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Victoria Erquiaga, Diana Durand, Wendy Lee Goldberg, John Dickinson, Jason Elden, Marina Eckert, Valerie Coyle and Richard Light, Gillespie Village merchants, pose on the porch of Sarasota Marche. Photos by Rachel S. O'Hara and Kurt Schultheis.
Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 8 years ago

Retail village highlights Gillespie Park's revitalization

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by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Two years ago, Wendy Goldberg had a vision to turn a 1920s-style cottage on Fruitville Road into a quaint breakfast eatery.

Coincidentally, the owners of 14 rundown cottages that stretch from Osprey Avenue almost to U.S. 301 on Fruitville Road had the same vision.

Two years after it opened, The Breakfast House now serves hundreds of people a week during season and has helped spawn a revitalization of the cottages.

“I was driven by this little house two years ago and had an epiphany,” Goldberg said. “I wanted to put a restaurant in this old, cute, little house. Everybody thought I was crazy.”

But Alex and Marlene Lancaster, the owners of the property, had the same vision after they realized tearing down the cottages and building a retail/condominium development in its place was unrealistic in today’s economy.

Once the Breakfast House was painted a butter yellow color and fixed up and started attracting patrons, Goldberg said it gave her the courage to move forward with a plan to rent and renovate the cottage next-door.

Last week, Goldberg opened a boutique called Acceszorize in the cottage next-door with her partner, Valerie Coyle. Both Goldberg and the Lancasters said the facades of two freshly painted cottages helped drum interest in the other cottages. Today, six businesses occupy the area; the Lancasters have dubbed the concept, “Gillespie Village.”

Today, other cottages house businesses such as Sarasota Marche, Trigger Point Clinic, Next Level Fitness and the soon-to-be opened Canta Rana Peruvian Restaurant.

“It’s becoming a little village,” said Goldberg, who has plans to host “intimate crafts market” get-togethers behind Acceszorize and envisions an area of pedestrians floating from cottage to cottage.

“I got a lot of negativity when I came into this area,” said Goldberg. “But the businesses are coming, and the Gillespie Park neighborhood behind it is coming into its own and welcomes our concept.”

The Lancasters envision a flower shop, a bakery and others, allowing pedestrians to pick up everything they need in one spot — then sit under sweeping oak trees.

Marlene Lancaster, who worked with her husband years ago to get the property rezoned from residential to commercial, said she couldn’t be happier with the transformation.

Lancaster, a Sarasota-based real-estate agent and an urban planner, said she’s busy showing the cottages to potential tenants who are interested in opening businesses.

“We are getting really close to realizing our dream over here to create a cute little village where people can come to shop, eat, stroll the grounds and get everything they need in one place,” Lancaster said.

Richard Light, a neuromuscular therapist and the owner of Trigger Point Clinic, called the retail area “a wonderful place to shop, eat and relax amongst the quaint, historic homes and huge shade trees.”

“I have been open six months and the businesses keep coming,” Light said.

Marina Eckerdt, owner of the newly opened Sarasota Marche boutique, which is a high-end European consignment shop, said the blossoming cottage concept “is tremendously important to the Gillespie Park neighborhood.”

“A lot of people are afraid to shop north of Orange Avenue,” Eckerdt said. “We’re changing all that … the people are coming.”

The newest business is Canta Rana Peruvian Restaurant, which is scheduled to open by mid-December.
Husband-and-wife team José Rodriguez and Diana Durand said it’s the perfect location for their new eatery.

“This is a new part of downtown that’s growing and finding its own little niche,” Rodriguez said. “We knew this is where we wanted to be, and there’s plenty of parking and places for people to stroll the area and shop and eat.”

Marlene Lancaster said Gillespie Village is becoming the village she and her husband always thought was possible. She also said Goldberg was a big help in getting the concept off the ground.

“She (Goldberg) was the first one in there and brave enough to go for it,” Marlene Lancaster said. “Now, we have successful businesses blossoming in there, and I bet it will be all filled up by next Christmas.”

Business Boom
The following businesses are now open or are opening soon in a new cottage commercial center in Gillespie Park off Fruitville Road:
• The Breakfast House
• Acceszorize
• Sarasota Marche
• Trigger Point Clinic
• Canta Rana Peruvian Restaurant
• Next Level Fitness

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