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Tarpon Springs woman sells postcards in effort to save her home

TARPON SPRINGS — The Postcard Lady never loses her nerve. • Armed with an arsenal of bumper sticker sayings and island proverbs — along with a sandwich bag stuffed with postcards — she steps out onto the sand of Sunset Beach on a Friday afternoon to hawk her wares. • Her goal: to sell 5,000 postcards. • The going is tough. Sometimes she sells only one or two. • On this day, Aug. 6, she will sell none. It's too hot. The sun is glaring. Ashy clouds gather behind the Howard Park Causeway. • But the Postcard Lady does not seem fazed. • "I make do till I get through," she says, smiling serenely. It's her trademark line.

She doesn't notice thunder rumbling in the distance. A few feet offshore, a dozen black skimmers glide down and alight on the surf in single file.

"Oh, look at that!" she gasps. "That is such a gorgeous shot. You need a decent camera for that one, though."

She's holding a Kodak Easy­Share C530, a point-and-shoot that's seen better days: The hinge for the battery lid has broken, so she keeps it in place with Scotch tape and a rubber band.

She hopes the camera will help her make the mortgage payment.

• • •

She calls herself the Postcard Lady, but her name is Anne Cobb.

"Anne" is pronounced like "Annie" — it's an island thing, she says. She was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For 12 years, Cobb, 49, has been living with her husband, Race, also 49, on Locust Street in Tarpon Springs. Now, their home is close to foreclosure.

Cobb is trying to inch her way back into the black by selling postcards that she makes herself, using photos she has taken during long walks around her neighborhood.

In May, Cobb lost her job as an assistant at a mortgage brokerage firm in Madeira Beach. Her husband, a construction contractor, hasn't had much work since the start of the recession. They've been surviving mostly on unemployment checks.

To keep from losing their home, Cobb plans to sell 5,000 postcards to make up for five months of missed payments — or about $5,000.

She's always loved walking around her neighborhood in the evening and photographing nature. Friends and family always told her that her photos looked professional. In July, Cobb decided that turning her photos into postcards might be a way to keep up her income while she looks for another job.

She spends most of her days hunting for jobs on the Internet, making phone calls, visiting offices. That effort's been largely unsuccessful. One secretary threw away her resume before she even turned to leave the office, she said.

For now, she says, postcards seem like her best bet.

She makes two kinds of postcards: One shows a Tarpon Springs sunset with a bird in the foreground; the other is a collage of local beaches and wildlife.

She was selling them for $1 apiece, but occasionally will sell two for one. As of Thursday, she had sold 112. The prospect of reaching 5,000 seems unlikely. But she says, "One day at a time. One dollar at a time."

• • •

Cobb likes to think her Caribbean roots have given her a good grounding in stick-to-itiveness.

Money was always tight on the island. Kids got what they needed, not what they wanted. She learned to share toys and clothes with her six brothers and sisters. She began to work odd jobs when she was 11, she says.

Yet island life was a long time ago. Both of her boys are all grown up. Raphael, 28, is in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in England. Her other son, Louis, 30, is attending college.

From time to time, Louis comes to the beach to help his mom sell postcards. He can't believe how rude people can be, but he admires her perseverance. He wishes he had more extra cash to help support her. Almost everything he earns goes to his tuition and his rent.

"I want to get her a really nice camera," Louis says.

• • •

Cobb tries to hit the beach a couple of afternoons per week. But the timing must be exactly right.

Rainy days are a no-go.

But scorching weekday afternoons are also difficult; the light is harsh, the heat oppressive and people quickly get impatient with the Postcard Lady's sales pitch.

She has to hit that sweet spot around sunset, those 90 minutes when the air is gold and faces turn the color of peach flesh.

Out of courtesy to beachgoers, Cobb makes sure to finish before the sun slips below the horizon.

"That way, people can enjoy the sunset without me bugging them," she said.

As she walks from beach towel to beach towel, her aim is to be friendly and share her story with anyone who will listen.

One day, Cobb recalled, she met a little girl playing in the sand. She shook the girl's hand, then gave her a postcard — free.

"Sometimes you've got to take little chances like that," she said.

The girl's father approached. His family was on vacation from Virginia, he said. The postcard would be a beautiful reminder of their time in Tarpon Springs.

He gave her $4.

Tarpon Springs woman sells postcards in effort to save her home 08/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 20, 2010 12:16pm]
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