‘She really is the backbone:’ Shop owner gets results in Flagler Beach

Community organizer embraces life on her side of the bridge

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Flagler Beach residents often say they have everything they need beachside.

And many jokingly say they’ll do anything to avoid crossing back over the bridge that takes them to the mainland.

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This week’s Getting Results Award winner turned that into her catchphrase.

But the love for her hometown is more than just a slogan.

Carla Cline runs the Flagler Surf Art and Stuff gift shop on 3rd Street, just steps from the ocean. The playfully-decorated store specializes in local art and beach-themed souvenirs.

Hand-painted signs welcome customers to enter the store under a blooming jasmine vine. The one in purple that says “Good Vibes” sets the tone for both the store and its owner.

“When I started the store, I made almost everything in it,” Cline said pointing out that now she offers items from more than 25 local crafters. “I like being creative. That’s what I like to do.”

Cline slides a T-shirt into the heat-press, tucked behind her cash register, and pushes down on the handle. “The thing I sell the most is T-shirts. People like T-shirts.”

Cline has become known for her design featuring the phrase, “Please don’t make me cross the Bridge!”

It’s a humorous take on Cline’s love for the seaside community.

“It can be interpreted many different ways. There’s nothing wrong with the other side, it’s just that I’m content and don’t want to go anywhere,” Cline laughs.

“I’m simple,” she says. “If I can walk there, bike there or take the golf cart. I’m content.”

Plenty of her customers agree. Her T-shirts have become a top seller. “I get people that see the sticker or the T-shirt and they say, ‘Where did you get that? I need that.’”

“Now I’m the bridge person,” Cline concedes.

Others call her “the backbone of the Flagler Beach community,” for all her organizing and fundraising efforts.

“I do try to figure out a lesson or a way you can make change for the better,” Cline said. “I’ve had some amazing role models in my life so I decided that was the way to do it.”

Cline’s first effort into community organizing happened more than 12 years ago when she decided to re-imagine the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

“I remember when I was a kid it was watermelon eating contest and fireworks and you’d go to the beach all day. It was the best day ever,” Cline remembers. “I knew the president of the chamber and I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to be responsible for the entertainment of Flagler Beach. And she looked at me like I was crazy,” Cline said with a smile.

Cline has the attitude that you can complain about things or you can stand up and do something.

Since that first project, Cline has done a lot.

She recently launched a fundraising effort to ensure a dune enhancement project would stay on schedule, raising $40,000 in a matter of days.

She was the founder of the Flagler Beach All-Stars, a volunteer group dedicated to community projects and monthly beach clean-ups.

She was a Flagler County Education Foundation board member and helped start the Josh Crews Writing Project, a program to promote creative writing in Flagler County schools.

And during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped collect restaurant gift cards for the staff at Advent Health Palm Coast.

Cline had friends go to the hospital but were turned away when there were no beds available for them.

“I was upset on their behalf but I was also upset for the nurses that were having to send people away. People they would have normally taken care of,” Cline remembers. “There was so much negativity going on. I thought we just need to give them a token of kindness.”

The project ended up collecting enough gift cards to give one to every employee.

Cline was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by Flagler Beach resident, Joan Cuson.

“When I saw your nomination form, there was nobody else that came to mind but Carla,” Cuson said. “Most people think there’s nothing I can do, the problem is too big. Carla isn’t like that. She’s going to find a way to do something, to make a change.”

Kelly Brasol agrees. Brasol approached our camera on the boardwalk to ask why we were in Flagler Beach.

“When you said you were here for a lady that owned a gift shop, I knew right away it had to be Carla,” Brasol said. “She really is the backbone of the Flagler Beach community. She’s the one behind the scenes getting things done.”

Over the years, Cline said each project has taught her that anything is possible. “If people work together, you can achieve great things,” she reflects.

For someone who tries to avoid crossing bridges, Cline sure is good at building them.

“I try really hard,” Cline said, “I figure there’s enough negativity in the world.”

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.