Historic Downtown Village--that cluster of brightly colored cottages off Fruitville Road that's home to the Tea House, The Crystal Cave, Cookie Cottage and Bon Marche, among others--has welcomed a new tenant. Keffie's Eco-Chic Boutique is a gift shop featuring an eclectic collection of home goods with--as the name suggests--a sustainable bent.
The shop is owned by Keffie Lancaster, a born-and-raised Sarasotan whose family owns Lancaster Interior Design as well as Historic Downtown Village itself. When a space became available, Lancaster--who has a background in interior design and merchandising--recalls that her father approached her about opening a store. "I thought it would be fun," Lancaster remembers--and Keffie's Eco-Chic Boutique was born.
It all started with a bottle. "Two years ago, I was in Los Angeles for an ASID conference and I bought a S'well bottle," Lancaster recalls. "Then I went hiking, left my bottle in the car for an entire day, [and when I got back] my ice water still had ice cubes in it. I was like, 'Whoa, this is so cool!'" She says she vowed to herself then and there that she would never drink out of a plastic bottle again "and that everyone should own a S'well bottle." When she returned to Sarasota, she ordered some for Lancaster Interior Design and they quickly sold out. "I thought, 'Wow, this retail thing is easier than I thought!'' she recalls with a laugh. "That's not quite the case--but who knew this bottle was going to push me toward my future?"
Sustainability is paramount. After discovering S'well, Lancaster began researching companies that made similarly eco-friendly products, and when space opened up in Historic Downtown Village, she knew she wanted to showcase those items. "I wanted to encourage local shopping and sustainable products," she says, "and sell things that could become heirlooms--like beautiful china or a substantial picture frame."
Foods, gifts and more. Upon opening, Lancaster says that her intention was to focus on furniture--"but this space is not very big and that was going to be really challenging," she explains. Instead, she's chosen to focus on gifts, jewelry and artwork, which customers have responded well to. Popular items include honey from Stubbee's, an apiary just south of the Florida-Georiga border, Karma Living Pillows, ToGoWare reusable bamboo utensils, Milkbarn organic baby clothes, and Sonoma aromatherapy blankets and neck rolls. "The community response has been great," she says. As for what keeps her going? "All of it! [The store] satisfies the social aspect because I get to see people, and it satisfies my urge to create things and buy things. I've got a little bit of everything I love."