It began snowing in northern Pennsylvania last week while Clearwater resident Michele Homer stood in a creek fly-fishing with Barry and Cathy Beck, fine-tuning her technique with the two experts.
"I loved it. I didn't want to come home," Homer said. The trip was part of her work to become a fly-fishing instructor at Saltwater Fly Fisherman, the business she and her husband, John, own in downtown Clearwater at 623 Cleveland St.
The Homers opened the retail store nearly two years ago and just completed an expansion that more than doubled their space.
Now that they have more than 5,000 square feet, the Homers have put in a gift boutique and added a line of Patagonia and Orvis clothing and equipment. Among the specialty items are waders, waterproof and water-resistant technical jackets and vests and carrying cases for fly-fishing rods and reels.
The store also features a larger selection of fly-tying materials, fly rods, reels and lines.
The gift section includes pillows, throws, hand-painted china and other tableware, rugs, lamps and knickknacks, and prints and paintings by Diane Peebles and Roger Bansemer. A special corner includes Labrador retriever sculptures and books, mugs and cards.
Antique furniture is used for displaying merchandise and is part of the store's cozy atmosphere.
"There are people who come in for the shirts that don't fly-fish," John Homer said.
He teaches classes in casting and fly-tying and also takes fly-fishing enthusiasts on trips. Next year, the fishing trips will include Michigan, Pennsylvania, the Florida Keys and Alaska.
It is Homer's passion for the sport that led to the business.
"We were in real estate, and he was miserable," Michele Homer said. "He has a marketing background and wanted to be in retail."
"So, two years ago for my 45th birthday," Homer said, "she gave me the paperwork for the store and said let's do it. It's been a dream come true."
Michele Homer said she intended, after the store opened, to "go on with other things _ I paint furniture and do wall treatments." But she fell in love with the store.
"There's a hundred reasons why it shouldn't have worked, but community support has been phenomenal," John Homer said. Customers include vacationers from around the world, as well as locals, he said.
The cost of the expansion has been high, $70,000 just for the construction. But the Homers are pleased, and the couple's store mascots _ Labrador retrievers Ariel and Sage _ seem happy with more space to roam and greet customers.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 443-5000.
Andrew R. Lamendola has joined King Engineering Associates, 24945 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater, as a landscape architect/planner and will work in the planning department. Jeff Sloman has joined the firm as an engineer and will work in the civil engineering department. King Engineering provides engineering, planning, environmental, scientific, transportation and surveying services.
Norwalk _ The Furniture Idea has opened at Largo Mall, 10500 Ulmerton Road. The store is the fifth franchise in the Tampa Bay area to be operated by Frank Goldoni. The 5,100-square-foot store will be managed by Jan Wilson, who previously owned a design firm and has 20 years' experience in the business.
Norwalk Furniture Corp. of Norwalk, Ohio, makes custom upholstered and leather furniture in styles that range from 18th century to contemporary.
The store has a display of 36 furniture suites. It has more than 2,000 fabrics and leathers that can be combined with more than 500 furnishings.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 518-0207.
Kenneth Chapman has joined Coastal Bay Real Estate, 638 E Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs, as a sales associate. He specializes in commercial brokerage, with an emphasis on industrial real estate and business opportunities in manufacturing and hospitality.
Rick J. Nall and Carole Becker have joined Coldwell Banker Wikle Properties, 3302 Alt. U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor. Nall has 12 years' experience and specializes in residential sales and property management. Becker has worked three years in residential sales and property management.
Larry Heckerd and Karen Marlow have joined Century 21 A.J. Della Monica & Associates, 2700 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor, as sales associates. Heckerd is a licensed mortgage broker and has 13 years' experience. Marlow is a residential specialist and a multimillion-dollar producer.
_ News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119 or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.