Siesta Sand (section 1)- April 2024

Page 1

Real estate investor and entrepreneur Chris Brown has added 5212 Ocean Blvd. to his rapidly growing portfolio.

Constance Zacker, a Siesta Key investor who owned the Siesta Village property for many years, sold the 1,992-square-foot building to Brown earlier this month. Brown reported that he paid “about $3 million.”

The retail space houses both the Created Gems jewelry store and the Casa Del Sol Boutique. Mark and Barbie Edwards, who own Created Gems, have been longterm tenants of the space, having opened their store 22 years ago.

In 2023, the Casa Del Sol

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, which is also home to the island’s Visitor Center, is relocating to a larger office space. The move comes after 25 years at Davidson Plaza in the Siesta Village.

Boutique opened in the adjacent space. The shop features domestic and imported beachwear for men and women as well as home decor, gift items and accessories. Erika Schmid and Nicholas Browne are the boutique’s coowners. Brown expressed great enthusiasm for the new project, located in the midst of Siesta Key’s main shopping district. “I look forward to working with Created Gems and Casa Del Sol Boutique

for a long time,” he said. “I want them to succeed.”

As the season ends and life on Siesta Key winds down, Brown advised that he will begin to consider aesthetic updates to the building.

“Let’s get past season,” said Brown, who also made headlines in February when he purchased the complex that is home to the Boatyard waterfront restaurant on the mainland side of the Stickney Point bridge.

Commenting further on the 5212 Ocean Blvd. property, Brown noted that “the roof is

Continued on page 26 Brown

Chamber finds new home

“While we have enjoyed our time at 5114 Ocean Blvd. for many years … a lease opportunity presented itself that we couldn’t refuse,” Ann Frescura, the chamber’s executive director, said.

The new home will be at 5221 Avenida Navarra, one street behind the current chamber location, where Siesta Dental used to conduct business. The

chamber plans to relocate no later than April 30. The building consists of nearly 3,000 square feet of office space – much more than the 1,133 square feet it currently occupies.

Frescura said the move will provide the chamber with much-needed space for in-house storage, a conference room for meetings, and a guest restroom.

“It couldn’t have worked out better for everyone,” said Chris Brown, owner of several properties in the Village area including the chamber’s new locale. “We have an ongoing relationship with the chamber and we want to support them.”

Continued on page 24

6 Midnight Pass supporters gather © Why the world comes to Sarasota
10 She’ll tumbler for Karaoke Tues & Thurs Entertainment Every Day Captain Curt’s Village aiquiri o o Captain Curt’s Village
19 Hobie Catter SK memories More buying by Brown Purchases complex in Village home to Casa Del Sol and Created Gems
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Greetings from the Gulf

Greetings from the Gulf has transitioned to Greetings from the Golf -- as in the 16th hole of the Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club.

A darn nice view for sure, but it’s not the same. Unlike here, hitting the drink and then the sand was actually a good thing on Siesta Key.

But this is where life has taken me these days, watching after Mom following my father’s passing. It also marks the time for me to end my career as a journalist after what was fastapproaching 40 years. Goodness.

Yes, I’d be 59 and living in my mother’s basement if only such a thing existed in these parts. Instead, I reckon I’ll just have to hope for one of them-there sink holes to show up.

I’ve kept this departure quiet for the most part. At one point, I did attempt to tell people I was the outgoing editor but I received a curious reaction:

“Yeah, you seem friendly enough, but what a weird thing to brag about.”

No, not that kind of outgoing -- my love of a double entendre notwithstanding. The leaving kind. Instead, I suppose I could say I’m retiring from this. Or quitting. But those words don’t seem right in this case.

For me, life as a writer simply has seemed to have run its course.

What I do cherish is the fact that I capped-off a reporting career in the place that means everything to me. Most everyone I know who were my newspaper colleagues have long-since bailed from our dying industry.

Instead, I was able to put a cherry on top with three-plus years on Siesta Key. And they clearly were three important years to chronicle as far as the island’s history is concerned.

Speaking of bragging, my journalism life has seen some darn good timing. For example: as the brandnew sports editor of the Green Bay Press Gazette, the team ended a 29-year Super Bowl drought during my first year.

Coincidence? Oh, sure. Like Anna’s Deli just-so happened to expand (like me!) while I was here.

Fate, baby!

More evidence: Back in Green Bay, the streets were lined with cars following that Packers triumph. Now, fast-forwarding to 2024, sure enough I’ve heard rumors that Siesta Key’s streets are also packed to the gills.

A parade for me? Aw, shucks.

Kidding aside, I figured I’d be writing my last column as some sort of opus. Upon further review, going through my Siesta-themed photos, I’m leaning more toward “dopus.”

After all, my life here had been mostly downright silly and fun. How I was able to get anything done with my job in such a setting amazes me. My greatest accomplishment, indeed.

That’s me, circa 1980, in front of Harbor Towers. Part Joe Cool, mostly Capt. Cheeseball. And who dressed me? Still, clearly positioning myself to be the someday editor of the Siesta Sand. Talk about destiny.

On the job front, thanks go out to Brion Palmer.

Todd Zerega, Noel Twyman, Hannah Wallace, Ned Steele, ChrisAnn Allen, and a million of them to Jane Bartnett.

Same goes to Mark Smith, who always answered my inquiries.

On the fun front, thanks to Bobby Schneck, my musical director. And Larry Frankel, who’s the bomb.

And finally, great gratitude goes to all of you, the readers, who have rallied around this thriving publication. It has been quite the honor.

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June start for roundabout, but at what price?

Siesta Key Association plans to oppose its construction citing costs, lack of community interest, possible violation of state comp plan

Those representing Sarasota County regarding the plan to build a roundabout at Midnight Pass and Beach roads say there’s no mystery on a start time: it will begin in June, no matter what. Its estimated construction duration is nine to 12 months.

As for the cost, it’s quite the mystery indeed now that the only bid in place is for nearly $8.8 million. That’s roughly triple the amount estimated at $2.9 million just last year.

At the March 7 meeting of the Siesta Key Association, the tough-toswallow potential price tag was revealed by county officials who noted that an increase in labor and materials costs were part of the problem. The county is currently seeking other bidders and will be holding a public meeting in May to update residents on the project.

Gator Grading and Paving is the lone bidder. It is the company that last year installed the temporary mini roundabout at Higel Road and Ocean Boulevard.

Meanwhile, the Siesta Key Association plans to write a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be funding the project while the county facilitates its construction, in hopes of beginning the process of potentially delaying and/or eliminating it altogether. Bob Luckner, the SKA treasurer, is citing not only the great expense but what he and others consider documented opposition by island residents as indicated in an

online survey conducted in 2020.

Of the 552 respondents, the county has often suggested that each option listed – a roundabout, or improved signals, or no action at all – received about an equal tally at roughly one-third. However, when broken down responses by those who actually live on Siesta Key, only 26.52% liked the roundabout idea compared to 47.15% who reside off the island (see chart).

Continued on page 26

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Beach Road.
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Pedestrians wait to cross at the
to a
with construction to begin in June.
(file photo)
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Part party, part Midnight Pass update

Gathering along Little Sarasota Bay serves as another rally for those hoping to restore the former tidal connection south of Siesta Key

There was an air of celebration and anticipation among the hundreds of loyal Midnight Pass Society II supporters who came together on a Sunday afternoon in late February on the front lawn of The Point, a waterfront restaurant in Osprey.

The group, made up of residents from Siesta Key and nearby communities, had come to hear the long-anticipated news that progress was being made in advancing their campaign to restore Midnight Pass to its original state as it was some 40 years ago before two private homeowners closed it to protect their homes from erosion.

Opening Midnight Pass and restoring Little Sarasota Bay is the group’s mission.

Sarasota County District 4 Ccommissioner Joe Neunder, a strong advocate for the restoration effort whose district includes Midnight Pass, addressed the gathering.

“A feasibility report to determine how to restore Midnight Pass will be completed in June, July or August,” he said to great applause and cheers. Calling the issue “one of his top missions,” Neunder pledged his continuous support. “It’s going to stay on course as long as I have anything to say about it.”

Added society president Mike Evanoff, one of the founders whose group began its work in 2021, “We’ve opened the eyes of the commissioners and government officials.”

Evanoff also owns The Point restaurant.

Michael Grouse, also one of the founders of the non-profit organization, said that “Neunder is one of the commissioners who made the restoration of the pass his issue. Everyone wants to be a part of this.

“There were four of us who sat here at The Point one day and

decided to create this group. Three years later, here we are.”

The crowd, seated at picnic tables, on the lawn and under a shaded patio, enjoyed a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers. Many shopped for shirts emblazoned with “Restore Midnight Pass.” The merchandise was selling briskly.

“We created today’s event to get people involved. This is a cause

that so many people are passionate about,” Grouse said with pride. As the group awaited Neunder’s arrival, musician Bain Bakley led the crowd in chanting “Restore the Pass!” between tunes. Despite the up-beat, picnic-like atmosphere and the music, it was Neunder that the group came to hear. When the commissioner arrived, a quiet settled over the crowd.

“You’re a testament to this support,” Neunder told the gathering. “We’re going to lean on the science to restore historical tidal quality to the bay and we’re looking for a state grant to study the engineering.”

Seeing the restoration of Midnight Pass through, he noted,

Continued on page 30

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Left and clockwise, Joe Neunder speaks to the audience with Little Sarasota Bay as his backdrop; musician Bain Bakley entertains those who gathered at The Point; an aerial image of how Midnight Pass once looked was on display. (photos by Jane Bartnett)

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Sarasota County commission to revisit illegal vacation rental concerns

In the face of pending state legislation, leaders

As more Siesta Key residences become vacation rentals, enforcement of regulations becomes a growing concern.

Following public comments of concern on March 5 regarding illegal vacation rentals, District 3 Sarasota County commissioner Neil Rainford addressed the issue during his comment portion of that county commission meeting.

Rainford said he’s frequently heard members of the community expressing concerns with code enforcement for short-term rentals and suggested the commission revisit current policies to see if anything could be “shored up in a meaningful way.”

The other commissioners agreed and consensus was reached.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said multiple board assignments had previously been completed on the matter, but he could present those as a discussion item for a future meeting.

want to take another look at local regulations and enforcement for short-term rentals

Additionally, Lewis said state law was changed after the current code was approved by the board, so changing the code would mean losing grandfathered regulations.

“There would be the potential we’d lose what flexibility we do have by adjusting our current county code,” he said, adding he believes there also is pending legislation regarding vacation rentals.

Senate Bill 280, which would pre-empt vacation rental regulation to the state, was approved by the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate and is now in the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis to enact or veto.

