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contents april 2020



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AT PGT I NNO VATIONS, B U ILDIN G PR O D UCT S THAT PROTECT ULTI MAT E LY LED TO B UILDING PR O D UC TS THAT B ECKON . Thirty years ago, there was no such thing as an impact-resistant window or door. But following the devastation of Homestead, Florida from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a relatively new window and door manufacturer at the time took it upon themselves to pioneer the U.S. impact-resistant window and door segment. That manufacturer is now celebrating its 40-year anniversary as one of the most reputable and sought-after window and door innovators in the country – thanks to its commitment to keeping homeowners prepared for the next storm and for its innovative products that encourage homeowners to enjoy their indoor and outdoor spaces as one during more inviting weather. Rooted in the integration of engineering, design, technology

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and functionality, PGT Innovations has a total of seven different high-quality brands under its corporate umbrella including PGT Custom Windows + Doors, CGI, WinDoor, Western Window Systems, Eze-Breeze, CGI Commercial, and NewSouth Window Solutions. Product benefits range from helping deter intruders, reducing outdoor noise, filtering 99% of UV light, significantly reducing cooling and heating costs, steadfast delivery and service, affordability, ahead-of-trend style and, arguably the most important, tried and trusted hurricane protection. Whether you are looking for the simplest of all window and door hurricane protection, a product that lets you be inside and outside simultaneously, or show-stopping door or window products that will have your neighbors asking for your design advice, PGT Innovations is your answer.


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H UM B L E A N D FORTU ITOU S BE G IN NI NGS FROM PORCH ENCLOSURES, TO WINDOWS & DOORS, THE ROAD TO BECOMING A LEADING MANUFACTURER IN THE INDUSTRY MAY H AVE HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH REN TIN G A PL ANE. What many may not know, is that PGT Innovations’ humble beginnings were in the form of a porch enclosure company known as Vinyl Tech, started in 1980 with just three employees out of Venice. “What’s fascinating is, even as a small porch enclosure company, our founders Paul Hostetler and Rod Hershberger really held to a simple philosophy: provide phenomenal customer care and on-time delivery,” says Jeff Jackson, President and CEO. “They realized early on that in the building product space, to be on time with custom-made products and to listen closely and react quickly to what our customers needed was a tremendous differentiator.” According to Jackson, Vinyl Tech went its first two years with zero backorders “which was kind of easy to do because we were this little company with little sales,” he admits. But shortly into year three, they were about to have their very first backorder because one window of an order was left back at the plant. “It just didn’t make it on the delivery truck, and the driver delivered the order to a customer on the east coast of Florida with one unit short,” explains Jackson. “It would have been our first ever backorder of the company. So, Rod and the Sales Manager - Herb Reberger, who was also a pilot – rented a plane from the Venice airport, disassembled and loaded the window into the plane, and flew it to this customer by the end of the day. He said the customer looked at them like they were nuts and said, ‘I didn’t need it today. Tomorrow would have been just fine.’ To which Rod replied, ‘No. We told you today.’” Many stories like this ultimately developed a hyper-loyal customer base that often inquired what was keeping Vinyl Tech from expanding from porch enclosures to making their own window products. “Porch enclosures didn’t have any glass,” says Jackson. “We didn’t know anything about glass, but we were getting such a demand.” So Vinyl Tech decided, instead of making its own windows, they’d purchase them from partner suppliers and offer them alongside their porch

enclosure products. Except, one of the very first major deliveries was backordered from the supplier. “We couldn’t rent a plane. We couldn’t do anything to make it happen,” says Jackson. “We burned a lot of customers on this very early order. And just out of being so upset about that, we said, ‘We can do better.’” Upon learning how to develop two styles of windows and a door, and entering the market in 1987, the company began to establish a dealer network from the short sightings of their competitors—converting many dealers to do business with them as a new player in the game that ‘said what they did, and did what they said’. “Always being on time, always taking that extra step to know that any interruption in the business is a really big deal and holding that with care, always listening and gaining customers’ input on how things are going or what they want to see,” says Jackson. “I think that’s really been the key piece of what’s allowed us to continue to grow and continue to be the number one player in this space.”

Now known throughout the world as PGT Innovations, the company is one of the largest employers in Sarasota County with approximately 1,700 team members spread across an extensive manufacturing facility in Venice, FL. Its campus houses two massive assembly plants, a 4.1-acre glass processing plant, its own fleet of 50+ delivery trucks, product testing areas, and the newly-built iLab—an innovative extension of the business that serves as a product incubator and micro-factory to create products that require new and inventive features and custom needs. Led by Dean Ruark, VP of Design Engineering & Innovation, the new iLab operations include developing prototypes, producing initial product builds, and, if needed, assisting in setting up mass-production plans for products.


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For more information about PGT Innovations, visit




Though the company was a much smaller entity back in the 90s, PGT Innovations (known as PGT Industries, at the time) provided valuable support after a thread of bad storms—bringing hurricane relief supplies to impacted areas, sharing engineering insight about why homes fail during hurricanes, and offering forward-thinking solutions to protect against those failures. After Hurricane Andrew demolished much of Homestead, FL and the southeast coast of Florida in ‘92, the community acknowledged that repeated Category 4 and 5 storms were destroying entire neighborhoods, breaking windows and doors, driving water and debris into houses, blowing roofs off of homes, and causing devastating failures. “We were seeing all that time and time again,” says Ruark. Miami-Dade thought they had the strongest building code in the country. “They probably did,” says Ruark. But after Andrew hit, the city officials recognized that the code was not nearly strong enough, and not enforced well enough. PGT partnered with a team of government officials and a few other manufacturing companies to draft the rewrite of codes “we live and build by today,” says Ruark. As part of this recruited team, PGT traveled to Miami-Dade every single week to meet and discuss the elements of a new set of codes—one that would require “opening protection”. “Once Miami-Dade did it, the whole state of Florida started falling in line,” Ruark says. “By the early 2000s, all parts of Florida had come up to speed and started adopting those codes— though there are still none quite as stringent as Miami-Dade’s.”

In the meantime, many window manufacturers started working on how to make a window as strong as a concrete block wall, without having to use plywood or shutters—one that could withstand hurricane-force winds and was able to save lives and buildings. “At the time, there was no such thing,” says Ruark. “But after Andrew, engineers, researchers, and everyone in that area were asking, ‘How do we do better so something like this never happens again?’” PGT made it happen first, in 1994, receiving the very first NOA (Notice of Acceptance) from Miami-Dade County, approving the first impactresistant glass window product to ever be made, which would go on to be used in all areas of Florida, specifically High Velocity Hurricane Zones. “We initially blossomed, if you will, and got on the radar, because we were the first impact company,” shares Ruark. As four heavy-hitting hurricanes pounded Florida in the early 2000s, the awareness factor heightened even more, that really changed architects’ and builders’ mindsets. “Before, they were hesitant to adopt impact-resistant products as a standard,” says Ruark. “But then, people began hearing either their neighbors or their friends were installing them. The dynamics of dealing and distributing grew rapidly.”

CONTINUAL EVOLUTION Today, PGT Innovations continues to stay at the forefront of product development, looking for opportunities to further improve, “whether the code asks for it or not,” says Jackson, “because we have to continue to evolve as storms continue to get stronger. Our company is headquartered in Florida. We care about storms. But moreover, we care about the people who have to weather those storms.”

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A FA MILY- CENT RI C WO RKPLACE Whether stuck in an economic downturn or thriving in a robust housing market, PGT Innovations centers its internal focus on sustaining a quality workplace for its employees and giving back to its community. “I joined PGT Innovations during the heart of the housing downtown in the 2000s,” says Ruark. “The company had been a phenomenal growth company, and then we saw this downturn.” Through the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, Florida businesses were hit tremendously hard. “But despite it being such a difficult time, the company conducted itself with integrity and generosity,” Ruark says. The company never wavered from its core values: they continued caring for team members, making decisions with the customer first, and supporting the community. “Seeing the compa-

ny’s performance through that time was a phenomenal experience,” shares Ruark. “A lot of businesses act differently when times get really tough. It was cool to see how PGT conducted itself through that time—it made me have this admiration for a company that held true to its values in the toughest of times.” And then, as the economy grew back in 2012, many former employees came back as soon as they had the work again. “It was exciting being part of that growth story where past team members who weren’t able to stay with the company through that downturn were now back and building windows again.”

Debbie LaPinska, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, has been with the company for 28 years and says her “years of service” is a testament to the company. “Because you don’t necessarily stay with a company that long,” she says. “There’s got to be something really special about it, that would keep you here. A lot of the things that we do as a company are done because of how much we care for the people who work for us and because of our belief that you take care of your team members. It started with Paul and Rod, and it has carried on with Jeff, to a whole new level. He believes that you are only as good as the people who work for you and with you every day.” In a “pun intended” statement, LaPinska urges outsiders to come “open our doors,” see what’s at the heart of the company, get to know the culture of care that exists not only between team members and the customers, but extends to the entire community as a whole. “I think people generally want to work for a company that has a passion to do the right things and is very caring and giving,” says LaPinska. “It’s not just about business and the numbers, right? Where Hurricane Charley hit Charlotte County, FL in 2004, that was where 60% to 70% of our team member population lived. We made sure they were taken care of, even when we could not talk to them on the telephone because obviously power lines were down.” She recounted that after the company hired an airplane to fly over the community with a banner that said, ‘If you are a PGT employee, call this number’, they set up a recovery station nearby where the employees could get tarps, generators, water, food, and supplies, wash their clothes, and even get money to help them get by. “We told them, ‘the most important thing is to take care of your families, take care of your homes. Your job will be here when you get back’,” says LaPinska. Through several years of post-storm relief efforts since then and standing together through poignant hurricanes like Irma and Michael, PGT Innovations’ pillars of community and family have become stronger with every storm. “More so now,” says Jackson, “than really ever.”


