By staff May 1, 2008

Lower Main Street offers shopping as vibrant as its restaurant scene, an international smorgasbord of tastes, style and cultures. For every French, Italian, Oriental or Pan-American restaurant, we found equally delicious stores “serving” everything from boutique java or workout gear to fine jewelry and world-class art. 

Puppy Pram When Fido’s personal four-wheel drive fizzles, a pet stroller ($179.90) by Jeep will make you his best friend forever. Built to go the distance with joggers, it’s among the many treats (including cookies baked by a former pastry chef) at Max’s Dog Bakery, 1375 Main St., Sarasota (941) 330-0330.

Fit City “Sarasota is a wicked workout town,” say Karen Magee and Andrea Rankin, who are astounded by the turnover of exercise gear at their new Jake’s Downtown. Items from volleyballs ($20) to Good Move performance T-shirts ($30) and tanks ($40) are flying out the door. 1463 Main St., Sarasota (941) 955-JAKE. 

Diamond Eyes Glasses are jewels for your face at Soto’s, where Eyewood’s curly maple frames sport black, brown and gold Swarovski crystals ($800) and David Eden’s boast diamonds, rubies, even canary emeralds ($700 to $2,300). Soto’s Optical Boutique, 1383 Main St., Sarasota (941) 953-3788.

Stars’ Sapphire It’s no wonder fans of Helen Ringus’ jewelry include celebs Melanie Griffith, Angela Bassett and more. She created the diamond-rimmed enamel flowers on this sapphire necklace ($11,500) with an ancient filigree technique, plique a jour. Wearable Art, 1463 Main St., Sarasota (941) 957-0105.

Life’s Mosaic The newest restaurant on Main Street, MoZaic represents an amalgam of cuisines and cultures that have left their mark on French Moroccan chef-owner Dylan Elhajoui’s life and menu. Try the tagine-stewed petite veal shank laced with fennel. MoZaic, 1377 Main St., Sarasota (941) 951-6772.

Arts Counsel At this local artists’ co-op, you’ll find paintings, sculpture and artists on hand to discuss their work and inspiration. Wood turner Gordon Cook says he crafted this stunning segmented bowl ($1,480) with 134 pieces of maple and walnut. Art Uptown, 1367 Main St., Sarasota (941) 955-5409.

Gold Standard To make a truly figure-flattering swimsuit, you have to understand lingerie, says Lotus owner Wendy Getchell, whose newest bathing suits are by Huit (from $134) and Cosa Bella (from $160), the gold labels of European underwear brands. Lotus, 1451 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-7080.

High Five You’ll celebrate La Source’s 60-Second Fix for Hands, the award-winning therapy program that restores dry hands to softness within minutes. Customers in the know snap up this hands-down best-seller (in $10 and $28 sizes) at Main Street Traders, 1468 Main St., Sarasota (941) 373-0475.  

Seattle South It’s a coffeehouse culture at Sarasota News & Books with a new café menu, C’est La Vie croissants and coffee by Intelligentsia, the boutique roaster with a cult following. Try a 12-ounce bag of beans to go (from $10.50). Sarasota News & Books, 1344 Main St., Sarasota (941) 365-6322.

Don’t Forget to…

-    Show you care with awesome gift baskets specially customized to fit your friend, lover and budget with tantalizing treats from $50 to $600 at The Gourmet Market, 1469 Main St., Sarasota (941) 953-9101.

-     Rifle through racks of recycled designer fashions on consignment from Sarasota’s finest closets at Encore! and more, 1439 Main St., Sarasota (941) 953-4222, where proceeds fund the Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County.

-     Step back in time at the Gator Club, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and consistently voted best bar/club in town with rhythm and blues, hot new bands, even Texas Holdem Mondays. Gator Club, 1490 Main St., Sarasota (941) 366-5969.

-     Browse through stacks of gently used tomes plus antique books, maps and prints at this world-class emporium, where the booksellers are as intriguing as the subject matter. Book Bazaar/A. Parker’s Books, 1488 Main St., Sarasota (941) 366-1373.

Raise the Bar

Indulge in affordable luxury with an extra-special soap.

It’s Essential Venice, Fla. soap crafter Francine Nichols’ signature bar is a seven-fragrance Organic Essential Oil Blend, but every one of her original recipes includes hand-poured goat’s milk for silky skin. A 7-ounce bar is $7 at or Nirvana, 353 W. Dearborn St., Englewood (941) 726-1127.

Haute Soap The lavender in Cote Lavande soap ($8.50) is so pure it’s certified by the French government (like fine wine) for origin and quality. Based in Haute-Provence (where the lavender is grown), but the owners warehouse products in Sarasota. Pamela de Provence, 665 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota (941) 955-9102.

