It's been 35 years since Anne and Bart Coleman opened Banana Bart's, an eclectic gift shop. The five rooms that make up the oldest vacation home on Destin Harbor have since been filled floor to ceiling with an ever-changing collection of nautical, tribal funk-themed collectables.

DESTIN — If you think you've seen it all inside the bright yellow building on Harbor Boulevard, chances are you haven't.

It's been 35 years since Anne and Bart Coleman opened Banana Bart's, an eclectic gift shop. The five rooms that make up the oldest vacation home on Destin Harbor have since been filled floor to ceiling with an ever-changing collection of nautical, tribal funk-themed collectables.

It may take more than one visit for customers to see everything on display, with many items hidden behind a sea of similar souvenirs. A blue statue of a half octopus/half man, a fish lock with a puzzle of steps to reveal the key hole and poison rings are just a few of the odd items in the shop.

"This house was built in the '30s," said Anne, boasting of the original flooring, walls and claw foot bathtub still inside. "When we bought this, it was considered an old house, not waterfront property. The first owners who we bought it from traded a used truck from their car lot to buy it. The mother was really mad because it was a darn good truck.

"Everyone else wanted to tear it down," she continued. "We were the only ones who wanted to keep it. We like old and funky."

The Colemans said when they first moved to town they hoped to be restaurateurs. It was a dream, the pair agreed, they are glad didn't come true.

"When we came down here, Destin didn't have anything," Bart said. "We sat on the beach all summer, asking ourselves what we were going to do."

 

"At the time kitchen stores were big, so we decided to open a business called Nautical Chef," Anne added. "We carried things to cook on your boat and for picnicking. Bart drove around the bay selling fish baskets to seafood markets."

Anne said one day, however, someone approached her about selling jewelry at the shop counter. Within one hour all the jewelry was gone.

"We said, 'We're selling the wrong thing,' " said Anne, who went to school for art. "Bart really didn't want to be a T-shirt shop, but people kept asking for them, so I started hand-painting them."

The couple began collecting items when they traveled.

Much of Destin is unrecognizable from when the Colemans first moved to town, and theirs is one of only a few businesses that have remained much the same.

The Colemans, if you take the time to listen, have a lot of old stories to share.

U.S. Highway 98 was just two lanes in the early '80s, and customers would parallel park along the road to shop at the harbor, according to Anne. The Banana Bart's backyard view once had a view of the Gulf of Mexico before hundred of condos were built and obstructed the sights.

Anne said she enjoyed watching water skiers coast along the harbor before it was a no-wake zone. Sea planes would also land in the narrow strip of water frequently. It only took 20 minutes to drive to Grayton Beach for dinner, and going to the "far end of Destin" meant the Downtown Destin Shopping Center next to Main Street.

The city of Destin, she said, was not happy about the bright yellow color of the Banana Bart's building. The city also declared their Volkswagen Bus with the words "Banana Bart's" painted across it a sign, so they were not allowed to park it along the road.

The tourism attention has now moved toward Walton County Road 30A, and the Colemans get a lot fewer "big money customers" than they once did. But even though Destin is no longer the small fishing village it once was, the Colemans said they don't mind the changes one bit.

"Our clientele has changed, but it is steady," Anne said. "We have people who came in when they were kids and now they are bringing their kids. That's kind of fun."

"We like where we are, a lot," Bart chimed in. "All of the smaller mom and pops are no more. Who wants to come here and shop at a store that's already in your hometown? If you're looking for something unique, that's what we try to carry."