Rainford suggested Lewis outline the benefits of grandfathered regulations and said the city of Sarasota and other communities also are re-evaluating local regulations.

“Over the last several years it is becoming a bigger issue,” he said.

District 5 commissioner Ron Cutsinger said he sees it as primarily a code enforcement issue with the best course of action being

to educate the public to notify the proper authorities when they see illegal activities occurring.

“This is an issue that has been on the radar,” he said, citing Siesta Key as the source and stating code enforcement has been on top of it.

However, District 4 commissioner Joe Neunder, with half of the Key in his district, said conversations he’s had with residents paint a different picture with illegal rentals posing a serious problem.

He said he is “very much for commissioner Rainford’s idea for revisitation and/or robust conversation about exactly what our responsibilities are, what we can, what we can’t do and how do we perhaps support our current enforcement division to enforce our ordinances that are currently on the books.”

District 2 commissioner Mark Smith said he doesn’t think the county should risk grandfathered

allowances by changing the ordinances, and mentioned zoning district restrictions, including no boarding houses or bed and breakfasts allowed in the Siesta Key Overlay District, as an example of a way to control some of the illegal activity. He also cited parking restrictions.

“The bottom line, I think, is enforcement,” he said. “And we may have to bump up the budget on our officers we have out there.”

Lewis said a presentation on vacation rental regulations and enforcement would be brought back for a future meeting, likely in April.

“Code enforcement has to be done pursuant to law,” Lewis said, adding that word-of-mouth or website advertisements do not constitute an infraction.

“You actually have to catch the person in the act of violating the code, so one of our best efforts has been education about what the county’s code allows,” he said.

County on hook for about $270,000 in legal fees

The legal-fees reimbursement coming to Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez is $170,000. For the party consisting of 222 Beach Road, Marina Del Sol, and Robert Sax, it’s $101,278.20.

Those are the numbers reached by attorneys in a recent settlement involving the prevailing plaintiffs in two separate lawsuits against Sarasota County. Both parties in 2021 successfully alleged that the county had violated its own comprehensive plan when, through its own misinterpretation,

approved the construction of hotels that exceed the rules related to height and the number of rooms.

On March 19, Sarasota County commissioners signed off on the reimbursement, as brought forth by County Attorney Josh Moye, without any discussion. The commissioners last year voted 4-1 to fight the ruling through the appeal process, with Siesta Key District 2 commissioner Mark Smith dissenting, but later changed its mind per Moye’s advice that it would likely lose.

It marks the end of one chapter of an effort by developers to build high-density hotels on Siesta Key, but that endeavor remains alive now that a recent request has been

made for county leaders to actually change the rules in order to allow for it.

In the meantime, a ruling last August by Hunter Carroll, a Sarasota County 12th Judicial Circuit Court judge, still rules the Siesta Key landscape. He sided with Ramirez and upheld the rules put in place in March 1989 -- that hotels can’t be taller than 35 feet and have more than 26 rooms per acre.

The second lawsuit by 222 Beach Road, Marina Del Sol, and Sax fell under the same ruling.

Florida statutes allow for the reimbursement of legal fees in cases that involve a “consistency challenge” and Carroll granted

such in December.

Subsequent of that, attorneys for both the prevailing plaintiffs and the county had to take on the complicated task of examining the legal bills. In the Ramirez case, sifting out those bills that may had been in duplication to her victory in a separate hotel-related state case in April was a focal point.

In that state matter, she is not entitled to any reimbursement. It was handed down by an administrative law judge and now a state panel, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, may consider sanctions against Sarasota County that could include the loss of assorted state funding and other measures.

Ramirez, who said she spent

more than a combined $300,000 on both cases, had asked for about $200,000 from the county before the settlement was reached.

Regarding the second lawsuit, $2,268 was pulled out of the requested $103,546.20 because it was spent by the county in relation Siesta Key resident Jim Wallace who eventually dropped out as a plaintiff.

Developers associated with the case, known in legal terms as “intervenors,” early on in a ruling were allowed to have legal representation in the cases. Caroll, however, decided they would not be held accountable for any type of reimbursement to the prevailing plaintiffs.

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Trash piles up at the curb for a Siesta Key property deemed at the time as an illegal short-term rental. (file photo)
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The trick to a good logo design is to capture the essence of a place with a simple but unmistakable combination of shapes and colors. Lisa Neild has endeavored to do just that for Siesta Key with her new Siesta Stands products, featuring her clean, clear take on the island’s iconic lifeguard stations.

In 2020, Neild, a professional photographer in Chicago for more than 20 years, shuttered her studio due to COVID-19. Later that year, she and her husband pulled the trigger on a winter home in Siesta, though Neild herself had never been here. The lifeguard stands grabbed her attention from the start.

Arguably the Key’s most recognizable (and most photographed) landmarks, the Siesta Beach lifeguard stations, each with its own bold, single-color paint job, stand out against the beach’s expanse of white quartz sand.

“I was so attracted to them in terms of taking pictures of them,” she said. “They show up in murals and artwork and postcards and T-shirts.”

Eager to keep her creative juices flowing, Neild had been dabbling in digital design. The lifeguard stations made for the perfect subject. She soon struck on two things: First, that the buildings made a perfect logo for Siesta Key; and second, that the distinct colors — blue, green, red and yellow — worked both individually and together as a four-piece collection.

“The colors are so great, and when I finished, I just immediately thought this would work so well as a set. Everybody gets their own!” she said.

And as a new Sarasota resident and longtime fan of Tervis tumblers, Neild knew exactly what products would pair best with her designs. The Venice-based manufacturer agreed to work with her, and Siesta Stands was born.

In December, Neild received her

everybody might be getting these for Christmas next year,” she laughed. Siesta Stands debuted in January with a set of four Tervis tumblers, available online at siestastands.

they all went really fast and I’m already on my third reorder,” Neild said at the end of February. Her designs are also available on keychains and as stickers. “We’re working on a baseball cap

10 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
Neild also forged a partnership with Protect Siesta Key, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and advocating for responsible governance on the island. Siesta Stands donates 15% of its online
Lifeguard stations get tumbler treatment
of others who feel a similar connection to the island — even without an explicit “Siesta Key” label. Her website and Instagram pages summarize Siesta Stands designs with the slogan, “If you
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Siesta-themed tumbler creator Lisa Neild (below) celebrates with tasty drink before boxing them up and hitting the market. (submitted photos)
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Community Spotlight

Determined to be dedicated Cyntthia Brock, the chamber’s choice for Volunteer of the Year, sings the sweet tune of Siesta selflessness

QYou and your husband, Greg, run Gulf Sands Realty. For starters, what is your history with Siesta Key?

AWe moved to this area from north Georgia where the mountains are so beautiful. We were Realtors there for many years and, when the market turned in 2008, we decided to make a change. After a couple of visits to Sarasota and Siesta Key, we decided this was the place we wanted to be. We traded the beauty of the mountains for the most beautiful beach we have ever seen.

We decided to work on Siesta when we moved in 2009. The office we worked at was located at the Stickney Point bridge, so we have sold a lot of condos and homes on Siesta over the years. We decided in 2022 to open our own office because we wanted to have a team atmosphere and a smaller boutique office. We love the way we all pull together to help each other.


Can you share a brief comment on the current state of the Siesta Key market?

AIn the last month on Siesta Key, we have had 42 homes/condos sell and 71 that are pending. Currently, there are 324 homes/ condos on the market and the price range is $349,000 to $21 million -- so there is literally something for everyone.

At this point we have around seven months of inventory. So, things are moving on Siesta Key for sure and we have a lot more to choose from for buyers than we have had in the past few years.

QYou recently were honored by the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce as its Volunteer of the Year. Congrats! We understand it’s a combination of things — one being a history you have with the Crystal Classic. What has been your role

with that event?

AI have been volunteering with the Crystal Classic for eight years. I book all of the bands that perform at the entertainment tent.

QSelecting live-music groups for a huge scene like that can’t be easy. What is your approach? And how do you keep “in the know” as to what kind of talent is out there?

AI have been a singer pretty much my entire life so that helps me tremendously in this role. I have been in many bands and have a passion for music. I love going to listen to live music so I try to go see new talent and keep up with the music

scene locally as much as possible. I also ask local venues and people about any new bands they hear about or have used.

QAnother volunteering endeavor of yours is especially important to your family. Tell us about that.

AA couple of years ago our grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes so we decided to get involved in the (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) One Walk here in Sarasota. Such a great event and amazing support.

We decided last year to have a golf

Left and clockwise: When you select the Crystal Classic bands, you get to play the bongos!; Brock supporting a worthy cause; proudly displaying her chamber recognition. (submitted photos)

tournament to raise funds to support our walk team. All proceeds went to JDRF One walk. We are already planning our next one, coming up Oct. 19, at Serenoa Golf Club off Clark Road. We are currently looking for donations, golfers and sponsors.

QHow can people learn more about that golf outing?

ABe sure to follow us on Facebook at Gulf Sands Realty. You’ll discover a pinned post at the top of our page, providing all the necessary details about our 2024 golf tournament. You can also call (941) 400-6237 or send an email at Additionally, we’ll keep you updated on other events we’re hosting or volunteering at throughout the Sarasota area.

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A visit from the very finest

Key tourists, residents line Midnight Pass Road as the Budweiser Clydesdales go on parade alongside Captain Curt’s

Forget the USA’s No.1 beach. Forget the tiki bars.

When the Budweiser Clydesdale horses come to Siesta Key, they’re the town’s top attraction for a few crazy hours.

That’s what happened back in February, when the famed show horses paid their first visit of the decade here (they last came in 2017). An estimated crowd of 4,000 turned out for a glimpse of them outside Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, overwhelming all attempts at crowd control and spilling out in all directions until control was barely possible.

“It was really cool.” Brett Stewart, co-owner of Captain Curt’s said later.

It was more than cool, he added on further reflection:

“It was really exciting. It was chaotic. I didn’t expect a crowd this big. It took me by surprise.”

This would be what happens when eight beautiful show horses, the celebrity stars of past Super Bowl commercials, appear on the main drag of a beach town in high season.

Above all, it was fun.

How Anheuser-Busch selects promotional venues for its Clydesdales is somewhat of a mystery. “They just contacted us pretty much out of nowhere,” Stewart said, about a month before the appearance. “We were happy to do it.”

The rationale, though, was quickly explained to him: Captain Curt’s was being honored by the beer company for having poured one million cases of Anheuser-Busch products throughout the 30 years Stewart’s family has owned the restaurant and adjoining tiki bar.

