Monday, December 6, 2021

A Passion for Shells



Emily Savage and her shop Shells By Emily are testaments to how a simple idea or hobby can turn into a long-standing business. Savage started her business in 1985 in a 400-square-foot space at 651 S. Collier Boulevard and a cigar box as a cash register. It had $25 in it. “We started with two card tables that we bought for $1 a piece at a garage sale and folding chairs too,” remembers Emily. “I took a large 4×8 real estate sign, painted it and used it as a partition wall in the store between the public and private area.”

The catalyst for the business: A honeymoon visit from her niece and new husband. “They took me shelling,” she explains. “I had lived here three years, and had not gone shelling.” It was love at first sight. From that day and every one after for three years, Emily went shelling.

“We had so many shells that Herb (my husband) said I needed to open a business,” quips Emily. “I thought maybe a door is being opened to me. Sometimes, you walk through those doors, and sometimes, you turn your back on them.” Despite having no business experience, she walked through the door, and never looked back.

Today, Shells By Emily spans 1,750 square feet of retail and workshop design space, showcasing more than 600 types of shells and a wide array of original artwork, crafts and arrangements made of shells, driftwood and silk flowers. There are boxes of shells sold individually and some items are sold in small bags. A few shells can be ordered by the gallon. Emily’s inventory also includes collections of local shells that “shellers” have either donated or sold to her. She donates a lot of shells to Scout troops, churches and to the Marco Island shell Club for their craft sales which benefit the scholarship program of the Shell Club.

“We make almost everything we sell. We do workshops. We also make arrangements to order as well. We create the arrangement to a client’s specifications and personal price range,” says Emily. Judy Daye and Jae Kellogg are part of the creative team.

In addition to support from her husband Herb, Emily credits her success to Dorie Dufault, who she met at the Marco Island Shell Club. Dorie came to the brand new shell shop on Tuesday and Thursday and taught Emily floral arranging and design. Dorie’s husband, Roland, loved working with wood and created a number of items for the shop for many years.

Even with 30 years of business under her belt, Emily says she still is learning new things every day. Some of the most important business lessons she has learned include: “You never have enough money. You have to plan and have to try to decide what is going to be needed before you are down to nothing. Find out if there is a market for (your product). Find out if there is competition. Make sure you have the facility to provide (your product), and be sure you can do what you said…I did everything by the seat of my pants…Over the years, you never stop learning. If you do, then you might as well close the door.

“Most important of all is to love what you do,” she adds. “If you do, the passion will be there and it will show in your work.”




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