The Florida Shell Shop

I just read a good article about shells (Mad About Shells) in the August Smithsonian Magazine; it rekindled memories about my days growing up on the West Coast Florida beaches. I always enjoyed the shell shops, especially in Tarpon Springs. It was a place where a local kid could be a tourist and buy all the shells you could just never find on the beach (although even at the age of 10, it felt like cheating).

I recently took my little boy down Gulf Blvd. as far as St. Pete Beach, and was glad to see the Florida Shell Shop in Treasure Island alive & well. It's a great old roadside Florida shop; not a florescent-lit neon T-shirt shop. They have a web site. We had a great time here and at the Suncoast Surf Shop just down the street. Suncoast Surf opened in 1966, making it one of the oldest and longest running surf shops in Florida! I need to do a more intensive trip here in the near future.

Here's a partially obscured slide from the late 40s of the entrance to the iconic Shell Factory. I'm assuming Ft. Myers Beach, because the neighboring slides were of Hialeah and Miami, but it doesn't look 100% like the building here. There's something so honest & intriguing about these display windows, offset with turquoise and peach tiles. Most photos I've seen of this shell institution is of the huge sign & conch shell on US 41.

Well, here I am breaking a promise I made myself: to never post old postcards. But what a card to fall off the wagon with: Priestly's Shells & Gifts, 222 North Federal Highway, Dania — postmarked Feb 1954. The interior just glows with promise, the huge plate glass windows allowing it all to be taken in. You can almost smell the cypress and salt inside!

The wonders of the neon and retro roadside are tempered, however, by the huge piles of Queen conch shells out front selling for 10¢ each. No takes of these shells are allowed in the United States or Virgin Islands anymore, and populations are rebounding around Stock Island and Key West.

Have fun at the beach this month, hope you find a treasure — and remember to throw the live ones back!


  1. I'll have to add Florida Shell Shop of my lists of places to visit. I visited the Shell Factory in March and I'm still recovering!

  2. Come down when it cools off (and the mosquitoes are gone) and you can camp on a cove at Ft. Desoto park (Mullett Key). It was rated best beach in the US by Dr. Beach in 2005. Trip Advisor's #1 beach for 2008 & 2009.


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