1070 Technology Dr., North Venice, FL | 941-480-1600 | BRANDSTORY FEATURE | SRQ MAGAZINE | APRIL 2020

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SRQ360 16 122

Inside the Brand CocoTele

MARKETING FEATURES 7 34 49 50 55 99 101 115

BRANDSTORY– PGT Innovations Ask The Expert: Premier Sotheby’s Provisionist Guide to Colleges: University of South Florida, Sarasota Manatee Best of SRQ Local Awards Winners Top 12 Dentists Top 12 Realtors Nosh Restaurants

chop special from Avli Mess Hall, a sitting area adjacent to a Longboat Key atrium renovation and artwork from local painter Ha Pham. Previous page: The Kress Burger from Patrick’s 1481,. Cover:Gosselin’s Salad from Avli Mess Hall, photo by Wyatt Kostygan. This

page: Lamp

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Author, TV personality and activist Rick Steves comes to Sarasota to warn travelers of the harsh realities of climate change that come with a passport stamp. Selby Gardens brings music to our eyes with Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind. Kory Souza’s custom bike creations make muscled motorheads fall to their knees, weep and worship.

localpreneurs of the year 28 Meet the five resilient entrepreneurs honored at this year’s SRQ Localpreneur of the Year awards ceremony.

culture city 39

From Vietnam to Sarasota to Italy and back again, how Ha Pham crisscrossed the continents to find the artist inside.



Ernesto Santalla helps a “train wreck” situation get rectified with the help of a remodeled atrium.



Blackbeard’s Ranch is trying to preserve Florida’s interior, one steak at a time. The scrumptious Mezze Platter wants you to share the love.

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CocoTele shares good news from local nonprofits about the programs they are producing.

last flight 128

Waking up at the crack of dawn slinging exotic brews with the founder of O & A Coffee and Supply, Justin Banister.

Montreal transplants bring Sarasota a culinary and cultural experience not yet seen or tasted here with Avlí Mess Hall. srq magazine_ APR20 live local | 11

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2020 Best of

SRQ local

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APRIL 2020




Wyatt Kostygan



Ariel Chates


Phil Lederer, Jacob Ogles WRITERS Andrew Fabian, Abby Weingarten COPYEDITOR Maude Campbell CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Chris Leverett, Evan Sigmund, Woody Woodman EDITORIAL INTERN Annelise Adams EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER




Ashley Ryan Cannon


Suzanne Munroe Julie Mayer Magnifico Rob Wardlaw



Kelsey Simpson


Aidee Rodriguez


GET SRQ DAILY The magazine in your hands offers enormous insight into our community, but the most informed in our community follow our constant coverage of Sarasota and the Bradenton Area in SRQ Daily. The electronic newsletter is a must-read in thousands of inboxes. Check our special editions: the Monday Business Edition, the Wednesday Philanthropy Edition, the Friday Weekend Edition and the much-discussed Saturday Perspectives Edition, featuring a diverse range of opinions from the region’s top pundits and newsmakers. SIGN UP ONLINE AT SRQMAG.COM/SRQDAILY

ORIGINS OF “SRQ” The “SRQ” in SRQ magazine originates from the designated call letters for the local Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. “SR” was the original abbreviation for the airport before the growth in total number of airports required the use of a three-letter code. Letters like “X” and “Q” were used as filler, thus the original “SR” was revised to “SRQ,” much as the Los Angeles airport became “LAX.” As a regional publication committed to the residents of and visitors to both Sarasota and Manatee counties, SRQ captures the place that we call home. LOCAL PUBLISHERS OF SRQ MAGAZINE, LIVING LAKEWOOD MAGAZINE, ROCKETKIDS MAGAZINE. MODERN HOME MAGAZINE, SHE ROARS MAGAZINE, LOVE LOCAL GUIDEBOOK AND SRQ DAILY 331 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236 Phone 941-365-7702 Fax 941-365-0853 SRQMAG.COM

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT AND DIGITAL EDITION Join our readers in the pleasurable experience of receiving SRQ magazine in your mailbox every month. To reserve your subscription, provide your information and payment online. You can set up multiple addresses, renewals and special instructions directly through your online account. When you subscribe online, your first print issue will arrive in your mailbox in 4–6 weeks. For immediate access to the digital edition, subscribe directly at our flipbook. Subscribe online at SRQMAG. COM/SUBSCRIBE. Contact us via email at Vol. 23, Issue 226 Copyright © 2020 SRQ MEDIA. SRQ: Live Local | Thrive Local. Sarasota and Bradenton is published 12 times a year. IMPORTANT NOTICE: The entire contents of SRQ are copyrighted by Trafalger Communications, Inc. Column and department names are property of Trafalger Communications, Inc. and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission of the publisher. SUBSCRIPTION: Subscriptions to SRQ are $36 for 20 issues. Single copies are $4 at area newsstands.

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INSIDE THE BRAND JOIN US—TGIF Best of SRQ Local Party on friday, June 5, 2020—




Moments from SRQ Magazine’s Home of the Year Awards Ceremony, february 25

Follow us @srqmag and join the conversation to see your comments here!

Facebook @Leader Design Studio We are humbled and thrilled to announce that the Bayview House was recognized as this year’s Platinum winner for ‘Best Overall Home in the 2020 SRQ Magazine Home of the Year awards, and is featured on the cover of the March edition of the magazine! @Music Compound: Thank you SRQ Magazine for sharing our efforts to grow our music community. @Koontz & Parkin, CPAs: Our long-time client Murray Homes has taken home a Gold with SRQ Magazine 2020 Home of the Year for the stunning custom Sarasota Modern residence. @TREE Foundation: TREE Foundation’s peripatetic Exec Director Meg Lowman is featured in the current issue of SRQ Magazine. Read it and laugh.

EACH YEAR, THE HOME OF THE YEAR AWARDS COMPETITION RECOGNIZES the superior local talent in design and construction along the Gulf Coast. “Since our magazine is devoted to living local, it is only fitting that we celebrate and showcase some of the region’s most jaw-dropping residences,” said SRQ Executive Publisher Wes Roberts. “It is meaningful for the residents of our community – and it adds to the beauty right here in our own backyard.” This year, we received 49 impressive entries. With submitted projects evaluated by a threejudge panel of experts from New York City, Naples and Miami, categories ranged from Best Sustainable/ Green Home, Best Bathroom, Best Kitchen, Best Remodel/Renovation, Best Landscape Design, a new category added this year of Best Interior Design, and three culminating categories of Best Overall Home, divided by budget. Each judge received a blind presentation of all the entries and scored them based on design concept, use of space, innovation

and integrity of function. “Our panel of judges were thoroughly blown away by the impressive work represented in each submission,” said Roberts. Results were announced amongst colleagues, friends, admirers and family at the 16th annual Home of the Year Awards Ceremony, hosted at SRQ MEDIA’s studio. Leading architects, contractors, interior designers and all their fans showed up for an evening to celebrate each other’s most distinguishable and recent work — seeing multiple honors bestowed for local projects from the past year that continue to keep Sarasota on the map with laudable architecture and exemplary design. When it came time to reveal awardwinners for the Best Overall Home categories, SAWA Design Studio/Leader Design Studio and Nautilus Homes proved the big winners of the ceremony, each taking home trophies in four different categories. Other winners of the night included Borden Landscape Design, Perrone Construction, Seibert Architects, Voigt Brothers Construction, (con’t next page)

@Element: Modern Mediterranean Grill: Chef Nils gives some insight on creating the perfect French Omelette. Thanks for the awesome write-up SRQ Magazine! @Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: Nate Jacobs enjoyed chatting with Andrew Fabian of SRQ Magazine about our celebration of Vinnette Carroll as we present her musical “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.” @Perrone Construction: Thank you SRQ Magazine for bringing together the most talented minds of our local building and architecture community for the 2020 Home of the Year Awards!

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(con’t) Murray Homes, Josh Wynne Construction, Sweet Sparkman Architects and DSDG Architects. “It’s a true privilege to work with excellent builders, and most of all, wonderful clients,” says Principal Architect Chris Leader of Leader Design Studio. “We are humbled that the Bayview House and Citrus House were acknowledged among a strong group of projects by some of our region’s best design firms, contractors and industry leaders.” We thank all the participants who submitted their projects in SRQ’s 2020 Home of the Year Competition. To see and read about the homes that made a statement in HOTY, check out the special feature published in the March 2020 edition of SRQ Magazine.

