When Angela and Biff Lagan decided to move from No Name Key, an island with just 43 homes, to the Gulfport area, they had no idea their search for a part-time job for "play money" would lead them into small business ownership.
After working in law enforcement for 33 years, Biff retired nearly a year ago and the Lagan's decided to head to Gulfport and spend their golden years here.
"We miss it, but we couldn't afford to retire there," Angela Lagan said. All of the homes on No Name Key run on solar power and generators because they're not connected to electricity, power lines, etc, she said.
The couple had spent the past five years visiting friends who live in Gulfport. They walked on Beach Boulevard, dinned at local restaurants and even "shopped in this store," she said.
The Lagan's decided to move to the area because it's "as close as you can be to the Keys."
Angela Lagan spotted a sign in front of the Gulfport Beach Bazaar stating there was a "business opportunity." They walked inside and fell in love with the store. The Lagan's became the new owners of the bazaar on August 1st of this year.
Since then, they've added more space for vendors and larger items like repurposed tables and chairs.
"We're trying to add more home decor and furniture," she said.
She says they're trying to fill the shop with unique items and recycled or repurposed items. Lagan says her husband Biff found an old coffee table, added a waterproof map on top and finished the edging with rope to complete a nautical theme. They took old wooden chairs and transformed them into an upholstered bench for two.
"I would never have imagined we would be here," she said while greeting customers at the bazaar.
Lagan says there are now 32 vendors in the "mini mall" with nine on the waiting list. That's even after they created more space for vendors when the real estate agent in the front office decided to relocate. Lagan says he moved out and they expanded the main area. The entire building is 3,300 square feet.
"Each vendor has their own little nook," Lagan said.
The store sells everything from "Keep Gulfport Weird" t-shirts to retro home decor, jewelry and glassware.
While it's tough for Lagan to pick a favorite item or even vendor in the store, she says it's the history that excites her about The Gulfport Beach Bazaar. Built in 1952 it was originally a Post Office until twenty years later, a retail section was added. In 1972 the main Post Office moved to 22nd Ave S. in St. Petersburg and the eclectic store began to expand.
"I love the history of the building," she said.
There is still a Community Post Office in the rear of the store. She says every day, customers zoom past her register to pick up their mail in the back. 103 of the 120 Post Office Boxes are rented out, she said.
Although the Lagan's bought the business, they are not in charge of the Post Office. She says there is still one process that has not been decided, the contract for the postal unit.
The postal unit in the back of the store is still under contract with the previous owners. Angela and Biff are applying for the contract so they can take over the unit, however, they won't find out until early next year if they are awarded the contract from the United States Postal Service.
"The Post Office has been here since 1952," she said.
The Lagan's are trying to preserve the history of the building while adding more space, new vendors and items. However, they say longtime customers will notice a staffing change after Friday.
The Lagan's say they're saddened to hear that Mary Orzech, postal clerk of 18 years, will be leaving on Friday. Lagan is inviting everyone to a retirement party for Orzech on Friday, Nov. 30 at 4 p.m. at The Gulfport Beach Bazaar.
She hopes everyone will come out, show support and thank Orzech for 18 years of service.
While a lot has happened in the past 3 1/2 months of new ownership, Lagan is overwhelmed by the welcoming spirit and community support.
The city has become the inspiration behind the shop's new slogan . . . "A fun little Bazaar in a Bizarre little town."