From shark teeth to shells, visitors to museum take home a little piece of Destin
From shark teeth to starfish Christmas ornaments, the Destin History and Fishing Museum has it all for sale.
For years the museum, at 108 Stahlman Ave. across from the Destin Community Center, has opened its doors to show the local lore of the fishing village and its founding families.
But the museum also has a wide selection of the things folks can take home to remind them of their visit to the area.
And sea shells top the list, according to Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the museum.
Marler has put labels on small containers for sale for people who want to fill up with shells or whatever they might find at the beach.
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However, for $5 the museum has a tub of shells folks can dig through to fill up the small container to take home.
“Grandparents will sit here 30 minutes digging through and making sure each bucket has the same thing in it for their grandkids. It’s really cute watching people dig through,” Blue said.
Brenda Cook of Vevay, Indiana, was digging through the shells Friday morning.
“I think this is awesome,” Cook said.
“I don’t want to go to the shops where everything is made in China,” said Cook, who noted that she liked the shells the best.
Cook said she loved touring the museum, but she also liked the idea of being able to take a little of Destin back home.
“I’m taking a lot of Destin back with me,” she laughed as she carried her bag of goodies out the door.
Why the fascination with the shells?
"We’re so accustomed to what we have that we don’t see the uniqueness in it,” Blue said.
She said she has even had people ask about the oyster shells in the area around the Primrose seine boat display outside and if they could have one.
“We use them in parking lots … and they think it’s fascinating,” Blue said.
The museum has a variety of shells for sale, such as conch shells to left-handed whelk and polished melon shells.
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“I actually sold a conch horn this morning. Folks love the different kinds,” she said.
Another big seller are the Christmas ornaments, which are made in house.
They have a “treasures of the seas” ornament with local white sand and a few small shells inside. Plus, there is a bigger ornament called the “three S's of the seas” which features the sand, starfish and seahorse. All the ornaments are sold in gift boxes.
There also is a starfish ornament that comes in a gift box.
“A lot of people like our ornaments because you're not going to find that anywhere else because we make that here,” Blue said. “They are an inexpensive token to take to someone.”
As for making them in house, Morgan Sparks was at the museum Friday morning putting together some of the ornaments. Sparks is working toward a Bright Futures Scholarship that requires 75 to 100 hours of community service, so she is helping out at the museum.
The museum also offers a wide collection of shark jaws and shark teeth.
“Little boys love the shark jaws and shark teeth,” Blue said. “I think a lot of people have a fascination with sharks … anything shark people love.”
In the shark exhibit, there is a jaw from a tiger shark that people can take photos with.
"I let the parents hold it for the child in front of their face for a picture. They are tickled to death,” she said.
The museum also has a scavenger hunt for the young and young at heart, and if they find everything on the list, the reward is a free shark tooth.
“They are so excited,” said Dave Fraser, a museum volunteer.
“You’d think you were giving them gold,” Blue said.
In addition to the shells, ornaments and shark items, the museum has several other things in its gift area such as mugs, koozies, T-shirts in small to XXX, and books from local authors such as Ben Marler Jr. and local historian Hank Klein, to name a few.
There also are laminated fold-out guides for different fish in the area as well as posters.
All the money from the gift shop goes back into operation of the museum to meet its mission statement: “preserve and honor the history of Destin.”
And revenue from the gift shop is on the rise. Last year in June, the gift shop brought in $1,424 for the month. This year, the shop brought in $3,299 in June.
“Sales are up and that’s good. I think keeping nice things help,” Blue said. “People are fed up and are getting out and spending money. They were cooped up for so long … but now they are going on vacation and getting little prizes to take home.”
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