NEW DATE! WOMEN WHO ROAR CATALYZE NEW POSSIBILITIES THIS OCTOBER 12 AT THE SMARTGIRL MENTORSHIP SUMMIT. Part networking, part testimonials from professionals and fully impactful, SMARTgirl is a collaborative effort with the SRQ Women in Business Initiative to set local girls up for success. The leader-mentor luncheon will feature a line-up of local female leaders seated at each SMARTGirl table to provide feedback, advice and encouragement on how to achieve their dreams. SRQ believes that girls can do anything! SRQMAG. COM/2020/SMARTGIRL


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Selby Gardens brings music to our eyes. Brittany Mattie

TREKKING UP TO ST. PETERSBURG one night— towing an open trailer with a custom-made sled— Mike McLaughlin, Selby Gardens’ senior

vice president of horticulture and facilities, and his team retrieved a baby grand piano from a stranger’s house, found through the app OfferUp. After hauling the estimated 600- 800-pound instrument across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, back to Selby, the piano was stripped of all its working parts to reduce as much of its weight as possible. After removing the cast-iron string frame, strings, hammers, legs, foot pedals and heavy cast-iron plate on the bottom, “In the end, all we were left with was the wooden box and the keyboard,” McLaughlin says. The piano was then “waterproofed” with an exterior-grade polyurethane to protect the wood for five months outdoors. Upon transporting it to the koi pond, the team transferred it into the water by placing it atop concrete blocks that were stacked at the appropriate height for viewing. Then, it was “planted” with a potted arrangement of succulents, cacti, ferns and blooming buds, teeming out of a custom hinged lid. A special prop rod was fabricated for the lid to be held open more than typical, but also secured so the wind would not rip it off. From the swimming koi in the pond to the cascading waterfall, onlookers can now fawn over an exotic scene of tropical flora. Walking up to the Piano to Ponder exhibit the “floating” baby grand piano installment syncs the artistic world with the natural arena, paying an homage to a familiar Spanish artist’s repeated use of botanical imagery in a surreal expression of wild foliage. Pianos have been known to show up in Dalí’s work periodically, including his 1968 Flordali etching Lilium Musicum. “Our concept was to use the piano in a way that demonstrated juxtaposition, things that don’t belong together,” says McLaughlin. “We decided to use the piano as a planter—an object that has no business being in a pond. This creates the kind of surprise for the viewer that Dalí loved to illicit.” While aspiring pianists may not be able to perch on the bench to wrangle some tunes without avoiding a dampened plunge in the melodic lagoon, the baby grand garden makes for a visually stimulating crescendo—despite the absence of keyboarding sound. Salvador Dali: Gardens of the Mind runs now through June 28, 2020, at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. SRQ



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Kory Souza’s custom bike creations make muscled motorheads fall to their knees, weep and worship. Brittany Mattie

AFTER SPENDING EIGHT YEARS IN THE CUSTOM MOTORCYCLE BUSINESS in Boston with famous mentor and bike-build legend Dave

Perewitz of Perewitz Cycle Fab, Souza sold his then pride-and-joy bike for $15,000 to step out and find his own reputed place on the road. Kory Souza Originals hit the ground wheeling, and quickly caught the eyes of bikers internationally—landing on the pages of dozens of motorcycle magazines and websites. After finding the man behind the $50,000 to $100,000 outlandish, intricately detailed custom builds at Sarasota’s recent Thunder By The Bay motorcycle and music festival, SRQ sat down with Souza to talk shop. Since opening his own shop over a decade ago, Souza has ridden every year out to South Dakota’s be-all-end-all Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—sporting his own personalized Harley-Davidson Fat Boy passion project, transformed into a statement rig to rally and rev. The all-matte-black, low-riding Softail Slim turns heads with 24-karat gold leafing (painted on by hand with a fine-tip makeup brush), welded and narrowed handlebars, a full stereo system, an LED Daymaker headlight, diamond-cut cylinders from Las Vegas, and an ’80s rock/hip-hop cassette collection made into a leather seat. The amount of love and inquiries he receives from that cross-country road trip alone is enough to keep him busy with commissions. Bikes of all kinds get shipped from around the US, including New York, California and Georgia, to show up at the garage door of Kory Souza Originals for their extreme, luxury makeovers. From detailed paint jobs to metal fabrication, clients trust Souza’s respected rep so much that most provide little to no input—giving him free reign and creative freedom to do what he sees fit. But for Souza, he makes it a point to become friends with the bike owner, spend time with them in a way that allows him to “put the person’s personality onto their bike,” he says. Over the course of six to seven months that it takes for a custom project to be completed, Souza never leaks any sneak peaks—keeping the final reveal a complete surprise until the “first look.” Souza will be the first to mention it’s not about the money or notoriety, it’s the look on customers’ faces when he presents them with the “wow” factor. With YouTube videos that have gone viral with thousands of views, the emotional and shocking reveals of Souza’s designs shake even the toughest of riders. “I’ve had a grown-a** military, muscle man straight up cry when he saw his new bike come around the corner.” SRQ

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Author, TV personality and activist Rick Steves cautions travelers of the harsh realities of climate change that come with a passport stamp. Brittany Mattie

RICK STEVES IS NO STRANGER TO BAVARIAN BEER HALLS, Sicilian street festivals, Dutch chocolate paired with Dutch marijuana, Mediterranean

sunsets, Scandinavian museums, feisty Irish goats and stealthy Parisian gypsies. As host and writer of the popular public television series Rick Steves’ Europe, and best-selling author of more than 50 travel guide books, Steves urges fellow Americans to travel smart, affordable and mindful. Become “temporary locals,” he says, by connecting more intimately and authentically with a country and its people. Upon taking his first trip across the pond in 1969 to visit piano factories with his father, who was a piano importer, Steves has seen the continent and its sweeping array of climates noticeably change over the last five decades. Consequently, he’s become progressively vocal the last few years on the dire need for Americans to fit better into our planet and be more aware any time they pass through a customs checkpoint. The intrinsic benefits of international travel have their costs. The more wanderlust the footprint, the heavier the contribution to warming up the atmosphere. One round-trip flight from the US to Europe emits roughly as much climate-changing carbon, per passenger, as six months of driving. But to simply stop traveling and stop seeing the world would be the wrong solution, he says. 24 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local


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LAST SEASON, RICK STEVES’ Europe tour company implemented an initiative to mitigate each member’s carbon footprint. In an effort to balance the system, the company now counteracts its environmental impact by taking a portion out of its profits and imposing a tax on themselves. “I made too much money last year,” Steves admits in a press conference at the recent Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series. “Because the way our government taxes us, we don’t have to pay for our carbon. So, I gave myself a self-imposed carbon tax of $1 million and I gave it in 10 $100,000 checks to 10 different nonprofit organizations working on climate-smart agriculture in the developing world.” Poor farmers working in poor countries make up half of the people in this world, he says. And although they live off $2 to $5 a day, they still contribute to climate change. “If we focus on improving the lives of families in the developing world, and help them do their work in a way that contributes less to climate change, we’re doing a good thing.” Steves shares also that accepted science across the board by experts shows that if you invest into some kind of climatesmart plan, you mitigate one person’s roundtrip flight. As a tour operator who took 30,000 people to Europe last year, “I made a lot of money,” he admits. “I should have had $30 per person more cost to do that ethically.” 26 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local


So, Steves extenuated his company’s carbon footprint by taking 30,000 people, times $30, to come up with $900,000 (rounded up to $1 million). “I’m excited about this program because all my travelers know now they’re flying carbon neutral.” It’s grassroots, it’s proactive and it works. But Steves doesn’t want a pat on the back or to be called heroic. He doesn’t even want kudos for the concept. “Steal this and do not credit me,” he says. “Just take this idea and put it in your own company. We all got to get serious about climate change.” The program has since encouraged him to travel less to first-world European cities and more to the developing third-world countries for some eye-opening culture shock. He’s met with discouraged farmers, walking with them in their parched fields, learning the overwhelming, demoralizing reality of struggling to get by through droughts. And when rain does come, it comes in torrents and washes away the nutrient topsoil. He’s learned that hunger seasons historically start in April, and now they’re starting in February. “It’s the poorest people in the poorest countries that are suffering the most from climate change—not us—we can move to high land and put on sunscreen.” Steves urged the room to go to Europe and see it firsthand, just in everyday travel. “I’ve missed two planes in Frankfurt in the

last couple of years because the airport had to close from monsoon thunderstorms,” he says. “That’s never happened before in my life. Now, it’s 90 degrees and humid every afternoon—all that humidity builds up and comes down in a monsoon. That’s something new in Germany. Germany’s never had air-conditioning. Now they need air-conditioning.” On his recent expedition to the top of a cathedral in Leon, France, he noticed many of the gorgeous, ancient slate tiles on the roof were cracked from the heat and reinforced with slabs of duct tape. Hiking in the Alps, he couldn’t help but notice giant pods and reservoirs. When inquired, he was told, “We can’t build a ski lift anymore without plumbing it for snow-making machines. They used to have plenty of snow. Now they don’t.” Meanwhile, at the Bowlerina in Spain, bull fights have been moved from the daytime to a later, shadier time of night because the sun is simply too strong to perform at the traditional time anymore. “Climate is changing,” he states. “The family of nations is working very hard to fight that. But there’s one powerful nation that’s not on board: ours. And that’s the one thing I’m ashamed of when I travel. America is more interested in its quarterly profit statements and its stock market than in the future environment for our kids to be able to enjoy traveling when it’s their turn.” SRQ PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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Behind the Localpreneurs of the Year 2020


Michael Zurbrigen EURO-WALL SYSTEMS, LLC

On what winning Localpreneur of the Year means to him: “It’s a great opportunity and it’s nice to know your peers and people from the community nominated you. That was very humbling, and the whole process gave me an opportunity to look deeper into what we do, and of course it’s great exposure for all the amazing things the team does at Euro-Wall. We’re so excited about what we do, and it’s my passion. At the end of the day it’s about self-sacrifice, the customers and benefitting our community.”

