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Shopping: the best shopping in the best city on the Gulf.

SHOPPING The best shopping in the best city on the Gulf.

Shopping in Sarasota is an enticing melange of relaxed resort browsing, international foraging and nitty-gritty bargain hunting. There is something special for everyone and someplace interesting to buy it.

Our malls are manageable and offer a bounty of movie theaters, plenty of parking, a plethora of eateries and all-purpose as well as specialty shops. Sarasota Square Mall recently added Parisian, a spacious Birmingham-based department store that's long on service and quality merchandise. No furniture, but the second floor has a dreamy collection of cocktail wear. Downstairs near the escalator, a pianist sits at a shiny black baby grand and makes your shopping a lyrical experience. Sarasota Square's other reliable anchors are Maas Brothers, Sears and J.C. Penney. Camelot Music, a thriving arcade, Babbage's computer software and Second Wave apparel claim the attention of teens. Sophisticates flock to Victoria's Secret, Jarrod's, Limited Express, Petite Sophisticate, Bailey, Banks & Biddle and Huntington Park, which is the place to get those wonderful Crabtree & Evelyn or Caswell-Massey soaps, lotions, scented candles and small home accessories such as silver picture frames or a teapot in the shape of an eggplant. Movie buffs can choose from 12 screening rooms.

One of the anchor stores at Gulf Gate Mall is Marshall's, a name synonymous with bargains. This is no-frills shopping and both residents and visitors alike love it. Other bargain haunts include Terry Shulman's, Publisher's Book Outlet and Hit or Miss for brand-name clothing at discount prices. Secrets and Bexil deal in glitzy clothing at the other end of the spectrum. Exceptional prom and wedding dresses! Opus is for young progressives, Linens 'N Things for the home, T.J. Bailey is for the preppie male and the Sports Fan is the place for your Gator, Seminole or Miami Hurricane gear. A gourmet cooking emporium, pet shop, florist, eight movie theaters, a food court and a boutique that specializes in dance and exercise togs are all part of Gulf Gate. Be sure to have lunch or dinner at T.G.I. Friday's. Noisy but fun.

South Gate was a drab strip mall that recently underwent a stunning facelift. The colors are shades of Florida pink. Flamingos and parrots dot the interior landscape. The architectural design is long and narrow, with Burdines at one end and Maison Blanche at the other. In between are delightful places such as a branch of the Ringling Museum of Art gift shop, Structure for trendy men, the Nutcracker Suite (collectibles and small, tasteful home accessories), Benetton's, The Limited and a food court where you can stop for refueling before investigating Tracks for music, Champs for Umbro soccer shorts (featherlight, durable and very "in"), Waldenbooks and Bernie's Coffee & Tea shop. Sorry, no movies, but Beasley's is a terrific place for a bit after a show.

The Landing is a collection of stores strategically located near several upscale neighborhoods off South Tamiami Trail. A huge commercial and home-office supply mart called Office Depot is drawing the curious and those who need a convenient, low-priced, one-stop shop for everything from envelopes to a FAX machine. Robert Ryan is a dependable clothing store in the preppie-chic mold. A key feature of this strip mall is Albertson's, a gigantic "everything" food store. No movies, but both The Olive Garden and Casa Amigo are nearby for sustenance.

After a few seasons of struggling for an image and for tenants, Sarasota Quay on Sarasota Bay has finally arrived as a shopping and restaurant mecca. The airy, pink, two-level structure accommodates specialty clothing and collectibles stores, an impressive needlework studio, The Panhandler's (for the serious cook or those needing a kitchen or dining-type gift), a Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand and several pretty restaurants right on the water. Browsing the Quay day or night is pure pleasure. Do check out Emphasis, where artists exhibit a finely tuned sense of humor in the practical and whimsical objects for sale. And the prices are amazingly reasonable.

If Florida were Italy, then St. Armand's Circle would be a section of Florence. This collection of shops constitutes Sarasota's jewel box, especially since the Circle is a short walk from Lido Beach and its waterfront resorts. St. Armands shopping is an international experience. Mondi has hip women's clothing from the Munich-based design house. Kepp's is in the tradition of English gentlemen. The Oehlschlaeger Galleries I and II have South American appeal and the Four Winds excels in art of the American Southwest. French food is on the menu at the Rendezvous Cafe, while Cafe L'Europe does the whole European continent. The Columbia offers Spanish delicacies as well as fresh Florida seafoods. Osteria does Northern Italian. Carlos Falchi is the place for fine leather goods and Optional Art carries the best in U.S. and European-designed jewelry. Mettlers has the Ralph Lauren look and upstairs in the same building the Yellow Bird Antiques offers curios from all over Europe. Aussie Ltd. has the trendiest stuff from the land Down Under, including the Ken Done collection of clothing and accessories. And if you want a laugh in any language, walk through Animal Crackers, a jungle of wacky animated stuffed animals. They even sell one squashed gray thing that's their version of road kill.

Siesta Key Village is a casual congregation of shops that evolved to serve tourists and resident who didn't want to cross the bridge to go shopping. Over the years, "shopping the Village" has become so popular that mainlanders routinely drive over to shop at Siesta and sample the fine restaurants that dot the sandy landscape. The Lido is par excellence for locally designed t-shirts. March is when teens start the Great Prom Dress Hunt, and Foxy Lady always yields rich results. Conrad Egan has sophisticated sportswear, elegant cocktail dresses and wonderful office ensembles. I admire the small gifts, collectibles and dried flower arrangements at The Rain Forest, and Ribbons is a new gift shop worth checking out. Do shop early enough to enjoy breakfast at The Broken Egg. Great muffins and everything else!

Main Street is a time warp. In fact, several time warps, and all of them are enjoyable. The Emporium is a hippie '60s place, where you can get posters, tie-dye clothing and weird postcards. They also do excellent and reasonable framing. McCrory's is a '50-ish dime store, and if you step into Graham Holiday's antique store, you won't find anything made after 1930. To visit Cornelia Matson's emporium called Antiques des Province is to experience how the French lived in centuries past. And you can come back to the '90s at the wonderful food court in the Kress Building or Patricks restaurant. P.J.'s does an excellent job of dressing working women who haven't got a fortune to spend on office clothes. The various thrift and consignment stores along Main Street offer shopping of another sort. Don't be a snob; there are great finds and great prices. Decorating guru Carlton Varney has opened one of his classy fabric stores on Main Street and Norton's is the place to take your film and browse for lovely frames and photo albums.

Palm Avenue is Sarasota's street of dreams. Both sides of this long, elegant street are lined with antique shops, interior design houses, posh gift boutiques and fine restaurants, cinluding the new Brass Parrot. Ash Bruce Crissy at Crissy Galleries if you need to know about silver. At Janet Post, the namesake owner boasts the best collection in town of estate jewelry. She's a gemologist of such renown that she's often called to testify as an expert witness in court. At Graham Interiors, Judy Graham always has something special, because she travels and has a great eye. Caragiulo's restaurant is expanding (wonderful pizza and pasta) and so are the number of people who are discovering the unique pleasures of a stroll down this downtown street.
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:Sarasota, Florida
Author:Fottler, Marsha
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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