Sunshine State As fresh as Florida citrus, Earthwork soaps ($10) called grapefruit, sweet lime and limone combine natural floral and fruit essences. Triple-milled in England with moisturizing shea butter, coconut and jojoba oils. Simply Spoiled, 100 Central Ave., Sarasota (941) 364-3337.

Oceans Away The best-selling soaps at Décor de France are Ocean & Seaweed and fragrant Verbena. The hand-milled vegetable soaps ($7.50) by L’Epi de Provence are rich in shea butter and scents from Grasse, the world fragrance capital. Décor de France, 24 N. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota (941) 388-1599.

Soap d’Etat Milanese soap maker Rancé traces its roots to Grasse, France, and its fans to Napoleon. Corylopsis ($11) is infused with winter hazel, triple-milled and hand-pressed in 18th-century molds. Shown with Annieglass dish ($65). Square on the Circle, 25 N. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota (941) 388-1322.  

Magnificent Seven Is it Oprah’s favorite because Claus Porto soap is milled seven times instead of three? Or is it the hefty 12-ounce bars ($15) and scents like Banho (Citron/Verbena) and Honeysuckle, favorites from the venerable Portuguese brand’s array? At Lotus, 1451 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-7080.  

Give Me MOR You’ll be hearing more about MOR, a beautifully hand-wrapped, triple-milled Australian soap ($15), with fans like Paris and Nicky Hilton, Fred Segal and more. Twelve sensual fragrances from Black Cherry Plum to Kale & Watercress at Envie Home Decor, 1411 First St., Sarasota (941) 366-7027.

Who’s In Store?

Tina Little and her store, Queens’ Wreath Jewels, are known for giving customers the royal treatment. In fact, when a princess from the United Arab Emirates requested a private showing of designer Michael Beaudry’s gems, Beaudry asked Little to represent him in Dubai.

“Michael knew that showing jewelry to royalty must be done by a woman,” she explains. “It was amazing—no men were allowed. I was taken to a private room and she entered in full burka. The suspense was incredible.” Little says the royal shopper—who was gorgeous—was enchanted by an eight-carat pear-shaped diamond pendant surrounded by micro pavé-set diamonds.  

At her St. Armands boutique, Little carries a Beaudry Diamond Forever necklace that also caught the princess’ eye, as well as gems from a cache of prestige names. “I sell legacy jewels; I believe jewels are the blood of the family,” declares the diminutive gemologist, confessing to one more passion: “barbecued ribs from the Rib Shack on Bahia Vista.”—Carol Tisch

Queens Wreath Jewels, 382 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota (941) 388-9800

Can’t live without: “Beautiful jewels. Just looking at them makes me happy. I love my right-hand diamond ring: It’s heart-shaped, but surrounded with fancy pink diamonds micro-set in platinum,” Little says.

What this town needs: “We need women to wear big, beautiful jewels and be proud of it; I don’t see that here, but I do in other towns,” Little notes. Mimi Bijoux’s vintage-style diamond bracelet is “tiered like a wedding cake.” (Price on request)

What’s old is new: “Vintage doesn’t mean pre-owned; everything we sell is new,” says Little, who gets first pick of world-renowned names’ retired stock like this Bulgari gold and tourmaline collar.


Gifts for Mom

By George!  Jewelry by Giorgio has moved next door to Morton’s Gourmet Market with gossamer creations like this lacy pavé diamond collar (11.58 carats; price on request). The jewelry is made in Valencia, Italy, and complements Sarasota’s lifestyle, says Giorgio Salameh, who once owned stores in Santorini, Mykonos and St. Thomas. “Clients here wear my pieces with jeans or evening gowns, just as they did abroad,” he says. Jewelry by Giorgio, 1924 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota (941) 363-7700.

Buzz-Worthy Designer Susan Farber’s bow bags are paparazzi magnets, as good-looking as the stars who wear them. Photo ops in the clutches of Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher and Sharon Stone are matched by those of local fans, chief among them Farber’s mom, Steffi Gold of Longboat Key. Sophia comes in two sizes, Piccolo ($235) and Mezzo ($253) in myriad colors. Addison Craig, 28 S. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota (941) 388-3400.

Zensational Moms will receive the gift of relaxation this Mother’s Day. It comes in the form of Buddha Boards (from $10 to $32.95 for a laptop) that include bamboo brush and Japanese-style water holder. You paint with water on an eco-friendly reusable surface. When the water dries, the art (or doodles) eventually evaporate, leaving a clean slate and a clear mind. Ringling Museum Store, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota (941) 359-5700.

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