“I said we were honored and we would do it,” Stewart recalled. “We are loyal to the distributors. They’re local here in Sarasota, while everyone else is from Tampa.”

What the eatery didn’t fully appreciate initially was exactly what doing it would entail. “We had a little spot blocked off at first,” Stewart explained.

Actually, a big spot, covering the entire area

around the Captain Curt’s complex, was what was needed, and all the bar’s managers were quickly pressed into action as crowd control and traffic agents. Even some customers helped out.

The eight horses and their hitch, complete with dalmatian accompanying the drivers, made its way gracefully down Midnight Pass Road for a few hundred yards as everyone in the crowd ooh-ed, aah-ed, and snapped photos. In not much more than a half hour, it was all over.

And amazingly, there was no mess left behind. A typical Clydesdale consumes 50 to 60 pounds of hay a day, plus 20 to 25 quarts of grain. That leads to the inevitable.

But experts they are, the Anheuser-Busch folks included a cleanup golf cart in the entourage, and it did its job. Midnight Pass Road, the parking lots and adjacent areas were left clean and pristine as the Clydesdales departed.

“Very professional,” Stewart said.

The Budweiser Clydesdales date back to 1933, when the company first trotted them out to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. They have since become an institution, their distinctive white and brown (or “bay”) marking and four furry “stocking” feet delighting generations of young and old. Super Bowl commercials started in 1986, and have become a regular.

There are three traveling teams of the horses, always accompanied by the red, white and gold beer wagon. Each team, and its equipment is transported in three 50-foot tractor-trailers (whose size made the squeeze onto Midnight Pass Road and its environs an interesting sight in itself.) The hitch of eight horses plus wagon weighs in at 12 tons.

The horses themselves are all at least 6 feet tall at the shoulder, weighing between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, and must have the signature coloring patterns of a Clydesdale. They are all geldings at least 4 years old.

They drink 30 gallons of water a day. No beer.

13 APRIL 2024 941.312.0665 27th State Media LLC

Making his musical mark at the Chapel

“It was like a match made in heaven,” Conner Stigner says, without a trace of irony, about his job.

It’s a fitting choice of words. Stigner is music director at Siesta Key Chapel, the beautiful Presbyterian church that calls itself “God’s Treehouse.”

Once a business major and government employee, Indiana born-and-raised Stigner shifted his career into music after the pandemic. Now he’s shifting the way music sounds in a church, introducing such styles as Dixieland and jazz to not only the chapel’s spring concert series but even into traditional liturgy.

Consider the approach he first innovated in 2022 to the upcoming Christian holiday of Pentecost. There’ll be all the traditional hymns – but accompanied by a nine-piece jazz band complete with drums, trumpet and saxophone. “

A Glenn Miller-Benny Goodman style,” Stigner said with a smile of anticipation. “Very Gene Krupa 1930s.”

And early Sunday mornings, it’s Chapel on the Beach – to the accompaniment of guitars.

Then there’s the church’s spring music concert series, open to the public. They’ve so far had a Dixieland concert and a “contemporary” original Broadway musicalstyle production about Jesus composed by local artist Timothy Liam Smith. Coming up: a brass band on the beach, and a jazz concert. (There will also be a more traditional organ concert, on the chapel’s magnificent organ.)

It’s all part of Stigner’s view of how to present music.

“We’re broadening the scope of musical events – it’s not just string quartets – and we’re bringing in local residents and a wider range of styles,” he said.

The musicians Stigner has brought in include singers from Sarasota Opera, Florida

Studio Theatre, Westcoast Black Theatre, and Florida State University. “We are very fortunate to have an abundance of arts groups here in Sarasota,” he said.

The new musical styles reflect Stigner’s personal favorite genres, but overriding the specifics is his belief that church music can be fun and enjoyable. As a student in high school and college in Indiana, he played

thought it would be practical long-term to pursue a degree in business,” Stigner said.

This led to his first career, in county government working for the board of elections in his home state. When COVID-19 happened he decided, like so many Americans, to reassess priorities. His love of music came to the forefront and he decided to switch careers. When a friend working at Florida Studio Theatre encouraged him to shift geographically as well, he landed a job with an educational role at Sarasota Opera.

After about a year there, the opportunity for the “match made in heaven” at Siesta Key Chapel came along, and Stigner jumped at it. He arrived in 2021, as the church and its program were building back from the pandemic. He started the Sunday morning beach service that same year.

“It’s been very fruitful as a pathway to involvement” in the church, he said. The new ideas and styles have been unfolding ever since.

Stigner is grateful for the church leadership’s support of his approach. “I am absolutely thrilled with the range of music that we’ve had,” he said. “I could never have gotten away with a Dixieland band at some of the churches I’ve worked at.”

The chapel has historically held its concert series on Sunday afternoons. This year, it is experimenting with other days and times. The remaining concerts are on April 20, May 19 and June 30 (a show to be held on the beach, featuring patriotic favorites).

piano in the orchestras accompanying musical theater productions. By his senior year, he was directing the performances. Still a student, he also gravitated to local community theater companies. Realities of life led to his decision at Indiana University to go for a degree in business rather than music. “I loved musical theater, that’s what interests me. But I

Chapel on the Beach is on Sunday mornings, and described by the church as a “casual, contemporary, feet-in the-sand service.” It takes place on Siesta Key Beach at the intersection of Avenida Messina and Beach Road, near Beach Access 2.

For more information on the church’s concert series, visit music.

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Conner Stigner at home in his Siesta Key chapel. (photo by Ned Steele)

If you haven’t been on Siesta Key in a year, you may find your head spinning at all the changes taking place in the local retail world. It’s become a game of musical chairs, as many of our most noteworthy storefronts are changing.

What’s going on you say? Well, there’s a lot to cover.

We’ll begin in the heart of Siesta Key Village and wind our way down to the south end of the island.

Last fall, a few days before Halloween, a ghostly chill sent shockwaves through the island. Signs appeared in the Davidson Drugs store in Davidson Plaza announcing the store’s permanent closing after 65 years of service to the community. No one saw it coming.

Recently, on a weekday visit to Davidson Plaza, signs of change were everywhere. Scaffolding in one corner of the plaza had been erected. Workers were seen on the roof of the building and the large windows of the former drug store were covered with paper.

Informed sources report that this is what is taking place both there and at the south end of the island:

• Alvin’s Island, a large Floridabased retailer of beach-related merchandise, will open soon.

• A Tommy Bahama store is expected to occupy the space near the Comfort Shoes store.

• Sassy … the Little Day Spa will move to 219 Avenida Madera and join their sister business, Sassy Hair, in the space. (Sassy Hair is currently found at 209 Beach Road, next to Foxy Lady.) The Davidson family owns the space to where they are headed, which was formerly occupied by the Seafood Joint and Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream.

• The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center announced in March that the organization will relocate to larger space at 5221 Avenida Navarra.

The chamber has been based at the Davidson Plaza location for 25 years (see story on page 1).

• Just two months after the Davidsons closed the Village store, signs went up at their Southbridge Mall location on Midnight Pass Road. As of this writing, the 10,253-square-foot former drug store that sits at the southern end of the shopping plaza is vacant. A sign offering the space for lease is posted prominently on the exterior of the building.

• Continuing south, in Crescent Plaza, a new pizza restaurant is being created and a major remodeling effort is underway.

A May opening is planned for Lenny’Z Pizza & Island Bar in the space that once housed Pizza N’ Brew. Owned by the Lennartz family, Dan, Theresa, and Tori Lennartz are the people behind this exciting new venture that will feature seating for 130 to 150 customers. A large bar sits at the front of the house.

More on the new pizza establishment: On a recent visit,

Tori was on location working with Siesta Key contractor John Maloney of Somal Construction and the two discussed the numerous and extensive renovations. It’s exciting and encouraging to see this prominent and sadly longneglected restaurant space take on a new life with new owners.

Pizza, wings, appetizers, salads, burgers, calzones, and handhelds will be on the menu, said Tori.

“We moved here from Ohio three years ago. All our Crescent Plaza neighbors have been great and very supportive,” she said.

What other surprises lay ahead in the coming months? Time will tell. Siesta Key has a long history of reinventing itself.

As the once-quiet months of summer approach, no doubt it’s going to be a busy time as the retail real estate merry-go-round keeps everyone on their toes. By the way, you know that classic map of Siesta Key with all the shops and restaurants? It’s going to need a major redesign of its own.

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Above, the roof work at Davidson Plaza is the tip of the iceberg as far as changes in progress are concerned. Below, Tori Lennartz starts to apply nice touches to her new pizza establishment in Crescent Plaza. (photos by Jane Bartnett)

Just a concession stand? FAR FROM IT!

Siesta Beach Eats has blown away the typical expectations of a day on the sand

Ahhh, a day at the beach. What’s better?

Well, maybe a day at the beach with a fine lunch at your side and a cold soft drink (or even a beer!) at hand.

And what, you ask, could top a day at the beach with said lunch and drink?

How about … a day at the beach, accompanied by lunch and drink ordered online, freshly prepared, and delivered right to you?

Yes, through a miraculous combination of technological innovation and customer-focused service, such an amazing experience is now yours for the asking on Siesta Beach, courtesy of Siesta Beach Eats, operator of the beach’s food stands.

Hot dogs for the kids? A chicken Caesar wrap for you? Wash it down with a refreshing brewski … or even a margarita? All you need do is pick up your phone and order digitally. Before long a jaunty golf cart will be bouncing your way with an in-person delivery.

Fresh food delivery is the latest and most dramatic in a series of enhancements at Siesta Beach Eats dating back to 2021 when a new operator, Venice Pier Group, took over the concessions. Freshly prepared food replaced the previous fare; new items including healthier options were added to the menu, and the beverage repertoire was expanded. Last December, drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) delivery to the beach began. A month later, nearly the full food menu became delivery-available.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association said app-based beach delivery like the Siesta Beach Eats system is catching on for poolside dining at large resorts. “It’s innovative and generally a ‘win-win’ for both the guests and the business,” said spokesperson Ashley Chambers. But the association hasn’t heard of any other beach taking on this innovation without a large resort running it, she said.

Lydia Smith and her boyfriend Joe Fagnano were instant converts to the new service. Spring breakers from Buffalo, they spotted one of the flag signs Siesta Beach Eats planted near the four lifeguard towers and snapped the QR code on it.

It didn’t take long for Siesta Beach Eats’ doyenne of delivery, Carissa Crum, to load up one of the service’s two golf carts and amble out with a mango margarita that Lydia immediately pronounced “very yummy.”

“This is amazing,” she said. “I’m impressed.”

Next stop on Carissa’s run was Jeff (“I don’t want my name in the paper”)

from Kentucky. Having trekked earlier to the Sun Deck pavilion for lunch, he was now thirsty. And tired.

“That was quite a walk up to there,” he said, gesturing at the concession stand. “I thought, ‘Well, let me try this.’”

In his hands seconds later was a can of cold beer, a few more for his pals, and one for a new friend he had just met. “She’s on the next chair, she seems nice,” he explained.

Carissa’s route ended with Tara Parnell of Winter Haven. Two White Claws and an ice cream. “The walk,”

Tara said simply when asked what had motivated her to try the new service for the first time.

Returning to the main stand to reload, Carissa was flagged down by a passerby who had deduced, correctly, that the cart’s cooler would be loaded with extra beverages available for

impromptu purchase. She stopped with a smile to serve him, then steered back to the stand. It had been a straightforward trip – she’s already risen to the challenge of bachelorettes parties (a dozen assorted wraps and hot dogs) and college reunions (Coronas and chicken tenders.)

Back at the Sand Pavilion area, Siesta Beach Eats general manager Maureen Gresk was overseeing the concession’s two food stand’s ultimate test: lunchtime on a sunny spring break day. Menu items – salads, rice bowls, wraps, tacos, mahi-mahi and sweetspicy chicken sandwiches – were being assembled from scratch with fresh ingredients and served up with a smile to customers. Plenty of the traditional, too: hot dogs, chicken tenders and nachos.

Based on the blackened chicken Caesar salad wrap this visitor

sampled, the offerings are first rate: crisp, firm lettuce; tangy dressing; and properly seasoned fresh chicken. A 13-year employee who was kept on after the management change in 2021, Maureen takes pride in her operation and her staff – all 45 of them. “People see a stand at the beach and think, snack bar,” she said. “We are well above that. We’re a real restaurant.”

In addition to the switch to freshmade – even the tacos come on homemade shells, and the chicken and beef are fresh not frozen, and prepped on-site – the big change under Venice Pier Group, which owns Sharky’s, Fins and Snook Haven, has been menu innovation and expansion. BLT wraps and hot ham and cheese sandwiches are among the latest additions. Up on the Sun Deck stand, where bright blue table umbrellas have replaced mournful black ones, the company is contemplating a future sunset dinner menu.

The whole package embodies what director of operations Mike Gross describes as the company philosophy: “We want to be a destination, with multiple visits. We’re building a lifetime customer more than a single visit,” he said.

Sarasota County, which runs the beach and selected Venice Pier Group, seems pleased with the results.

Jonathan Poyner, who oversees the beach for the county, praised the concession’s “amazing food and service,” saying the staff “provides speedy service and is very friendly.”

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Above, Tara Purnell with a food delivery; below, the mother and daughter team of Nicole (left) and Marcy Nuncio hand off a refreshing drink at the Sand Pavilion; upper right, manager Maureen Gresk with one of the delicious wraps; right, Carissa Crum lets everyone know how an order can be placed. (photos by Ned Steele)
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The Siesta Beach concession facility has come a long ways -- here it is (left) before the construction of the new Sand Pavilion/Sun Deck building (right). (Photo on left courtesy of Sarasota County. Photo on right by David Geyer)

Feb. 10, vehicle burglary

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the main public beach access after reports of a burglary from a car. The suspect broke the front passenger window and stole two purses that were covered with a sweatshirt. The purses contained multiple credit cards, a Land Rover key fob, two drivers’ licenses, and two social security card numbers.

The victim was away from the

car from 9:15 a.m. until 10 a.m. Investigation continues.

Feb. 11, battery

The complainant and her relative came into the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to report a battery. The complainant was spending the day at the public beach with friends when a subject with whom she had prior problems punched her in the face.

No action has been taken at this

Sheriff’s Report

time, pending proof of the crime.

Feb. 19, burglary

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a Siesta Key Village establishment after the owner and general manager reported that they had been burglarized. When the general manager arrived to work, she noticed the door on the second floor had signs of forced entry and a safe was missing. She discovered a crowbar used to pry open the

safe, and fingerprints were taken.

A suspect fled on foot and was seen getting into a vehicle and driving off shortly after the incident occurred. Investigation continues.

Feb. 24, shoplifting, harassment

In the early evening, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Siesta Key Village business after an unknown male attempted to steal items from the store.

The owner confronted him, and

they had an argument resulting in the suspect leaving most of the items. When the owner closed the store, the suspect held up a few items from the store, apparently conveying that he was still able to steal from the store. When the owner opened up again the next day, the suspect had left numerous threatening phone calls on the answering machine.

Light & Gold: Luminous and Lavish settings by Eric Whitacre & Morten Lauridsen

Join Key Chorale Chamber Singers and Modern Marimba for Light & Gold: Luminous and Lavish settings by Eric Whitacre & Morten Lauridsen on Sunday, April 7th at 5 PM.

ey will present some of Whitacre and Lauridsen’s most hauntingly beautiful works full of memorable, spine-tingling harmonies. Hear the Florida premiere of Whitacre’s Child of Wonder and Lauridsen’s masterpiece inspired by light, Lux Aeterna.

Featured Guest Artist will be Key Chorale’s Principal Keyboardist Glenn Priest on organ and piano. He will also be showcased in a ery and festive Toccata by American composer and organist John Weaver and as organ soloist for Lux Aeterna.

Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen are two of the most popular and performed choral composers of our time. Lauridsen’s works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, including 5 Gammy nominations, and he has been named an 'American Choral Master' by the National Endowment for

the Arts and received the National Medal for the Arts in 2007.

Each of the ve connected movements in this choral cycle Lux Aeterna contains references to “Light,” assembled from various sacred Latin texts. He composed this work as a universal symbol of illumination at all levels - spiritual, artistic, and intellectual.

Morten Lauridsen’s premiere of Lux Aeterna in 1997 sent ripples throughout the choral world. Its in uence on choral music and musicians has been felt far and wide, cementing its status as one of the most performed works of the late 20th century.

One of Lux Aeterna’s biggest fans went on to become a choral rock star in his own right, Eric Whitacre. Whitacre is a Grammy-winning composer and conductor. His pioneering of the “Virtual Choir” idiom has led to the release of 6 virtual choirs with more than 5 million combined views worldwide.

“His music connects in very powerful ways, his use of harmony is always spine-tingling, always drawing the listener in,” said Maestro Joseph Caulkins. “ ese two composers did more to

Photos were taken of the suspect and an investigation continues.

change the course of choral music than anyone in the last 100 years. eir music speaks to us in ways that are at times spiritual, emotional, and deeply intimate. And, sometimes, all three at once.”

e Chamber Singers will be joined by four musicians from Modern Marimba, founded in 2019 by Tihda Vongkoth. She loved playing marimba in high school and college, but there were only a few opportunities to hear mallet percussion music outside of academia and large institutions. After realizing a need for curating performances and educational programs by and for all types of marginalized people, she organized a house concert in Sarasota for her neighbors, friends, and the public, and now they present numerous concerts in the region.

April 7th, 5 PM

St. Boniface Episcopal Church

5615 Midnight Pass Rd., Siesta Key Tickets $35-$45

To purchase tickets, visit or call 941-552-8768 to reserve.

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Sailing down memory lane

As a member of the Hobie Cat crew, Kim Pitts fondly recalls her days of combining the gulf with the arts

“Do you know how many weddings photos have been taken on our boat,” asked Kim Pitts, “standing there in their gowns like they’re ready to become a pirate?”

Plenty of people who visit Siesta Key fantasize about living this kind of unbridled island life — tan skin and wind-tangled hair, days spent in artists’ studios and afternoons out on the water rigging sails tacking wind, sliding the Hobie Cat’s hull back onto the sand just after sunset, in time to paint the afterglow.

But for a community of Sarasotans these days, the free-spirited Siesta Key lifestyle isn’t so much fantasy as recent memory. They still hold their big Easter gathering on the beach at Access 3, where upwards of 100 people gather every year for a potluck lunch to remember the friends they’ve lost and celebrate the memories they have.

Pitts, 67, is one of them. She’s been sailing the Gulf and Sarasota Bay for more than 40 years.

“If you were to go down there [on Easter], you will see the essence of Siesta Key,” said Pitts just two weeks before another Easter get-together on the sand. “These were the beach people, people who rode their old rusted bikes down the road, the Hobie Cat sailors.”

Pitts comes from a family of artists. Born and raised in New Jersey, she visited the Sarasota area’s artists’ communities as a kid in the 1950s and ’60s. She studied art at Bard College and even started her own garment business with a friend in their early 20s, counting Bendel’s department store on Fifth Avenue among their customers.

Eventually she came to Sarasota in 1980, married “local boy” Rip Pitts, had two sons and settled into small-town life. Most importantly, he taught her to sail a Hobie Cat,

a famously beachy brand of catamarans that flew onto the sailing scene in the late ’60s. Pitts found a home in the community. “Hobie Catters, we’re kind of a wild bunch,” she laughed. “Most Hobie Cat sailors will

Above and clockwise, a sailing-inspired painting by Pitts; her art on display on a denim jacket; Pitts on the Hobie Cat flanked by sailing friend Jim Houghton (left) and Rip Pitts, her husband. (submitted photos)

take a stranger, a newbie out on the water to see what we see — turtles, manta rays, we’ll have dolphins follow us. You can set a Hobie to where it won’t move, and everybody but one hops off, swimming in crystal-clear

water a half a mile out. There’d be four or five boats all together. It’s that community of sharing the adventure for everybody. It kind

Continued on page 24

Looking for an inexpensive, easy, yet rewarding small animal companion? Look no further than

These little birds, like their larger parrot cousins, are smart and social, making them easy to keep tame and friendly, yet they don’t need setups nearly as large or complicated.

A lone Budgie can be great for a homebody, but for those who spend more time away from the home, two or more together will keep them from becoming lonely. Also, just like their relatives, Budgies can talk! Don't expect their vocabulary to be quite as extensive as a Macaw, but simple words and phrases like “Hello!”, "Goodbye!" and "I love you!" aren't difficult to teach. Keeping Budgies happy and healthy is all about clean food, clean water, and plenty of enrichment. Shiny toys, treats, and human interaction are all great forms of enrichment to ensure they keep their brains sharp and prevent boredom.

Typical appearance and behavior: Budgies come in many different varieties. Some are white, green, blue, yellow, and even purple!

• Budgies require consistency to stay friendly. A friendly Budgie may become skittish if they experience a long period of time without human interaction.

