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Bee People: Pat Arbutine
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Pat Arbutine stands amid shelves of beautiful treasures.
Patricia Louise Chovanec Arbutine is a longtime resident and business owner in the Belleair Bluffs/Largo area. The Arbutine family owns Belleair Coins, Gold and Diamonds and The Silver Queen.

Belleair Bee editor Chary Southmayd chats with Pat Arbutine.

– Where did you grow up?
“In Western Pennsylvania – Blairsville. That’s where I spent most of my life. It was a small Norman Rockwell-type town. My grandparents were immigrants. My maiden name, Chovanec, is Slovak.”

- What was your first job?
“W.T. Grant – the quarter store. I was 16, in high school. My family wasn’t weathy, so I worked after school, Saturdays and on Christmas vacation.

“After that I worked for Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania for 10-and-a-half years. Everything I know, I learned from them. I was an operator, supervisor, then transferred to the business office. I was in the first commercial business group of women who installed phones from the desk, rather than the men going out. We made $95 a week, and the guys made $127.

“I’ve always been a salesman. Right now I’m the front-end designed on our Web site. This is about my seventh career.”

- You are most closely associated with The Silver Queen?

“The Silver Queen in my baby. She was my idea – built on the back of Belleair Coins, which we opened in ’73. Art had retired from the Air Force. We had his coin collection and Indian jewelry we brought from Arizona where we had been stationed.

“When we opened, we only had $300 left, and we were too dumb to know we couldn’t make it. We worked very, very hard.

“I sat up at night at the table after working, taking care of the house, doing the wash, etc. and studied silverware – piece by piece. For about two years we sold it wholesale in the ‘Antique Trader.’ We worked all the time. It was our whole life.”

- When did you and Art marry?
“In ’63. I didn’t get married until I was 29, which was old in that day. I met him in my hometown at the Italian Club on Sunday night. That’s where everybody went.”

- Tell me about your family.
“Greg is 39, Chris is 38 and Jay is 37. There are only 22 months between them. I was in “Dear Abby” about having kids closest together. We were stationed in Spain.

“I have five grandchildren – Chris has one son, and Jay has three sons and one daughter.”

- Talk about the changes in Belleair Bluffs.
“I love Belleair Bluffs. I got involved there to have a hometown for my kids. I was the lady who nagged way back in the ’70s so the kids in Belleair Bluffs could go and play in Belleair. I was the first woman chairman of the Belleair Bluffs Property Owners. I got involved in everything.

“I never wanted to leave Belleair Bluffs. I did cry when the truck with all the gold and silver pulled away to come here (to the new location in Largo). We still live there and own the buildings.

“I think right now there’s a good feeling in Belleair Bluffs. I couldn’t stop smiling at the Fourth of July picnic at the Community Center, which we worked so hard to build. I think Belleair Bluffs is better than ever.”

- How did you feel when your son, Chris, decided to get into politics?
“I said, ‘Oh no, what do you want to do that for? It’s too mean.’ That’s one reason I would never run for anything myself. But, believe me, being the mother is worse. When someone says something about my kid, that hurts. I’m very proud of Chris. I’m proud of all my sons.”

- How do you spend your spare time?
“I work on my computer. That’s all I ever do. I build my Web site. I do that night and day.”

- Favorite movie?
“I can tell you my favorite books. They are the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel, because she attributes all the progressive things that have happened to women. It’s wonderful. I’m a feminist, I guess. I always have been.”

– Describe yourself in three words.
“Aggressive, compassionate, liberal.”

- What is your proudest achievement?
“I guess I’m supposed to say my children, but I always remember when we opened the new store in 1984 and I drove up and saw the sign and thought, ‘This is ours.’”

- What person most influenced your life?
“My mother, Catherine Chovanec. She always believed in me.”
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