On Saturday, June 16, owner Scott Dolan cut the ceremonial “Grand Opening” ribbon at Big Water Fish Market. General Manager Brian Brainerd and Mark Smith, chairman of the board of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, looked on.
Big Water opened its doors on Veterans Day last year. The grand opening might have been celebrated sooner had not early success intervened.
The immediate public response to Siesta Key’s only fish and seafood market was so great that Scott decided to delay the grand opening until after high season. “Demand was well above expectation,” he said.
Despite the success, Scott is surprised by “how many locals still don’t know we’re here.”
SKCC is helping to put Big Water squarely on the key’s commercial map. In addition to promoting members’ businesses, SKCC Executive Director Kevin Cooper explained that the work of his organization is somewhat different from that of its traditional counterparts: SKCC also functions as a de facto visitor’s center for Siesta Key. That function expanded over the past 12 months as the result of Siesta Beach having been named the 2011-2012 “No. 1 Beach in the U.S.”
Of SKCC’s approximately 460 members, roughly one-quarter belongs to the accommodations industry sector. SKCC receives some 20,000 telephone calls annually from prospective tourists seeking recommendations for hotels, motels and rental properties. SKCC additionally mails some 5,000 brochures promoting Siesta Key as a vacation destination and handles a large number of tourist walk-ins.
Siesta Key businesses are subject to municipal codes, such as those regulating business signage and frontage, which are not in effect in other parts of the county. SKCC provides a helpful interface between shop owners and regulators when disputes arise, ensuring that a “certain aesthetic charm” is maintained on the key, so the experience of visitors and residents alike is predictably pleasant.
Cooper added that Siesta Key enjoys a large number of third- and fourth-generation family visitors who have specific expectations with regard to the appearance of the business district.
Asked about his vision for SKCC’s future, Cooper answered that he hopes to have all merchants on Siesta Key as SKCC members. He estimated that presently 80% to 85% of all businesses on the key are SKCC members. “We purposely keep the basic annual membership dues low – $237 – because we want to get everybody involved,” Cooper said.
That may be easier said than done. One Siesta Key merchant, typical of several interviewed who wish to remain anonymous, said he dropped membership in SKCC some time ago because, in his opinion, the SKCC’s focus is exclusively on supporting businesses in Siesta Key Village. Businesses such as his that are located outside the Village, he added, receive scant attention from SKCC. “I really wouldn’t mind paying the membership dues if I got something out of it,” he said.
Scott Dolan is unperturbed. Big Water is thriving; he’s pleased to be part of the Siesta Key business community and looks forward to building a lasting enterprise here based on providing high-quality products and service. A Michigan native, Dolan had been coming to Siesta Key on family vacations since childhood and knows the key well. “This is home,” he said.
Big Water Fish Market is located at 6641 Midnight Pass Road. The phone number is 941-554-8101.