The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 17 - February 6, 2013


Making hard times easier

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Louise Bolger | Sun
Dana Kamp manages the Hard Times Trading
Post in Cortez, where treasures can be found.

Are you one of those people who can’t walk by an antique shop without going in or have to fight off the temptation to stop when driving by garage sales? If you are then get ready for the ultimate treasure hunt experience of your life.

Brad Smith opened Hard Times Trading Post a little over a year ago on Cortez Road West adjacent to Cortez Village. The best way to describe Hard Times comes from an old pirate word “salmagundi,” literally meaning a stew made with whatever was left over, but whose meaning has also evolved into a simple assortment or mixture of things, a potpourri. Hard Times certainly lives up to that description and then some.

Smith, who is also the owner of Bridge Street Jewelers in Bradenton Beach, had a strong background in the flea market business, and he and his girlfriend Kassy Quinn love the thrill of the hunt. Weekly they buy abandoned storage units throughout the state in search of the holy grail of storage units, a really valuable item.

Although they do on occasion find expensive watches, diamonds and coin collections, 75 percent goes in the dumpster and 25 percent goes on the shelves at Hard Times Trading Post. And what’s on those shelves in little Cortez could provide furniture for homes, games for the kids and costumes for Halloween just for starters.

Hard Times has a nice collection of furniture, some in good condition, some crying out to be transformed and placed in a great little beach cottage. They have mirrors, clothes, trunks, books, military uniforms, ribbons and patches, lamps, complete sets of dishes and individual pieces, tools, guitars, frames and one of my favorites, an antique adding machine.

It also has a nice assortment of estate and vintage jewelry including pocket watches and quite a few pocket knives. As you slowly walk through the narrow aisles, a never ending supply of new items keeps popping up. There is also an outdoor yard with even more to spark the imagination.

Brad Smith decided to name his shop Hard Times acknowledging the hard times people are going through these days and hopefully reaching out to the community and providing a needed service. Keeping that in mind, he says everything is priced to sell. The shop is the melting pot of Cortez with locals looking for a bargain, rental unit owners looking for unusual items and tourists just looking.

Dana Kamp, who is the store manager, says they sometimes get 50 people a day stopping by, many coming in every day to check for new merchandise. “We sell everything but the kitchen sink,” says Kamp, “except we sold that yesterday.”

Even if you’re not having a hard time, Hard Times Trading Post is a lot of fun, a true salmagundi of just about anything you can think of, including, on some days, a kitchen sink.


12208 Cortez Road W.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cash only

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Investors coming back to equities

Investment Corner

Measuring investor psychology is never an exact science. Monitoring the decision process of humans is as much art as science, and it cannot be exactly quantified like the physical forces of nature (gravity, friction, temperature, etc.). However, some useful generalizations can be made by monitoring the reaction or behavior of us humans over time in particular situations.

In the world of investing, we call the study of these reactions investor sentiment, meaning the attempt to measure the degree of optimism or pessimism of the average individual investor. This measurement is usually best accomplished by monitoring the actions of investors, how they are making decisions for their money, rather than listening to what they say they are doing or intend to do.

As I have referenced many times in this column over the years, when investor sentiment reached extremes, it is a contrary indicator. This can take a while to wrap our minds around, but when the large majority of investors are very optimistic about a particular investment, it is generally a sign that before long they will be proven wrong, and that buying into the trend with this majority is a losing proposition.

Examples we can all remember and relate to would be the .com and technology stock bubble in the year 2000. People were quitting their day jobs to trade stocks, and stories were being made up to justify why a company, which had no sales or net profit and whose stock prices had already tripled, was going to just keep going up. In March of the year 2000 the technology- laden NASDAQ Index rose above the 5,000 level after starting at about the 1,000 level in 1995.

An 80 percent correction ensued and now, almost 13 years later, the NASDAQ is just above the 3000 level, still 40 percent below its all-time high. Interestingly, the S&P Mid-Cap Index was at about 700 in the year 2000. No one wanted to own the average American company back then, but today the Mid-Cap Index trades just under 1,100, over a 50 percent gain in what was a pretty poor 13-year period for equity investors.

The real estate bubble followed, then a rush to commodities, then on to government bonds which now trade near record high prices and record low yields. The point is that when the majority is very fearful or excited it is best to be careful at a minimum, and perhaps consider acting in the opposite manner when these extremes are reached. This brings me to the present day.

The S&P Mid-Cap Index of the average American company has risen from below the 500 level in 2009 to almost 1,100 four years later – more than a doubling, not counting the dividend income an investor would have received. During this four-year period the average investor has been a seller of equity mutual funds almost every month until very recently, all while the market has been doubling. Again, acting the opposite of the majority would have been the best thing to do.

Recently, these average investors started to pull money from their bond and cash holdings to become net purchasers of stock mutual funds. Should we panic and sell our stocks because these investors are coming back to the market? We cannot predict the future, but this is actually an exciting development in my opinion. Note that my previous examples of investors being wrong were when the large majority were convinced they were right and made almost foolish decisions due to their extreme excitement or fear.

We are nowhere near the point of the average investor being overly excited, and in fact, they appear to just be starting the process of changing their thinking about equity investing. I suspect that at some point in the next few years we will see the excitement build to dangerous levels, but at this point the changing trend could be supportive of rising stock prices in the coming months and years as money flows from low-yielding savings instruments to the potentially more rewarding equity asset class. Riding this trend as it unfolds may be very profitable, but be careful as it progresses. When you hear of your acquaintances quitting their jobs to be stock traders, the next major market decline is probably close at hand.

Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing. Visit


AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper