The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 44 - July 22, 2009


Feeling Swell under new ownership

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Feeling Swell has changed hands.
Shown here shaking hands are new owners, Ken Columbia,
left, and Jeff Levey. Also shown are bartender Trish Paliscak
and patrons Christa Dunn and her daughter Hannah, 9, who are
visiting the Island from Bluefield, Va.

ANNA MARIA — Look for a new menu featuring quality burgers at Feeling Swell.

The restaurant on Gulf Drive has changed hands, and new owners Ken Columbia and Jeff Levey have some changes planned.

"We’re going to offer a full line of really good burgers," Columbia said. "We’ll have bison burgers, veggie burgers and, of course, burgers from high quality beef."

Columbia and Levey said the polled people to see what they’d want, and everyone wanted to be able to get a good burger at the north end of the Island.

"We’ll also offer fries since everyone said they wanted that, too," Columbia added.

The new fryer has been installed, so restaurant patrons can get fries with their burgers or tater tots or jalapeno poppers.

A product akin to the funnel cakes called funnel fries will be available for people to sample as well.

There will be low-key music inside the restaurant itself on weekend nights.

"It’ll be live music, but it’ll be quiet enough that people can hear each other talk, and it’ll be inside so there won’t be an impact on the neighbors," Levey said.

The surfboard and paddleboard rental side of the business is probably going to go away.

"It just hasn’t been profitable," Columbia said.

Some of the boards will be sold and others will be used in the decor at the restaurant, which may ultimately have a new name.

The new partners also plan to put fans and misters in the outside dining area so it’ll be cool and pleasant out there even in the summer. A fence will be placed out there so that people going to the patio area must enter through the restaurant itself.

"We wanted to make sure we don’t have a negative impact on our neighbors, and this way, no one will be cutting through residential yards to get to the patio," Columbia said.

Levey is also a partner in Ginny’s and Jane E.’s.

"We want to appeal to the locals and the visitors," Levey said. "We plan to keep the restaurant family oriented, and we’ll offer the same great food and ambiance that people have come to love at Ginny’s."

The partners plan to capitalize on the economy of scale that will naturally flow from ordering provisions for both venues.

Feeling Swell, located at 9903 Gulf Drive, is open from 11 a.m. until midnight or so seven days a week. The phone number is 941-896-7879.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story
Protect yourself from fraud

Investment Corner

Investors have every right to be nervous and concerned about their investment. After the worst market decline since the Great Depression, not only did investors lose a lot of value of their holdings, but the ugly face of greed was revealed in several high profile cases of fraud.

The largest of these was Bernie Madoff, who built a Ponzi scheme that lasted for more than two decades. He used the lure of very high, but false, investment returns to entice investors to place their investment capital under his control, then used the incoming funds to pay earlier investors what they mistakenly thought was a return on their invested capital. Mr. Madoff, about 70 years of age, recently was awarded a 150 year prison term for the audacity and scope of his crime.

Two other cases of fraud have impacted investors right here in the Sarasota / Bradenton area. The smaller of the two is Arthur Nadel, and investment advisor who ran a scheme similar to Madoff, but on a smaller scale with investors losing several hundred million, instead of the many billions lost in the Madoff case. The other, which is just now getting to the trial stage, is the Stanford Financial fiasco. In this case, Allen Stanford and his firm bilked billions from investors by selling them certificates of deposit issued by a bank in Antigua, promising returns as high as 16 percent.

Of course, we now know that the money from new investors was used to pay the previous investors, a classic Ponzi scheme that can only go on for so long before it blows up. Mr. Stanford has not yet gone to trial, but the chief financial officer has plead guilty to three counts of fraud, so obviously, things were not all OK in paradise.

What can you do as an investor to avoid being taken by these unscrupulous individuals and their scams? Here’s a few things to pay attention to:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Advisors touting outsize returns with low risk should be considered very carefully before investing your money. Very few investors consistently achieve results way above average, and in particular, do so without taking risk. Understand your investment objectives, have realistic expectations and use common sense to avoid being lured in by claims that are unlikely to occur.

2. Who has custody of your money? All of the cases of fraud in the last year or so have a common theme. They all involved investors giving custody of their money to the advisor or his firm directly. You can avoid this by dealing with an advisor who uses a qualified custodian to hold the investment capital and the securities which are purchased with it. Examples of qualified custodians would be brokerage firms, banks and mutual fund firms, who are registered with either the Financial Industry Regulatory Association (FINRA) or the Securities and Exchange Commission. These firms are regulated and the individual investment advisors ability to access the funds is limited and more easily monitored by the client.

3. Audit financials and verify positions. If you do make an investment with an advisor who takes custody of your funds, one of the best defenses against fraud is an audit of the financial statements and verification of positions owned for each client by a reputable certified public accountant. In the Madoff case, investments in the 10’s of billions were being audited by a one man CPA firm. Investors should be wary of the potential that a fraudster could buy off the auditor to have him falsify the reports. I suppose there is no way to be certain, but checking up on the auditor would be time well spent.

The easiest way to avoid losing money to a scam artist is to keep custody of your funds with a qualified and reputable custodian. Most are members of the Securities Investors Protection Corporation which covers losses of up to $500,000 for fraud and many of these firms have purchased additional coverage privately to bring peace of mind to their clients.

Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing.

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