Swimming in shells at Raders Reef
Louise Bolger | sun
From left, Tammy Crawford, Zachary and
Beverly Chouinard offer shells from
around the world.
Walking along a beach is truly one of life’s pleasures. We’re drawn to the water not only for its beauty and serenity, but also because of the creatures that live within it, creatures whose unique outer layers become our treasurers.
As we know, shells found on the beach are the hard protective outer layer created by an animal that lives in the sea. But Holmes Beach has a place where you can find almost as many shells as the beach a few streets away, and it’s been there for a very long time. Raders Reef on Marina Drive is starting its 35th year in business and its owner, Beverly Chouinard, says its current location is only the second one in the life of this iconic shop.
Chouinard and her husband, Jack Rader, became interested in shelling while living in Puerto Rico for several years where Jack Rader was an air traffic controller. After he was transferred to Bradenton, they decided to turn their passion into a business and opened Raders Reef. Jack Rader’s sudden death brought their daughter, Tammy Crawford, into the business to help her mother in running the shop and she has been there ever since.
Beverly Chouinard imports shells from all over the world as well as acquiring local shells mostly from personal collections individuals are giving up. The majority of the imported shells on display in the shop are from India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Mexico and are actually by-products, since one of the food sources in these countries are the animals that produce the shells.
The shop is overflowing with shells with baskets full of sand dollars, star fish in a variety of sizes, star shells, tulip shells, knobby stars and many more. You can also purchase items made with the shells starting with their famous shell Christmas ornaments, all hand made by Beverly and Tammy, and shell animals like turtles, owls, elephants and dogs. They have beautiful flowers made out of shells as well as shell mirrors, picture frames, napkin holders and shell balls. It’s also a great place to pickup up a gift or decorate your beach house with plaques, serving trays, giant sponges and lovely coral.
Crawford collects vintage jewelry and has a substantial display as well as more casual beach jewelry made with shells and shark’s teeth. But don’t be distracted by the T-shirts, beachy cocktail napkins and greeting cards, Raders Reef is not a souvenir shop, It’s really for people who want to collect and decorate with outstanding shells with affordable price tags.
For those who like to create their own works of art, you can purchase mirror boards to make your own shell mirrors as well as balls to create your own Christmas ornaments and wooden boxes to adorn with shells. You can purchase loose shells from Raders Reef’s large collection or gather your own shells right on Anna Maria’s beaches. Raders Reef has become popular with brides who want to design their own table centerpieces and wedding decorations.
Chouinard has seen a lot of changes on Anna Maria in 35 years, but is happy that Holmes Beach has not changed as much as other areas on Anna Maria. She still gets repeat business with the children and grandchildren of customers coming back year after year and is always happy to see new faces. She wants to thank her sons, Terry and Troy Rader, for helping her and Tammy through the years, and a special thanks to her husband, Bernie Chouinard, who helps out a lot behind the scenes.
A trip to Raders Reef is like a great walk on the beach without the sand. Stop by and meet the women who have built one of Holmes Beach’s fixtures, and while you’re there say hello to Zachary, their mascot who just happens to like Johnny Cash and seashells.
5508 Marina Drive,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday – Saturday
MasterCard, Visa, Discover