The BP Effect – Polka Dots Still Selling Toys

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As all things must do, we too, have reached the end in The BP Effect Series. Some may shed tears, others may leap with gratitude, me – I had the over-whelming pleasure of stumbling into one of the coolest stores I’ve seen in years, all because of this final interview we conducted with the owners of Polka Dots Retro Toys & Gifts in Pier Park.

Owners Deb &  Gary Pruitt brought their retro-styled store to Pier Park in October 2008.  The unique items, old-schooled themed toys, gag gifts and games added momentum to the new store, with sales sky-rocketing in the first year alone.  During that first year, Polka Dots simply worked towards continuing a successful growth phase,  and were rewarded with sales reaching upwards to 40-50% during that first year and continuing through out the second year.

Polka Dots found themselves well on their way to securing their presence  in Pier Park, with plans to expand outwards from the Panama City Beach area. The future looked promising for their plans until the Spill hit. From there, sales literally tanked and the Pruitts found themselves out of Expansion Mode and right in to Survival Mode. Focus shifted from growth, to just a single thought – how to go about getting the rent paid.

During the height of the Oil Spill, Gary and Deb opted to try more creative options in hopes of generating sales. From hosting Pirate themed events to setting up items on the sidewalk, they managed to get items moving again, but with the decline of people visiting the beach, they’re efforts were minimally fruitful.

In the spirit of gaining back some of their losses, Polka Dots filed a claim with BP, with BP paying out a small portion of Emergency Funds, yet the amount wasn’t even enough to cover the shops full rental amount. Still working towards recovery, the Pruitts are continuing to work with BP in hopes of recouping there full financial losses. The frustrating thing for them was finding themselves in that proverbial rock and a hard place, since the store was still in “growth mode”, being only 2 years old when the spill hit, it looks like they’ll have to wait for the 2011 season before being able to complete the final stages of the claim process.

Overall, in seems like the Spill did little to dampen the hopes of Deb and Gary, which was evident  in the enthusiasm expressed over the current state of the store, it’s potential in Pier Park and the upcoming summer season.  Out-going, friendly and literally vibrating with a zest for life, the owners of Polka Dots seem to have absorbed the very spirit of the whimsical gifts they sell.

The coming 2011 tourist season is rapidly approaching, and like everyone else in town, all eyes are now glued towards the future. Business owners county wide are stocking shelves, finalizing BP claims and working towards leaving the oil-crusted 2010 season behind them.

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