By Michael Saunders
Before we moved to Longboat Key full time, my family drove there every weekend from our home in Tampa. In those days, motoring south to our seaside cottage at Land’s End was an all-day affair, as many of the bridges and highways we now take for granted had yet to be built.
Each week, before finishing the last leg of our journey, my parents would stop in downtown Sarasota to stock up on groceries and grab a bite to eat. The first stop was at a grocery store called Margaret Ann, which occupied the southwest corner of Ringling and Washington Boulevards. Next we would visit the Saprito Brothers Fruit Stand, at Main Street and Osprey Avenue, where we often bought crates of oranges for ourselves and friends up North. Then we would wander across the street to Smacks, the popular drive-in of its day, where the servers wore roller skates to deliver their trays of food.
By the time we got rolling again, with tummies full and household provisions restocked, it was all we could do after a day on the road to keep our eyes open. Within minutes, however, the aroma of salt air followed by the familiar clackety-clack of the old wooden Ringling Bridge brought us instantly back to life. These were the unmistakable cues that we were at last getting close to the cherished home on Longboat Pass that my family still owns, and which always summons up memories of an idyllic childhood spent at the water’s edge.
Little did I know how serendipitous those routine weekly stops would turn out to be. Today, the buildings that housed Margaret Ann and Sapritos are, respectively, the corporate headquarters and Main Street sales office of Michael Saunders & Company—albeit several renovations removed. Smacks eventually gave way to the Sun Trust Building.
So even from my earliest days as a weekend and summer visitor, destiny seemed to be steering me toward a full-time life and career in this amazing slice of paradise we call Sarasota. I can live without many things, but not without a steady supply of sand in my shoes.
Michael Saunders is founder and CEO of Michael Saunders & Company.