In many ways, Paradise News, now in its twenty-fifth year of publication, is the embodiment of serendipity.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “serendipity” as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this.”
This phenomenon was at work well before Paradise News made its debut in 1995.
Peter and Renee Roos originally moved to Pass-a-Grille so their son, Jordan, could complete his final three years of high school as a day student at Admiral Farragut Academy.
“We brought with us a decade’s worth of experience in publishing,” says Peter. “We had produced a magazine called Office Guide to Tampa Bay, and we had Office Guides in other regions of Florida, as well.
“When the economy shifted in the 1980s, the government rescued the savings and loan industry, but it couldn’t help the commercial real estate market. A lot of our advertisers went bankrupt. It was the right time to close that chapter on our lives, and begin a new chapter with our move to Pass-a-Grille.” Getting back into the publishing business wasn’t on their radar.
The couple’s reputation as publishers preceded them, however, and they were soon approached by the head of the Pass-a-Grille Community Association to help the group produce a monthly newsletter. Grille Bits was a lively newsletter, mailed to every resident of Pass-a-Grille. Toward the end of the newsletter’s eighth year Renee, who had become involved with the Gulf Beach Historical Museum, became acquainted with the publisher of the newsletter for the Vina Del Mar community association.
“Together, they decided that a single newsletter for all of St. Pete Beach was in order,” recalls Peter. “They named that newsletter the Paradise News, and mailed it to every resident on St. Pete Beach.” The year was 1995.
The local publication relied on advertising to defray the costs of production. It was well received, but never really got beyond its break-even point.
In 1998, Renee recruited Peter to help the Paradise News do more than keep its head above water. “We did some research and discovered that Tierra Verde didn’t have an active business community,” Peter relates. “The residents there were coming to the beaches to shop and dine. We recognized that our advertisers would benefit from expanding our distribution to Tierra Verde.” The local newsletter quickly became a reliable source of information for not only St. Pete Beach, but also Tierra Verde, and revenues to support the publication increased.
Fortune favors the ready. A few years later, after 9/11, the weekly newspaper that served neighboring Treasure Island closed. Paradise News expanded yet again, sending news of Pinellas County’s southernmost barrier islands to every resident on Treasure Island, as well.
Today, the monthly Paradise News is a high-quality glossy magazine with advertisers from throughout the south barrier islands and surrounding waterfront communities of south St. Petersburg.
It has a stable of writers who generate a wide range of articles that keep its readers turning the pages to learn about their neighbors’ interesting stories; the events that entertain, or those that support local causes; the businesses that keep the economy churning; and the issues that affect their quality of life.
To keep the monthly publication up-to-date with news and events that come up between deadlines, it maintains an online presence with weekly updates.
It has staff for marketing the publication, selling advertising, and promoting Paradise News on social media. There’s someone in charge of distribution to an ever-expanding readership.
It’s poised for expansion yet again.
“We promised our advertisers outreach for our 25th Anniversary,” Peter and Renee wrote in the April 2019 publication, “and over the next year we will introduce 50,000 more homes and business to Paradise News.” That outreach begins with 5,000 to 7,500 new mailboxes reached along St Petersburg’s “pink streets” and Venetian Isles. In May, another 5,000 issues will be delivered in Madeira Beach. Future expansions are still to be announced.
While Peter and Renee have been the driving force behind the success of Paradise News (“It was really Renee’s idea, her baby,” Peter confides. “She lets me work here as long as I behave.”), Peter points out that, as with many of life’s endeavors, success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
“We belong to the Treasure Island & Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce, as well as three other Chambers and four barter groups,” he informs.
“I think Chambers provide an invaluable service for small businesses and communities to network. The best Chambers provide options for members to participate at different times, on different days of the week so people with other obligations can still be active.
“What you get out of Chamber membership is in direct proportion to what you put into it,” Peter emphasizes. “It’s not just about being a member, but attending events, participating, finding your niche, and serving on committees. That’s what builds relationships. I’ve seen it over and over again with businesses that start up in the area: they get active with their local Chamber, and they succeed.”
From a simple desire to put their son in the best educational environment, Peter and Renee Roos have embraced one serendipitous opportunity after another to build the success that is Paradise News.