On achieving success as an entrepreneur: “I just knew I was born to do this. Even thinking back to when I was in high school, for example, we all wanted to order a pizza, but the place wouldn’t deliver to us because we were too far, so I asked how many I’d have to order to get them over here and that’s just how it’s always been it for me—facing a problem and finding a way to fix it, looking around at the environment and processing a way to make it better.”


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Michael Klauber + Phil Mancini MICHAEL’S ON EAST

On what winning Localpreneur of the Year means to them: MICHAEL: “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it was really great to be recognized along with these great folks in this town that are forward-thinking and focused on what is best for our community. It’s really great for us to hopefully inspire some young people in the community that if you put your mind to it you can make it too.” PHIL: “I think it was nice winning the honor right now. I keep telling everyone I wish I was 20 years younger [laughs] because there’s so many great opportunities in this community and I think we’re going to lead the way here for younger people as they come up. It’s not going to slow down. To win the award and to see the future of what’s going to be going on around here is just great.”

On achieving success as an entrepreneur: PHIL: “Well, I think when you take a restaurant that’s been around over 30 years, right off the bat just breaking that 30-year mark alone was incredible. Does that make us feel as though we’ve made it? Sure, but do we think we have a lot left to offer? Absolutely! There’s so many exciting things happening in this town and in the food and beverage industry. We get to have a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments like pairing up with local businesses like Selby Gardens or creating new international menus each month. We’ve recently added in more vegan and vegetarian options as people’s tastes are changing. People ask all the time what kind of restaurant we are and truly it’s whatever the client wants.”

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On what winning Localpreneur of the Year means to her: “Considering the caliber of the people nominated and who have been recognized in the previous years, it’s incredibly humbling. It gives you goose bumps!”

On achieving success as an entrepreneur and her a-ha moment: “My entire adult life, I’ve been an employee, so I lead from the perspective of how I would want to be treated. That may not be the golden rule since it’s a corporate environment, but it works for us. My eye-opening moment of thinking I’ve ‘made it’ as an entrepreneur is every time I give my team a new project and it’s completed. No one asked for assistance or direction and no one made complaints, it’s just done and brilliant. They’ve taken the initiative and they’ve accomplished more than I could have ever thought. The people with whom I work with at Grapevine, everyone is ambitious

and ready to carry the water. It’s truly collaborative when I say, ‘OK, here’s what we need to get done,’ and I blink and it’s done. I truly feel like Grapevine got recognized and I just got to be the one standing there with the trophy. Being an entrepreneur is half: plan your work and half work your plan: but really you just need to close your eyes and jump. It’s a beautiful marriage of strategy and reckless abandon. We never take ourselves too seriously but we always take the trust of our clients seriously, and I think that gives us the recipe for success.”

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Jordan Letschert TTJ INVESTMENTS

On what winning Localpreneur of the Year means to him: “One of the big honors of winning is that many of the fellow winners or previous winners are business owners I’ve looked up to my whole life. Just to be mentioned in the same category of those people was really fun, especially since only a few years ago I was still a police officer working on the streets. The Localprenuer of the Year award means a lot to me personally as I was born and raised here in Sarasota, so to be recognized for the things we’ve done in the community gives us a sense that we’re doing something more than just numbers and balance sheets.”

On achieving success as an entrepreneur: “It started to click when companies started calling us to partner with them. We no longer had to search for the business, rather, the business was coming to us. We joke that we’re the nice local version of Shark Tank because people come to us with ideas and we get to pick which projects we’re excited about. I like to say, ‘Everyone knows what an iPhone is, but not everyone knows about the components inside that make it work.’ And we’re sort of like that for companies—the parts inside that make them work better.”


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localpreneurs oftheyear Rob Brady ROBRADY DESIGN

On what winning Localpreneur of the Year means to him: “It’s a big thrill—I’ve lived in Sarasota for 25 years and I love the local community. The work we do at RoBrady is mostly national and even international, so the opportunity to be recognized locally for the work we do in the town that we love is amazing!”

On achieving success as an entrepreneur: “The things we did in 2019, and the work that we did, was some of the best work we’ve ever done, but my hope is that for 2020 the work we do surpasses that. I think the ‘a-ha’ moment for me of making it as an entrepreneur would have to be attributed to the diversity of things that we’re doing both geographically and project-wise—from working with Olympic swimmers and robotics to the food and beverage industry. At the end of the day, it’s about humanizing technology and moving forward.”

The SRQ Magazine Localpreneur of the Year program recognizes entrepreneurs who are running locally-owned businesses with purpose and passion, and who have earned the respect of their peers in the following areas: corporate acumen, innovation, philanthropy, leadership and community impact. Judges were selected based on their expertise and leadership in their fields, experience as entrepreneurs and connectivity to the Sarasota | Bradenton region. We would like to thank the readers of SRQ magazine for nominating this year’s honorees, our judges for setting aside the time to engage with this year’s 100+ pages of applications and all of our locally-owned businesses that cultivate and engineer the success of our local economy and community each and every day. We look forward to engaging this year’s Leadership Circle in future entrepreneur programming. 32 | srq mag

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CONNECTING THROUGH THE 2020 GIVING CHALLENGE Our philanthropic landscape is evolving. It wasn’t long ago online giving was the exception, but today crowdfunding apps, online auctions and “text to give” approaches to online giving has found a comfortable place in our culture. With the simple click of a button, we can give and go on our way. But quick clicks can leave us disconnected. Like with most everything else digital, as humans we long to take the perfectly sequenced coding of 0’s and 1’s and find a way to create an experience IRL, not through a URL. And that is just what has happened with our community’s wildly successful online giving day, Giving Challenge. Now entering its seventh incarnation, the Giving Challenge has transformed from a purely online program into a catalyst for in-person connection and relationship-building, helping donors throughout our region show their love for local nonprofit organizations through online donations. Along the way, it has provided more than $40 million in unrestricted funding through six Giving Challenges.

SAVE THE DATE — Giving Challenge 2020 April 28th & 29th | Noon to Noon


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This year, the Giving Challenge returns from Noon to Noon, April 28th and 29th. As an exciting 24-hour giving event, the 2020 Giving Challenge is anticipating to connect more than 700 nonprofit organizations with passionate donors and community members to support diverse causes and create enduring impact in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties. To strengthen these connections, The Patterson Foundation will provide a 1:1 match for all unique donations, up to $100 per donor, per organization. There is no limit to the number of individual matches from unique donors a nonprofit organization can receive during the 2020 Giving Challenge. Whether you are at your computer or out in our community, transform your impact through meaningful relationships and partnerships by being part of the 2020 Giving Challenge. To find out how you can participate in our vibrant culture of giving, visit

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BUDGE HUSKEY Chief Executive Officer

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TOP REAL ESTATE MARKET TRENDS IN THE SARASOTA-BRADENTON REGION? WHAT DOES THE UPCOMING YEAR LOOK LIKE? The overall market is relatively balanced and well-positioned for the year ahead, driven by the increased notoriety of Sarasota and the consistent migration of pre-retirement baby boomers seeking either primary or resort residences. Among the most significant trends are a reflection of the pro-growth attitude of the region, both in terms of attracting niche manufacturing and technology companies leading to greater diversity of employee talent as well as the accelerated expansion of new construction both vertically in the downtown area and horizontally east of I-75. Based on the underlying strength of the economy, assuming the virus issue is temporary, the performance of equity markets last year leading many to diversify portfolios even before recent market volatility, and the attraction of a low tax environment for many choosing to migrate due to SALT (state and local tax deductions), we are very optimistic about the year ahead and the activity in the first weeks of the year confirmed this expectation.

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES OR ‘NEW FRONTIERS’ DO YOU SEE WITHIN THE REGION THAT OUR READERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT? The urbanization of Sarasota’s downtown has been underway for some time with the Quay being the new epicenter, but the downtown peripheral areas are a different story. Most notable is the Rosemary District which has seen significant condominium growth over the past few years, much at the higher end of the market but with an urban flair that attracts mature buyers from the northeast as well as younger buyers from all regions. Another is just east of downtown, known as Ringling Park, Paver Park and Alta Vista. These lesser known neighborhoods are within walking distance to schools, parks and the eastern edge of downtown. Further out, the march northward of Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton and the explosion of activity in the southern sector such as Babcock Ranch indicate just how much opportunity remains for growth in the east.

SARASOTA — EAST 7751 Bee Ridge Road | 941.260.8875 SARASOTA — ST. ARMANDS 540 John Ringling Boulevard | 941.383.2500 VENICE 400 Barcelona Avenue | 941.412.3323

WHAT SETS PREMIER SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY APART? There are so many great real estate companies, and a unique aspect of our industry is the necessity of cooperation between them as a tenet. With that said, it’s been unfortunate to see a progressive erosion in the brokerage community as more firms view their business models as holding companies for licensees rather than as active participants in the customers’ and agents’ success. The lack of guidance and accountability is sometimes startling. At Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, we have always deemed our culture as our greatest competitive advantage. Our people are passionate about their profession and they embrace our strict standards for every aspect of our business which translates to incredibly high expectations for the company and peers. As the value of any brand lies in the consistency and quality of the consumer experience, our extensive marketing platforms for buyers and sellers ensure not only an unparalleled performance but also complete and total transparency. We are a marketing company first and foremost, which is validated by an investment level incredibly rare in brokerages today. Yet our ultimate growth and success is fully attributable to our what matters most, our people.