• In addition to the common Budgie, English Budgies come with all the Budgie personality, but are slightly bigger and have fancier feathering when compared to normal Budgies. Budgies are pretty smart birds! They can mimic many kinds of sounds as well as rhythms and patterns with surprising accuracy!

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Personalized picnic perfection

Sun Served Bespoke Picnics delivers luxurious outings in lovely settings, including Siesta Key’s beaches

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “bespoke” as “anything made to an individual’s desired specifications.”

And that is exactly what Reni Papalexiou, founder/owner of Sun Served Bespoke Picnics, is providing to the Sarasota area. Siesta Key, naturally, is a popular locale for such a delight.

Papalexiou combined her lifelong passion for hosting and entertaining with an eye for design and attention to customer service, cultivated through more than 14 years of work in architecture.

From curated gift boxes featuring fresh flowers, gourmet chocolate, champagne and keepsakes, to luxurious picnics set up in advance on the beach, park, at a hotel or home -- complete with charcuterie boards, candles, place settings and pillows -- Papalexiou has thought of everything.

“What I truly love is design and aesthetics and the sense of place, textures, light and all the things that create a beautiful environment,” she said.

As repeat customers, Adam and Courtney Hindman can attest to Papalexiou’s vision. Adam surprised Courtney with a bespoke picnic for two for her 30th birthday, complete with cake, champagne and a customized fresh flower arrangement. They enjoyed it so much that they booked again for a combination wedding anniversary

and birthday picnic for their daughter Willow’s second birthday, on the beach on Siesta Key.

“She really pays attention and goes above and beyond,” Courtney said of Papalexiou. “She even provided the specific pineapple juice Willow likes and did a mini photoshoot for us. From booking to arrival, she thinks of every detail, makes it special and her services are truly amazing.”

After moving to the area with her husband in June 2020, Papalexiou spent about a year researching and developing the idea for her business while continuing to work on large-scale architectural projects. She launched on social media platforms with minimal capital and six months later left her architecture job to focus on Sun Served.

“The concept had been proven. I truly love doing this and I knew the vision I have would succeed, so I went for it,” she said.

Now, nearly three years later, she has expanded to include small “micro” weddings, private boat rides, spa services and corporate gifting along with picnics, balloons, flower arrangements and bespoke gift boxes -- and has even curated boxes and experiences for several celebrity clients.

When handling inquiries, Papalexiou leans on her background to conceptualize what the client wants.

“Much like designing a building, I ask the right questions and help the client figure out exactly what they are looking for,” she said. “And the end result leads to proposing things they weren’t even thinking about, which can turn out to be exactly what they wanted.”

According to Papalexiou, what differentiates Sun Served from similar companies, both locally and nationally, is a variety of uniquely customized options.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re the only bespoke picnic company that offers picnics, flower arrangements and experiences, all one-of-a-kind. We are very experience-centric with a focus on details, all from scratch, and fully curated to the client,” she said.

For Sun Served, Papalexiou works with other area businesses to outfit her experiences and gift boxes, with all baked goods and food items sourced locally.

“I support local business just like I like to be supported,” she said, adding that for boxes that include self-care items like candles, soaps and oils, she patronizes local artisans instead of chain stores.

“I go to the markets in town to get to know the vendors and what they are providing so when I get requests, I know where they can be sourced,” she said.

For more information, visit or call Papalexiou at (609) 947-5237.

Adam, Courtney and 2-yearold Willow Hindman enjoy the “Romantic Package” which included a grazing box, mini cake, champagne, and photo session as part of Courtney’s 30th birthday celebration.

(submitted photos)

All Roads Lead to Made in Rome Organic Gelato on Siesta Key!

Seven days a week, for up to 14 hours a day, Diane Cuna churns out a rainbow of organic gelato flavors for her Made in Rome shop in the middle of Siesta Village.

Diane was born a third-generation circus performer in the famed Theron Family, a French bicycle act who fled Europe during World War II and performed all over the world with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Cuna grew up performing cycling feats and crossbow stunts with her siblings.

She retired from show business at age 40 and, inspired by her Italian husband whose family been making gelato for many generations, began channeling her creativity and gregarious energy into gelato. She opened Made in Rome on April 19, 2017. Six years later, you can still find her there, telling stories and serving up her fiery spirit in frozen form.

Cuna dedicated herself to organic, all-natural ingredients from the very beginning. For her flavors, she started in Italy. Her pistachios come straight from Bronte (Sicily), hazelnuts from Piedmont (Northern Italy). “Everything in the shop is Italian,” she said.

“I make it here from scratch,” said Cuna. I do not use artificial flavoring. People love the key lime. They love the teacher’s coffee [flavor]. I offer traditional Italian flavors and American flavors.

Among her more unusual creations, Cuna makes a popular “Red Tide” flavor: chocolate gelato with pepperoncino, sea salt, and Italian cherries. She also serves a gelato with activated charcoal for a sort of dessert detox.

Made In Rome Organic Gelato is located at 5204 Ocean Blvd, in the Siesta Key Village. Their hours are Mon. - Thurs: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. Fri. - Sun.

Jenn Eshbaugh

First, the gelato is the best I’ve ever had. It was the owner who served us. Little did she know my boyfriend has been teaching ServSafe classes for many years. He raved about how well the frozen treats were store and how well she handled the act of serving it to us. She did everything by the book. No cross contamination and very clean. The little paddle spoons are made of 100% recycled corn husks and the gelato is served with a kosher and vegan little baby sugar cone. We found this gem the first day in Siesta Key and we will DEFINITELY be back every day we’re here. So good! My one regret was I didn’t get a picture (maybe because I ate it so fast.)

20 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
The Made in Rome team are ready to serve customers. Activated Charcoal Gelato

Traffic woes have some solutions

Life for south Siesta Key residents has become very unpleasant again when you need to leave your home for everyday activities and necessities. The traffic conditions approaching Stickney Point makes normal life very difficult to plan.

Of course, we all need to recognize that living on a beautiful island will always mean some hassles during season. But there are commonsense ways to mitigate the problem without significant expense.

Here are a few suggestions that merit consideration. I hope our commissioners will listen and act quickly.

• There is no need for seven crosswalks in the 1,000 feet leading up to the light at the bridge from the 7-Eleven. Put three metered blinking crosswalks 350 feet apart south of Stickney Point Road. None should be within 350 feet of the bridge. Pedestrians will not be terribly inconvenienced and traffic both directions will flow much more smoothly.

• The light to turn left onto Midnight Pass Road or right onto the bridge should accommodate at least 20 cars each signal change. It often backs up beyond the light at Tamiami Trail and beyond Sanderling Road.

• Reinstate the signage that says “no right turn when pedestrians present” at the Midnight Pass Road approach. The backups are huge

and often caused by a car waiting to turn right when there are no pedestrians crossing.

Even better would be to direct pedestrians to cross the intersection only on the west sidewalk. Just imagine!

• Reinstate wider road space on the east side of Midnight Pass Road. The patrons of all the expanded bars spill into the road and it makes it dangerous, especially at night.

• Have one trolley stop in the parking lot near Anna’s Deli. And no other stopping on demand. One policeman could be stationed in the area to help things flow smoothly.

• Place large signs warning drivers (large fine) not to change lanes approaching the Key across a double solid line starting at the bridge ramp. Make very clear signage in advance which lane goes to Siesta Beach and which to Turtle Beach.

There is far too much traffic on Siesta Key, but that is for another separate opinion submission. There are plenty of good ideas to make that more sensible, too.

So much has changed in the past five years to prioritize visitors and developers over taxpaying residents. It’s time to turn the pendulum back to make life better for all. I am sure our visitors can still enjoy Siesta Key and will not suffer too much from these changes.

(Gary Rodkin, a resident of the Sanderling Club near the south end of the island, is a member of the board of directors for the Save Siesta Key incorporation team.) 941.312.0665
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Looking for beautiful bargains?

Boutique 41 offers Foxy Lady classics in an outlet store on the main drag

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Siesta Key-area shoppers, following in the footsteps of the treasure-hunting pirates who frequented these shores many years ago, also enjoy discovering hidden treasures.

Being surprised by wonderful bargains that appear fresh from the selling floor of the island’s exclusive Foxy Lady store makes a trip to Boutique 41 a must for all fashionistas.

“It’s our secret store,” said Foxy Lady founder and owner Lorry Eible of her outlet store, located at 5900 S. Tamiami Trail.

Inside the brightly lit shop, the hunt and the fun begins. Eible created the boutique that is filled with sale items ranging from casual attire and accessories to beautiful ball gowns and formal wear from both Foxy Lady locations, the second being on St. Armands Circle. It allows her to feature a greater variety of new merchandise at both shops.

“We have a lot of sportswear that is mostly 60% to 70% below wholesale,” Eible said. “Our

Since 1948 - Citizens like You joined together in creating and protecting our beautiful Siesta Key home.

Jack Veeger, Sarasota: A Tribute in Verse and Vision

Early photographs and written descriptions of Siesta Key depict our island home with few physical structures save an early hotel, scattered fish camp houses with brilliant expanses of white sand beach. The wide beaches extended along the north and western tip (Big Pass) south to what was then Midnight Pass, separating us from our southern barrier island neighbor of Casey Key.

An aerial photograph dated approximately 1933 shows what is most likely a shell road leading west, directly to the beach. No imagination at that time could have sculpted a vision of what has become a most unique island community. Fortunately, early residents recognized the need for planned sharing of this natural resource, and “if you build it, they will come” came true.

Siesta Key is now home to more than 7,300 permanent residents and another estimated 4000 part- time residents. Visitors from around

year (VisitSarasota). At any given time, the current estimate of people on our Key is more than 3080 people per square mile

Our stewardship together for this piece of paradise is essential.


We must fight over- development, increasingly dangerous tra ic/ pedestrians conflicts and damage to our natural resources.

US NOW. $35 Annually. 941.364.4880

22 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
Above, discounted formal wear for the big event. Right, Dresses from Miss June (on the left) and Joseph Ribkoff. (photos by Jane Bartnett)

For the love of all things lob-STAH!


or Lob-STER? No matter how you say it, the folks at the Lobster Pot understand exactly what you’re talking about.

“It’s Lob-STAH to me,” says chef Glen Medeiros, a native of Cape Cod. Along with his wife, Kathy, they opened the popular Siesta Key restaurant in 2000.

“My parents owned the original Lobster Pot restaurant in Provincetown, at the very end of the Cape Cod,” he said. “They had it for 40 years before selling it in 1979, but it’s still there and probably one of the bestknown restaurants on the Cape.”

On Siesta Key, the Lobster Pot is a true family affair. Glen and Kathy have turned the day-to-day management of the eatery over to their sons Tony, who serves as the general manager, and Mark, who oversees “the back of the house.” While Glen is no longer the chef, he continues to support his sons, and Kathy works part-time as a hostess.

Tony’s wife, Fran, a former television director at Sarasota’s ABC-7, also lends a hand.

“Our staff is like family,” said Fran. “They’ve all been with us so long.”

Glen agreed. “Our employees are very dedicated. It’s a true family operation and many of our customers have been coming here since the very beginning,” he said.

Upon entrance, red-and-white checkered tablecloths and nautical decorations, ranging from mermaids to an antique model schooner ship, greet the customer. Gazing at a beautiful photo of the rocky shoreline in Portland, Maine, it’s hard not to feel as though you’re at a New England clambake on a sunny summer day.

In addition to the welcoming Cape Cod atmosphere, the true wonder of the Lobster Pot is its cuisine.

“Our signature dish is my grandmother’s award-winning baked stuffed lobster duchess,” said Tony.

Added Glen, “It was my mother’s original recipe from our Lobster Pot restaurant on the Cape. It was a super hit in P-Town.”

Lobster lovers will also delight in discovering the “lazy duchess,” a New England lobster tail presented with the Lobster Pot’s signature seafood stuffing and a splash of sherry wine, baked with Parmesan cheese on top. For those with a heartier appetite, a whole 1-1/4-pound Maine lobster can’t be beat. A Maine lobster tail dinner, available as one tail or two, is another option.

The classic lobster roll dinner is a great choice for lunch or a light dinner. It goes well with one of many seafood appetizers, salads, a cup or bowl of lobster bisque, or the “New England Clam Chowdah,” another Cape Cod family recipe.

Several dishes also celebrate the Medeiros family’s Portuguese roots.

“Lob-STAH,” as Glen says, isn’t the only dining option. For non-fish and non-seafood lovers, there’s a New York strip steak, filet

mignon, and pork chops.

Tony can’t say enough about the port chops. “They’re marinated bone-up in our special marinade, served with two sides and apple chutney.”

Nodding his approval, his father agreed. “Don’t forget the corn bread,” said Glen. “It’s my secret recipe.”

Available as an a la carte item, a basket of this melt-in-your-mouth, buttery delight is a great addition to any meal.

The never-ending menu also includes a selection of pasta and rice dishes. “People who like spice will enjoy our pasta fiery dishes,” said Tony. “They’re cream-based and prepared in a bang-bang shrimp sauce.” Add chicken, shrimp or lobster.

Fish dishes include mahi, salmon, cod, haddock and catch of the day, served fried, grilled, blackened, or broiled, with two sides. “Our newest dish is baked stuffed haddock,” Tony reported.

Over the years, the Lobster Pot has won

many awards for its dishes -- including the Taste of Sarasota competition. In January, the Lobster Pot was one of the featured restaurants at the annual Forks and Corks Food and Wine Festival held at the Ringling Museum.

Many know the Lobster Pot by the large red lobster statue that stands guard at the edge of the restaurant. When the family decided that the lobster needed a name, they asked their customers to help them out.

“We held a contest,” said Tony. “The name ‘Clawdette’ had the most votes and that became her name.”

In 2025, the Lobster Pot will celebrate 25 years on Siesta Key and the family has already begun to make celebratory plans.

Open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week, the Lobster Pot, found at 5157 Ocean Blvd., begins service daily at 11:30 a.m.

For more information, call (941) 349-2323 or visit

Dreams to Reality- Driven to Succeed


Connie Lewis, owner of Spa Experience Siesta Key is on track to greatness. Connie has created an even more luxurious spa experience for her clients by adding treatment rooms, advanced aesthetic services, and body treatments to her already bustling beautiful spa. Situated right next to the world-famous Siesta Key Beach is what makes this Spa the perfect haven for all Relaxation seekers. anks to Spa Experience Siesta Key, we can all be pampered in style and leave feeling relaxed and revived.

So what is the story behind the success of this motivated spa owner and specialized therapist? Connie grew up and was educated in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her childhood was no ordinary experience. A er losing her father, Connie sought answers and then enrolled in the Yeshiva Academy, where she found healing, solace, comfort, and spirituality. A few years later she nished high school and then earned her degree in Communications and Media at Fitchburg State University. A er enjoying many years in her chosen eld of rock radio and television production, she unfortunately was involved in two car accidents that resulted in painful whiplash. e decision to change her life came a er those car accidents. Her injuries required frequent chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy to relieve the pain and tension in her body.

Seeking relief, Connie sought help from a chiropractor, who ultimately led her to discover the healing power of massage therapy. e treatments continued for two years.

It was during her lunch break at her very unsatisfying job that Connie picked up a health and wellness magazine. She saw an ad for massage school and immediately

knew how she could nally move out of Worcester and change her life for the good.

It was a done deal. She decided right there and then. is was her vehicle to get her out of Worcester.

Soon a er graduating from Bancro School of Massage erapy, she chose Sarasota, Florida as her destination. Connie began practicing massage therapy on Siesta Key at e Massage Store by renting a room. It was there she met a special person who would change her life and inspire her to take a chance and start her own business. Massage Experience Siesta Key was born!

Her journey was not without challenges, ve years later health conditions threatened to derail her progress, she had to take almost a year o to recover but Connie persevered and propelled her business to new heights. It was around this time she went to Fashion Focus Hair Academy in Sarasota and earned her Aestheticism License. She continued practicing there for 22 years. In 2021, Spa Experience relocated to 5700

Midnight Pass Road where she was able to accommodate eight services at the same time.

e recent expansion (March 2024) includes four additional rooms, totaling eight treatment rooms and twelve treatment tables.

From bridal parties, and family reunions to romantic spa days for couples, Spa Experience Siesta Key provides a range of indulgent experiences tailored to individual preferences. If you don’t see what you're looking for, just ask and we’ll can cultivate a spa service just for you.

With an emphasis on luxury, the spa now o ers microneedling, dermaplane facials, Permanent Makeup, Lash Extensions, body waxing, and brow/lash tinting.

Central to the expansion is the Harmony Room, a space cra ed to nurture serenity and connection. Here, dual therapists provide side-by-side facials and massage packages, cra ing an immersive atmosphere of relaxation and unity. With the addition of the Pevonia Botanica-chocolate Indulgence line, these treatments are a must-have service. Many rooms at Spa Experience Siesta Key have a painting or art piece echoing Connie's personal journey and legacy. With a keen eye for detail and professionalism, Connie and her team of Specialized therapists are poised to rede ne luxury and wellness in the Florida region.

e expansion marks an exciting new chapter for Connie and her team of een as they continue to serve their community with dedication and passion.

Mother’s Day is on the horizon, so check in-store or online for our Spa packages and Specials.

For information and reservations, please call: 941-349-4833 or visit us at We are conveniently located next to the re station and close to Siesta Key Public Beach.

23 APRIL 2024 941.312.0665 27th State Media LLC A D VE R T ORI A L LICENSE #MM 40045 & MA 17596
On the left, Fran, Tony, Glen, and Kathy Medeiros (left to right) at a table in the Lobster Pot with a picture of their beloved Maine coastline in the background. On the right, the one and only Clawdette stands guard outside. (photos by Jane Bartnett)

of rolls over into the art, the music, the camaraderie.” New friends would come ashore afterward and immediately seek out their sailing partners’ artwork in local galleries and boutiques.

“The rule is, you have to be good soul,” Pitts added. “Well, you have to at least try.”

Hobie Cats are made of relatively lightweight fiberglass hulls connected by an aluminum alloy frame that holds a mesh “trampoline.” In races, members of the crew can also lean over the side — called “trapezing” — to counterbalance against the wind and maintain maximum speed while keeping the boat flat. Hobie Cats are made to go fast.

While her husband manned their 20-foot boat, Pitts would assemble a boisterous crew to sail their 18-footer. “I called it ‘the girl boat.’ I would take four other women, all in bikinis, bright red toenails,” she said. “We would play chicken with the guys. I was a real taskmaster with those girls, and we all had a blast. These friends would still remember that for 20 years.”

At the end of the day, conditions are often just right for an energetic appearance on shore, as Pitts described it: “You’ll see people sitting at the edge of the water. We’ll be coming in on a nice strong evening wind, and we’ll just scream right onto the beach. The boats are like sleds.”

Pitts also found new artistic inspiration in the sunsets, which featured colors and textures she’d never seen up north.

“Sailing to the little sand dollar island, sitting there until sunset. Everything would be magentas and reds, just brilliant colors,” she said. “It was like, ‘OK, I have got



to paint this.’ The beach just gave me this backdrop, and this vastness. I remember being out there on the water when it was so glassy it was pink, like pink satin. It felt like you were in another world.”

Pitts began painting large-scale recreations of Siesta sunsets, and also creating artwork on denim jackets.

(Her creations can still be purchased at Key Salon and Boutique, formerly on Columbus Boulevard and now on the South Trail.)

At one point, the Pitts family rented a small backyard apartment on Beach Road, where they ran an air conditioning company and still found ample time to get out on the water.

“Every morning, we would look at the flag that Capt. Ralph Styles flew there on the northeast corner,” remembered Pitts. “We’d look at his flag flying and ask ourselves, ‘Is it a work day, or is it a sail day?’” As 1- or 2-year-olds, their sons could fall asleep on rolling seas. Later they served as first mates. Nowadays, Pitts has been introducing her grandkids to the remaining Siesta Key Hobie Cat crew.

But recent contention over catamarans being stored at Beach Access 8 has made uncertain an already dwindling way of life on the Key. For her part, Pitts hopes to keep sailing for as long as she can. She and her husband currently own just one Hobie Cat, its 31-foot-tall mast sporting a sky-blue sail with orange and red highlights, like a Siesta Key sunset just getting started.

“He and I sail together now, a little more sedately,” said Pitts. “But in our dreams, we’re still hanging off the side of the hull, screaming onto shore.”

The building is steps away from Ocean Boulevard in the heart of the Siesta Key Village. The chamber’s new offices will have ample parking for those coming to the Visitor Center as well as for individuals attending meetings at the chamber.

“We gave them access to the space in advance of their final move so that they could move in and not feel rushed,” noted Brown.

Paid parking will be added to the chamber’s new parking area, said Brown.

“The chamber was very receptive to the idea,” he said. “Being able to monetize the parking allows us to subsidize the rent as costs rise.”

Each year, more than 10,000 people drop in at the chamber to learn about Siesta Key,

its data shows. In addition to the chamber’s four-person, full time staff there are more than 50 trained and knowledgeable volunteers who assist.

