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Local woman converts riverfront home into tourist destination

By Donna Vavala

Pam Schott bought her Weeki Wachee River home 28 years ago and never tires of watching manatees and otters frolicking and boaters and kayakers plying the crystal clear water.

At age 3, Pam began singing. By age 14, she had recorded an album with her brother’s German band. Later, she went solo and spent many years on the road performing at clubs around the country—even meeting Louie Armstrong and Bob Newhart along the way-- but she always loved returning to her magical river retreat.

When her husband of 17 years, Ed Waishkey, died in 2010, her mother moved in until her death four years later. By this time, Pam was semi-retired and on a fixed income. She searched for a way to earn extra money, and decided to turn half of her 3,600-square-foot home into a tourist rental suite.

She calls her business “Pam’s Mermaid House,” and she put her heart, soul and hands into decorating it. A creative do-it-yourselfer for many years, Pam set out to make her home a stand-out. And it is.

Beginning with the circular drive that fronts the two-story home, Pam first got on her knees and laboriously laid small mosaic tiles to form an intricate design by the front door. She then decided to perk up the driveway by painting it aqua with yellow trim applying four layers of paint, then adding some sparkles to the top coat. She also painted the back deck the same way.

To complete the fantasy look, Pam “planted” some large, colorful artificial flowers in the drive’s center island and across the front of the house, which is also colorfully painted and trimmed with a yellow awning.

Inside the house is more hand-applied color to the walls-- some sponged on, some hand drawn and painted—all in bright colors. Why? “Because I live on the water, and I love jelly bean colors,” she said.

She even built the two artificial trees that flank the sofa on the Florida room in the back of the suite that offers a panoramic view of the water.

“I made the trees and bought some (artificial) wisteria,” said Pam. “I drilled holes in the tree (to insert the wisteria) and used a glue gun to stick on the flowers.”

Above the sofa, Pam hung a carousel horse, its middle brimming with more multi-colored artificial flowers. And, of course, there are mermaid pillows and accessories galore.

In addition to the Florida room, the rental suite features two inviting bedrooms—one with a small patio with a table and chairs outside its sliding glass door; a full bath that features flashing colored lights in the toilet; a laundry room with washer and dryer; and a small sitting room.

The Florida room leads to a large outdoor concrete deck flanked by chaise lounges and a full bar with stools, which is trimmed in the same colorful awning that runs across the front of the house.

There is a small above ground pool, and two kayaks are available to guests.

The rental does not include a kitchen. But guests are welcome to use the toaster oven, griddle, microwave oven, grill, hot plates and refrigerator, as well as utensils and plates.

When guests arrive, they are met by Pam.

“I check them in, and I check out,” she said, adding that she moves in with friends for the duration of guests’ stays. “I come back every two days to see how things are going.”

The bookings are handled online through the Air BNB, Evolve, Travelicity and VRBO websites, which frees Pam from having to handle reservations and payments. But this service comes with a price.

“Twenty-four percent (of the booking) comes out of my pocket,” said Pam, adding that this includes10 percent credit card fees and 11 percent state and county fees. She also has to file with the state every month or get fined.

The daily rate at Pam’s Mermaid House is $200 per day for a party of four, although she has housed as many as seven.

Pam has had good luck in getting responsible renters with one exception. A foreign family rented the place, then invited more—up to 25—family members and friends to stay. Apparently, they played loud music all night annoying her neighbors, and the kids left gum stuck on the furniture and stains on the outside concrete deck.

“They put in their review that they’re not coming back,” said Pam. “You’re darn right they’re not coming back!”

Other than this, all reviews have been very positive, and Pam has really enjoyed meeting her guests.

“I just had some German people from Africa,” she said. “I’ve had people from Nova Scotia, California, Chicago, Seattle, Maryland…”

“I’m global with my advertising,” said Pam, adding that she also attracts guests who see her rental from the river as they boat by. She has also hand painted the seawall, which is quite eye-catching.

“A lot of people come down the river who have either heard of me or have seen me.”

For more information on Pam’s Mermaid house, call 352-596-3160 for room availability and room rates, or go to www.pamsmermaidhouse.com.