LAKEWOOD RANCH 8141 Lakewood Main Street, Suite 101 | 941.907.9541 LONGBOAT KEY 517 Bay Isles Parkway | 941.383.1526 SARASOTA DOWNTOWN

50 Central Avenue, Suite 110 | 941.364.4000



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culture city


From Vietnam to Sarasota to Italy and back again, how Ha Pham criss-crossed the continents to find the artist inside. Phil Lederer



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culture city


arrived in the US from Vietnam, the youngest of five children and the daughter of a father seeking political asylum. “It was the worst transition,” she says. Pham missed her friends, her cousins and her grandparents, but, perhaps more than anything, she missed the natural beauty of Vietnam, where she would play barefoot in tropical forests of living jade, under mountains looming opalescent through the mist. Now she was in a place called Michigan, near electrocuted by culture shock. It was fall, it was cold, it was gray and all seven of them were living in a one-room apartment. “There was no room,” Pham says. “I had no escape.” So she began spending her time in the library. She couldn’t decipher the language yet, but she could copy the pictures. Her sketchbook, and fantastical worlds like those in Alice in Wonderland, became her own version of asylum, where she could re-create the freedom of her lost childhood. In the imagery, Pham found quietude in the chaos. In her

Left: Ha Pham at her Sarasota studio.

art, Pham escaped. Not everyone approved. “My mom actually hated it,” she says. In her mother’s eyes, survival was paramount. The family knew poverty, cash was king and her mother hoped the children would find stable careers that brought steady paychecks. “She discouraged me,” Pham says. “She didn’t want me to pursue a career in art.” And though teachers tried to nurture the budding talent by day, her mother would unravel this confidence by night, a fearful Penelope at the loom of her daughter’s dreams. It was one more battle in an age-old war between protective parents and passionate youth. “I was stuck between stability and wanting to be free,” Pham says, “but I would draw whenever I got the chance.” And in 2007, she left Michigan and her mother to pursue art in Sarasota. She soon found herself in a place called Towles Court in the studio-gallery of a local artist named Jon Greeley, admiring his portraiture. Approaching Greeley, she introduced herself, said she liked his work and asked to study under him. And for the

next two and a half years, Pham would be Greeley’s apprentice, cleaning up the studio, sitting as a model, helping him with the technical difficulties of his burgeoning online business. In exchange, Greeley taught her what he knew of portraiture and working in charcoal, layer by layer, studying value and shade, learning patience and care. “Charcoal allowed me to see,” Pham says. But she still had trouble seeing herself as an artist—the old doubts and her mother’s words aligning themselves yet again for the eternal–internal conflict with her creative aspirations. What was meant to be a crossroads had become another Sarasota roundabout and Pham was moving in circles, furthering her technique but not progressing where it mattered. She was holding back and she knew it. That was four years ago, and Pham left everything behind once again. Armed with nothing but her sketchbook and a backpack, she trekked through Portugal and then Spain and then Italy, searching but not finding, looking in hopes of seeing. But it was a road too well-trodden by artists and

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culture city

seekers of all stripes who had come before, so she stepped off the path. And there, in the wilds of the Dolomites, Pham sat down and began to draw. Surrounded by sage and alpine snowbells, she drew until the light failed and as it got darker, she saw she was alone until she heard that she was not alone and thought she should be scared but was not. “There was only a calmness,” she says. And she knew. Back in Sarasota today, Pham lives the life of a full-time artist and her studio overflows with portraits, mostly women in motion, their features not merely documented by her brush, but decoded and deciphered to reveal the emotional world beneath. “I want to capture that,” Pham says. “To reach out and grab you.” She’s been a featured artist at Art Ovation Hotel and regularly paints live at Cafe

Barbosso, sharing her process and inspiring others to pursue their artistic dreams. She has commissions from clients who encourage her to paint more and more. It hasn’t always been an easy path, and there were nights when she cried—from frustration, from fear, from anger, from despair—but the art has always been its own reward. “Even if it’s a struggle, it’s still worth it,” she says, “because I know what it was like without it.”On an ideal day now, Pham will wake up rested. She will go for a leisurely walk and enjoy the greens and the reds of the world blooming around her, or perhaps opt for a run on the beach, watching the birds skitter across the sands and scatter into the air, wheeling and soaring, only to recongregate noisily in her wake. Back under the high

ceilings of her home studio, there’s time for tea, stretching and even some meditation. Then, in a space all her own, surrounded by completed canvases on the walls and a million projects in motion, Pham will paint. And she will paint as the outside world of green and red surrenders to muted darkness, as the birds return silently to their nests, long into the night, lost in the color and the shape. Twenty years ago, this was unheard of. But this is the new Pham, or, perhaps, simply the real one. She downplays the transformation with a bit of artist-ly wisdom. “The first stroke that you put down is not the last stroke that you see,” she says. And Mom’s finally coming around too. “She’s more appreciative now. It’s progress.” SRQ

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A BEACON OF LIGHT A longboat key home comes

back to life with the help of an atrium. Brittany Mattie


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cargo ARCHITECT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER OF WASHINGTON, D.C., Ernesto Santalla, PLLC, is frequently called upon by an elusive couple to

work on residential projects within the US and Europe, including a vacation home in Rasteau, France. Their latest challenge for him was a full renovation of a bungalow-style residence in Longboat Key. Santalla was not shy to admit that a “train wreck” was the best way to describe the property’s former condition when presented to him. “It was an assortment of shapes, ceiling heights, angles and materials, all colliding into a 2,500-square-foot villa,” he says. “To a great extent, our work was to simplify and declutter.” Built in the 1980s and left abandoned, the derelict house was begging for a remodel. Santalla and his team gutted it from the inside out and reconfigured the rooms to maximize openness, natural light, ventilation and functionality. The atrium, for instance, previously existed as nothing more than a feeble light well. “The atrium was of particular concern,” says Santalla. “It seemed more of an afterthought than part of the original design.” Situated off the entrance hall, it is now a pivotal architectural feature and salient design component of the redesigned home. Representing a vernacular state of mind, the enclosed cuboid encompasses a heightened opening to the sky that allows sunlight and rain to drip in, and three transparent sides made up of a large fixed window and two sliding glass doors mirroring each other.

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“In a physical setting very connected to the outdoors, the interior atrium is a lush, vibrant and colorful indoor–outdoor space to be enjoyed day and night,” says Santalla. Soaked with Florida sun throughout the day, the aperture is replete with flourishing flora and greenery teeming from every nook and cranny. Santalla and the owners sourced hundreds of plant and flower species from Mariposa Nursery & Garden Center in Bradenton, including Aztec grass, dusty millers, holly and foxtail ferns, bromeliads, cordylines, peperomia, celosia, Phalaenopsis orchid, anthurium, Alocasia (elephant ear plants), dwarf oyster plants, various herbs, succulents and more. After much confined greenscaping, the inscape provokes a dynamic feeling of space and light by maintaining a visual link to the outside world, while still providing a cozy, surrounding shelter from the external environment. “The atrium truly is an oasis in the center of our home,” says Santalla’s client. “During the day, it is filled with sunshine and in the evening, the lighting design creates a more dramatic, elegant look that provides a peaceful, calming scene when I am enjoying some downtime in my soaking tub.” The public areas outside the atrium sheen with reflective hardwood flooring, while ultramod furniture, sculptural furnishings and the walls promote a neutral palette with pops of earthy colors. The walkway and living rooms surrounding the atrium were designed to interpret a minimalist yet enlivened space that contrast the brightness and wildness of inside the atrium. Lending to the home’s overall eclectic feel, enlarged street-view photographs in black and white hang in an asymmetrical fashion from the couple’s art collection to add a sense of beloved European history and culture to their new LBK sanctuary. SRQ

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CURRICULUM HIGHLIGHTS VARIETY OF MAJORS USF Sarasota-Manatee offers more than 30 undergraduate majors, minors and certificate programs, including degrees in biology, business, cybersecurity, elementary education, hospitality management, nursing, risk management and insurance, and more. Graduate students can choose from eight majors, including a popular weekend MBA program.

INCREDI-BULL CRITICAL THINKING Students have a unique opportunity to earn a certificate in an area that employers consistently rate as one of the most sought after skills sets in college graduates: critical thinking. The USFSM Incredi-bull Critical Thinking certification helps students to become successful leaders and gives graduates an edge in their job search.

BLOOMBERG LAB The David Kotok and Cumberland Advisors Bloomberg Lab is home to 12 Bloomberg Terminals that gives students access to Bloomberg Professional Services, a powerful resource providing real-time data from markets around the world, in addition to news, research, and timely analytics used by top decision-makers in finance, business, and government.

THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA SARASOTA-MANATEE is a student-centered, community-engaged university that provides high-achieving students with a variety of quality bachelor’s and master’s degree options.The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus features a unique, personalized learning experience for approximately 2,100 students, providing opportunities and support for each student to grow personally and professionally and become successful leaders and responsible citizens. With a 13:1 faculty-to-student ratio, class sizes are smaller and faculty “Our ultimate goal is to provide know and support students as they students with the opportunity to strive to achieve their career goals. become proficient in their choAs a proud member of the Universisen field and lead lives of impact ty of South Florida—the nation’s fastest rising public research university in in our community.” the U.S. News & World Report rankDr. Karen Holbrook, USF Sarasota-Manatee ings during the past five years—the Regional Chancellor Sarasota-Manatee campus fosters a genuine sense of community, both inside and outside the classroom. Campus administrators and faculty work closely with businesses, non-profit organizations and other educational institutions to develop practical curricula that challenges students to develop the skills needed to meet the workforce demands of the region and state. Students have a multitude of opportunities to engage in internships, study abroad, research projects with faculty and service learning to gain practical experience. USF Sarasota-Manatee values diversity and inclusion and serves a variety of student populations while delivering academic programs at convenient times at its beautiful campus located on the Sarasota-Manatee border across from the SRQ airport. USF Sarasota-Manatee also offers a robust selection of online and hybrid courses, making it convenient for students to work while completing their education. Dedicated resources assist students who are the first in their families to attend college, veterans who have served our country and working adults returning to complete their degrees or upskill. Approximately 80 percent of students qualify for some form of financial aid, with nearly half (49 percent) working 30 hours per week or more while working toward degrees. USFSM also offers dual enrollment courses for high school students to earn college credits.


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From American Gothic and The Scream to Starry Night and the Mona Lisa, precious few masterpieces have garnered the artistic eminence to achieve the distinction of truly becoming a household name. In this 12th annual Best Of SRQ Competition, thousands of localvores clicked through to show love for their hometown favorites and breakout trailblazers. We hope to showcase these benchmarkers in the spirit of true visionary talent because we recognize the artistic endeavour in most things—especially local. Perfectly rolled sushi, steamed lattes and crafted cocktails are works of art in their own regard. But whose floral arrangements would impress Monet? What jeweler would Vermeer visit to buy his lady earrings? Which restaurant would Da Vinci choose to have his last supper? Where would Seurat spend his Sunday afternoon? In an art-centric community thriving with local businesses, it’s easy to see why Sarasotans revere our daily stops as worthy as iconic works of art. We challenge readers to decipher the most world-renowned and searched-for paintings throughout history that we’ve loosely referenced throughout this Best of SRQ Local annual feature. THIS PAGE: Kress Burger from Patricks 1481, photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


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BE THE FIRST TO GUESS ALL OF THE ORIGINAL PIECES OF ART! The first ten people able to correctly guess the inspiration for each famous painting or sculpture, (by name and by artist ) produced in homage as part of the Best of SRQ Local feature photos will receive a special gift. Get your inner art nerd on and submit your answers to bestofsrq@

For a second year running as the reigning champion in the world of sushi, PACIFIC RIM remains soymates with the Platinum standing, and coming up in the rear as a longstanding finalist, JPAN sticks the Gold as a local favorite for its consistency and freshness at both its Siesta Row and UTC locations. Following up at a respectable Silver, TSUNAMI had fans raving about its many creative vegan options, while YUME rolls up a Bronze finish with Dynamite Rolls and Tuna Bombs. -BM

Of for its masterful mixologists and intriguing craft concoctions. Meanwhile, JACK DUSTY holds it down with Bronze for the ever-popular and inhibition-reducing Siren cocktail. -BM Samantha Emelock (on State Street): The State Street mixologists are constantly finding new flavor combinations that surprise me and they have fun with their craft. I look for them every year at the Set the Bar cocktail competition. Ben Kiekel (on State Street): Could hold its own in any city in the world. Scott West (on Michael’s On East): The cocktails are made with fresh juices, mixers and garnish. The talent behind the bar is superb. Natasha Barrera (on Sage): I don’t drink alcohol and their experts make mocktails that are just as social as the real deal! Ally Jones (on Sage): Unique drinks with ingredients like CBD honey and organic house wells. Leslie Laven (on Jack Dusty): The Siren is a fabulous cocktail to introduce people to Sarasota! But any drink on the menu is always amazing, and the vibrant, energetic friendly staff is the best. Platinum Winner- State Street Eating House +

Aurec Senenoi (on Pacific Rim): A Sarasota staple. If you want to go somewhere for a nice dinner with friends, look no further than Pacific Rim. Fantastic food, fantastic atmosphere. And let’s not forget the history this place has. I’ll always be coming here as I am a proud regular. Chris Voelker (on JPAN): You can count on FRESH, innovative fare every time. Leslie Laven (on Tsunami): Vegan sushi like no other. And for non-vegans, the regular sushi is fresh and outstanding. Lisbeth Hansen (on Yume): Always fresh, great selection and the best Lemon Drop Martini. Platinum Winner- Pacific Rim / Gold Winner-

Cocktails / Gold Winner- Michael’s On East / Silver Winner- Sage / Bronze Winner- Jack Dusty

JPAN Sushi Bar & Grill / Silver Winner- Tsunami Japanese Steakhouse / Bronze Winner- Yume Sushi


BEST LOCAL BURGER Patricks 1481 Beef, it’s what’s for dinner, or lunch, or, heck, even breakfast. Whatever time of day, you can rest assured that the king of beef isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, with PATRICKS holding on to the Platinum position. GECKO’S beefed up their game and came in swinging to take the Gold by a close margin, passing on Silver to SMACKS. Meanwhile, SHAKESPEARE’S stacked votes to keep its Bronze standing for mouthwatering burgers that bring people from near and far. -AA Natasha Barrera (on Patricks): Perfectly cooked burger every time. Also amazing fresh fries! I bring friends from other countries to try Patrick’s burgers to represent the USA and they love it every time! Kristen Hogentogler (on Smacks): I really love their burgers and how creative their menu items are that suit everyone’s dietary and lifestyle needs. This includes bison burgers, vegetarian/vegan options and, my personal favorite, the Mac Attack, which satisfies my inner child. I occasionally enjoy building my own burger and topping it with their Smacks sauce, cheese, bacon, chili (the best topping they have) and lettuce. Texture and balance are two important features when it comes to food and I find that the majority of their menu items, especially the handhelds, hit the nail on the head. Farah Leitner (on Shakespeare’s): The Brie Burger: huge, cooked perfectly rosemary focaccia bun. The only burger that leaves you craving to come back for more (15 years, still can’t get enough!). Platinum Winner- Patricks 1481 / Gold

It’s tough being the new kid on the block, but SAGE made it look easy this year with a world-class menu and a snazzy renovation of the oldest building in town—charming locals with Platinum plating and a rooftop bar. From there, Gold was garnered by the coastal cuisine and picturesque water views of SHORE LBK. Meanwhile, two restaurants under Tableseide Restaurant Group’s portfolio, LEMON TREE KITCHEN and the newly opened LIBBY’S NEIGHBORHOOD BRASSERIE in LWR, tied for Silver. And making a name for itself in the historic downtown district with authentic German food and a cozy biergarten, SIEGRIED’S rounds out the list with a laudable cheers to Bronze. -BM John Winter (on Sage): Aesthetics are a dream, location, top-notch service and food preparations! Skylar Garber (on Sage): Love the seasonal menu changes and sustainability aspect of the menu; service is always on point. Jesse Balaity (on Shore LBK): This is the modern waterfront environment that SRQ has been missing, a place equally suited for casual dining, a fancy dinner or just lingering by the bay with a cocktail. Design matters. Natasha Barrera (on Lemon Tree Kitchen): Great healthy options that fit my dietary restrictions without missing out on flavor and creativity! Kathryn Parks (on Siegfried’s): The food is authentically German, the atmosphere is very cozy and we love chatting with the friendly owners, Kim and René, every time we are there. Platinum Winner- Sage / Gold Winner- Shore LBK / Silver

Winner- Gecko’s Grill & Pub / Silver Winner- Smacks Burgers & Shakes / Bronze- Shakespeare’s Craft Beer & Gastro Pub

Winners- Libby’s Neighborhood Brasserie LWR, Lemon Tree Kitchen / Bronze Winner- Siegfried’s Restaurant and German Biergarten


BEST NEW BUTCHER The Butcher’s Block

State Street Eating House+Cocktails Dive into the liquid culture Sarasota has collectively crafted, and check out the movers and shakers doing it best. Top-shelf contender STATE STREET clears an eight-time winning hot streak with three times the amount of votes as its contenders. MICHAEL’S ON EAST sneaks into the cocktail competition this year, slinging Gold, while SAGE also debuts for the first time in Best

We introduced a new category to the ballot this year and roaring support came in from the community to name THE BUTCHER’S BLOCK the people’s choice for Platinum winner. In close second is SOUTHERN STEER, who took Gold. DETWILER’S proves they are more than just your average local grocer winning Silver, and tied for bronze is GEIER’S and ALPINE STEAKHOUSE. -AA

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2020 BELOW:

Best Butcher Scott McGrowan at The Butcher’s Block

Marilyn Gillen (on The Butcher’s Block): Forty years, never had an inferior piece of beef! Linda Burry (on Southern Steer): Southern Steer owners believe in giving back to the community. They helped a friend of mine in need when her house burned down…very grateful for their support. Mary-Louise Meyer (on Detwiler’s): The meat is always fresh and absolutely perfect when cooked, at the best prices bar none. The staff is always helpful and courteous. Holly Dennis (on Geier’s): Geier’s has a vast selection of meats and European products that you just can’t get anywhere else locally. For example, they have goose liverwurst. It’s one thing to have traditional pork liverwurst, but goose liverwurst is just something that you cannot find elsewhere in Sarasota. They also have a comprehensive selection of German beers, wines and nonalcoholic beverages to choose from. Debra Diggs (on Alpine Steakhouse): I do a lot of cooking and trying new recipes that call for certain cuts of meat that are not the usual stocked at grocery-store meat counters. They have been able to do the specific cuts that my “special recipes” indicate. Platinum Winner- The Butcher’s Block / Gold Winner- Southern Steer Butcher / Silver Winner- Detwiler’s Farm Market / Bronze Winners- Geier’s Sausage Kitchen, Alpine Steakhouse Meats & Deli