Looking ahead, Frescura said she and her team are excited to move into their new headquarters.

“We can’t wait to host a grand opening, once plans are confirmed,” she said.

24 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
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from page 1
5221 Avenida Navarra will be the new home to the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce. (photo by Jane Bartnett)
Chamber is moving Continued
Kim Pitts Continued from page 19 The Pitts’ Hobie Cat in action. (submitted photo)

Keep voting for solid investment moves

Sarasota Local Brings Experience & Trust to Siesta Key

It’s election season again.

Over the next several months, you’re bound to hear an array of promises from the candidates and speculation from the pundits on what those promises, if enacted, could mean for the country. But how might these possible outcomes affect your financial future?

When considering this question, keep these points in mind:

Campaign promises aren’t always kept. Presidential candidates often proclaim that they intend to institute major changes in tax or spending policies, or both.

But the reality is that our political system is generally resistant to major changes, which may be good for investors, because the financial markets dislike the uncertainties accompanying these types of changes.

Economic progress doesn’t always depend on Washington.

Even when political leaders do succeed in enacting laws and regulations, the results can be unpredictable. Major economic indicators, such as jobs, interest rates and inflation, can move in unexpected directions.

Financial markets can do well no matter who’s in charge. Since 1970, the stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, has returned, on average, more than 10% annually.

And that’s under every political combination — Democratic president with Democratic Congress, Republican president with Republican Congress, or one

party holding the presidency with the other holding Congress.

The fact is that many factors outside political leaders’ control drive financial markets. To cite just one example, it’s the Federal Reserve, not the president or Congress, that sets interest rates, and the Fed itself may do so in response to unforeseen or unexpected economic events, such as the supply chain backlogs brought on, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And other events, including natural disasters, global political or military conflicts, oil production, and so on, also will have an impact on our economy and financial markets.

Therefore, instead of making investment decisions based on the political scene, “vote” for some tried-and-true strategies. For starters, try to build a diversified portfolio containing U.S. and international stocks or stock-based mutual funds, corporate bonds, U.S. Treasury securities, certificates of deposit (CDs) and other investments. While diversification can’t protect against all losses or guarantee profits, it can help shield you from market volatility that might primarily affect one asset class. To put it simply, if you only owned stocks and the market dropped, your portfolio could decline more than if you also owned bonds, which frequently move in a different direction from stocks.






Here’s another suggestion: Invest for the long term. The financial markets will always experience short-term downturns, but you don’t want to overreact by selling investments to cut losses. After all, if you’re not invested in the market, you’ll miss out on the early stages of the next rally, which is often when the biggest gains are made.

Ultimately, the most successful investors are the ones who hold quality investments for decades as part of a strategy that’s appropriate for their risk tolerance, time horizon and personal goals.

Elections can give political leaders a lot of influence — but when it comes to making the right investment choices, you’ve got the power.

Joe St. Onge, ChFC® Financial Advisor, Edward Jones Investments

5011 Ocean Blvd., suite 205 Siesta Key, FL 34242

(941)-3460560 phone (941)-3204030 mobile


This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Edward Jones. Member SIPC. -- Advertorial --

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To advertise in Siesta Sand, call 941-312-0665 Fishing Charters Open 7 Days 7am-6pm y Point Bridge “Voted BEST Parasail Company” P a r a s a i l S i e s t a . c o m TALS TALS SUNSET CRUISES 9 4 1 - 3 4 6 - 8 2 0 0 ORVIS ENDORSED FLY CASTING SCHOOLS Instructor Capt. Rick Grassett Apr. 13 call to reserve.

Brown buys Village property

in good condition.” He noted that the small garden that sits between the two stores can be improved to create a more welcoming atmosphere and he believes that additional cosmetic upgrades will enhance the appearance of both storefronts and the entire building. “I have plans that including paint, lighting, pergolas, etc.,” he said.

Last month, Brown added parking fees to the designated parking spots in front of Created Gems and the Casa Del Sol Boutique. “Adding parking fees helps to subsidize the rent,” he said. “Costs are becoming prohibitive, and the parking fees help with property taxes, insurance and other costs.”

Both tenants view Brown’s purchase of the property as a strong move forward.

“Chris Brown is dedicated to the well-

Continued from page 1

being of the Village,” said Created Gems’ Mark Edwards.

Barbie Edwards agreed. “Chris is dedicated to keeping Siesta Key Village as a great destination,” she said. “This is a positive for everyone.”

Casa Del Sol Boutique’s Schmid also expressed great optimism.

“We’re incredibly happy knowing that Chris Brown deeply cares about the Key as much as we do. We expect nothing but good things coming from this.”

Other Siesta Village properties associated with Brown include MVP, the Beach Club, The Cottage, The Hub Baja Grill, and Summer House, and the building that is anchored by Morton’s Market.

In 2022, he also bought the building that is anchored By Crescent Beach Market at the island’s south end.

Roundabout construction to begin in June

Continued from page 4

Happiness is…Fruit

Yes, we live in the Sunshine State. Yes, April is known as height of tourist season. But it’s also one of our best fruit growing seasons. What fruits grow in Florida in April? How about Cherries, Strawberry, Pineapple, and Bananas? That’s quite a variety for the state synonymous with oranges.

Know what’s better than fruit by itself, though? Fruity, delicious ice cream. And Abel’s Ice Cream definitely has you covered. Stop in for a cup or cone of delicious Banana (No monkey business around here! This delicious ice cream will have you screaming B.A.N.A.N.A.S!) or an all-time classic, Strawberry (Creamy

Either way, some attendees at the meeting noted that about twothirds of respondents were against the roundabout when you breakdown the results.

Finally, Luckner voiced the possibility that the project’s undesired implementation may actually violate the state of Florida’s comprehensive plan. In general, he said anything potentially deemed as detrimental to a community or not in its public interest should be discouraged, and he intends to further examine that possible pathway.

Regarding the Gator bid, Luckner wrote to various colleagues and officials in March the following:

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“Hard to believe this is just inflation and smells like ‘courtesy bid.’ Without a competitive bid they may just be saying, ‘I like getting to bid on county projects but I don’t want to do this project.’

“I think bids should be rejected and alternatives investigated. SKA would be glad to assist.”

Others at the meeting voiced concerns with traffic congestion being a result of the roundabout, while the county continues to tout the concept’s ability to slow down drivers and make things safer.

Furthermore, the roundabout planned for Siesta Key will feature many amenities designed for pedestrians and bicyclists – two groups commonly seen at the intersection en route to Siesta Beach (see graphic.)

Finally, when attendees spoke of their concern that visitors not familiar with roundabouts will struggle, Spencer Anderson of the county’s public works noted that there are now several roundabouts on U.S. 41 between the airport and Siesta Key with which motorists will likely encounter and become familiar before arriving on the island. In all, Sarasota County now has more than 20 roundabouts, Anderson said.

He also said tourist-heavy beach locales are not uncommon settings for roundabouts, noting they exist on Clearwater Beach, Ameila Island near Jacksonville, and one is planned for Panama City Beach.

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The complex at 5212 Ocean Blvd. in the Siesta Village is now owned by real estate investor Chris Brown. It is home to Casa Del Sol Boutique and Created Gems businesses. (photo by Jane Bartnett) Graphic courtesy of Sarasota County

The Highs and Lows of Properties Sold on Siesta Key

The following are properties sold on Siesta Key in the last 60 days, providing a snapshot of home values on the Key for both single-family homes and condominiums.




This is a rare and exceptional opportunity to own a four-bed, three-bath home with over 2,900 square feet under air (4,087 total square footage), complete with a wood burning fireplace and exposed brick, a bonus room, a 23- by 30-foot workshop, and pool with a 28- by 59-foot caged patio.





A rare find, this very private, fenced, and gated property boasts over 220 waterfront feet on the bay and includes 150 feet of dockage complete with a new 20,000-pound lift, two jet ski lifts, plus a cut-in sea-walled dock to accommodate a 50-foot vessel.

The front entrance to the home features an arbored patio, ideal for welcoming guests with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Enter the stone-faced home into the foyer/sitting room overlooking the pool and bay. Just to the right is a massive great room with oversized stone gas-fireplace, French doors, beamed ceilings, chandeliers, and the expansive dining room. The gourmet kitchen features white

The home, which will require extensive renovations, is set on a large 12,805-square-foot lot with 75 feet of lakefront overlooking the serene waters of Lake Norma on famed Siesta Key. If you prefer to “start from scratch,” as there is already a swimming pool on the property and public utilities in place, building your ideal dream home just got easier!

Courtesy of Michael Saunders



Rarely available first-floor two-bedroom/ two-bath condo in beautiful White Sands Village. This affordable and well-maintained community with pavers throughout the roadways and carport areas is a hidden gem. This adorable unit comes turnkey furnished

on white cabinets and quartz countertops, an eight burner Wolfe gas cooktop, two SubZero refrigerator/freezers, and a built-in Miele coffee system. The expansive back terrace travertine features a summer kitchen, fire pit, reclining areas, covered dining area, and saltwater infinity pool. The master suite comes complete with separate his-and-her baths and closets.

The exercise room, home office and outdoor tiled deck are just steps away in the private master wing. At the opposite side of the home, three sumptuous bedrooms with private balconies and baths provide a wonderful retreat. The ground floor grotto/media room with full bar, wine room, fifth bedroom, steam bath, and two outdoor patios is the ideal guest haven.

Courtesy of William Raveis Real Estate


TEN35 SEASIDE brings a new level of luxury to Siesta Key, showcasing the natural beauty of our island while offering gracious residences with the very best of beachside living. This three-bedroom, 2.5-bath residence presents the pinnacle of modern architecture and thoughtfully appointed luxury. Walls of glass, open flowing interiors and an

and there’s nothing to do but move in. AC unit was installed in 2017 and works like a charm. The kitchen has white cabinets, and the bathrooms are nicely appointed as well. The full-size washer and dryer in located in the extra closet space in the primary bedroom.

Courtesy of Michael Saunders

expansive terrace will delight owners with world-class views of the sea, sand, and endless sky. Gracious appointments include porcelain wood-look tile floors, premium cabinetry, top of the line appliances and a spacious master suite with spa-like bath. Offering the perfect combination of luxury and family-oriented functionality, this residence will allow residents to recharge and unwind in a truly incomparable setting.

