A seven-story clock tower conjures images of the campanile dominating Italy’s Saint Mark’s Square. Winding arcades and galleries recall the boutiques and artisan shops for which Venice is renowned. But this elegant shopping forum is at the corner of Town Center Parkway and Nature’s Way in Lakewood Ranch, a jewel of a mall with fashion, home furnishings, international cuisine and more. Anchored by a new, gourmet iteration of downtown Sarasota’s beloved Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, San Marco Plaza is an oasis of charm, sophistication and style.
Silk Road Sushi The link between Venice and the Orient extends to the mélange of Japanese and Korean fare created by renowned head chef Ichiro in San Marco Plaza. Choose from more than 200 sakes, chef’s custom rolls and award-winning sushi. Matsuri Sushi, 8209 Nature’s Way, Suite 111, (941) 361-1171.
Coffee Culture Sip exotic blends from the far corners of the world in the bistro, or take home gourmet-flavored coffee by the pound. But don’t miss Santa’s White Christmas, a holiday blend laced with coconut, caramel and vanilla that’s so irresistible fans buy it year round ($12.99 a pound). Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company, 8215 Nature’s Way, Suite 125, (941) 907-8114.
Italian Charm Italy’s rising star of jewelry couture, Pianegonda, is redefining traditional circles and chains. His signature Gold Charm necklaces ($895-$1,295) and dangle earrings ($300) are hip new combinations of silver and gold. Lakewood Design Jewelry, 8205 Nature’s Way, Suite 115, (941) 907-3700.
Puppy Pagoda With home accessories like this exquisite enameled dog bed ($549) and an international potpourri of fine art, furniture, silk flowers and preserved trees, fans say Chasen Reed’s selection and free interior design services are better than ever. Chasen Reed Home Décor, 8215 Nature’s Way, SUITE #, (941) 373-3925.
Take Flight With the ambiance of an Italian enoteca, this wine cellar specializes in small vintners, with 160 wines for purchase and wine flights (three reds and three whites for $15; $20 with food). On Friends Nights you buy a bottle and everyone shares. Toulouse’s Wine Cellar, 8215 Nature’s Way, SUITE #, (941) 373-3935.
Suite Dreams If visions of seaside cottages dance in your head, you must have spied Lilly Pulitzer’s new Hibiscus Quilt ($150) co-mingling with hand-painted pendant lamps like the Polka Party ($345) at Nancy Olsen Interiors, 8225 Nature’s Way, Suite 107, (941) 907-9506.
Piece of Cake Celebrity moms like Jaime Pressly and Sheryl Crow fueled demand for Petunia Pickle Bottoms’ chi-chi diaper bags (from $165) and the new couture Cake bag collection ($350). With fans like Marcia Cross and names like Lemon Chiffon and Blueberry Crumble, the cut-velvet Cake is sizzling hot at A Bun in the Oven, 8205 Nature’s Way, Suite 105, (941) 907-6667.
Instant Recall Retha Barnes’ new boutique conjures images of Parisian flea markets replete with antiques and reproductions from the Continent and beyond. We love her flair for spiffing up old French chairs with new silk fabrics ($925). Short Stacks Antiques & Gifts, 8215 Nature’s Way, Suite 109, (941) 929-2959.
Blown Away American Dale Levy fell in love with Venice 37 years ago, and the artistry of hand-blown Murano glass beads like these convinced her to stay. From her jewelry studio off the Grand Canal, Levy still hand-strings these necklaces (from $199) in fashion hues. I Tesori, 8215 Nature’s Way, Suite 113, (941) 907-9296.
Don’t Forget to…
Protect your hair with Aveda’s plant-based Sun Protector ($14) at Che Bella Aveda Salon, where everything is green—including the front desk, salon stations and recycled floors. 8225 Nature’s Way, Suite 103, (941) 907-2674.
Give your home a touch of the tropics with a magnificent Vanda orchid from The Orchid Lady and her Kitchen, 8215 Nature’s Way, Suite 121, (941) 361-1292.
Check out decorative gifts, accessories, furniture and interior design ideas from classic Romanesque to contemporary tropical at Divine Interiors, 8205 Nature’s Way, Suite 101, (941) 907-9759.
Order a gigantic Oreo pancake or the equally popular omelets, frittatas or waffles from Ridgewood, New Jersey’s hottest breakfast spot, Country Pancake House & Restaurant, 8205 Nature’s Way, Suite 114, (941) 361-1117.
Who’s in Store?
Michael Barrett has spent most of his adult life mentoring children, and that’s how the idea for his store, Kid Positive, was born. This 21st-century Renaissance man’s resume includes poetry writing, acting (with roles on Beverly Hills 90210, Forrest Gump and Diagnosis Murder), and positions with L.A.’s Spago restaurant and Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton as food and beverage manager.
But Barrett always pursued his passion for helping kids, eventually heading the mentoring program for Big Brothers of Greater L.A. and the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership organization there. “We found we could positively reinforce the development of kids most dramatically if we reached out to them between zero and age eight,” Barrett says. “And that’s the concept of the store.”
With six-year-old son Mikey at his side as Kid Positive’s official tester, the single dad chooses only toys that are safe, non-toxic and ensure the best possible early childhood development.