BEST LOCAL TACOS Screaming Goat Tacqueria In a saucy competition, SCREAMING GOAT TAQUERIA emerges victorious to reclaim its Platinum status in a landslide, thanks to ever-inventive and always fresh toppings. Local chain POPPO’S TAQUERIA sneaks into Best Of for the first time with Gold, while EL TORO BRAVO delights the masses with friendly owners and family-friendly vibes, scoring Silver. Meanwhile, MI PUEBLO brings the fiesta every year, and nabbed the Bronze tortilla. -BM Dawn Scire (on Screaming Goat Taqueria): Brilliant combos, unique ingredients, fab flavors, fun staff, cheap! What’s not to love? Jamie Jalwan (on Poppo’s Taqueria): I’d go every day if I could. The tacos are amazing, but the guacamole and chips are also key. Jim Kuczynski (on El Toro Bravo): Only Mexican restaurant I patronize in Sarasota County. Rueben, without a doubt, serves the best Mexican food in town! Susan Fisher (on El Toro Bravo): Crunchy, with delicious beef or chicken, fresh lettuce and tomatoes that are individually made to order. Mark Mason (on Mi Pueblo): I’m from California and these are the most authentic I’ve found. Plus, they have Negra Modelo beer on tap! Platinum WinnerScreaming Goat Taqueria / Gold Winner- Poppo’s Taqueria / Silver Winner- El Toro Bravo / Bronze- Mi Pueblo El Restaurante Mexicano & Cantina

BEST LOCAL STEAK Michael’s On East The steaks were high for this category. Filet, rib eye, tomahawk, T-bone, tri-tip, sirloin, whatever steak craving you have, it’s sure to be satisfied. Our Platinum winner MICHAEL’S ON EAST is a Sarasota favorite in a number of categories including bringing their A-game for best steak. Voters couldn’t stop talking about the tomahawk steak from ELEMENT, securing them the Gold position. Silver goes to ALPINE STEAKHOUSE and Bronze to SUMMER HOUSE. -AA Jamie Jalwan (on Michael’s On East): They source the best and always do it right—cooked to perfection! Debra Mura (on Element): My husband and I had the tomahawk steak, which was seasoned perfectly and tasted divine. Looking forward to going back again! Laura Gilkey (on Alpine Steakhouse): Pure and simple, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Jay Joyce (on Summer House): Summer House is a standout for best local steaks. I have visited Hyde Park, Ruth’s Chris and Fleming’s. They each are good, with some areas of their meals judged as great. But Summer House stands out as an event that is much more than just the incredible steak it starts with. Their steaks are edge-to-edge the temperature you select and full of flavor. The sides are just outstanding tasty dishes that complement the steaks. A great wine selection at modest prices, amazing desserts and, of course, the staff that excels to meet your every wish to make your night special. Platinum Winner- Michael’s On East / Gold Winner- Element Modern Mediterranean Grill/ Silver Winner- Alpine Steakhouse Meats & Deli/ Bronze Winners- Summer House Steak & Seafood

BEST LOCAL BREAKFAST/BRUNCH Station 400 Let there be brunch! Fueled by fancy mimosas and breakfast galore, Sarasota brunchers scoured every spot in town to share their verdicts on the ones that made the top of the list. By a long shot, Platinum finalist STATION 400 sees their

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SweetBerries): Best frozen custard. Better than any ice cream. Holly Dennis (on Gelato-go): Nice selection of flavors, made on-site, served at the right temperature with very fine crystals so the mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Connie Kelly (on Abel’s): Creamy and delicious. Love the coffee ice cream. Platinum Winner- Orange Octopus / Gold Winner- SweetBerries Eatery & Frozen Custard / Silver WinnerGelato-go / Bronze Winner- Abel’s Ice Cream

BEST LOCAL THAI Bangkok Restaurant Debuting in Best Of as a new category, Thai cuisine makes a name for itself with some of the most votes calculated from our hungry readers. Bringing the intimate vibes and yummy curries for the Platinum title by a landslide is BANGKOK. ISAN THAI spices up the competition with authentic Northern Thai dishes to serve up Gold, while SPICE STATION proves another fan favorite, close behind with Silver. Kudos goes to downtown’s DRUNKEN POET with Bronze for its trendy atmosphere and fried rice varieties. -BM

second year on top. Voters kept SUN GARDEN CAFÉ in the running and even bumped them up to Gold finalist this year. Silver finalist MILLIE’S graced the list, and tying for Bronze were TOASTED MANGO and MADE -AA


2020 ABOVE:

Sushi rolls from Best Sushi Pacific Rim on Hillview.

Kathy James (on Station 400): Station 400 is our favorite breakfast spot. We’ve eaten there for years. The place is beautiful and inviting with great service. Their food is outstanding. My husband only orders the Huevos Gringos! It’s his absolute favorite. Not only is it delicious, it’s a work of art. I love their Pancake Parlour items. Every selection is fantastic. And if I’m wanting an omelette, I cannot pass up the American Omelette with goat cheese, asparagus, bacon and herbs. And their hash browns are delicious. Great job Station 400! Terry Black (on Sun Garden Café): Every dish is both scrumptious and aesthetically attractive. Cindy Schmidl (on Millie’s): The best Eggs Florentine, lovely ambience! Joy Carde-Stanulis (on Toasted Mango): Corned Beef Hash is awesome! Marie Bonilla (on Made): Hands down the best brunch in town. Dishes are creative takes on comfort food with lots of flavor and portions are generous. Platinum Winner- Station 400 / Gold Winner- Sun Garden Café / Silver Winner- Millie’s Restaurant / Bronze Winners- Toasted Mango Café, Made Restaurant

BEST LOCAL ICE CREAM Orange Octopus Here’s the scoop—ORANGE OCTOPUS claims Platinum as the king of cones, while SWEETBERRIES got soft served with Gold, representing the frozen custard scene. Close behind is Main Street’s GELATO-GO scooping up a Silver. cup From there, ABEL’S ice cream parlor makes it melt with Bronze for its extensive options of creative house-made flavors. -BM Doreen Clyne (on Orange Octopus): Service with a smile! Awesome homemade flavors. Heather Haggstrom (on Orange Octopus): The chocolate hazelnut is to die for and the staff is always so friendly. Joy Carde-Stanulis (on

Camden Harding (on Bangkok): I’m salivating just thinking of this place! Amanda Walker (on Isan Thai): I’ve been to Thailand and they are on it! It is authentic! Karin Tugendhat (on Spice Station): Love the Vegetarian Green Curry—it’s loaded with a nice variety of vegetables and tofu. It also has just the right amount of “kick.” Jesse Balaity (on Drunken Poet): Drunken Poet excels at the Thai standards and its own unique interpretations with equal results, plus they’re open late. Sometimes spicy Thai is the perfect late-night meal. Platinum Winner- Bangkok Restaurant / Gold Winner- Isan Thai Restaurant/ Silver Winner- Spice Station / Bronze Winner- Drunken Poet


Soaking in the sea breeze and cotton candy skies with dancing stars at candlelit quaint tables for two—that’s how SRQ voters want to spend their romantic evenings. Encapsulating the atmosphere to its fullest and winning Platinum for the second year in a row is OPHELIA’S ON THE BAY. INDIGENOUS shares their Gold this year with underdog from last year MICHAEL’S ON EAST. Silver goes to EUPHEMIA HAYE , who also stepped up their game from last year, bumping ELEMENT to Bronze. -AA Shannon Jones (on Ophelia’s on the Bay): We moved to Sarasota in April last year (we love it!) and went to Ophelia’s for our wedding anniversary dinner in May, as I had seen it listed as a romantic/great restaurant. It was the perfect spot! It was a nice breezy evening as we sat right on the water enjoying the gorgeous sunset hues on the water, the food was delicious, ambience perfect and service excellent! We’ll definitely be back for another special occasion. Carol Schachtman (on Michael’s On East): Love the area in the back of the restaurant. Quiet and romantic. Jesse Balaity (on Indigenous): Few restaurants marry environment, service and food quality with such skill. Given the diminutive size of the place, any table feels like a romantic setting. Annette Kirshner (on Euphemia Haye): We go every year for our anniversary. Twinkle lights outside the windows make it magical. The food is always prepared to perfection. We always save a little room for desserts and hot coffee upstairs. It’s a special place for a special occasion. Scott S. (on

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Element): Book table 11 and let ’em know about anniversary or date night, etc. Platinum Winner- Ophelia’s on the Bay / Gold

new potato: LIBBY’S. Lastly, a three-way Bronze tie between PUB 32, THE OVERTON and GECKO’S shows SRQ reader’s

