One of the city’s newest and most interesting storefronts truly takes its name to heart.
Off The Beaten Path is just that, in both its actual physical location and the products, items and services it has to offer.
The consignment shop at 221 N. Safford Ave.sits right along the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, tucked slightly away from the main drags of Tarpon Avenue and the Sponge Docks.
"As far as this corner, I think I saw the potential in it and it just had a great feel," said Paul Strope, who co-owns the store with his wife, Stephanie. "We saw the for-sale sign and the building sitting here and we just thought, ‘Wow, what a great location.’ "
Upon pulling up to the shop – there’s actually a second building on the property that is also utilized – the brightly painted and decorated exterior essentially sets a tone that what’s inside is also a little less than ordinary.
"It’s an eclectic array is how I like to describe it," Stephanie said of the ceiling-to-floor display of products large and small that pack Off The Beaten Path’s snug confines. Walking by a chiming cuckoo clock while glancing up to notice a colorful table and chair set nailed upside down to the ceiling buoys Strope’s description further.
Every piece that is in the shop, though – items range from $2 to $2,000 –- is there because the owners wanted it there she stressed. "We offer products that we believe in. We wouldn’t sell anything that we wouldn’t consider putting in our own home."
Along with a wide selection of artwork from painters and sculptors, much of the shop’s product base is re-purposed antique or vintage furniture – a specialty and passion of the owners. But before any of it could be put on display the larger re-purposing project of fixing up an old house in desperate need of some attention came first.
The Stropes, who previously ran their business with no central, home store, said they used a full family effort to gut and renovate the two buildings and were able to stick to the business model of re-purposing and reusing to get them ready for business this past November.
That sustained effort to take a rundown property and turn it into a money-generating business that is also pleasant to look at hasn’t gone unnoticed.
"Off The Beaten Path is a wonderful gift shop and what they did with this building is absolutely amazing," said Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce President Sue Thomas during a city commission meeting last month when recognizing the Stropes with a Beautification Award currently displayed along Safford Avenue in the property’s front yard. "I really didn’t think that house was going to last [without being razed]."
Cosmetic improvements to the general area of Off The Beaten Path are coming in the near future, as well. The construction on Safford Avenue and the Pinellas Trail has forced the store to shut down a number of times and hurts traffic flow now, but it’s all for the best, Paul Strope said.
"We know that the beautification of the trail is going to be a plus. What they’re doing from Tarpon Avenue all the way to the new bike park, with the trees and the benches, we’re really looking forward to it."
That positive outlook about the trail is how the Stropes feel about Tarpon Springs’ overall future and is why they chose to open up shop there as opposed to a couple other North Pinellas options.
"I think it’s a real plus because Tarpon is definitely going in the right direction or we wouldn’t even have wasted our time coming here," Stephanie Strope said.
"We see the potential in Tarpon’s economic growth and our focus is on the local people," Paul Strope said, adding that a loyal customer base of people who stop by weekly continues to grow. "The ones who shop in Tarpon all year long, while we welcome the snow birds and the tourists, the local people are the ones who keep the economy going during the offseason."
Off The Beaten Path is open every day except Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays. The owners also do estate sales and will begin doing them on-site in about two to three weeks, Paul Strope said.
The shop can be reached by calling (727) 483-9926 or going to its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/o.t.b.path.