Seashell shops line the Florida Keys and entice tourists from around the globe to take home a trinket from their travels.
Though souvenir shells are available for a few cents at one of Islamorada’s newest retailers, Ocean Gardens and Gifts is probably one of the only places you’d find one-of-a-kind solid brass buoy lights from the English Channel.
“It’s such a juxtaposition,” explained co-owner Lou Sena of the overall theme of the store.
Lou called Ocean Gardens’ opening last November the end product of a lot of patience from his business partner and brother, Phil.
A professional shell diver since he was 17, its Phil who’s behind the vision and daily operations at the store.
But with overseeing operations at The Caribbean Resort and sourcing products from around the globe to keep a steady flow of inventory at Ocean Gardens, the pair needed to select a professional and reliable staff to grow the business.
Staff includes store manager Summer Lyman and buyers Richmond Arce, Ann Pope and Natasha Early.
“He obviously didn’t do this to make money,” Lou said of his brother’s market. “His overall idea was to create more of a destination than a retail environment.”
Lou joked of his brother’s propensity for perfection and attention to detail that he “probably re-did the interior two to three times” before finally opening to the public.
“This was really more about doing something out of passion and a way to showcase the lifestyle he loves.”
As the previous owner of Down to Earth, a boutique retail store specializing in home décor, Lyman said she quickly jumped at the invitation to manage Ocean Gardens.
“I’ve known Phil for several years, and I could appreciate his vision for this space and location,” she noted.
From antique anchors to hand-blown glass mooring buoys, exotic wood carvings and nautical collectors treasures, Lou admitted that a majority of the business thus far has been from interior and home designers who come to Ocean Garden and Gifts with a wish list of items for their high-end clients’ homes. He continued that what available both on the showroom floor as well as the surrounding grounds that include a coy fish pond, hundreds of unique pottery pieces and eye-catching sculpture, is only a sample of what Phil can source.
“When you think of maritime antiques, you think of galleries and a certain pretentiousness,” Lou noted. “It’s been fun to make the market approachable.”
A recent Islamorada Chamber of Commerce event hosted on the grounds proved the location a perfect venue for entertaining. Plans are also currently in the works to expand the outdoor portion of the market to showcase outdoor furniture and hammocks as well as creating an overall relaxing for visitors.
Ocean Gardens and Gifts, located at 82237 Overseas Highway in Islamorada, is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm. (305) 664-2793