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Dear Sandy
I am looking to move down there and I was wondering what kind of business you might suggest to start. Something different than what's already there. I would appreciate any help you might give.


Well my friend, the first thing that crossed my mind when I read your message was this: If I had such an idea, why on earth would I want to share it when I could quite possibly use it myself and become another Island Tycoon? Then it occurred to me that I have already sort of done that with my sand castle lesson and web design businesses, and it would be selfish of me to keep all my great ideas to myself. (No, I have not attained Island Tycoon status but the fat lady hasn't sung yet.)
So, I decided to tap some of the best minds on the Island and I must say your query set off some lively discussion at a recent session of the Kelly's Irish Pub Happy Hour Think Tank. While some of the suggestions were clearly a result of the freely-flowing spirits (topless car wash, drive-in movie theater, Hooter's, Fredrick's of Hollywood, rehab center, "another T-shirt shop", etc.) - others clearly showed some thought and may indicate some services the island could really use:

*Music and/or book store - "Not knocking our local trading post but it might be nice to be able to purchase fresh new cds and paperbacks without having to cross the Causeway."
*Cafeteria - "someplace that serves lots of vegetables"
*Shoestore - (see below)
*Airport - I fly a lot so I liked this one. It sure seems like there would be room for a runway or two north of town.
*Ferry Service - Another good idea -- make it "locals only" during the busiest tourist seasons

As you may suspect, I also have some ideas of my own:

Island Auto Repair Shop - One thing you really don't want to do is drive an ailing car across the bridge, however; as things stand you really don't have a choice. An alternative might be to rent out time in fully-equipped garage stalls: shade tree mechanics have a tough time here as palm trees just don't generate much in the way of shade.

Wait-In-Line Guy - inspired by a recent trip to Port Isabel to get my driver's license renewed. (I now know for a fact that those people - who spend all of 5 hours a week in PI - spend 1.5 of those hours on lunch break. Must be nice to work for the government.) At the Post Office, Blackbeards', or any government agency - wherever queues form - you stand in line for me and alert me via cell phone when there is only one person in front of you.

Mobile Carwash - Someone I was talking to recently suggested it would be great for some entrepreneur with a water truck to drive around every morning and wash away the salt scum that accumulates every night on all the island vehicles that have not been safely tucked into home garages.

Night Care Center - Vacationing families mostly do family activities during the day and so do not require the services of a day care center; nights are a different story. I have in these pages repeatedly asked for names and numbers of local babysitters with (almost) zero response. Near as I can tell, adults who want to go out and enjoy the island night life without the kiddies are pretty much on their own.

Socks and Underware Store - As we all know, there are multiple locations on the island for purchasing bikinis, sundresses, shorts and yes, t-shirts. But to the best of my knowledge, you still have to go to Texas to find the most basic items of attire. I know socks are "illegal" here (and some have said that underwear should be) but I sure didn't see them arresting anyone for this offense last winter when a bunch of fronts drove the temperatures down to very untropical levels. Would work well in conjunction with the afore-mentioned shoe store.

Wedding Planner - from the volume of "ask sandy" questions I get on this topic, I really think this is a niche begging to be filled. A LOT of couples come here to get married and haven't a clue where to go or who to talk to about planning the beach wedding of their dreams.

Divorce Planner - this would of course cater more to the needs of the locals rather than the tourists, but once the weeping and recriminations are past, divorce can be a time of great celebration. Mark my words, someone is going to make some serious dough with this one.

Speaking of serious dough - if you make some off one of these ideas, I sure hope you remember who gave it to you. After all, there is more than one path to Island Tycoonship.

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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