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Shopping: strolling down Palm Avenue.


Strolling down Palm Avenue.

To browse Palm Avenue is to come home and want to redo your house. There's something about this pretty downtown street that stirs up the urge to renovate and rearrange -- a lamp here, a tapestry pillow there, perhaps a fine antique breakfront or entire dining room set, or an old Oriental carpet and a provocative modern painting, too.

But whatever you're looking for, remember that the economic and geographic range spanned by Palm Avenue's stores is vast. You can find items from all over the globe at prices from gentle to steep. You'll also find pieces from most of the major art and design movements. This is not the spot for franchise shopping or stuff from Everywhere, U.S.A. The stores are owned and staffed by professionals drawn to collecting, buying and selling because they honestly love what they do. They're a rare resource in any city, and an important part of what makes shopping in Sarasota so special.

The long row of sophisticated shops lines both sides of a street whose main claim to historical fame was the Mira Mar Hotel, which in the 1920s housed Sarasota's most celebrated visitors. Specialties of the street are art galleries, antique shops, interior design firms, upscale gift boutiques and personal-care service providers such as The Institute of Beauty or Antonio's hairdressers.

If it's art you want, Palm Avenue has a wide selection of galleries appealing to a broad range of tastes. The Joan Hodgell Gallery is contemporary and represents many fine regional artists in painting and sculpture. As its name states, the Modern Art Gallery offers works in the modernist tradition. It also handles antique replicas and 20th-century picture frames. Apple & Carpenter Galleries deals in 19th- and 20th-century European and American masters, and they are always interested in purchasing either single items or whole collections. The Sarasota Art Galleries buy and sell important 19th- and 20th-century paintings, prints and sculpture; they have a special interest in modern and School of Paris works. Owners Larry Pauley and George Clark travel the world to bring the lovely and the unusual back to Sarasota. The Hang-Up moved from Osprey Avenue to Palm Avenue recently, but Frank Troncale is still pleasing old customers with contemporary paintings, graphics and fine reproductions. He does wonderful framing, too. Bill Hartman is also known for his framing, which is really of museum quality. His Hartman Gallery also excels in bird and botanical prints.

Studio Sea is an intriguing gallery because it combines the nautical paintings and photographs of owner Nancy Taylor with her love of rabbits -- real ones. Ms. Taylor operates an adopt-a-bunny program out of the gallery and there are usually one or two available (and adorable) orphans hopping around. Other things to notice in Studio Sea are the Schifferi Santas, which are displayed year-round and range from $650 to $1,500. If I owned one of these big hand-painted wood carvings, I'd flaunt it all year, too. Another specialty is an astonishing heap (they're all piled in a corner) of pre-owned duck decoys in wood, cork and canvas. They sell from $20-250, and they sell very well.

At L'Image Interior Design and Planning you can browse the showroom -- check out such accent pieces as matched Louis XVI chairs -- and consult with the knowledgeable staff about how to transform your home. For more information on everything from antiques to politics, stop in at Charlie's News, on the corner of Palm and Main. More than a bookstore, it stocks an incredible selection of magazines, newspapers and cards and has been a gathering place for business types, intellectuals and everyday Sarasotans for decades.

Flowers -- fresh, dried and silk -- in the hands of skillful Ron Carter are certainly art, which is why I always visit Mr. Florist Plants n' Things to exclaim over the newest imports and see the latest fashions in containers and floral designs.

Werlinmills, Inc. does confidential handling of estate pieces or entire estates. Rick Werlin and Bill Mills sell to the public, but they also buy and sell internationally to other dealers. Bill Mills says the Germans are enthusiastically purchasing silver and carved furniture right now. Werlinmills has Persian carpets from $1,000 to $30,000, American and European furniture of the 18th century and beautiful silver and crystal. The store is eclectic and always well-stocked.

Crissy Galleries is a respected old institution in Sarasota, which is amazing when you consider how youthful Bruce Crissy and his mother Carol are. But the family is three generations strong in the antiques business, and the mother and son team are a dynamic and fussy duo. No silverplate, thank you, and nothing of questionable quality. Those high standards translate into client trust. Besides that, Bruce and Carol are charming, patient professionals who love to educate those who come in to browse or buy. The store is stocked with Tiffany, Kirk and Steiff silver, Handel, Pairpoint and Tiffany lamps; period furniture; crystal and art glass; European paintings; and a marvelous selection of snuff, cigarette and patch boxes in silver, enamel or porcelain. These petite containers range in price from $60 to several thousand dollars. It's fun to study the collection and then try to guess which boxes live in which economic stratosphere.

If it's estate jewelry that excites you, go straight to Janet Post Jewelry and Antiques. This graduate gemologist and certified appraiser has the best and the most. Rings to die for. Also bracelets, necklaces, earrings, stick pins, watches, lockets. If you can tear your eyes away from the jewelry, look at the collector plates, glassware, unusual vases and small furniture. But 70 percent of the shop is jewelry, and you won't find a better selection in town.

Another jewelry emporium is the U.S. Cultured Pearl Co., which sells cultured and South Sea pearls, 18-karat gold jewelry and imports from Italy and Japan. They also stock very nice faux gems and beautiful Russian lacquered boxes.

The two owners of Welker & Company have a shop in Boston on fashionable Newbury Street as well as one here in Sarasota. Barry Welker and Walter Ducharme deal in antiques, reproductions and tasteful accent pieces. They are also interior designers and can help clients find the perfect spot for furniture and objets d' art once purchased. These men give good advice.

Judy Graham has an enviable reputation as an interior designer who travels on assignments around the world. Consequently, her Graham Interiors gallery is international. The inventory changes constantly and Judy is a terrific resource. She also owns the Dock Chandler near Marina Jack. Gifts and accessories there are at lower prices, but show the same exquisite taste that characterizes the Palm Avenue showroom.

Accents is fairly new to the Avenue; the store specializes in those original touches that make a house a home. I particularly like the carved wooden fanciful animals of all sizes and the beautiful bird cages.

The Posh Palm is an upscale gift and home-accessory boutique that's small but has an impressive range of styles and prices. Note the very nice invitations, candles, cocktail napkins and edibles in pretty containers that are perfect for a hostess gift. Elegant petite clocks, art glass, Vera Bradley fabric bags, pretty ceramic platters and jam pots are artfully displayed at prices that will be a pleasant surprise.

When hunger and fatigue set in, you can choose between Caragiulo's, a family-owned eatery specializing in Italian cuisine (take the delicious cannolis home for dessert), the Brass Parrot for Continental fare, and Carmichael's, a charmingly renovated old house that offers fresh regional seafood and unusual dishes.

PHOTO : This pretty downtown street is lined with sophisticated shops.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Clubhouse Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:shopping, stores in Sarasota, Florida
Author:Fottler, Marsha
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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