Make us your home page

A woman leaves retirement to volunteer at a local produce shop

ST. PETE BEACH — With a growing trend to support community and small businesses, there are a select few who've come out of retirement to volunteer at a small business.

"When I get excited, I can't hold myself back," says Andrea Cummins, a retiree who lives in St. Pete Beach. "I'm just happy that they're willing to provide a service that I find valuable."

After 13 years of retirement, Cummins now volunteers 12 to 14 hours per week at a small business just two blocks from her home.

"Of course nonprofits need volunteers, but so do small-business owners," she says. Cummins, 60, remembers how challenging and tiring it can be to run a business. She once owned Pasadena Wellness Center and Florida Massage Center.

She learned about St. Pete Beach Produce at 69th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard in March 2009. After walking in the store, she said she was so impressed with the quality of the produce that she introduced herself to the owner, Odise "Odi" Armata.

"It's like your old traditional-style market," said Cummins. "The prices for everything are very reasonable, especially considering Odi's commitment to quality."

She noticed Armata's store flier and asked if he had done any advertising. Upon learning that Armata was relying on walk-in traffic, she suggested other options and offered to help with marketing ideas.

Armata says he's fortunate to have someone take such an interest in his business. They both agree that it has been mutually beneficial. "I'm amazed with her energy and she's always happy," he said.

"It's not work to me, it's fun. What Odi does is work," she says.

Armata works seven days a week, often 16-hour days starting with a 4 a.m. trip to the market for fresh produce. When he went away for two weeks to visit his family in Greece, it took six people to take Armata's place to keep the shop open.

With Cummins' help, Armata has expanded his inventory to include Boar's Head meats and cheeses, and he stocks two coolers of ready-to-eat items. He has also added a deli where he prepares fresh sandwiches, salads and party platters for takeout.

Cummins said she always had top-notch instructors and volunteers in her business, and all she asked of them was to take the commitment seriously and to be there when they said they would. "That's the kind of commitment I give to Odi. I'm there when he needs me."

Cummins is so passionate about it that she treats the business as her own in many ways. With her persistence, she managed to get the store into the Corey Sunday Morning Market. "People call me his cheerleader."

She admits though, that "if it wasn't for him, being who he is, I'd shop there, but I would never have offered to help him. What really got to me is his extreme honesty, work ethic and his sincerity about everything."

Armata has taught her about running the register, pricing products and store set-up, and he also helps her practice her Greek.

"I love working here. It's an education for me," Cummins said.

She never expected at this time in her life that she'd get an education in produce, but she admits she has learned a lot. The business has grown thanks to her help, and Armata is able to get a break once in a while.

She's teaching Armata to work smarter, not harder. She has taught him a lot about the importance of marketing, advertising and excellent customer service. "I pamper the customers like they're in a spa instead of a produce store." She even gets customers to volunteer to pass out fliers and to-go menus.

Cummins is a natural at networking. She persuaded Armata to join the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. She attends a lot of the mixers herself and often brings new people along.

Cummins had no plans to come out of retirement; she just found something and someone she connected with. She said she understands the hard work, long hours and commitment Armata puts in.

"All the best things in my life were happy accidents, including meeting my sweet, wonderful husband, Bryan," she says.

A woman leaves retirement to volunteer at a local produce shop 11/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 5:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data


    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent


    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower


    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]