It may seem like a revolving door.
But in the past year, independent businesses have come, gone, rebuilt, remodeled and reimagined on Anna Maria Island.
Now with the arrival of 2017, here’s a look at some of the changes.
An island neighborhood favorite, MaryAnn’s Castaways Tavern, 117 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach, morphed into the almost ready-to-open Tommy Knocker’s Clam Stand.
Owner Mark Rosato, who purchased the space from Mary Ann Speciale in April 2016, said the remodeled bar will open for business by the end of January — a raw bar and ice-cold beer are expected to be the draw.
In May, Cupcake Delights opened its doors at 3324 E. Bay Drive in the Anna Maria Island Centre. The bakery is the second location for entrepreneur Judy Owens of Mount Dora, where the original Cupcake Delights continues to bake up area favorites.
In mid-summer, Island Spice pulled up its Bradenton Beach roots and relocated to the northernmost building in the Anna Maria Island Centre. The Indian cuisine eatery is now located at 3608 E. Bay Drive, serving up lunch and dinner.
The customer-favorite Island Coffee Haus, 5350 Gulf Drive, in the hub of Holmes Beach, capitalized on its popularity and opened a second location on tourist-driven Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.
Proprietor Bev Lesnick said she was pleased with the expansion and that “people were getting out of their regular routines and finding the new Coffee Haus at 317 Pine.”
“We had a very successful holiday season and walking traffic is starting to pick up more every day,” Lesnick said shortly after the new year began.
In Holmes Beach, the Ugly Grouper, 5704 Marina Drive, is working on improvements promised in a June press release from its corporate office. After buying surrounding real estate and drawing plans for an expanded kitchen and bathrooms, the restaurant is adding a new state-of-the-art kitchen to be completed by Feb. 1.
Speaking about the Ugly Grouper improvements, its manager, also Island Coffee Haus proprietor Lesnick, said, “It’s about the nicest kitchen on this whole island.”
Lesnick said site-plan approval is forthcoming, and owners are trending the restaurant toward a more family-friendly environment with games and live music.
On the north end of the island, longtime island jeweler Libby’s Island Jewelry and Gifts shuttered Nov. 30, 2016, and Island Charms is taking the space at 501 Pine Ave. next to the Anna Maria General Store.
Also relatively new on Pine Avenue is Paradise Found AMI, a store that sells books, art and exotic plants. Find a cozy corner or a shady spot in an Adirondack chair in the landscaped front yard and curl up with a good read in “Paradise.”
Suzette Buchan, who along with husband John owns the Rod & Reel Motel at 877 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, is excited construction on the site is moving along at a decent clip, after a slow start with permitting and several punches from Mother Nature. The motel was gutted in the fall of 2015, but reconstruction efforts only began in summer 2016.
“We’ve had some surprises shoring up the old building and we had to do almost everything on the interior — electric, mechanical, all of it,” Buchan said Jan. 5.
Shooting for a June 1 grand opening, Buchan says she feels it was a “good call” to keep the historical element in the area, rather than bulldozing it like so many of the surrounding properties.
“We are glad to keep the pier and motel together, as an historical place,” Buchan said. “With the new build, visitors will have great amenities at their disposal and a place with history.”
For those wishing to brush up on their French skills, a stop at the former Rudy’s Subs and More — now just plain Rudy’s — at 9906 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, should do the trick.
Mother Lolo Laurence and daughter Mathilde Apecechea returned from France in October and opened the doors to the reimagined shop, adding French pastries, crepes and salads to the menu that retains some Rudy’s favorites, including the Philly cheese-steak. The charming French accent and hospitality of the proprietors comes at no charge along with the continental offerings.
Mathilde says things at the island eatery are going “very well.”
In keeping with the French theme on the island, the French Table, 103 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach closed after flooding earlier in the year, and reopened Dec. 1 with new owners who —like the previous owners — are from France.
Marieke and Christophe Celis with their daughters from Toulouse, France, are operating the bistro, specializing in cuisine from the south of France.
In mid-December, island restaurateur Sean Murphy opened his third Anna Maria Island enterprise. The Doctor’s Office, at 5312-B Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, in the space that previously housed the Giving Back thrift store, which closed in April 2016.
The intimate craft-cocktail bar features infused liquors, locally hand-crafted beer and select wines.
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