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A dull retirement? Not when you're the boss

When Kurt Mungenast retired to Florida from New Jersey in 1989, he found that the traditional pastimes of the golden years just weren't for him.

In fact, Mungenast found retirement . . . well, boring.

"I'm not a golfer, and I'm not a fisherman, so I decided to start a business," the 69-year-old said.

Mungenast opened a shipping business in a 120-square-foot office in Tampa Palms. A year later, in 1990, he moved to a 2,040-square-foot location in Palm Lake Village Shopping Center.

The Gift and Parcel Center, 15307 Amberly Drive in Tampa Palms, keeps Mungenast busy. That's just the way he likes it.

Starting a business from scratch might intimidate most people, but Mungenast saw it as an opportunity to be the entrepreneur he always wanted to be.

In the early 1970s, he took a leave of absence from his shipping and traffic manager position with International Telephone and Telegraph to start a business.

"I started a stock brokerage firm that only lasted nine months," he said. "When the market fell out of bed in the early '70s, my brokerage firm went with it. Luckily, I had stayed on friendly terms with ITT and went right back to work with them."

Although that business venture was short-lived, Mungenast never let go of the dream of being his own boss. During his 35 years at ITT, Mungenast read volumes of books on business and finance, a hobby he still enjoys.

"I consider myself self-taught," he said. "You can learn about any subject in books and magazines. I did a lot of research when I decided to start a business and decided it was best to do something I had some experience in. So I opened a small shipping business."

His partner is Bob Purdue, 65, a retired teacher. Purdue and Mungenast knew each other in New Jersey. Their wives worked together and were transferred together to Florida. Like Mungenast, Purdue went into business because he was bored with retirement.

Mungenast generally works the early shift in the store, and Purdue works from afternoon until evening.

"There is lots of competition," Mungenast said. "We have to offer something a little different. Our main focus is on customer service. We don't want any unhappy customers. We also offer unique items they may not find otherwise."

A stroll around their store reveals some of the seldom-seen products. Greeting cards, candies, gourmet foods and Florida-produced fruit preserves, mustards and sauces are joined by crafts supplied by local artisans.

"We want someone to be able to come in, buy a card and gift, have it wrapped and mail it without leaving the store," Mungenast said. "One-stop convenience, that's important to people today."

The shop includes a full-service U.S. Postal Service substation and also offers United Parcel Service, Airborne and Federal Express shipping. "We'll take time with the customers and help them decide the best way to send an item," Mungenast said.

After only two years in business, Mungenast is pleased that his business is breaking even financially. He said he expects to see profits soon.

"I have a few more ideas to try out here," Mungenast said. "Being active in this business helps keep me young. My morning swim gets me going physically, and then I come here and get my brain active. That's what keeps me healthy and alert."