■ BY SUE ERWIN
Carolyn Madden has been coming to Boca Grande for 25 years. She’s always appreciated the unique shops and restaurants on the island, and she’s wanted to start her own business for years. Well, she finally found the opportunity in May.
“I used to love the bookstore that was here many years ago, and I was so sad when it closed,” she said.
Carolyn has resurrected that concept, and she’s opened a distinctive little shop called “The Tide” that’s located at the front of the Old Theater Building, where The Grapevine used to exist.
“My youngest started college, and it was just the right time,” Carolyn said.
Inside the store, there is a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, coloring books, puzzle books for kids and adults, games, puzzles and cards. Retro toys like shrinky-dinks (sheets of polystyrene which can be cut and then baked to shrink in an oven, to create charms or figurines) are also available at the store, as well as yo-yos and traditional games like Backgammon and Scrabble.
“I wanted to offer items that families could use when they are staying on the island and it’s raining outside, or perhaps they were in the sun too much and wanted something to do together indoors,” the store owner said. “Puzzles and games are very popular in my house, and it’s a great way to connect with family and friends.”
Carol is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her father was a professor of accounting at the University of Michigan. The family moved to Iowa just before she started high school after her dad accepted a position at the University of Iowa. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she met her husband, Charlie.
“We’re big Gator fans,” she said.
They were married right after finishing college, and they moved to Atlanta, where she worked in the advertising field and Charlie worked as a civil engineer.
A year later they moved to Maitland, Florida near Orlando.
Carolyn and Charlie have two daughters and one son. Kate, 31, is a nurse and lives in Jacksonville, and Annie, 29, works for a nonprofit foundation in New York City. Chas, 20, is currently a student at Valencia College in Orlando.
“He loves the water – fishing and surfing and boats – and his goal is to be a marine architect,” she said.
Chas comes to Boca Grande with his parents to celebrate the holidays, but the girls don’t come as often, since they live father away.
Carolyn worked as a preschool teacher when her kids were young, recalling that when Annie was in kindergarten at the school where she was teaching, she was able to peek in and check on her every now and then.
Carolyn and Charlie started coming to Boca Grande about 30 years ago. Charlie is an avid fisherman and originally came here for the tarpon fishing. They loved Boca Grande so much that they purchased a residential lot about 20 years ago and built a home here.
Carolyn was a big fan of the bookstore that once existed on the island, and when it closed she thought about opening a shop of her own. In May, she finally found the opportunity.
Carolyn took over the space where The Grapevine was located and spruced it up with new paint and new shelves filled with an abundant amount of unique items. Located across from Made to Inspire, a shop that sells beach-inspired shell art, she currently shares space with Scarpa’s Coastal Restaurant and several tenants upstairs in the Old Theater Building.
Carolyn said she was happily surprised at the number of people who were on the island during the week of the Fourth of July.
“I’m here for the holiday with my family every year, and I don’t recall ever seeing that many people,” she said.
Over the past two months she’s spent time getting the shop ready and then commuting back to her other home in Maitland. But at least she has some company along for the ride – her four-year-old rescue dog, Piper, a border collie and shepherd mix.
“She is the sweetest dog; we all love her so much. She loves the dog park, she loves riding on the golf cart – she’s adjusting very well to island life. And she really loves going out on the boat.”
Piper knows when she’s getting close to the island because of the treats she gets from the toll-takers at the bridge. Keep an eye out for the dog when you visit the store; she may be making regular visits to the shop this fall.
Carolyn will be traveling to New York to attend a few merchandising shows over the next two months, so the store is currently closed. A grand opening is planned for October. Keep reading the Boca Beacon for updates about that.
“I plan on staying until June when I come back in October,” she said. “And I plan on being here in the store, meeting new people and becoming a part of the town. I didn’t want to open a new store and have someone else run it.”
Other unique products at the store are giant coloring sheets that can be placed on top of a kitchen table for a family to work on together. There are watercolor paints and paper and doodle pads for drawing.
“I grew up doing a lot of crafts, and I think that’s where I get the inspiration for this store.”
There’s even a glass Scrabble set for serious wordsmiths. Then there are visual perception games, dominoes and wooden puzzles.
“The wooden puzzles are beautiful,” she said. “There is one of a surfer and another one that’s a shorebird.”
Other unique products at the store are Flyvine bracelets and eyeglass holders made from recycled fly line. They are colorful, adjustable and are popular with both men and women.
“This lady in Montana collects the used line, and she has stay-at-home moms make them.”
A portion of the sales from some of the toys and jewelry in the store also is given back to international organizations; one in particular promotes education and the empowerment of women and girls throughout the world.
Carolyn also sells a particular brand of earrings made by a company in Atlanta called Ink & Alloy. The handcrafted beaded accessories are made from raw and recycled materials sourced from the beaches of the Philippines and villages of Africa.
“I’m trying to offer some things in the store that actually do some good and benefit the less fortunate, because I think it’s so important.”
Other products at the store include Flyvine items for dogs.
When she is not working, Carolyn enjoys reading, playing tennis, boating and fishing.
“My husband and son are very much into fly fishing, but I haven’t mastered it yet,” she said. “I’m so excited and happy to be here,” Carolyn said. “We love the town, we love the people, and we love the beaches and the fishing. This is a really friendly building, and it’s a very nice place to be.”
The Tide – Games Gifts and Books shop is located at 321 Park Avenue. For more information, call 964-2417.