If there’s any lesson to be learned from this year’s Best of Largo winners, it’s that determination and passion pay off. Three of the four winners in the contest that honors the city’s small businesses are repeat champions, and show no signs of giving up their titles. 

For the sixth consecutive year, the city of Largo partnered with the Largo Leader to offer the contest that celebrates small businesses and their contribution to the community. The contest was divided into four categories: Retail, Restaurant, Business/Service and Home-based Business.

After a month of voting, residents chose their favorite small businesses — Thrift Shop of Largo, Culver’s of Largo, CrossFit TFB, and Bea & Louise Boutique.

Here’s a look at the winners and why they were named the Best of Largo.

Best service-related business

CrossFit The Fitness Box

  • Address: 50 Third St. NW
  • Owners: Justin Walsh, and James and Whitney Haley
  • Opened since: August 2016
  • Contact info: Call 727-475-6560, email info@crossfittfb.com or visit crossfittfb.com.

The gym, which was a Best of Largo winner in 2017 and 2018, specializes in the CrossFit fitness regimen that is based on functional movements and incorporates aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more.

James and Whitney Haley (first set of answers); Justin Walsh (second answers)

Q: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: To have the opportunity to grow and teach a community about a lifestyle change that will keep them pursuing healthier choices not just in the gym but outside of the gym as well.

A: I learned a lot from other owners, the dos and don’ts. I felt like I can bring something special to the CrossFit community.

Q: Was there a moment when you realized your business was going to survive/thrive?

A: Yes, from the moment we pursued opening The Fitness Box, all the pieces kept falling into place as if meant to be. God gave us peace with each decision made and still continues to open doors for us to thrive.

A: I never had any doubts. Once we opened our doors, we had people coming in, and now people continuing to come for many years.

Q: If you knew how difficult it was going to be when you first started, would you still have opened?

A: Yes, but as I am sure any business owner would say, I would do a few things differently from the beginning.

A: Yes, we would probably do things differently, but the learning process has been an enjoyable one.

Q: What does it mean to have family involved in the business?

A: It means everything! They are your support system, your encouragement on a bad day, your words of wisdom when a hard decision needs to be made and no matter how hard the workout may be that day … they still love you after.

A: Every member and coach are family.

Q: What are you most proud of about your business?

A: I am proud of our environment at the gym. Every member is encouraging, respectful, welcoming to newbies and overall creates a mature and fun atmosphere to workout in.

A: I am proud that we have been able to keep changing people’s lives and that we are active in supporting the growth of Largo.

Q: What are your long-term goals?

A: More involvement in the community and adding to our programs at the gym.

A: To continue educating people how simple and effective a healthy lifestyle is.

Q: How do you measure success?

A: By word of mouth referrals from our members. If they are happy and love spending an hour or more of their day at our box, then we are successful.

A: It is impossible to measure success. I just strive to be the best version of myself that I can be, and treat others how I would like to be treated.

Q: What would you like customers/community to know about you or your business?

A: You DO NOT have to be fit to do CrossFit; do you learn to play the guitar before taking lessons? It is safe when proper coaching is implemented. More people get hurt slicing a tomato than they do working out. Make an investment in your health no matter the fitness regimen you choose.

A: I would just want everyone to know that we are here for THEM! We want to help them live a healthy lifestyle so they feel better and live longer.

Best Restaurant

Culver’s of Largo

  • Address: 3500 E. Bay Drive
  • Owners: Parrish and Alicia Sandefur
  • Opened since: July 2014
  • Contact info: visit culvers.com/restaurants/largo-fl or call 727-223-9915.
  • The Wisconsin-based restaurant is famous for its ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard. It also features an extensive menu, including fries, chicken, fish and a variety of sides.

Q: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: Parrish has always been very interested in the Culver’s business model. When we went to our first Culver’s in the early 90s, he was at Briggs & Stratton and he always had some spark about it. He wanted to be independently owned and operated and no longer wanted having the bureaucracy of a corporate environment.

Q: Was there a moment when you realized your business was going to survive/thrive?

A: Well, we are not sure it will survive/thrive so we have to work hard every day the best we can providing customer service and quality so we will continue to survive and thrive.

Q: If you knew how difficult it was going to be when you first started, would you still have opened?

A: Absolutely. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so we sure would change things, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Q: What does it mean to have family involved in the business?

A: We can rely on each other to be dependable; everyone works together wanting to see our hard work and large investment succeed.

Q: What are you most proud of about your business?

A: Having regulars come back in time and time again, recommending their friends and family to come. They know our names, our families’ names. We love to give back to Largo. Love to see the kids in the restaurant happy, especially if we have Scoopie, our mascot, on hand.

Q: What are your long-term goals?

A: Eventually retirement and hopefully we can sell to a mentee of the Culver’s franchising system so they can begin their journey of ownership and being involved in Largo.

Q: How do you measure success?

A: When customers return time and time again and tell their friends and families to come to Culver’s of Largo.

Q: What would you like customers/community to know about you or your business?

