Far more than just going with the flow

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By Jane Bartnett

Scientist, educator, arts advocate, and the 2014 Riverview High School and Sarasota County High School Teacher of the Year.

And now, store owner.

Yet, this lofty list barely begins to describe Katrin Rudge, the new co-owner of Coastal Flow Ocean Inspired Gifts & Decor on South Tamiami Trail. This spring, when Katrin and her husband, Jeff, took ownership of the one-year-old store, Rudge saw an opportunity to grow the young business and strengthen Coastal Flow’s support for the local art community while also continuing her commitment to educate the public about the importance of the environment in the Siesta Key region.

 Since taking over, the couple has doubled the number of artists whose work is sold at the store.

“We now have close 70 local artists whose work can be purchased at Coastal Flow. We redesigned the store to better showcase the beauty of the maritime world and expanded into another 1,000 square feet of space,” said Katrin Rudge while standing under a colorful photo of a sea turtle illuminated by an overhead light.

Artists’ work on display at the store depicts sea creatures both real and mythical, water, sand, and all things coastal.

“We want Coastal Flow to be a place where we can showcase the talents of area artists who work in glass, oil paint, watercolor, metal, shells, clay, wood, leather and even recycled CD discs that shimmer like diamonds,” Rudge said proudly.

 Award-winning Sarasota-area artists whose works are on display are often in the store speaking with customers about their work and the complex manor in which some of the art itself is created.

“Many of our artists work in multiple mediums,” Rudge noted. “They are skilled craftsmen as well as artists and they’ve spent years honing their talents.”

 One of the newest talents to join Coastal Flow is Matthew Davis. A painter and multi-media artist, his work is a departure from the shop’s traditional offerings.

Davis’ beach-themed, hand-painted, made-to-order custom leather designs are available as leather jackets, coats, leather skirts, dresses, bags and vests. A popular item at the store, his custom designs can also be painted on jean jackets.

 “Each of these artists is a small business unto themselves,” said Jeff Rudge, who also manages his own business, Just Ask Jeff Home Improvement Services, LLC., connecting community association managers to qualified vendors. “As entrepreneurs we understand what it takes to run a small business and we’re here to provide these artists with a place to sell their work. When our customers purchase these beautiful works of art that are priced at a variety of price points, they benefit the local artistic community and help the local economy as well.”

 Since opening in March of 2020, Coastal Flow has seen steady growth.

“Although it’s now summertime, thanks to social media and word of mouth we’re seeing a strong increase in traffic,” said Katrin Rudge. “Some of our customers are coming from far away to see what we have in store and we’re building on the success of the store’s first year. The store is constantly evolving.”

 In the months ahead, the Rudges hope to offer art classes that would be given by artists whose work is on display at the store. Katrin is also developing plans for a meeting space where she and other scientists can share their knowledge of the marine world, along with artists who could discuss their coastal art. 

Adding art pieces created from metal for outside displays and whimsical painted mailboxes are also on her wish list for the future.

“Coastal art in a variety of styles is one way of educating people about our waters and the importance of keeping plastic out of the oceans,” said Katrin Rudge.

Furthermore, the store’s Sip ’n Shop Meet the Artists evenings, featuring complimentary beer and wine, are scheduled for the second Thursday of each month, from 5 to 7 p.m. Upcoming dates are: July 8, Aug. 12, Sept. 9, Oct. 14, Nov. 11, and Dec. 9.

Coastal Flow’s address is 7216 S. Tamiami Tr.

 In August, when school begins, Katrin Rudge,, who holds a master’s degree in Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences from the University of Maryland and served as a research assistant for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, will return to her Riverside High School classroom by day.

In the afternoon and on the weekends, she’ll join her husband Jeff and the artists at the store.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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