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The 6-foot-tall green alien sticker on the front door is the first sign that Survive Anything isn’t like every other specialty outdoor retailer. The zombie mannequin inside might be the next. The Sarasota, Florida, store boasts a distinct selection of camping supplies among gun ammunition and enough tools to survive the apocalypse.
Michael Crea, 35, an avid camper and Boy Scout leader, opened the store more than five years ago in the same plaza as one of his tattoo and piercing parlors as a way to make his passion of surviving in the outdoors — most often, camping out with his kids in state parks — more than just a hobby.
“There’s no other place in Sarasota that you can buy camping gear, survival gear, military gear, and all kinds of gun parts,” Crea said. “Our shop is chock-full of stuff that you can’t get anywhere else in town. I try to stock the stuff that you can’t just go to Walmart and buy.”
From doomsayers to recreational outdoorists, Crea wants his customers to be prepared for anything, whether it’s an unlikely zombie invasion or a probable natural disaster, such as the aftermath of the hurricane earlier this year.
Odds and ends
Survive Anything earned its own storefront because Crea was successful at selling knives and other survival essentials online, and shipping orders from the back of his tattoo shop. In the 1,800-square-foot shop, you can find gas masks, swords, pepper spray, bulletproof vests, and survival books. Crea said he’s also thinking about adding Army Navy backpacks and equipment to his in-store inventory because there isn’t a surplus store in town anymore.
On the website, there’s even more. Crea said surviveanythingfl.com is a catalogue for a half million products that can be shipped from his suppliers to the store for customers to pick up free of charge. Guns are one of the most popular products only available online.
But he keeps the shop stocked with the oddities. “At the National Preppers and Survivalists expo in Jacksonville, I just picked up these stainless steel, portable woks that run off of sterno. I wanted one for myself so I decided to bring them into the store. I like to sell stuff that I use,” Crea said. “It’s always fun to explain to people how to use different items and how stuff works.”
When Hurricane Irma hit the southern coast at the end of August this year, Floridians — many who had never before stepped foot inside Survive Anything — cleared the shelves of radios, MREs and almost everything else. “You wouldn’t believe some people didn’t have a flashlight,” Crea said. “They didn’t have a regular AM/FM radio. When I was a kid, that’s all we had. Nobody seems to have that nowadays.” He even extended hours in the wake of the storm.
The recovery work continues to bring him business with many people volunteering in Puerto Rico and South Florida wanting to take freeze-dried meals, backpacks and medical kits. To train others members of the community in safety and preparedness, Crea offers firearm and medical classes, which he teaches in a classroom space on the tattoo parlor side.
In November, Crea also became certified to instruct CPR and First Aid lessons through the American Heart Association. “We’re going to be offering classes pretty soon,” he said. “I just ordered all my dummies. You have to be certified first and then you can be an instructor.” He said selling survival gear isn’t complete without teaching people how to survive.
Service at all hours
Wanting to be available to his customers around the clock, Crea said he isn’t shy about giving his cell phone number to customers. “You can call me up and be like, ‘Hey man, can you order me A, B, C, and D?’ I’ve been in business so long that I’d rather somebody get in touch with me whenever they need something than lose that business,” he said.
In a similar laid-back style, store hours are flexible. The survival shop is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Sunday, whereas Z-Edge Body Piercing and Tattoo is open seven days a week, sometimes until midnight. Crea said oftentimes, friends of tattoo customers or piercing customers browse while they wait. “Anytime somebody wants to come in and get something after hours, we have signs on the door that point them to the tattoo shop,” Crea said. “We’re able to bounce back and forth to serve more people that way.”
While Survive Anything might be the most tattooed and pierced of the outdoor retailers, Crea, his three employees and his customers are just as prepared, if not more, for adventure.