Family makes friends on Island
From left, the Samuelson extended family at the
BeachHouse restaurant on the Fourth of July included
Alivia Ahearn, Nate Ahearn, Laura Samuelson-Ahearn,
Noelle Ahearn, Gavin Ahearn, Craig and Mini Samuelson,
Sheena Samuelson-Hedlin and Blake Hedlin.
BRADENTON BEACH – The sky was getting darker as Craig Samuelson spoke poolside at Bayview condominiums. As he spoke, the sky started to rumble and he directed the kids out of the pool. There would be more swimming after the storm passed.
Samuelson was back on the Island on a well-deserved vacation. He and his family have seen a lot of Anna Maria Island over the past two decades. At first, it was with his wife, Mindi, and their three daughters, Angie, Laura and Sheena. Over time, as things evolved, the girls invited their friends and eventually brought boyfriends who turned into fiancés and then husbands.
Now Samuelson is directing his grandchildren out of the pool.
“When we started coming, Angie was 17, Laura was 15 and Sheena was 11,” he said. “Our favorite restaurants were the Sandbar, the BeachHouse and the Mar Vista and that’s when we met Ed Chiles.”
Samuelson said when his oldest daughter, Angie, wanted to stay longer than the rest of the family, she stayed at Ed Chiles home while he and his family were away.
“When we first met Ed, I had three blond daughters, and he had two daughters who were about the same age,” Craig Samuelson said. “Ed let the girls borrow his kayaks, and he gave us his phone number.”
Angie especially loved Bradenton Beach and thought of it as her safe haven. Sadly she died a few years ago at the age of 29. In fact, before she passed she told her family that they could find her in spirit there. Her memory is always with the family and coming back is now bittersweet.
The Samuelsons hail from Peoria, Ill., and they tried other vacation spots, but were not impressed.
“The first year, we went to Ft. Lauderdale, but it was way too commercial,” Samuelson said. “We didn’t like the high-rises, and we prefer the Gulf over the Atlantic Ocean.”
Samuelson said when the kids were young, their vacations were pretty much on the go with a lot of stops, amusements and National parks and other activities that could take the relaxation out of a vacation.
“When the girls all became teenagers, they said, ‘Time out! We want to stay up late, sleep late and spend the day in the sun on the beach/pool,’” he said. “From the beginning we found it to be more quaint and less commercial here. We love the Gulf of Mexico, and I like to play golf at the Manatee County Golf Course.”
Sheena, whose last name is now Hedlin and is married to Blake Hedlin, said they made a lot of memories here as they grew up.
“The condo is our home away from home, and we love the Island because it doesn’t feel overly crowded,” she said. “Ed has always been good to us and willing to help with any questions we've ever had about the island.”
In addition, Craig Samuelson said Ed has offered many times the use of his family vacation home in Montana.
Now Craig Samuelson is a grandpa and he gets to see the joy in his three grandkids – Gavin, 4 1/2; Alivia, 2 1/2; and Noelle, 7 months; enjoy the Island. Their mother is Laura, who is married to Nate Ahearn. Craig and Mindi drove down this year with the two oldest grandchildren while the rest of the family flew.
“The Samuelsons are a great example of the multi-generational customers we get on Anna Maria Island,” Ed Chiles said. “The husband and wife came down, and then they brought their kids, and now they are bringing their grandkids.
“I’ve seen his kids grow into beautiful young ladies and then beautiful women and finally beautiful mothers in the case of Laura,” he added. “They are really special people.”
As for their annual vacations, the Samuelsons growing family will continue to come, drawn by the laid-back style of the Island, the gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the generosity of one of the Island’s best-known restaurateurs on Anna Maria Island, Ed Chiles.
“The best part of this business is the people,” Chiles said. “My employees and our customers are all important, and it’s great to see diners come back every year.”