Historical village in Sarasota given new life

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SARASOTA - Many people here on the Suncoast mourn the fact that more and more of our older buildings are being torn down. And the loss of these building means a loss of our history. But in one small village near downtown Sarasota, a group of small houses have been saved from the wrecking ball and given new life.

The Sarasota Downtown Historical Village is a new name for the group of small cottages that sit along Fruitville Road between U.S. 301 and Osprey Avenue. "Supposedly in the 20’s they were built by Ringling for his workers, so there was a village atmosphere event then. But of course time takes over and they got run down,” says Melanie van Houten, owner of Fickle Fish.

Crime moved into the area, but then a Suncoast couple bought the cottages and remodeled them.

First the Breakfast House opened about 3 years ago. Then one by one, each little cottage was taken over by a new owner and transformed into a unique shop. "All the business owners are women. We have a gallery, a baby store, a tea house, a breakfast house, and us. We are a consignment shop," says Marina Eckert, owner of Sarasota Marche.

Her shop is next door to the Fickle Fish. "The Fickle Fish is a wonderful store full of one-of-a-kind furniture items and art and water colors a title bit of everything," says van Houten.

Michele Myers owns the Artful Giraffe. "The Artful Giraffe is an art gallery that offers whimsical feel-good art. When you walk in, you are going to have a nice feeling, you're going to be happy, bright colors, very whimsical art representing mostly southern artists here in Florida," says Myers.

Cheri Neary's shop is called Embellishments. "Embellishments is a full-service interior design firm. But we also have gifts and accessories and lots of great cards."

One thing you won't see there is competition between the shop owners. "There is such a camaraderie among all of us, and we work really hard to keep that," says Myers.

And they say all the activity in the little village has driven crime out. "The influence of this little shopping village has really started a renovation of this area," says Neary.

And folks who live around the village are beginning to spruce up and beautify their homes, too. "I think it's a natural thing, since this area has cleaned up, that we are starting to see a lot of people move into this area, and the whole neighborhood is sort of shifting."

And one of the nicest things about the Sarasota Downtown Historical Village is the comfortable seating where you can sit back enjoy the nice breeze and the very friendly atmosphere.