'Something kind of funky': Old Destin eclectic gift shop Banana Bart's

Savannah Vasquez
Anne and Bart Coleman have owned and operated Banana Bart's in Destin for 30 years.

Set back from U.S. Highway 98 along the harbor, painted in bright yellow, blue and red, sits one of the oldest and most eclectic shops in Destin, Banana Bart’s.

The store, which first opened in 1985, was once a kitchen goods shop called The Nautical Chef.

“When we moved to Destin there was nothing here and we thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” said owner Anne Coleman. “At the time, kitchen goods stores were very popular so we opened the Nautical Chef and sold things for your boat and picnicking and grill baskets.

“Then one day someone gave me some earrings and we sold out within half an hour and I thought, ‘We are selling the wrong thing!’ And it just kind of evolved from there.”

The store was originally located in a small shack on the north side of U.S. Highway 98 but soon outgrew the cramped space and was split between the north and south locations.

“Back then you could park on 98 and people started running back and forth across the street and we couldn’t have that!” Anne said, adding that in 1993 the entire shop was moved to the south location at 620 Harbor Boulevard, where it remains.

Today, Banana Bart’s carries everything from jewelry and T-shirts to one-of-a-kind home décor and quirky nautically-themed items. But the owners agree it is not your typical souvenir shop.

“We just buy what we think is neat,” said Anne. “It depends on what we find. We try to get things that are different, that you don’t see anywhere else. We carry a lot of local artists and handmade things.”

The building that houses Banana Bart’s plays as much of a role in the atmosphere and character of the shop as the items within.

“This was actually the first vacation home built on the harbor in the early 1930’s,” said Anne. “It belonged to a family in Alabama that owned a used car business and they traded a used truck for the whole lot.”

Anne said that when she and her husband first bought the property in 1985, it came partially furnished. Walking through the store, it is easy to recognize the original uses of the rooms as the kitchen table and footed bath tub are just two of the original home items re-purposed in their displays.

So now to the big question — why the name Banana Bart’s? Well, it’s the name-sake of the other half of the Coleman couple.

“People are always amazed that there really is a Bart and it’s not just something we made up,” laughed Anne. “We wanted something kind of funky, but Bart said, ‘No, I can’t live with that,’ so I said ‘Well, you better come up with something better then.’ But he never did, so it stuck—Banana Bart’s.”

As for Bart, a man of few words, he couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out over the past 30 years.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes but it’s been fun,” he said. “We couldn’t have picked a better place to live.”

Browsing Banana Bart’s is an experience, you never know what you may find on the shelves or bathtubs!

Be on the lookout for these fun items:

-Skeleton toilet paper holder

-Mer-horse wall/ceiling hanging

-Quirky garden planters

-A bathtub full of stuffed animals

Funky finds at Banana Bart's