Two newly merged merchants associations have chosen a new name they feel better represents their identity and mission.
The Downtown Merchants Association and Palm Avenue Merchants Association will now be known as the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, with the tagline: “One voice uniting businesses and residents.”
“It really speaks to what our mission is and what we want to accomplish,” said Wendy Getchell, president of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance.
The group made a concerted effort to strike the word “merchant” from its identity, because it had pigeon-holed them into one category. Some city commissioners and board members of the Downtown Improvement District (DID) believed the merchants associations only had the interests of the merchants in mind.
The majority of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance’s 11-member board is non-merchant. On the board sit a bank president, two commercial-property owners, an accountant, a downtown resident, a restaurant/cafe owner, an arts-community representative and four merchants.
The current membership includes non-merchant organizations, such as Church of the Redeemer, The Players Theatre and the condominiums, Savoy on Palm and 1350 Main. Getchell said she’s already received many calls and e-mails from other non-merchants interested in becoming Alliance members.
“One of the benefits of this group is to coalesce and form a voice that’s not been heard at City Hall,” said John Simon, board member and Pineapple Square developer.
The merger was originally intended to be a three-way deal between the two merchant groups and the Downtown Partnership, but the merchant groups felt negotiations with the Partnership were going nowhere, so they broke off talks last month.
DID Chairman Larry Fineberg believed the Partnership was going to represent businesses in the merged group and now that DID was no longer part of the merger that only merchants’ interests were being represented. He told Getchell that he didn’t think the DID could offer financial support to the merged groups because of it.
Getchell thinks the new name and the makeup of the board and its membership will assist in changing that belief.
NEW NAME, NEW LOOK
The Downtown Sarasota Alliance is reaching out to several graphic artists this week to create a new logo for the group.
It will ask the artists to submit ideas, and the board will choose one next week.