It may be cold, rainy or windy outside, but at Boater's Republic it is always warm, with optimum sailing and boating conditions. Owner Mark Thomas wears shorts, hat and flip-flops, a Kenny Chesney song plays in the background and the temperature is kept in the comfortable upper 70s. The shop sells boating and fishing lifestyle items and the look and feel of it complement the store's premise.
For Thomas, opening the store with his wife, Michelle, was a natural step. Having run a company that fixed boats, and as a boat owner, he noticed that the only stores in the area selling supplies, gear and accessories were chains. Putting his marketing degree to work, he set out to create a locally owned and improved alternative.
A St. Petersburg design company worked with Thomas to make the store's three sections organized and upscale but also nautical, featuring ropes, hooks and natural wood in shelving and counters. The first area features fishing gear with hundreds of fishing poles (prices vary) and a "reel wall" displaying a number of different reels that shoppers can touch and try out. Since live bait tends to be smelly, at Boater's Republic bait comes packages, with two dedicated aisles.
The second area of the shop features boating supplies ranging from the most practical, such as an extra-soaking mop ($19.99), a surface deodorizer ($12.98) and myriad pumps, hoses, batteries and screws, to the more fun additions, such as a four-rider towable float ($149.99) and a pirate flag ($22.99).
The third section is dedicated to the boating lifestyle with items like kids' swimming trunks with sun protection ($49), women's wristlets made with recycled sails ($30.99) and men's graphic T-shirts ($23 to $32.99). An entire wall is dedicated to sunglasses (prices vary) since those are often lost between the docking and undocking. And because no trip at sea would be complete without flip-flops, the store carries a large selection.