The Flagler Beach experience isn’t just about oceanside sunrises, sea-to-table dining or people watching on the pier. Every business owner behind the city’s restaurants, hotels and shops has a story to tell, and the interactions you’ll have with these passionate, engaging locals will create some of your most lasting memories here. Here are five people behind those businesses, from restaurateurs to the owners of a pottery shop and art store, sharing their stories in their own words. Look for them on your next visit, and “Connect Like You Mean It” in Flagler.
What makes your business stand apart?
“I have local art that no one else has ... When people come into my store that are visiting, I’ve found that they want to find something made by someone here. They want a connection to Flagler Beach. Next thing you know, they walk out with a piece of artwork that now means something to them, and Flagler Beach travels somewhere else … They truly realize that they’ve discovered a small paradise.”
-Carla Cline, Owner, Flagler Surf Art & Stuff
What originally brought you to Flagler?
“Originally I’m from Long Island, New York. Started washing dishes when I was 16 years old in a little Italian restaurant in my hometown. I started formulating this idea that I wanted to own a restaurant on the beach. I love it here. It’s a very unique place. It’s a really cool beach town … I wake up in the morning, and I can’t wait to get to work to create and cook.”
-Gary Maresca, Chef and Owner of The Island Grille
What do you love most about Flagler?
“It’s such a blessing to be back in this little gem of a town. The beaches, the coquina rocks that we have, and the people are so neighborly too. … We’ve got fresh air from the beach and the salt air. You can taste the ocean almost at Oceanside.”
-Johnny Lulgjuraj, owner of Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill
What do you enjoy most about your work?
“I take ideas from normal food items we eat every day and I make them into sandwiches. We try to never put average on the menu … Yeah, I make good food, but I’m a guy who makes sandwiches, that’s all I do. To me, it’s the camaraderie, the customers that come in to tell us their stories, they tell us about their families or their kids … that’s amazing to me.”
-Bob Gamblain, owner of Beach Belly Bob’s Sandwich Shop
What experiences do you offer that create lasting memories for visitors?
“A lot of people deal with crazy jobs and a lot of stress in their lives. They can come in here and go away for an hour or two, relax and enjoy touching the earth again … It’s something that people really need on vacation because it is therapeutic and meditative. It’s beautiful to be by the ocean and be able to create a piece of art.”
-Heather Wales, Owner, Down to Earth Pottery
Discover more stories of our locals in our “Handcrafted and Homegrown” Video Series.