Admit it: gift shopping can be a downright chore as the holidays draw near. The harried hustle through generic department stores, the overworked store clerks, the mind-numbing florescent lights.
So why not turn this task into a journey to discover some of Sarasota’s neatest sweet spots of stuff, stories, and local flavor? Grab a shopping partner, head to Downtown Sarasota, and enjoy exploring these truly unique spots where you can not only cross each name off your list, but also enjoy meeting folks who have either made or sourced their wares. Plus, it’s a great way to get to know Sarasota a little better.
For a shopping experience that can also be a feast for your eyes, head over to the artist community of Towles Court. This quaint cluster of Old Florida cottages is knitted together by shady sidewalks and beautiful foliage, with each house offering original works by local artists. To find all of the shops open at once, go on the evening of their holiday Artwalk, Dec. 15th (5-9 PM). Parking is free, and we highly recommend planning some time to enjoy the amazing, conscientiously sourced fare at Indigenous restaurant or some of the delectable treats from Shoogie Boogies’ Garden Cafe in the heart of the Court.
We all have people on our list with a love for food, either gourmet, locally made, or both. We also know rabid fans of hand-crafted soaps, accessories, or knick-knacks. Don’t miss out on the chance to meet and patronize some of Sarasota’s finest “makers,” who turn out super early every Saturday to offer up their delicious, unique, and delightful wares to the community at the Sarasota Downtown Farmer’s Market. Flanking Lemon Avenue every Saturday from 7 AM to 1 PM, and going strong for 37 years, this impressive market boasts over 70 vendors with an astounding range of goods and goodies.
Choose from quality, hand-crafted home and body products from vendors like Sarasota Candle Company, Essential Eve’s Aromatherapy, and Ashjoi Soaps, gourmet packed foods from Sapore della Vita, Annalinda’s Gourmet Foods, and Paneolio Foods, to charming and practical fashion and home decor items and art from folks like The Blue Peony, Nube Colombian Arts, and Hanamade LLC. As an added perk, you can include breakfast, lunch and some everyday shopping into your gift run as this open-air market also offers locally grown produce, prepared foods, and even chickens and eggs. Of course, you also get the undeniably enjoyable experience of meeting the people who are making, growing, or sourcing your stuff face-to-face, all while knowing you’re giving a healthy boost to the local economy.
Need to grab something for the kids--or kids-at-heart--in your life? There’s a whole world of color, fun, and imagination packed into the tiny Toy Lab on Main Street between Lemon and Orange Avenues. A million times more inspired than your run-of-the-mill big box toy store or department store toy section, you can feel the genuine love for play that pervades each bursting corner and rack in this lab. From their selection of life-like Folkmanis puppets to unique coloring books and a wide range of brands for all ages including Baby Stella, Legos, Hello Kitty, playmobil, Star Wars, and more, Toy Lab are true experts on fun.
Buying for someone with an appreciation for things with a story, or someone who prefers “upcycled” treasures over newly manufactured ones? You’ll find lots of options in Downtown Sarasota. The colorful string of antique and consignment shops on Fruitville between Orange and Central Avenues host a smorgasbord of deeply discounted gift options. Among the larger of these is the Treasure Chest, where proceeds from sales of their ever-changing display of jewelry, home accessories, collectibles, furniture, and designer clothing go to help victims of domestic abuse through the nonprofit Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, also known as SPARCC.
On the other side of Main, you’ll find similarly fantastic discounts and a highly helpful staff at the Sarasota Women’s Exchange, a carefully curated consignment store packed with clothing, home goods, and collectibles, including some great deals on high end items. Heading north in the Rosemary District, Canned Ham Vintage has a great collection of eclectic treasures, and if you’re a bit more adventurous and like to scavenge (without actually having to scavenge), check out Sarasota’s Salvage District, including Circus City Salvage and Sarasota Architectural Salvage, Sarasota’s original upscale salvage venue where curious, quirky and downright beautiful items of all shapes and sizes can be discovered and given new life.
This season, go ahead and turn your holiday obligations into a way to fall even more deeply in love with Sarasota with this “treasure map” of unique gift spots.
What did we miss? Share your favorite secret spots for great gift-buying in Sarasota.
Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist