By the Buoy

Temple Terrace– Thousands of commuters pass by the large buoy tree daily, visible off of Interstate 75 and Fletcher Avenue. The tree is more than just a creative landmark. It represents a movement towards preservation as an art and way of life.

Joe and Kim Brown are originally from Key West, and bought the half-acre property in 1985. It was once a bait shop but since fishing has evolved into a more expensive hobby involving permits and the latest fishing gear, the Browns chose to revert their business into a gift shop in 2001. They’ve been building onto the tree strung with buyos ever since.

“All buoys are numbered and have a specific color when they are made,” said Brown, pointing to her toppling creation. “They have to.”

Although the floating devices aren’t being used for their original navigating purposes, their importance and uniqueness remains. The Brown’s have been salvaging unwanted items since their move from Key West and they proudly display their works before the eyes of Florida residents and visitors.

And just as important as each buoy is, so too are the rusty surfboards and wrecked ship parts carefully positioned about the lawn. They all tell a story that couldn’t be told from any landfill. No wall goes unpainted, no corner undecorated on the tiny property off of Morris Bridge Road.

Kim Brown finished sewing a handbag she made from a coffee bag, stacking them on top of each other in preparation for their sale.

“If people bought these to go shopping, it could save 300 to 400 plastic bags that would otherwise go to a landfill,” Brown said.

Their small gift shop is filled with original glass work, ceramics and candles. Although their business isn’t bustling with tourists, they make decorations for restaurants such as Gaspar’s, a restaurant on 56th Street in Temple Terrace that connects to a deep sea theme.

“I always wondered what this place was because I see it every day. I think it’s cool that they don’t need to buy anything to make a living,” said Corey Lyons, a sales representative who passes the shop on his daily commute.

The preservation art movement the couple partakes in is not just about reusing old items. They convert artifacts into entirely new concepts.

“We don’t like to use the word recycling. We are conservationists,” Brown said.

Hong Kong Willie encourages visitors to look up its blog online, which can be found by using Google’s search engine.


–Courtney Allen


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