Women lined the aisles of The Sea Stable every June. Many drove from mainland Sarasota for the boutique’s annual swimsuit sale, waiting all year to buy two-for-one swimsuits.
Back in 1979, when Art Falls and his wife, Nancy, bought The Sea Stable, he thought she would handle the fashion side of the business. She had been a fashion-design major, while he had worked to secure financial aid and grants for students at the University of Illinois and, later, as director of transportation safety for the state of Illinois.
But over the years, he too developed an eye for style. During the sale, when business peaked, and also throughout the year, he often helped customers select swimwear, giving them an honest opinion of whether he liked the look. That’s when they would come out of the fitting room. His rule: If they wouldn’t leave the fitting room, don’t let them buy it.
Falls closed The Sea Stable, 3170 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Dec. 31, 2006. Months earlier, he closed Brightwater Boutique and Susan Stribling’s New Traditions, both in Avenue of the Flowers. The Sea Stable was the last of his and Nancy’s, who died in 2002, six Florida boutiques to close.
The stores were family businesses. Falls’ son, Joe, was a partial owner of the company and managed Brightwater Boutique and another store in Amelia Island, near Jacksonville. In 2005, his daughter, Betsy Falls, joined the team as manager of The Sea Stable.
Today, Falls lives with Betsy in The Meadows, in Sarasota, where he has lived since the early 1980s. He’s retired and enjoys visiting the Fruitville Public Library and taking his granddog, Brindle, a Havanese, out for treats. But Betsy Falls says her father still has an eye for fashion, often noticing the tags on other’s clothing. He wonders what brands people are wearing.
During his 28 years on Longboat Key, Falls wasn’t just known for his clothing stores. He was involved in the community, active in the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce. He helped organize the St. Judes Gourmet Luncheon before the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key became responsible for the event and was also an active Kiwanian.
Falls says he misses Kiwanis Club most of all of the groups in which he participated. He liked the Thursday morning breakfasts at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort and the friends he made.
“It was being involved with a bunch of civic activists,” he said. “They were fun to be with.”
Falls still eats lunch most Thursdays with Kiwanis Club President Vince DeLisi. And, although he doesn’t make it out to the Key often, he still follows town affairs.
On Aug. 27, Falls turned 83, although he celebrated two days later, so that family members could attend the party. He has four children and nine grandchildren, many of whom attended the party. On the menu: a family taco recipe.
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