By Diana Colson
CB’s SALTWATER OUTFITTERS is the perfect shop for Siesta Key. Consisting of two stores located by Stickney Point Bridge on Siesta Key, it is a treasure trove of offerings related to boating, fishing, and the beach.Owned by Aledia Tush and her son, Mason Tush, the store is a densely packed place of action. It has 21 full-time and part-time employees, all busy keeping the shops afloat.
It didn’t start off that way. Aledia and her husband, Lee, purchased it in 1976 at the encouragement of her father, who had settled in Sarasota. At the time, it was just a small bait and fishing tackle shop which also offered a small assortment of things to tantalize tourists: mopeds, CB radios, small boat and bicycle rentals, rollaway beds and high chairs.
When Aledia and Lee met as students at Morehead State University in Kentucky, operating a rustic Mom-and-Pop business on an island in Florida was not exactly the life they envisioned. Oh, they knew they wanted to go into business, alright, but never thought it would be bait and tackle. A few years later, her father won them over with his recommendation. Her father was convinced of the potential of the property, so they jumped in feet first. “You guys will be fine,” he pronounced: and sure enough they were!
Fortuitously, Aledia had taken a double-major in Business Administration and Psychology, both useful in running a business, and Lee graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Aledia and Lee worked together for eight years before they bought into Culver Aluminum Construction Company, leaving Aledia to run CB’s. She took the helm, while Lee continued to function as bookkeeper/accountant.
Gradually, son Mason became involved, but first he had to do some growing up. In school, he played a lot of sports, and only occasionally was available to help at the store. He attended the University of Florida, where he studied marketing and graduated in 2005. Today, he works alongside his mother as a co-owner and operator of CB’s SALTWATER OUTFITTERS.
‘My parents started with a handful of boat rentals,” says Mason. “Now we have 20 boats: 18 here, and 2 more at the Sarasota Hyatt Regency, where we also operate a small gift shop.”
Siesta Parasail runs an operation at CB’s, and customers may book rides at the store. The boat goes out of the adjacent dock and heads for the Gulf, where—on a good day—upwards of 50 people experience the thrill of flying high over the Gulf of Mexico. Eric and Ty are the operators of Siesta Parasail.
CB’s used to own a jet ski company. Now they lease that space to Mike and Sheila Lewis, who own Siesta Key Jet Ski—a company that offers not only jet skis, but also paddleboards, kayaks, bikes and scooters.
CB’s offers high-quality outdoor apparel, clothes that dry quickly and provide UPF protection. They also offer a wide selection of premium flip flops and sandals as well as an enormous array of sunglasses, coolers, waterproof backpacks, t-shirts, shorts, hats and beach towels. They carry name-brands such as Columbia, Patagonia, Royal Robbins, Simms, Toad, Quiksilver, Reef, and Vissla.
From the bare-bones bait and tackle shop purchased in `76, CB’s has expanded. It now offers a wide variety of fishing equipment: rods, reels, line, lures, hooks, sinkers, vests, chum bags, floating tools, filet boards, bait buckets, live shrimp and the like. CB’s has been named an official ORVIS ENDORSED OUTFITTER. They are one of the first and one of the few ORVIS ENDORSED OUTFITTERS in Florida.
Aledia and Mason go to buying shows several times a year, shows such as ICAST, THE SURF SHOW, and OUTDOOR RETAILER. Aledia serves as head buyer. Emily Rebennack helps select clothing, as does Brad Kerns, who also handles accessories, shoes and sunglasses. CB’s manager Doug Forde also handles the ordering of fishing tackle.
The employees at CB’s are evidently quite happy. One employee—Randy Crawford— has worked at CB’s for 38 years. Manager Chris Campbell has been there 25 years, while Doug Forde has served for 20.
Says Mason: “We are really blessed to have 14 fishing captains with whom customers can book charters. Ed Hurst has been here the longest. He used to own the gas station two doors down.”
Mason continued: “We are lucky to have commercial water access on Siesta Key. This has allowed us to have many services and activities for the booming tourist economy and to serve our local residents. Live bait is the initial draw, bringing in an endless stream of people who want to buy sunglasses and t-shirts.”
A few years ago, the Tushs bought that nearby gas station. They remodeled the old building and turned it into a second store, giving them a chance to expand. They moved over all the children’s things: clothes, t-shirts, books, beach equipment and toys. This second shop, CB’s ISLAND OUTFITTERS, also features U.S. Diver’s snorkeling equipment masks, fins, snorkels, plus beach chairs and umbrellas.
The Tush family has been community minded. Aledia has served several years on the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She currently serves on the Executive Board. Mason is Chairman of the Sarasota Sports Fishing Angler’s Club Tarpon Tournament. Both are members of Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), the American Sportfishing Association, and Aledia was recently elected to her second term on the ASA Board of Directors as Southeastern U.S. Representative.
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters is located at 1249 Stickney Point Road, island side just over the Stickney Point Bridge. The store is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. 941-349-4400.