Kid Positive, 2222 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota (941) 929-0440
Can’t Live Without: My son; he’s all about love. And what can’t Mikey live without? Puzzles. From floor puzzles [think the piano keyboard straight from the movie Big], to a U.S. map that talks ($19.99), he’s tested every one in the store.
If I Were a Kid I’d be playing with a pogo stick. But our most popular seller is a double-sided art easel by Melissa & Doug ($49.99) that lets two kids paint at the same time and adjusts to their heights as they grow.
Positive Influence Kid Positive is a kids’ store, not just a toy store. “It’s a place where architects and artists in the making can build and paint, athletes can show off their sports talents, and future scientists can dig up dinosaurs,” says Barrett.
Handbag Hierarchy Everyone knows the right bag carries a certain cachet, but Reason’s gives new meaning to the term “status bag” with a special new boutique that’s just been created to showcase limited edition collectibles. Only handcrafted handbags with very limited distribution (from both internationally known designers and small artisan houses) will be featured. You’ll find names like Miu Miu, Rodo, Carlos Falchi and cutting-edge designs like the genuine python “57th Street” handbag by Jane August ($3,295). Reason’s, 57 S. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-1602.
Mamma Mia You’ll proclaim the wonders of this imported Italian sweater, a $699 work of art hand-knitted of whisper-soft mohair and silk laced with ribbons, and signed simply “by Mama.” This is just one of the handcrafted fashions from artisans around the world at this new St. Armands store, one of a handful in the U.S. authorized to carry the stunning German couture line Oska. A & R Gallery Boutique, 19 N. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-1923.
Are You Game? Grandparents are on the hunt for animal prints to please little angels in love with the music, movies and antics of Disney’s Cheetah Girls. Little Bo-Tique owner Joyce Condrack says that though the celebs are teens, their fans are as young as pre-schoolers. Everything spotted is an instant sellout, including this leopard coat with rosebuds and ribbons ($106) and chic cheetah shoes with black velvet ribbon ($36). Little Bo-Tique, 367-A St. Armands Circle, (941) 388-1737.
Vineyard Vintage Precious grapes are reserved for the finest wines—and for the owner of this estate brooch ($14,900), with grape clusters crafted of baguette, round and pear-shaped diamonds (7.50 total carats) and 26 white pearls. Diamond Vault, 72 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota (941) 364-8809.
Oscar Worthy Renowned jeweler Oscar Heyman began designing in the 1800s, and three generations of his family created works of art like this 13.32-ct. yellow sapphire pin with nearly five carats of diamonds ($24,750). Armel Jewelers, 24 N. Boulevard of Presidents, St. Armands Circle (941) 388-3711.
Heart’s Desire This emerald-cut 35.68-ct. rhodalite garnet pin (or pendant) once caused hearts to flutter, its blood-red color accented with four pear-shaped diamonds and set in 18K gold ($19,500). McCarver & Moser 482 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle (941) 388-3666.
Good Morning, Starshine This delicate star sunburst of seed pearls with a diamond center ($1,250) is perfect day or night. Designed in the 1920s to be worn as brooch or pendant. Shrode Jewelers, 1433 Main St., Sarasota (941) 365-4234.
Perfect Pedigree The blue of a six-point star sapphire (10 mm) contrasts a 10.02-mm natural gray pearl, adorned with 90 full-cut diamonds (four carats). Three more entreblant (moving) diamonds, each over a carat, make this 1920s brooch from the estate of Judge Gary (of Gary, Ind.) a spectacular find ($26,500). (He was also the founder of U.S. Steel with Andrew Carnegie). Crissy Galleries, 640 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota (941) 957-1110.
Beetlemania Egyptian influences in this enamel and gold scarab pin ($15,120) were typical in the 1920s, when the Edwardian-style piece was created with 2.5 carats of diamonds and cabachon garnet eyes. J. Thayer Company, 640 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota (941) 955-8820.
Sleek and shiny, patent leather is the season's trademark texture.
By Jill Obrochta
In Your Clutches
Grab one of these and don’t let go! Patent clutch just big enough for all of your essentials. Colorful, cuddly, fold-over flair. $40 each. Aldo, Westfield Southgate, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 951-0685.
Give Peace a Chance
These red croc boots with Swarovski-embellished peace signs should pacify any fashion hawk. Donald Pliner, $555. Dillard’s, Westfield Southgate, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 955-2241.
I Want Candy
Nothing could be sweeter than these bubblegum-pink patent leather pumps. Bazooka! BCBG Girl. $95. Dillard’s, Westfield Southgate, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 955-2241.
These Boots Were Made for Walkin’
And that’s just what you’ll do. Black patent-pleather high-heel boot with trés chic accent buckle let you strut your stuff in style. Chinese Laundry. $60. Foxy Lady, 481 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle (941) 388-5239.
A purse with all the right curves, superbly cinched. White circular handles hug hot-pink shiny patent.. Kristine Accessories, $40. My Accessory Obsession, 2155 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 316-9497.
These hot pink tickers are intoxicating. Think pink! Geveva. $16 each. My Accessory Obsession, 2155 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 316-9497.
Be sleek and chic rain or shine in this trendy trench with matching tote. (Trench comes with shoulder tote). Slippery when wet. Mycra Pac, $210. Stretch patent belt sold separately. Leather Rock, $100. Both at Foxy Lady, 481 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (941) 388-5239.