A: That each Culver’s is independently owned and operated. That we like to partner with schools, churches and groups for Share Nights where we give 10% of our sales for an allotment of time. We would like to be seen as more than just an ice-cream shop, as roughly 90% still seem to think that. We would love for all to know of our full dinners and large menu with such a nice variety that is made fresh when the guest orders.

Home-based business

Bea & Louise Boutique

  • Owner: Heather Hamilton-Hiles
  • Opened since: 2013
  • Contact info: visit Jane.com and BealouiseOnline.com.
  • The online boutique makes a variety of handmade items for the entire family.

Q: When did you open? 

A: Six years ago. I was a teacher and a single mom. As I was needing to make extra money, I began considering starting my own small business. I decided to start an online store selling handmade items. I named my business Bea & Louise Boutique after my two grandmothers.

Today, this has become my full-time work, and I sell handmade, personalized items online, at markets, and to gift stores.

Q: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: Born into a family full of entrepreneurs, I grew up making and selling my creations at family parties and garage sales. 

Q: Was there a moment when you realized your business was going to survive/thrive?

A: After a couple of years of trying to balance being a mom, teaching, and fulfilling orders, I felt like I wasn’t giving 100% to anything, so I retired from teaching to work on my business full-time. It was a hard decision but it enabled me to be there for my two daughters, Hadley and Maggie, and to make and sell items I loved. 

Q: If you knew how difficult it was going to be when you first started, would you still have opened?

A: It was difficult when I first started. I was teaching during the day, driving my kids to sports practices in the afternoon, and staying up late making orders at night.  It was hard, but I knew I needed to make it work! 

Q: What does it mean to have family involved in the business?

A: It means the world to me that my daughters are able to help me with my business. They come with me to events and help me with orders. I also love that they are able to see the power of entrepreneurship and the importance of being part of the local community.

Q: What are you most proud of about your business?

A: I am the most proud when I get an order from a previous customer because they were so happy with their first order.

Q: What would you like customers/community to know about you or your business?

A: I would like to thank the Largo community and my customers for always supporting me and cheering me on. You can find my items locally at Coastal Market 607 and Lemon Tree Vintage Market and online at Jane.com and BealouiseOnline.com.

Best retail business

Thrift Shop of Largo

  • Address: 12499 Seminole Blvd.
  • Owners: Jimmy and Tammy Olson and Casey Cameron
  • Open since: January 2017
  • Contact info: Visit largothrift.com, call 727-902-3814 or email largothrift@gmail.com.
  • The store, which was a winner in the 2017 and 2018 Best of Largo contests, features a variety of merchandise, such as discount furniture, clothing, kitchenware, electronics and knickknacks, and also has a large collection of vintage antiques, collectibles, fine china, hand-made jewelry and an art collection from local artists.

Q: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: We are entrepreneurs because we love the challenges that come with it. Owning your own business is the hardest, most rewarding experience you can think of. We enjoy meeting our customers’ needs, and helping our clients accomplish their goals. We strive to do the best job every single day.

Q: Was there a moment when you realized your business was going to survive/thrive?

A: Winning “Best of Largo” for the first time in 2017, we knew we had something special. We always had a plan for a unique business model: incorporating real estate, estate sale liquidation and the resale/consignment market. We now offer the services to complete all three phases for our clients.

Q: If you knew how difficult it was going to be when you first started, would you still have opened?

A: Yes. We have never been afraid of challenges. In the business world today, you need to constantly be learning new things, finding new ways to benefit clientele. We focus on incorporating digital technology and social media, as well as traditional marketing and resale techniques to our unique business model.

Q: What does it mean to have family involved in the business?

A: We take the normal responsibilities of any business and divide the labor accordingly. It’s important to work with respect for each other and trust each person’s capabilities. We are fortunate to have a friendly, knowledgeable staff that help us tremendously. Although we are family, we operate like any other business.

Q: What are you most proud of about your business?

A: We are experienced as marketers. We are most proud of the advancements we’ve made by studying the resale market from every angle. Resale and consignment is a combination of acquisition, appraisal, marketing and advertising; and operates like any other market. Resale is recession proof, but you still need to study trends.

Q: What are your long-term goals?

A: Going into 2020, we are promoting our full business model. “We sell the house (real estate), sell the stuff (estate sales) and consign the rest (Thrift Shop of Largo).” We are doing promotions to complete all three phases, with the highest profits, in the shortest time. One call does it all!

Q: How do you measure success?

A: We measure success by the satisfaction of our customers. If our clients are happy, we can capitalize on referrals, reviews and return business. We focus on what we know, effective marketing, market research, technology and customer service. When you incorporate these tenets into your model, success comes much quicker.

Q: What would you like customers/community to know about you or your business?

A: We strive each day to find new ways to benefit our clients. Jimmy Olson is a licensed Realtor with Charles Rutenberg Realty, 1545 S. Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL 33764. Contact us for real estate services, estate sale facilitation, consignment, and purchasing upscale items at thrift store prices.

SOURCE: tbnweekly.com