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Date of Issue: January 13, 2010

Cold spell slows Island economy

AME students brave cold

Temperatures on Anna Maria Island dipped into the low-40s on the first day back from winter break for Anna Maria Elementary students, but kindergartners didnít let the cold ruin outdoor recess. Leah Schlossburg, Arianna Coons and Jason Berzowski pause for a second in the cold weather. ďItís cold,Ē all three replied. Islander Photo: Kimberly Kuizon

Only a few beachgoers and beachwalkers were found on the Anna Maria shore near the Sandbar Restaurant last week as cold weather kept many people indoors. Those who did brave the chilling winds were bundled up. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Cold at the docks of Cortez Cortez

commercial fishers, from left, Nora Johnson, Teresa Truax and Michael Truax take a cool lunch break from processing stone crab claws outside of A.P. Bell Fish Co. Jan. 6. Islander Photo: Nick Walter

The blasts of Arctic air that hit Anna Maria Island affected some Island businesses that depend on good weather for activity and revenue.

The good news was that the cold air came the week after Christmas.

“We had a great Christmas season, thanks to the weather,” said Diane Havelka of Beach Bums in Anna Maria, “but the past week has been slow.”

Beach Bums rents kayaks, bicycles, golf carts and Go-Ped scooters — all used in outdoor activities. When the cold weather came last week, many people stayed indoors to keep warm, she said.

“There are still people on the Island and when the weather warms up, we expect them to be out and about.”

Historically, the first two weeks of January see a slowdown in Island tourism. Havelka is hopeful that warm weather will return by mid-January.

Other businesses that depend on good weather for customers were similarly affected by the cold.

Julie Kirkwood of Segway by the Bay in Anna Maria said she saw a decline in activity when the cold weather struck.

“The cold puts us off a bit. Thankfully, we had a great Christmas holiday. We rocked,” she said.

Outdoor dining also declined with the advent of the cold front.

Ed Chiles offers outdoor dining at his trio of restaurants, the Sandbar in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach, and the Mar Vista on Longboat Key.

“People stayed home or ate indoors,” he said. “Our outdoor dining always does well when the weather is good. When the weather turns cold, many people tend to stay home.”

 It was a bit too cold to eat outside last week, Chiles noted. “We still were busy, but we’ve been spoiled the past few years with great weather at this time of year. It’s tough to lose half your dining space to cold air.”

But outdoor dining should make a comeback as soon as the weather warms up and the season makes its traditional mid-January return, he said.

“I’m hopeful for good weather by next week,” Chiles said. “The cold shouldn’t last too long in Florida.”

The Island’s retail industry is usually slower after Christmas and thus was not impacted severely by the weather, said Signa Bouziane of Mister Roberts Resortwear in Holmes Beach.

“We had our normal after-Christmas slow period,” she said. “I don’t believe the cold weather affected us too much.”

Bouziane said the winter season for the Island retail industry doesn’t begin until February.

“Years ago, we would get busy in mid-January, but the past few years, the season hasn’t started until February. Then, we’ll be super-busy,” she predicted.

The charter fishing business wasn’t really affected by the cold weather either, said Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters in Anna Maria.

That’s because there are generally only a few people around after the Christmas-New Year week looking for a charter, he said.

“The first two weeks of January are always slow in this business. It’s to be expected,” he said.

But some souls did brave the freezing weather that brought the wind chill factor over inland waters into the 40s.

“I had two guys from Pittsburgh last week who said it was a lot colder there than here. We went out and caught about 30 redfish and it was ice cold.

“You just have to change your game plan when it’s cold like this. You won’t catch snook, but the redfish, trout and sheepshead are still around. You just have to know where they are.”

Howard said the charter fishing business was extremely busy between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We worked every day and I think other charters were also busy. It was a great week.”

The weather forecast for Anna Maria Island this week was for daytime temperatures in the upper 50s to lower 60s for most of the week.

“That’s good fishing weather,” said Howard.