The day sisters Laura Busch and Janine Lane walked into the quaint 1930s house in the Anona area of Largo, they knew they were about to follow their mother's footsteps and become retailers. Next door, Laura's husband, Mike, was looking at a small place also for lease. "I thought, What a great place for a fish market," he recalled. Six weeks later in May 2006, he opened Island Fish, a market specializing in locally caught fresh fish, Midwestern prime meats and his own soups and meat and fish hors d'oeuvres and main dishes.
First-time customers are treated to Mike's homemade seafood gumbo, his smoked fish spread and smoked salmon that comes from Scotland and Norway.
Mike grew up in his family's restaurant business and had been a commercial fisherman, chef and restaurant manager for more than 20 years here and in Key West.
Jim Donaldson, who with wife Carroll lives nearby in Randolph Farms, has been shopping at the fish market since it opened. He comes in at least three times a week, he said. Early last week, he stopped by for the fresh hog fish.
"This is a great store, a great resource," he said. "I tell everyone about it."
Meanwhile, back in 2006 ...
The sisters leased the house and in June opened Suzette's ... on the Rocks, a boutique featuring some of the hottest trends in fashion, jewelry and accessories. Offerings include Jane Yoo's wearable art, Emily Ray's jewelry, Mary Frances' one-of-a-kind beaded bags and everything made by Brighton, from luggage to shoes and a new jewelry line.
The sisters had worked off and on in their mother's boutiques in Tarpon Springs and Indian Rocks Beach, also named Suzette's after their youngest sister. So they knew the business well. For the past 20 years, their mother, Gloria Belvedere, has operated the business in North Carolina.
"We have customers that shop here in the winter and at our mother's store in the summer," Laura Busch said.
The sisters agree it was an interesting twist of serendipity that brought them to the Anona area. They are fifth-generation members of Pinellas County pioneer families — Phillips and Mears — that settled in Anona and Indian Rocks Beach in the late 1800s.
Laura and Mike Busch's 10-year-old son, Garrett, is a fifth-grader at Anona Elementary, the same school his great-grandfather attended.
What kind of investment did it take to open the business?
Mike: About $60,000. Most of the cost was for equipment.
Laura: We started small with about $50,000. Mom supplied us with some merchandise from her store and we did a lot of the improvements ourselves.
Are there aspects about the business you don't like?
Mike: The slow times and the month of September. The hardest thing is keeping the quality of the fish products. So much depends on the weather, availability and regulations.
Laura: We are kind of married to the business. We take our work home. July is our slow month, so we close up and go to the mountains.
What do you enjoy most about the business?
Mike: I like working with the customers and educating them about fish. Lots of people who come in like fish but don't know anything about how to prepare it. I give tips on how to cook it and sometimes I season it for them.
Laura: It's a nice environment to work in and we like being our own boss. Also, we can bring our kids here and we can cover for each other for appointments and in emergencies. It's not an easy business and it's satisfying to see that we could succeed. We're proud of that.
Chris Cosdon can be reached at [email protected]