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Q&A with Sanibel resident, adventurer Vena Searcy

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Vena Searcy is one of those timeless people you meet and never forget. She has seemingly lived many lives in her one life. Searcy who works as a front-end manager for the Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory. There she helps create a pleasant, cheery atmosphere and enchant customers with her tales of owning a tiger, walking a large snake – ask Searcy about it at the deli – and helping celebrities shop. One can say she’s the ladies version of the fictional adventurer Huckleberry Finn.

Where did you spend your childhood?

Passaic county, New Jersey.

We heard you have led a rather interesting life filled with exotic animals. Can you share what you did and what the experience was like?

I have always been an animal lover beginning with bringing home stray dogs, kittens, bunnies, snakes and more. My first “business” enterprise was raising and selling hamsters at the age of seven. Made All-State Band in H.S., then on to college followed by a tour in the Air Force where I became a weather observer (Gee, I should have become a “Weather Woman” on T.V.) My last home in Texas was a 63-acre ranch where I raised and sold over 300 animals (everything from goats, chickens to Ostriches, llamas, and my “special” pet Shealee the Siberian/Bengal tiger which I acquired at six-months of age and kept ’til I had to disperse everything to spend time with my mom who was terminally ill with colon cancer in Jacksonville.

Word has it you also ran a pet shop, showed champion dogs and raised horses. Can you share something about that chapter in your life?

I opened a pet shop in Cocoa. Back then it was legal to have exotic animals so rather than cats and dogs, I sold monkeys, ocelots, macaws and more. Also started my first of several “grooming” shops for dogs and cats. This led to raising and showing dogs (both my own breeds of poodles, Russian Wolfhounds and German shepherds plus clients dogs). My favorite Borzoi “Cossack” was the youngest wolfhound to finish his championship up ’til then. Got invited to Westminster” but didn’t go. Moved to a small Kissimmee ranch and began raising, training and showing horses, mostly Appaloosas, but I also raced two quarterhorses.

We also learned you owned several bars. Where did you run these bars and what was their


I married and moved to Cape Canaveral, Fla. Moved to Fort Worth, Texas where I bluffed my way into a cashiers job at a world renowned western store and worked my way up to being the first (and only) woman manager. My main duty, other than managing 75 employees, was to act as liaison between movie stars, rock stars and other luminaries who came to visit and the autograph-seeking public. At same time opened a small bar, which led to another and then one with a cafe (where I prepared home cooked meals). Those were interesting years since I was also working in sales for a car dealership.

What eventually brought you to Sanibel?

I later moved back to N.J. (full circle, right?) I came to Sanibel four seasons ago on a dare from a friend. I was so tired of cold weather and his sister had some art galleries here. (I had never even heard of Sanibel.) Now I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else…at least not until a new adventure presents itself.

Most folks can find you smiling and serving at the Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory. What it’s like working there?

I’m always up for new experiences, but love working at the Deli. Jeff, the owner, does everything right to promote new business,especially serving super breakfasts and lunches. Although I’ve owned and operated more than a few businesses, it’s great not having all the responsibilities,but still having the fun. I love to give the customers unexpected great service and conversation.

What is the most fun part about working at the deli?

I’m always meeting such interesting and friendly people from all over the world.

What interests do you have outside of work?

In my off time, you may find me fishing at the beach or on a canal in the mangroves. I also, do a lot of reading (put on a few Karaoke shows last year at local restaurants, but my equipment was not up to par so I stopped.)

What are your short/long-term goals?

My goals are to explore and enjoy whatever and wherever life takes me.My motto is “try everything once…twice if you like it” .

You seem to be a

pretty sunny person. What do you attribute your bright outlook to? Any advice for

living a happy life?

I found a wonderful freedom when I stopped seeking “things” after my home in Texas burned to the ground. Life is for making “memories” and I’m sure making lots of them. Material possessions only bog you down and cause unnecessary stress.