Beach Bazaar celebrates 30 years on the Key

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By Debbie Flessnerbeach bazaar1

Beach Bazaar’s slogan is “Everything for the Beach,” but after 30 years in the same location, right in the heart of Siesta Village, it has become so much more than that.

Wendall Jacobsen is the general manager for Siesta Key’s Beach Bazaar. Photos by Debbie Flessner.

Owners Mike and Sue Bala used to work at a similar type of a store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware back in the 80s. Wendall Jacobsen, who has been Beach Bazaar’s general manager for the past 23 years, said that the Balas used to set up stands at fairs in the northeast to sell customized caps they would make.

But then they made their way down to the Suncoast, where they found the property Beach Bazaar currently occupies vacant and in need of a new tenant.

“This building was actually several separate stores,” Jacobsen said. “Throughout the years, it (Beach Bazaar) just grew, and in 2001, they (the Balas) took over the corner, where a Citgo station used to be.”

That corner spot became a very large portion of their new store, Beach Bazaar’s, business,beach bazaar 4beach bazaar 3 housing the Swim Shack, one of what is now the four distinct shopping sections of the store.  In this area, the shop has swim wear by Kenneth Cole, Maxine, Body Glove and many other name brands, as well as any accessories you might need for your day in the sun. If you need sunglasses and footwear to complete your look, Beach Bazaar has lots of name brands like Reef, Costa and Native sunglasses, and sandals by Reef, Sanuk, Pali and more.

Next to the Swim Shack is Siesta Surf, where Billabong, Rip Curl, O’Neill, RVCA, Flomotion, Neff and many other surf-related apparel and accessories brands reign supreme. From there, you can head into the T-Shirt Room and find not only Siesta Key  shirts, but also Cuda, Salt Life and other fishing and surf-related brands.

The last room is the very popular Novelty/Souvenir area, which Jacobsen says is not only popular with tourists, since it also includes many tropical gift items.

“Not everything we sell says ‘Siesta Key’ on it,” he said. “We put a lot of effort into being a gift shop with variety. In our other shops, we stay on top of fashions and trends, and we’re staying educated in those departments.”

As a locally-owned business, the owners of Beach Bazaar  support the artists of their community. That’s why in the store, they sell the work of some of their favorite Siesta Key artists, like prints, paintings and beaded jewelry. Photographer Ryan Gamma displays his prints there, Dana Swezey’s digital art is also for sale and local painter Shawn McLoughlin, who has been painting the beaches here in the area for the last 30 years, sells his prints in the store, too.

Jacobsen says that Beach Bazaar is an ever-changing place, and the primary reason for that is to continue capturing the interest of its customers from every walk of life.

“Our whole goal is to offer a variety of any and all items that a vacationer or local could ever want or need,” he said. “That gives us a unique niche in the marketplace.”

Coming up for Beach Bazaar is a big retail season, which lasts from the beginning of February until the end of May. That is the time when the fruits of the store’s nine buyers’ labors will make its way onto the showroom floor, and tens of thousands of visitors will pour through the doors to see what’s new.

This year, there will be plenty of cutting-edge fashions and trends for shoppers, to go along with the tropical-themed gifts that customers have loved for the past 30 years.

“We’re preparing for our season now, and we’ll put out our new products for 2015 in February,” Jacobsen said. “We are truly a one-stop-shop for everyone.”

Beach Bazaar is in Siesta Village, at 5211 Ocean Blvd., and is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook page at, or call 941-346-2995.


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