Courtesy of Sarasota Real Estate Company

27 APRIL 2024 941.312.0665 27th State Media LLC
Bob & Sheri Ruiz Your Resident Siesta Key Experts C. 941.544.3299 | 6021 Midnight Pass Road | Siesta Key | FL 34242 For All Of Your Real Estate Needs! Scan The QR Code For More Information About Our Listings We’re Here For You, PENDING 3948 SOMERSET DRIVE SIESTA KEY | $2,400,000 5319 CAPE LEYTE DRIVE | SIESTA KEY | $2,700,000 1251 DOCKSIDE PLACE SIESTA KEY | $1,045,000 9393 MIDNIGHT PASS RD #703 SIESTA KEY | $555,000 1253 DOCKSIDE PLACE SIESTA KEY | $899,000 9393 MIDNIGHT PASS RD #202 SIESTA KEY | $590,000 PENDING

Keeping it Real

Every month when I sit down to compile this article and sift through the latest month’s statistics, I find it intriguing. I love analyzing the numbers and comparing them to what I see day-today selling real estate on the island.

This year has been as unpredictable as this horrible weather, and I’m looking forward to things settling down both in terms of the climate and our market.

The last time I reported on the state of the market back in February it seemed like, all of a sudden, the snowbirds had descended upon our island. Traffic was backed up everywhere, and the line at my favorite coffee shop Mojo Risin’ had doubled. And that’s OK. When you buy a house on a tropical island, that’s what you’re signing up for. I’m just noting, it’s that time of year.

However, there have been some shifts since my last report. As a team, we are doing great. We have 18 active listings, 10 pending properties totaling over $28 million, and have closed over $13 million. But I’ve seen some changes.

Admittedly, showings have experienced a noticeable deceleration, yet open houses are more popular than ever. The recently remodeled or homes that possess an innate charm, located in good locations, that are priced correctly are still going under contract quickly. Conversely, homes with major objections or challenges seem to be lingering on the market.

Examining the 12 homes sold in February, a striking case study emerges and seems to support my theory about why some homes are selling faster than others.

Take, for instance, 1020 Glebe Ln. It was originally listed on May 12, 2023 for $1.05 million and closed

after enduring 180 days on the market at $825,000. The home, built in 1975, is a four-bedroom, twobath, 1,648-square-foot property in dire need of a renovation and is not on a waterfront lot.

Contrastingly, consider 825 Tropical Circle — an embodiment of opulence. This 2010-built masterpiece boasts four bedrooms, four full and two half baths, sprawls across 6,000 square feet,

and includes a three-car garage. The home sold in two days for the list price, $6.995 million. Positioned on one of Siesta Key’s prime lots, offering a front-row seat to passing boats from the hot tub, this home exemplifies the allure of exclusivity.

A notable trend surfacing this year is the surge in homes sold above the $6 million mark. In 2023, there were only four homes sold in this prestigious bracket. However, the first 68 days of 2024 witnessed six such transactions and I’m proud to report we represented the buyers on one!

As we navigate the waves of the real estate market, it’s evident that adaptability and strategic positioning remain key to weathering the changing tides. Election years are always tough on the real estate market. On top of that, hordes of Americans are sitting in their armchairs in anxious anticipation of Jerome Powell’s every move. Will interest rates come down this year?

In a recent discussion with my insightful nephew, a thoughtprovoking theory emerged. Could our slightly slower-thanusual season be linked to the aftermath of the COVID-19 years? Considering that, for a significant period, Florida was the go-to destination for those seeking a sense of freedom during the pandemic, it’s possible that people are now exploring other places they couldn’t visit for years.

Regardless of these considerations, my confidence in the market remains steady. We’re always selling sunshine and that will always be Florida’s timeless treasure.

Stay sunny, Siesta!

(Natalie Gutwein is a licensed Realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty’s Judie Berger Team and a member of the board of directors of the Siesta Key Association.)

(Data accurate as of March 11 from Stellar MLS.)

28 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
Price not a factor scaring-off buyers here Natalie’s Numbers Siesta Key / February 2024 Active listings 141 Days on market 109 Closing price to original price ratio 91.4% Avg. sale price $ 3,348,500 New listings 40 Number of sales 12 Mos. of inventory 12 Sold price by sq ft $1,129 SOLD Sotheby’s International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity. Natalie Gutwein, REALTOR ® Buyers’ Agent Judie Berger, P.A., REALTOR ® 941.928.3424 816 EDGEMERE LN | $2.9M 1774 MEADOWOOD ST | $2.875M SIESTA KEY | $3M 4644 HIGEL AVE | $2.1M SIESTA KEY’S TOP SELLING REALTOR ® SINCE 2005 No.1 1280 HIDDEN HARBOR WAY | $7M 3722 FLAMINGO AVE | $6.65M 778 SIESTA DR | $6M 3731 INDIAN BEACH PL | $6M 4034 ROBERTS POINT RD | $5.6M 521 CASEY KEY RD | $5M 832 FREELING DR | $4.8M 8415 MIDNIGHT PASS RD | $4.775M 854 N CASEY KEY RD | $4.35M 5315 HIDDEN HARBOR RD | $4.15M 1035 SEASIDE DR | $3.95M 326 ISLAND CIR | $3.9M 3423 LA PALOMA AVE | $3.55M 5322 SIESTA COVE DR | $3.5M 7340 PINE NEEDLE RD | $3.5M 7323 PINE NEEDLE RD | $3.375M 642 WATERSIDE WAY | $3.2M 713 TREASURE BOAT WAY | $3.1M 5382 SHADOW LAWN DR | $3M WHO YOU WORK WITH MATTERS SOLD 5322 AVENIDA DEL MARE | $2.3M SIESTA KEY | $3.5M Ranked in the Top 1.5% of Realtors ® in the USA Over $175 Million Sold In 2022-2023 Over $42 Million Pending & Sold In 2024 SOLD
29 APRIL 2024 941.312.0665 27th State Media LLC

Boutique 41

Continued from page 22

and gold buckle added to the polished look.

Also on display on the new arrivals wall were brightly colored, floaty sleeveless dresses that featured a handkerchief, midcalf hemline, and a shrug jacket that could go from day to evening. A third sleeveless dress, without a jacket, was shown in a contemporary black-and-white print.

“These dresses are so flattering on everyone,” said one of the boutique’s salespersons.

Women’s shoes at deeply discounted prices are also waiting to be discovered. Not all sizes are available for every style on display but, from flats to wedges and glittery evening

$775,000 Residential 1129 LAKE HOUSE CIR Unit#C-113


2 bd • 2 ba • 1,352 sq Sold

sandals, footwear sold at both stores can be found at Boutique 41.

At the front of the store, a good selection of casual footwear from NYDJ and other leading brands were available.

A selection of ballet flats from the exclusive Pretty Ballerinas brand were also displayed. Harper’s Bazaar magazine described the Pretty Ballerina shoes as “the luxury Spanish brand that specializes in handmade flat shoes loved by celebrities all over the world.”

Evening sandals to complement the elegant formal wear are on display in the rear of the store.

Accessories, as every savvy shopper

knows, are so important for completing a polished look. Above the shoe display, shoppers will discover a large selection of beautiful earrings, many selling for $24.

“They make a perfect gift,” said Eible. “We’ll also be getting more bags in. Our customers can count on us to constantly bring in new sales merchandise from both stores. Just as we do in our St. Armands and Siesta Key stores, at Boutique 41 you’re treated as though you have a personal shopper here.”

The store hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Visit or call (941) 338-7759.

Midnight Pass

will take cooperation and support from local, state, and federal offices. Neunder, who serves as the vice chair of the commission for 2024, represents it on the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Policy Board.


Located near Siesta Key’s Turtle Beach this Somerset Cay 2nd floor condo has spectacular water views from your private 900 SqFt lanai!

Furnished 3BR / 3BA, 2558 SqFt featuring high ceilings, crown moldings, bamboo floors, generous storage, restricted entry and an oversized 2 car garage.

9122 Midnight Pass Road, Unit # 24


Murphy Stevens, Realtor 941-587-8879

Alan Stevens, Broker 941-925-1818

David Tomasko, a chemical and bimolecular engineer who serves as the program’s executive director, also spoke. He encouraged officials to replicate the tidal work done in northern states.

“The bay can be better,” he said. “It’s not dead, it’s different. We can help you to be successful. What you’ve been doing for 40 years didn’t work.”

Siesta Key businessman and coastal activist Michael Holderness also took the microphone. He expressed thanks to the county commissioners as well as state Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Fiona McFarland, who both represent Siesta Key on the state level, as well as U.S. Congressman Greg Steube, whose congressional district includes Siesta Key, for their support.

Continued from page 6

“Restoration of the pass makes environmental and economic sense. It’s good for everyone,” Holderness stated.

Said Siesta Key resident Tim Bazell, “As a native Floridian and a local, I was enjoyed Midnight Pass when it was actually flowing back in the early ’80s. I grew up in the area and I have fond memories of the water and even better fishing. Also, as an avid fisherman and conservationist, the water south of the bay has always produced decent fishing but nothing like what could happen after that inlet is opened again.”

Midnight Pass Society II has been a strong advocate for expert studies, which made the update from Neunder a reason to celebrate.

“We need every available tool in our toolbox to get this done,” said the councilman. “Let’s follow the science to restore the historical tidal quality to the bay.”

Visit for more information.

30 Siesta Sand APRIL 2024 941.312.0665
SOLD Published by 27th State Media LLC Contributing Writers and Photographers will be noted with bylines. Guest commentary not necessarily the opinion of 27th State Media LLC Reproduction without written permission prohibited. We reserve the right to refuse any advertisement. All business bios are extensions of the display advertisements. 27th State Media LLC is not responsible for claims made by advertisers. All ads are subject to the approval of the publisher. It is the responsibility of the party placing any ad for publication in Siesta Sand to meet all applicable legal requirements in connection with the ad such as compliance with town, county and state codes in first obtaining an occupational license for business, permitted home occupation, or residential rental property. DISCLAIMER: Please be aware that when you hire an unlicensed/uninsured person to do work at your home, you accept the liability. 27th State Media LLC is not responsible for claims made by advertisers. 6547 Midnight Pass Road, PMB 70, Sarasota, FL 34242 ® To advertise in print or online contact: 27th State Media LLC at 941-312-0665 Send editorial and/or photos via email to:
Midnight Pass restoration advocate Mike Holderness (right) discusses the issue with attendees of the community gathering. (photo by Jane Bartnett) Boutique 41 is located at 5900 S. Tamiami Trail. (photo by Jane Bartnett)
Full service indoor boat storage at Phillippi Harbor Club Own rack C2-5 for $109K Call Daniel Treiman, your Rackominium Resource 917.657.7495 Michael Saunders & Company 1605 Main Street Sarasota, FL 34236
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