11 — reporting Feb. 27 they were booked 87 percent in February and March is at 93 percent.
“It’s strong,” Suzette Buchan said. “And going very, very well. We know there will be tough months ahead, but right now, we are very happy with what the property is doing.”
Likewise, other resort properties and short-term rentals are booming, as are real estate sales.
Jen Bowman of Keller Williams real estate reports placing contracts on eight properties between Feb. 21 and March 1. The offers include condos, villas and single-family homes.
“It’s been crazy busy all of a sudden. I’m not sure why but I’m hoping all our hard work is paying off,” Bowman said.
Across the board, local businesses reported “busy, busy, busy” around the island.