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    Fan of kayaks steers others on tours

    By RICHARD DANIELSON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001


    Alert for a glimpse of a colorful exotic bird, a dozing alligator or a playful porpoise, Brian Maness and his customers glide along the calm waters of the Withlacoochee and Hillsborough rivers. They paddle to Honeymoon and Caladesi barrier islands in bright, canary-yellow twin-hulled kayaks.

    Maness has started a business called Wett Adventures that specializes in guided, three-hour nature tours, as well as camping trips. The tours range from a sunset tour to barrier islands off Fort De Soto Park to a picnic trip on the crystal-clear freshwater of Silver Springs.

    The three-hour tours are $12 an hour. For the money, "the customer doesn't have to do anything but arrive at the designated meeting spot, take a 10-minute lesson and we're off," Maness said. "Ninety percent of the customers are first-time kayakers."

    Maness said the Canadian-made tunneled double-hull "is so stable you *can stand in it." He also provides life jackets and coolers for snacks and beverages.

    Maness, 43, moved here 15 years ago from his native Cumberland, Md., and went to work for a local boat manufacturer. He also was a partner in a smaller water sport-related business. He has been a kayak enthusiast for more than a dozen years and has made numerous trips on the rivers and waters where he guides tours.

    He got the idea for the tours last fall and made an initial investment of $15,000 to get it started. The costs included eight kayaks and two surfbikes that can be converted to kayaks. He stacks them all on a trailer hitched to his truck.

    Maness, a longtime Indian Rocks Beach resident, recently moved to Odessa in Pasco County. But most of his business remains in Pinellas County.

    Customers don't have to help with the loading or unloading of the kayaks, Maness said. "They don't have to lift a finger," he said. "The kayaks are in the water when they arrive and when we're done, I load up."

    Maness is a member of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. Wett Adventures is open seven days a week. Its Web site is http://www.wettadventures.com; or call (813) 920-2478.

    Palm Harbor office center sold

    Harbor Park Office Center at 33920 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, has been purchased for $5.6-million by Southwest Industrial Properties. The three-story, 63,273-square-foot professional office building is 90 percent leased.

    Elliott M. Ross, president of Ross Realty Group, 20505 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater, represented the seller, Harbor Park Inc., in the transaction.

    Papadakis inducted into Platinum Club

    Sandy Papadakis, a sales associate with RE/MAX 1st Class, 620 Bypass Drive, Clearwater, has been inducted into the organization's Platinum Club. The transactions she closed in 2000 exceeded $10-million. The RE/MAX organization also recognized her as one of its top 100 sales associates in the state and two months ago named her the state's top sales associate.

    Il Lido remodeling nearly complete

    The dining room at Il Lido Restorante Italiano in Indian Shores has a new look, and the landscaping outside is being reworked.

    Alfredo Conversi, Darlene Figley and Linda and Joe Pancoe, who have owned the business for five years, began an interior renovation last month. In the dining room, "we took out the fireplace that we never used and removed the booths," said Mrs. Pancoe. "We painted the walls a light cream color and put in carpeting that is a blend of black, green and burgundy speckles."

    New tables and chairs are covered with white and black tablecloths, and the walls are decorated with white and black prints of Italy. They also have remodeled the bathrooms, Mrs. Pancoe said. The last area to be remodeled is the kitchen, and that won't be done until the winter tourist season is over, Mrs. Pancoe said.

    Conversi, a retired chef, said the total project will cost $35,000.

    The restaurant at 19211 Gulf Blvd., which seats 75, is open for dinner seven days a week. The menu includes appetizers such as fried baby squid with marinara sauce for $5.95, and conch, olives, celery, onions and capers for $6.95, and entrees such as layered eggplant stuffed with three cheeses and baked in a light tomato sauce for $9.95 and grilled tenderloin of beef with large shrimp in a lemon and white wine sauce for $19.95.

    - News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at (727) 445-4119 or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.

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