Carman’s Shoes opened on St. Armands Circle on a quiet August day in 1965. Owner Bill Carman recalls what the Circle looked like back then: It had a toy store, more than a dozen dress shops, two gas stations and a grocery store. Of the 125 merchants that operated on the Circle back then, just three — Carman’s, the Columbia Restaurant and Bennington Tobacconist — remain today. And, soon, there will be just two: Carman plans to close his family-owned Carman’s Shoes & Handbags.
He recently put the store’s three-story building at 434 and 436 St. Armands Circle up for sale, listed by Lee DeLieto Jr., of Michael Saunders & Co., for $1.8 million. The sale of the building will allow the estate of Carman’s brother, Steve, a part owner of the building who died recently, to be settled. Currently, Carman’s is selling off its merchandise. Carman doesn’t know when the store will close, but he estimates that the business will be closed by the end of the year. He and his wife, Judy, who live on Longboat Key, plan to retire.
Reflecting on the last 45 years on the Circle, Carman walks toward the store’s angled window that provides a panoramic view of the Circle.
“It’s the only store on the Circle where you can actually see the Circle,” he says.
From that window, Carman saw the Circle’s architecture change from buildings similar to the Bimini Island-style of his building to larger styles that maximize square footage. He saw the number of retailers decrease and the number of restaurants increase, as the Circle evolved throughout the years. But during that time, Carman’s grew as well. Carman’s Shoes became Carman’s Shoes & Handbags, with Carman’s wife operating handbag sales out of the top floor, while Carman and his three sons, Jeffrey, Chris and Matthew, sold shoes on the bottom floor.
Carman says that the conversion of hotel units to condominiums on Longboat Key over the past decade made business tougher.
“The closing of hotel rooms on Longboat and Lido has affected not just Longboat and Lido but St. Armands Circle as well,” he says.
Both Bill and Judy Carman say that they will miss their customers.
“We have people that have shopped with us for 25 to 30 years,” Judy Carman says.
But Carman says he is looking forward to retirement.
“I live two blocks from the beach,” he says, “and I haven’t been there in 25 years.”
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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