INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. -- Pinellas County beach businesses are on the rebound and are wrapping up their best weekend in months. From hotels, to restaurants, to retail shops, business owners tell ABC Action News sales are starting to trickle back in.
Although restaurants and retail shops are only allowed to be open to 50% capacity, business owners are seeing demand bounce back and they’re feeling positive about the summer months ahead.
Customers are flooding back into Nekton Surf Shop and buying armfuls of new gear. The Indian Rocks Beach store found an innovative way to keep sales steady despite their store being locked up for months.
Employee Blake McPherson says rentals of kayaks, paddleboards and bikes kept them afloat, with the business delivering the equipment directly to customers on the shoreline.
“For us to be able to bounce back like this, it’s amazing. We were able to stay out of the negative the whole time. Our locals are the people who kept us in business during this closure when the tourists left and beaches got shut down. We have to give our locals a huge shout out for keeping us going,” McPherson said with a smile.
A few miles down Gulf Boulevard, Aaron King at St. Pete Parasail says they saw a successful Memorial Day weekend, which he credits to people being desperate to get back outside to the beaches. Saturday and Sunday saw noticeably larger crowds.
“It’s nice to have a paycheck again. All the businesses, we really need this,” King exclaimed.
Matt Loder at the the Original Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach agrees. His restaurant is a staple from the 1980s and has only closed twice: for the COVID-19 pandemic and for Hurricane Irma. Loder says this Memorial Day weekend, the restaurant saw sales up to 70% of what they saw for the 2019 Memorial Day weekend, despite operating at 50% capacity and having bar stools closed.
“We’re just happy to see people again and see it all recovering. We’re spending a lot more time with our customers and our people. Obviously we can’t hug anyone or do handshakes with people, but we’re doing a lot of air hugs and smiles underneath our masks,” Loder said.
Lynn Timberlake plans to welcome back guests Friday to her Cay Pointe Villa vacation rental in Indian Rocks Beach. She should have been hosting a wedding party from England for a 12-day stay this Memorial Day, but instead, her family members are enjoying the beachfront suites this holiday. Timberlake says it’s been tough making ends meet, but she's hopeful. Seventy-eight guests have already called to reschedule.
“We really didn’t know which way it was going to go so we are very, very happy,” Timberlake said with a grin.
Visit St. Pete Clearwater expects summer travel to pick back up and more people to visit from drive-able destinations including other parts of Florida, Georgia and the Midwest.