For decades, St. Armands Circle has welcomed visitors from across the world. Unique in concept, history, and beauty, it is a beacon for those seeking quality and original goods, dining, personal services, and events—all delivered in a casual yet luxurious open-air setting.
Like many success stories, the Circle sprang from humble beginnings. Part of 132 acres of mangrove swamp purchased by Charles St. Amands (sic) in 1893 for $21.71, it eventually found its way into the hands of circus magnate John Ringling in 1917. Ringling’s vision for the property extended well beyond the original owner’s trades of fishing and poultry production to a concept that encompassed residential lots, a circular shopping area, and a bridge and causeway to join it all with the mainland.
A nationwide depression stalled progress, but Ringling’s influence is still evident in the St. Armands Circle that evolved into what it is today, with streets radiating from the circle’s hub and Italian statuary from his personal collection placed around the key. The shopping circle looks very much as Ringling envisioned it, with palm-lined medians, a park-like setting, and tropical plantings providing an elegant showcase for what is now nearly 140 stores.
It is all of these factors—what St. Armands Circle was, what it is, and what it promises to be—that have created what members of its merchants’ association call the “spirit” of their unique community.
The desire to share that spirit, said St. Armands Circle Association Executive Director Diana M. Corrigan, is the impetus behind a new rebranding campaign. Created in conjunction with the St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District and the association, the campaign is designed to preserve and reinvigorate the Circle as a distinctive destination for local residents, regional visitors, and tourists and to showcase what makes the Circle special.
“A mall is a mall. A shopping center is a shopping center. The Circle, however, is something altogether different,” Corrigan explained.
“It’s a breath of fresh air from the ordinary,” she continued, “where shoppers can find unique goods and visitors can find a lot to do in one space, creating a full day of enjoyment.” An outdoor setting and wide sidewalks create the feel of a European plaza, she said, with space to wander at a leisurely pace and make new discoveries with every step.
With restaurants considered among the area’s best, it’s also where locals and tourists go for memorable dining for every occasion, whether that means an upscale restaurant, a tropical bistro, or just a brew, cone, or coffee. Guests also come to St. Armands to immerse themselves in luxurious pampering in its salons and spas, Corrigan said: “There’s just so much in one remarkable place.”
Logistically, the Circle is conveniently located just minutes across the Bay from downtown Sarasota, Corrigan said, “with the trip across the sparkling waters just part of the experience.” With the addition of a new garage, she continued, the Circle has some 1,600 parking spots available in and around it. Street parking is free on weekends and holidays, and garage parking is free on Sundays and holidays.
Combining the latest in trends and services, the area’s deep roots in circus, and its merchants’ commitment to excellence, St. Armands Circle has become a singular ecosystem appreciated by 2.7 million visitors a year. Whether those visitors are locals, residents sharing the experience with company, day-trippers, tourists from across the country, or international visitors who often make it a first stop, Corrigan said, “our goal is to prove every day that life’s better on the Circle, where memorable days begin.”
You can sign up for the St. Armands Circle digital newsletter, “Life on the Circle,” here to find the latest on shopping, dining, and event experiences.