Street Talk - November 2003

By staff November 1, 2003


People are still talking about their tax bills, with many Sarasota properties showing a 20 percent increase in values last year. Is this a bubble or a long-term trend?

Prof. Fred Strobel, Selby Chair of Economics, New College of Florida: Retiring baby boomers are looking for Florida property, and Sarasota is constantly-Money magazine and all that-touted as the most desirable part. Then there's the movement of money out of the stock market into upscale property, and the good interest rates, even on jumbo mortgages. Sure, you could see a backoff or a slow down in prices, but we have some strong demographics working here. As an economist, if I see a nice piece of desirable property in Sarasota, I'd buy it.

Gib Mitchell, City of Sarasota Finance Director: I truly believe it's a bubble-a bubble that's several years in length-but it can't continue at this unprecedented growth rate. I expect the bubble to burst in the near future.

Kevin Daves, architect/developer: This is no bubble. People who live in Sarasota simply don't hear the hoofbeats of the folks hauling ass to get here.

Jim Todora, Sarasota County Property Appraiser: It wouldn't be a bubble like the stock market, where when it bursts, everything loses all its value. I don't think they are going to decline, but it's got to start to level off somewhere. As long-term mortage rates rise, we'll start to see a slowdown in property values.


Should gay marriage be legal?

Paul Mercier, county commissioner: Whatever union two consenting adults enter into is between them. This issue doesn't rise to the level of solving some of our problems, like growth and the fragmenting of our different sectors. It shouldn't consume all of our time, energy and money.

The Rev. Jim Merritt, community activist: All American citizens are entitled to the same benefits under the Constitution and a civilized society. Marriage and all of its benefits and responsibilities should be available to anyone who wants them.

Father Fausto Stampiglia, pastor St. Martha's Catholic Church: Marriage is the basis of every society. In the Judeo-Christian ethic, it is the union of man and woman for the procreation of children. Therefore, the term should be used exclusively to refer to the union of a man and a woman.

Graci McGillicuddy, arts and human service activist: I attended the same-sex wedding of a very dear friend 10 years ago, and I don't look at it from the perspective of a label, just two people who care for one another and want to be together.

Best Bite

Relish This is downtown's flashy new hot dog bistro at 1568 Main, serving sausages in a very Sarasota manner-meaning there are lots of choices and styles. In addition to almost 20 variations of hot dogs. there are also Italian beef sandwiches, lobster rolls and a tuna roll, too. Nicest of all is that the ingredients are all fresh and tasty, served in a room that's way upscale for a hot dog parlor.

Start off with a Main Street dog featuring roasted red peppers, diced red onions and jalapeños, but if your taste is more traditional, there are chili, kraut or cheese dogs. Polish sausages, bratwursts and even a burger dog made with ground beef.

On the side, you have a choice of fries made from either white or sweet potatoes plus the more usual baked beans, coleslaw, dill pickles and chips.

So one of the oldest of all quick lunches is new again on Main Street, this time tailored to upscale tastes and demanding customers.

Now hear this

"I've talked with a lot of those folks buying property on Golden Gate Point and the main reason they're buying there is they want to be able to walk to downtown Sarasota." -Former State Sen. Bob Johnson telling the city commission why a slow-speed road along the bayfront is a good idea.

Hot Seat

Retired Manatee County Superintendent of Schools Gene Witt has three times been called on to serve as acting superintendent in Sarasota, the most recent being this fall as the school board searches for a replacement for the beloved Wilma Hamilton, who retired to help gain control over her diabetes.

So Witt, now 74 and the picture of health and clarity, has agreed to run the Sarasota system until a replacement is found again-by Jan. 1, it is hoped.

Q: If you were God of the School System-which of course you kind of are-what's the one change you'd make?

A: I'm more like a recurring bad dream than god of the system, at least to the school board members. Seriously, things are going well because Wilma left things in good shape. Closing the achievement gap among ethnic groups is what I'm keeping my eye on. "The No Child Left Behind" kind of thing is my main thrust. But even there, really I'm just following Wilma's lead.

Q: So what's the biggest challenge?

A: Closing that gap, both nationwide and in Florida. Here in Sarasota faculty and staff morale is good and we're so fortunate to have a supportive citizenry.

Q: What's changed since the last time you filled in?

A: The finances. The support of the citizenry in passing the added funding has simply made a world of difference. Other districts around Florida and the country are slashing programs and staff, but we're able to hold on and carry on. Three years ago things were not that great in terms of morale, but there's been a big, big improvement.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

A: Just general concern about the system and somehow keeping it on an even keel. It's a huge organization, you know, and the board is struggling with conducting a good search. Actually, they're the ones [the board members] spending sleepless nights worrying. I'll help them all I can, but ultimately, the search is their burden.


Jewelry designer Nikki Feldbaum branches out to the beauty business.

Emerging from a 10-year marriage, jewelry designer Nikki Feldbaum holds to this mantra: "Don't wait for someone to give you flowers-plant your own garden." For the 41-year-old mother of two, that means expanding her horizons to include Les Perles, a Palm Avenue salon dedicated to skin care that also offers Nikki's exclusive line of Les Perles cosmetics.

