St. Pete Beach has a distinctive Midwest vibe to it. There's no shortage of vacationers from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, etc. Residents often hail from the breadbasket, too. I think this has been true for a long time. I remember my grandmother noting essentially the same thing, forty plus years ago when I first started visiting the area with her and my grandfather. Our vacation stays at the Howard Johnson hotel on Gulf Boulevard are treasured memories for me (the HoJo is now a Hilton Garden Inn).
There seems to be more folks from the East coast in the area, lately. Not a bad or a good thing, just a thing. An observation.
We've met a few vacationers from New Jersey on this trip (retirees) and I've noticed several license plate frames touting Rutgers and other East coast schools. Maybe that could be viewed as a Midwest thing, though, with Rutgers now in the Big Ten. Maybe not.
Home prices have shot up dramatically over the last few years. I think Covid forced a wave of people out of NYC and other big cities permanently; perhaps vacation attitudes changed, too, as part of that.
St. Pete Beach has a character that, I think, is distinctly its own, unique among the Gulf Coast beach towns. It's down to earth, diverse, and vibrant. It's not pretentious at all. No one cares what you do (or did) for a living, or even what your last name is. People would rather talk about the early bird special at Leverock's than hear about how important you are (or were). It's fun and interesting and active and safe. It's wonderful, and I love it.
Like all cities that are lucky enough to have a defining personality, St. Pete Beach knows itself, too. It has confidence. Not arrogance; not even swagger. Just awareness and comfort in being true to itself. Confidence.
An influx of new folks won't change that.
Not overnight, at least.
As I just finished writing (and editing) this post, I watched a guy walk across the street as he headed to the beach. He had a pool noodle in one hand and a caged bird in the other, and was wearing an Ohio State t-shirt.
postposted by matt in Saturday, April 1, 2023