Glen Steinke, owner of Sail Honeymoon Inc. stands in front of the many kayaks that he rents on the Dunedin Causeway.
DUNEDIN – The secret to success is doing something that you love. That’s the lesson Glen Steinke learned more than 20 years ago when he was looking for a career change and didn’t know where to turn.
It was in 1992 when Steinke, 55, decided he needed to change the course of his life.
“I was in the aftermarket car business,” he said. “I did work for car dealers. I grew up in the car business, but I saw the industry fading away so I thought I’d look for something different to do – but what?”
Back then he was in his early 30s and he loved sailing. He decided that was the way he would turn. Sail Honeymoon Inc. was born and the business took up residence along the Dunedin Causeway, where it exists today.
“Sailing had been a passion of mine,” said Steinke. “I went out and got three sailboats, three kayaks and two windsurfers and we got underway.”
Steinke remembers those early days of the business when he wondered if he was going to make it or not.
“I opened in February, a terrible time of the year,” he said laughing. “There were no vacationers here yet, just snowbirds. I can remember looking up and down the Causeway and seeing only two cars. I think the first full two days I spoke with one person; there was more than a little doubt.”
Steinke recalled things getting better fairly quickly after those first few lean days. The weekend came and people came out and he remembers hearing something from his customers that he never heard in the car business.
“People would look at my prices and say, not bad, or is that all, those were words I never heard in my previous business,” he said. “Even now I get maybe two complaints a year about prices, that’s all.”
The lack of complaints Steinke said can be directly related to the mood of the customers.
“In this business I realized that people are here to have fun. Here’s a boat and an island so go and enjoy yourself. When all is said and done everybody is still happy and that is the rewarding part of this business,” he said.
Steinke said the location of his rental business on the Dunedin Causeway is also a key to his success.
“The majority of my business is local people,” he said. “They just want to get away from the daily grind and the kids. Clearwater Beach isn’t vacation to the local people, they want something quieter, the sand on a barrier island.”
Steinke has more than his share of stories from all those years on the causeway.
“On three different occasions I’ve seen dolphins give birth right in front of me,” he said.
His favorite story however involved two women from Iowa.
“The two women were here asking about the kayaks and Honeymoon Island,” he said. “I talked to them for about 10 minutes when one of the women turned to her friend and said, ‘Cathy do you think there is water on the other side of that island?’ ”
Since his rental business began in 1992, Sail Honeymoon has grown considerably. Steinke rents kayaks, stand up paddleboats and other water toys as he calls them. From the days when he had just those three sailboats and three kayaks and windsurfers he is now able to accommodate many more customers.
“Right now we can put more than 200 people out on the water, it is a marked change,” he said.
All that doesn’t come easily however; there is constant investment in new equipment.
“I want to keep the equipment fresh and nice looking,” he said. “I get new kayaks every year, new equipment means people will respect it,” he said.
Despite that, the heavy use causes the kayaks to break down with dents and scratches. Even then said Steinke there is a positive note.
“When I change the kayaks I put the used ones on Craig’s List and they are gone within 30 days. I’d be a wealthy man if I could figure out a way to make used kayaks,” he said.
In addition to the rental business Steinke also operates a small food service business on the property.
Steinke, his wife, Tina, and their daughter have lived in Dunedin for nearly 20 years. Their future looks bright.
“I recently signed a long term contract with the city of Dunedin so I’ll be here for a while,” he said. “Part of the agreement was that I build a new facility and I’m going to have one building which will house the rental shop, the office, and the restaurant. We’re going to get rid of the trailers that are here now. We’re also going to build a Tiki Deck so we’ll have a good tropical feel to the property when it is finished.”
When he talks about the past Steinke remembers the good times. When he looks ahead to the future it is extremely positive. When asked what keeps him so positive he replies, why not?
“Face it, I’ve got a great job. I must have, people tell me that every day,” he said. “I’m not stuck in an office; I’m out on the beach in the sun every day. Maybe a downside is that I’m working on every holiday but even then look where I am. I’ve got a great job.”