If you’ve been on the fence about moving to a new area, I thought I would share my personal story of how I ended up moving to Pinellas County and why it was one of the better decisions I made in my life.
I’m originally from Columbia, South Carolina and I knew in my later high school years that I wanted to explore living in a new area. While some people in the United States choose to live in their hometowns all their lives, it just wasn’t something that set well with me even though I would be moving away from family I was very close with.
Maybe it’s like the bird that falls out of the nest and spread it’s wings, maybe it’s just a sense of exploring and adventure, there was just an insatiable appetite to explore the unknown and live the experience.
Although I did have some family that lived near Pinellas County, it was an area I had very little knowledge in at the time other than Clearwater Beach.
The first area I ended up in was Brandon, Florida located in Hillsborough County which is right next to Pinellas. I was right on the outskirts of Tampa and at the time, I was debating if I had made the right move. The industrial nature of the city didn’t really appeal to me although there were some cool places to explore like Ybor City.
Not long after this temporary living situation outside of Tampa, I ended up in my first apartment in Lutz, Florida. Lutz didn’t have very much going on but it was close to popular theme parks I remembered as a kid such as Busch Gardens and the Adventure Island Water Park.
A year in Lutz felt like a good stepping stone to separating myself from my home town. I was able to explore other areas and get a better sense of how Florida was setup. It wasn’t until I ended up in Clearwater in Pinellas County that I realized I was finally home. There were beautiful neighborhoods to explore, I was right across from Countryside Mall, a very popular mall in the area, and I was only 10-15 minutes away from the beautiful beaches.
A New Beginning
Living in Pinellas County was a game changer for me. There was so much going on, so many beautiful places to visit, tons of events, and just an atmosphere that was extremely welcoming. I didn’t feel out of place like I did in other parts of Florida.
When I was living in Hillsborough, I felt like everyone had gone to school with each other. While that was probably not correct, Pinellas County had a completely different vibe. As I met people I realized that most of the people I was meeting were not natives of Florida.
Pinellas County was this sort of gathering ground for people to create a new life. It was almost like a hidden gem. Although millions of people travel here each year to visit some of the top beaches in the United States, that barely scratches the surface of everything the county has to offer.
After living in Pinellas County a little over a year, I met my soon-to-be wife and then later formed a team with my real estate partner Chris Formico. Chris and I had a lot of common ground. We were both not originally from the area, him being from Minnesota, and me being from South Carolina.
We also were very open to the idea of meeting people and checking out new places. As our knowledge built, we were able to make that transition for out-of-state movers that much easier. Not knowing it at the time, we found one of our niches that made us stand out.
Getting Social In Pinellas County
I still remember the moment, maybe a few months after Chris and I had formed our 2 man team. We were sitting in a great neighborhood coffee shop called Genaro Cafe located in the Edge District. We were talking about ideas to get us out there in the public meeting people (keep in mind this was many years ago pre-Covid-19).
We decided to form a meetup group and started doing events around the area. Probably one of the best social decisions we ever made. Chris and I met many of our greatest friends from that group and it forced us to step outside any comfort zones we may have had.
What do I mean by this? It helped us tap into our creativity! As leaders of this group of over 3,000 members, we felt a duty to check out new places even when it was easy to just go to the local favorites. We also had great organizers in our group that really helped build the social connections and create a comfortable zone for people to connect, network, and build friendships for life.
If those social moments didn’t embody the spirt of Pinellas County, I don’t know what does. It’s the people that have truly shaped this area into the modern-day utopia that it is. It allowed us to connect with people from all ages, backgrounds, races, nations, and more!
The power of story-telling, to be able to share experiences of your life with a stranger and vice-versa made for some of the best conversations. As we got to know people, we were able to help build connections and get people more comfortable in a social setting where you might not know anyone.
The Power Of St. Petersburg, Florida
It’s hard to miss the impact the city of St. Petersburg, FL has had on Pinellas County as a whole. If you live in the county, there’s a very good chance you’ve visited St. Pete likely many times. And if you haven’t then you’ve got something to add to your bucket list.
While I don’t live in St. Pete, I have many ties to it. My real estate office is there, my real estate partner lives there, I visit it all the time, and it’s one of the most walkable and unique cities I’ve been in.
If Pinellas County was the cake, then St. Pete is the frosting on top. Downtown St. Pete along with Clearwater Beach are the two power-houses that really give us the best reputation for being the perfect place to live.
What makes St. Pete tick? It’s emphasis on promoting local business over massive chain restaurants and shops. It’s a creative hub of niche businesses that explore different cuisine and brings a melting pot of culture and choice to the area.
Another aspect to consider is the strong brewery scene. While most breweries have been hit hard at the time of this article by the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe in the resilience of these business owners and the spirt of the people that things will work out in the end.
Are you tired of having to be in your car to drive to places? Well if you visit or live in St. Pete, it’s pretty much a given you’ll learn to appreciate the walkability of downtown. For me, every time I visit, I have my few favorite spots to park and I get out and enjoy the scenic walk.
Impossible To Experience It All
Ok… maybe it’s possible to experience every event and prominent location in Pinellas County, but it’s very unlikely. I have lived here over 10 years and I’ve barely even tapped into all the places to explore. Plus there’s always new things popping up to improve the area.
As of the time of me writing this, I haven’t had the chance to check out the new St. Pete pier like Chris has. St. Pete is the opposite of a sleepy town, the city leaders are always thinking of ways to attract creativity and improve the experience.
Because I live in Seminole, Florida which is more centrally located, I’ve been more interested in checking out other cities in Pinellas County. Some of my St. Pete friends rarely venture outside the boundaries of St. Pete because they feel like they have it all. In some ways I can’t blame them because there’s a lot of truth to this, however, each city and beach town in our area is unique, and in my opinion is at least worth checking out.
Other Great Towns
One of my favorite parts of the real estate process when working with my clients is learning about their desires and needs and seeing if I can pair it up with a town that would be a good fit.
I am a father of two young children, my son Ryan is 4 years old, and my daughter Emmy is 1 years old. For me, Seminole, Florida was a perfect match for my family because it was close to the beach, had a nice blend of recreational activities, parks, events, and businesses, and it was close enough to most cities in Pinellas to make it easy for me to commute and show homes.
I also grew to really like the town of Dunedin. Dunedin located in north-west Pinellas County is what I like to call a mini St. Pete. It has all the same walkability and culture that St. Pete has to offer, but on a smaller scale. There’s gorgeous waterfront views, great local breweries, markets, businesses, and even live music.
Another spot I visit from time to time is Clearwater Beach. While I don’t go here as often as I used to, it’s still a great place to explore and is one of the best kept up beaches in the area. The downside is the beach tends to be more crowded so if you are looking for something a little more low-key, there are plenty of beaches to the south that are more laid back.
Now, more than ever, employers are allowing people the flexibility to work from home. If you’re finally ready for a change and Florida has popped up on your radar, now may be a good time to explore the idea of living in Pinellas County.