Why the name Les Perles? It connects the two things I love best in fashion-jewelry and cosmetics. I always envisioned packaging cosmetics with a freshwater pearl centered in a nest of sterling silver-spun threads on lipstick tubes and compacts. The products look absolutely beautiful, like art.

What advances are you incorporating into your line? Sunscreen protection in foundation. Lip pumice ($15) that you use daily to exfoliate the dead skin from lips and around the mouth. Eye shadow ($18) that doesn't cake. And I'm crazy about mascara primer ($17), a filler and smoother that gives you double volume. Many men with thin lashes love this product.

Are more men using cosmetics? Men are much more serious about skin care than women realize. If you give them a five-minute regimen to follow in the morning they will stick to it. They also like exfoliating products, the lash primer and concealer or foundation to give them better color and hide imperfections.

What makes your make-up different? Simplicity. Our products are easy to use and give great results. Our colors are the finest and most extensive. We advise, demonstrate, we'll even custom blend foundation to achieve exactly the right shade. I've used the best ingredients, and prices are competitive with department stores.

What's driving this new venture? My mom was a model, and I was in my first fashion show at age six. When I was 15, I lied about my age to work at a cosmetic counter in a department store, and years later I was a fashion director for Burdines.

What's next? This venture, coupled with my expanding jewelry design business, will probably keep me busy for many years. I love creating beautiful things and I can handle the marketing. Finances are not my favorite part of the job, but I have a good accountant and I'm learning to be more efficient. Even in a bad economy the cosmetics industry holds its own-a woman will always buy a tube of lipstick as a pick-me-up.

Parting beauty tips? After applying lipstick, make a circle with your lips. Push your finger through the circle and pull it out. The little bit of color that your finger picks up means there won't be any lipstick on your teeth when you smile.

Return of the (real) Asolo Theater

Built in 1798, removed from its castle home in Asolo Italy in 1930 and installed at the Ringling Museum of Art in 1952, the original little Asolo Theater was Sarasota's main stage for most of half a century.

It may never serve that function again, but at least it's coming out of hiding.

You see, the original Asolo Theater Company performed in repertory there for 37 years (hence, its name) before it moved across Bay Shore Road in 1990 to a larger theater interior from Scotland, where it kept the Asolo name. Likewise, the Asolo Opera Company was founded and performed on the Asolo stage for decades before it moved downtown and became the Sarasota Opera Company.

For nearly 40 years, from the early 1950s to 1990, the Asolo hosted not only theater and opera, but lecture series, a chamber music series, ballet and even a Monday night classic film series sponsored by the museum itself.

And then it was over. After its two main users, the theater company and the opera, moved on, the museum effectively shuttered the Asolo Theater while it battled budget crisis after budget crisis just trying to stay open in the '90s.

So if you've lived in Sarasota less than a full decade and a little more, chances are you've never had a chance to see that historic theater interior tucked behind the north wing of the Ringling Museum of Art. Fortunately, that's going to change.

As part of the new visitors' center scheduled to be built just inside the Cà d'Zan gatehouse over the next couple of years, the old (and genuine) Asolo Theater will be refurbished and re-installed to its former glory. Once again, museum officials promise, it will become an important stage in Sarasota while harking back to the city's cultural beginnings.

J. Number for Richelle is 552-3028



Channel 40's Richelle Ridgeway moves into the spotlight.

Don't let Richelle Ridgeway's bubbly demeanor on WWSB/Channel 40's early-morning Sunrise fool you. This single, award-winning journalist is dead serious about broadcasting (you have to be to interview Green Bay Packer wide receiver Antonio Freeman after his DUI arrest in a locker room filled with nude players). Along with the early-morning news show, the native of Palmyra, Mo., sometimes pulls double duty on the afternoon newscasts, and she racked up more air time this Labor Day, co-hosting the Muscular Dystrophy telethon. So with former anchor Vida Urbonas out of the picture, will Ridgeway rise to the top? "She's one of my stars," is all news director Kay Miller will say.

Did you like hosting the telethon? I love it. You can have a good time, kick off your shoes and ham it up.

Does the camera really add 10 pounds? Yes, but I'm lucky. I don't work out too much. I don't like sweets and I love vegetables. Chips and dip are my sin-I can eat a whole bag of Ruffles and onion dip on the weekend.

What was your first story? In Columbia, Mo., a rock climber fell off a cliff, and I had to shoot, write and edit the entire piece. After dragging the equipment to the top, I realized I'd left my makeup down at the bottom. It was 100 degrees, I had just climbed a football field, and you don't just leave $60,000 worth of equipment at the top of a cliff. So I took a dollar bill out of my pocket, wiped the sweat off my face and did my stand-up.

What time do you get up to host Sunrise? 3 a.m. I go to bed between 7 and 7:30 p.m.

Why Sarasota? I wanted a place where work was not just a steppingstone to somewhere else. One year here, and I'm not looking ahead to find another job. It's the first time in seven years that's happened.-

Contributing writers: Bob Ardren, Pat Haire and Marsha Fottler

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