Penny Allen is a self-described risk-taker. That’s how the long-time Ponte Vedra resident describes the entrepreneurial business ventures she’s embarked on that have included a residential and commercial mini-blind cleaning business in Houston and her Ponte Vedra businesses: Ponte Vedra Playwear, Penelope’s boutique, The Gold Connection — and her latest endeavor, Palm Valley ICW Tours. Her eco tour business combines her love for the water with her sense for business. Allen is drawn to the water, having learned everything about boating from her father. She also loves to fish. As a teenager, she worked as a water skier at Cypress Gardens, performing stunts in the Florida park’s shows. Allen was raised in Winter Haven, Fla., and lived in Orlando for many years. For 15 of those years, she was a model for fashion, print and television, and for two years, she was the showroom model for Fred Perry sportswear out of Orlando. She didn’t start modeling until she was 27 and had four children. Allen and her husband Ron’s family has since grown from their four daughters to include eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She and her husband live in Palm Valley on the Intracoastal where they have resided for the past 18 years.
What made you want to start Palm Valley ICW Tours?
After I closed Penelope’s, I thought, ‘Okay I’m retired.’ Well, I can’t be retired; I have too much energy! I said I’ve got one more in me; I’m a true entrepreneur. I’ve boated all my life. I learned how to operate boats and fish and what have you from my father, and that’s always been my passion. My favorite thing has always been going out on the water. That’s when I calm down. So, I started this business. I got my captain’s license and here I am.
What kind of tours do you offer?
Eco tours, just going out for a couple of hours down to the Guana and looking at the wildlife. The party boat thing has been successful where people BYOB and their own food. I’ve named myself a Wuber, which is a water Uber. I kind of do whatever people would like to do. If they would like to stop and jump in the water and swim, we do it. The big hit has been going down to Aunt Kate’s Restaurant and Cap’s on the Water for lunch and stopping at the sandbar across the street from Aunt Kate’s and swimming. The other one that’s been real successful is all the way into St. Augustine, I can park the boat at the marina and people can walk right up into the city and do their thing, and then come back to Ponte Vedra by boat.
What do you charge for tours?
I charge $300 for a half day; $500 for a full day. A half day being 4–5 hours, a full day being up to eight. I see what’s happening — they want to take the short one and then they get out here and they don’t want to quit, so it turns into a full day. I pick people up and drop them off for their tours at Palm Valley Outdoors. They’re getting ready to put in a long floating dock which is going to be great for me. It’s going to get really busy in the fall, I can already tell. It’s going to be a year-round thing. I’m willing to go out any time.
What kind of boat do you have?
It’s an 18’ Hurricane Sport Deck. When I first started, I was using my other boat, but I could only carry three people. So I went looking and found this, and this is just perfect. It’s got stereo and it’s comfortable — just like sitting in your living room. This boat will hold 10, (but) I like to take six so everybody has room to move around. I had a table installed so people can bring their food and their drink. That worked out great.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Well, I’m a big fisherman. I’m what I call a seasoned angler — a female seasoned angler. When I’m not touring, I’m fishing. That is my life at this age, and it ain’t too bad!