Winners- Michael’s On East, Indigenous Restaurant / Silver Winner- Euphemia Haye / Bronze Winner- Element Modern Mediterranean Grill

aren’t fry about trying new places. -AC B E S T

BEST LOCAL DESSERT Euphemia Haye If you, like those who know food best, live by the motto “Life’s short; eat dessert first,” these stops should be on your list. Rising up the ladder to Platinum is EUPHEMIA HAYE, a finalist from last year, returning for the top spot. New kid on the block KÜRTOS CHIMNEY beats out some longtime favorites to snag Gold. Sweet tooth still not satisfied? Head over to MICHAEL’S ON EAST for dessert at our readers’ Silver choice. Former winner of last year, now taking the Bronze spot, YODER’S still remains the apple of everyone’s pie. -AC Danielle Glaysher (on Euphemia Haye): Romantic and classic gastronomic treats. Charles Finley (on Euphemia Haye): Have you been there? Ori Betti (on Kürtos Chimney): Chimney Cake is unique and delicious, and there are so many different flavors! If you try it once, you won’t have a day without it after! Jesse Krokis (on Michael’s On East): Made by Michael himself, at least it tastes that way. Vivian Owen (on Yoder’s): Handmade, delicious, so much whipped cream you could use it as a pillow! Platinum Winner- Euphemia Haye / Gold Winner- Kürtos Chimney Cakes / Silver Winner- Michael’s On East / Bronze- Yoder’s Amish Village

BEST LOCAL BREWERY Calusa Brewing Remaining kegged with citrusy IPAs and funky sours, CALUSA keeps its Platinum standing, while JDUB’S wins the Gold yet again for its food truck rallies and canned creations. BIG TOP keeps its place in Silver for its fun, rotating taps and circus-themed atmosphere. And hometown mainstay MOTORWORKS taps in again as the Bronze beertender of Bradenton. -BM Evan Csulik (on Calusa): Calusa has a vast selection and the best staff anyone could ever ask for. Especially Cody Beaver, one of the bartenders there who knows everything about brewing and is all around a great guy. Rebecca Dart (on JDub’s): Best craft beer selection, best flavors incorporated into beers and amazing food truck rallies. Stephannie Kettle (on Big Top): All their core beers are amazing, and their rotating taps are always changing and so creative! And the atmosphere is super cool inside and out back. Julie Bassett (on Motorworks): Live music, dog ambassadors, love the outside seating under the oak tree. Platinum WinnerCalusa Brewing / Gold Winner- JDub’s Brewing Company / Silver Winner- Big Top Brewing Company / Bronze WinnerMotorworks Brewing


TIE—Smacks Burgers and Shore For the fifth year in a row, SMACKS holds onto its prized Platinum title, but not without some killer competition, ultimately sharing its win in a first-place tie with SHORE. Gold, like every perfect French fry should be, went to DUVAL’S, a newbie to the category this year. Silver also goes to another



Rebecca Dart (on Smacks): Loaded fries, sweet potato fries and they can even put your fries in the flavor of the day ice cream if you’d like them to. Dylonn Cole (on Shore): The truffle fries are addictively amazing. Lauren Ditaranto (on Duval’s): Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Joseph Hoey (on Libby’s): My favorite: Parmesan truffle fries. Unbelievably delicious! Audrea Barnum (on Pub 32): Crispy, salty (but not too salty), and they give you so many! Todd Jarett (on The Overton): Huge, tasty portions for a very small price. Platinum Winners- Smacks Burgers & Shakes, Shore / Gold Winner- Duval’s / Silver Winner- Libby’s Neighborhood Brasserie / Bronze Winners- Pub 32 Irish Gastropub, The Overton, Gecko’s Grill & Pub

BEST LOCAL COFFEE Perq Coffee Bar The best part of waking up is coffee in your cup. Now that you have that catchy jingle stuck in your head, here are the best places to get up and get caffeinated. Following their win last year, PERQ COFFEE comes out on top once again as our Platinum winner. THE CLEVER CUP went from tall to grande, and jumped up to Gold. New beans on the block PROJECT COFFEE took home Silver for their mindful vegan options, and PASTRY ART BAKERY CAFÉ held on to their Bronze title confirming that our readers like them a latte. -AC Tanya Zucco (on Perq Coffee): Hands down! LOVE the owner and server, LOVE the coffee, love that I can come there for a cup of coffee to relax, do some work or have a meeting! Scott Wilson (on The Clever Cup): Came all the way from Texas to have the best coffee I have ever had made by Heather. Just the right blend of coffee and chocolate— wish I could get this coffee in Texas. Robert Corace (on Project Coffee): Project Coffee is really special. You feel at home the moment you step in the door and see the owners baking vegan specialties. Everything is small batch and made with love. The owners take pride in paying their staff fair wages, which I am more than happy to support! Great job Ian and Emily! Debra Ferrell (on Pastry Art Bakery Cafe): Coffee, espresso, lattes—so delicious! Better than “chain” coffee stores. Platinum Winner- Perq Coffee Bar / Gold WinnerThe Clever Cup / Silver Winner- Project Coffee / Bronze WinnerPastry Art Bakery Cafe

BEST LOCAL HAPPY HOUR Selva Grill Rising the ranks this year, SELVA stole local’s hearts with its seafood ceviches and Peruvian cocktails, taking hold of the Platinum trophy by just a couple votes more than its competitor MICHAEL’S ON EAST who grabbed Gold for its philanthropic happy hours. Meanwhile, GECKO’S rallies for a solid Silver finish for not limiting happy to just an hour. And battling neck and neck for a dead tie across the finish line, DUVAL’S and BOCA share Bronze for great bar bite options and great prices. -BM June Beyer (on Selva): Love the Pisco Sours! Janet Noah (on Selva): Ceviche! Nita Ettinger (on Michael’s On East): Monday happy hour all night long with a portion of proceeds to charity! Amy Leithauser (on Gecko’s): It’s always happy

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2020 BELOW:

Best Caterer Michael’s On East’s Team: Ann Marie Grew, Director of Catering Operations; Linda Hill, Controller; Jamie Castle, Assistant Manager-Restaurant; Amy Allen, Event Sales Director; Tracey McCammack, Catering Captain; Michael Klauber, Co-Proprietor; Phil Mancini, Co-Proprietor; Cloe Drapkin, Catering Sales Manager; Lya Farah-Rodriguez, Executive Assistant (sitting); Henry Alberico, Catering Captain (standing); Eric Rusiski, General Manager-Restaurant; Ray Lajoie, Pastry Chef; and, Jamil Pineda, Executive Chef.

hour! Every day, all day. Andrew Redd (on Duval’s): The bartender Rizzo! Marco Moya (on Boca): Good selection and good prices for their happy hour food and drinks. Food is fresh and locally grown. Platinum Winner- Selva Grill / Gold Winner- Michael’s On East / Silver Winner- Gecko’s Grill & Pub / Bronze Winners- Duval’s, Boca

BEST BUSINESS LUNCH Michael’s On East In a brand-new category to the competition this year, our business-minded readers commended local restaurants for their comfortable environments that allow for effective conversation and productive meetings. MICHAEL’S ON EAST closed the deal, scoring Platinum with twice as many votes as its competitors. ELEMENT got a pat on the back with Gold for its private dining room, equipped with projectors and tasty lunch selections. GECKO’S showed a strong finish with Silver, while BIJOU CAFÉ was commended for its quiet, intimate space and respectful staff when it comes to privacy. -BM Gail Hoey (on Michael’s On East): Efficient service, lets you enjoy your business while having an exquisite lunch. Michelle Schlingmann (on Element): Hands down. Professional staff, usually very quiet, great business lunch menu, great prices and space to conduct business. Never feel rushed by staff. Amy Lithauser (on Gecko’s): They have a private room available to reserve and take care of business. Steven Blackledge (on Bijou Café): A great environment for effective conversation. Platinum Winner- Michael’s On East / Gold Winner- Element Modern Mediterranean Grill / Silver Winner- Gecko’s / Bronze Winner- The Bijou Café

BEST LOCAL CATERER Michael’s On East This category saw hundreds of voters turn out in support of their favorites. From intimate dinner parties to blowout events, these are the finalists for best caterer. For the second year in a row, taking the Platinum position is MICHAEL’S ON EAST. MORTON’S holds steady as the Gold finalist. Serving it up on the Silver platter is ZILDJIAN and MATTISON’S broke out as the Bronze finalist. -AA Thomas Doan (on Michael’s On East): Nobody does it better than Phil Mancini. w(on Morton’s): Nothing left to chance. Expert guidance, preparation of really good foods and incomparable servers. Jennifer Stieg (on Zildjian): We love this caterer because they care about the food. In season, they use local fresh produce. They have an amazing staff that goes the extra mile for events! We love the way the food is presented and the menus are fun and different. Heidi Napolitano (on Mattison’s): Mattison’s catered our wedding and went above and beyond through the entire process. The owner, Chef Paul, came to meetings prior to the wedding and was on-site the day of. When the clouds opened up suddenly, the entire team rushed to move the ceremony and reception in no time. The food was amazing and the service was impeccable. We are still getting compliments from our guests! I have since attended many of their events and they have continuously outshined everyone else. Platinum Winner- Michael’s On East / Gold Winner- Morton’s Gourmet Market / Silver Winner- Zildjian / Bronze Winner- Mattison’s

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its on-the-go Cali–Mexican handheld delights, while POLPO PIZZA falls slightly to the Silver spot for its sought-after truckside pizzas. And just a few votes behind, PEACHEY’S had

Martin Scorcese said, “If your mother cooks Italian food, why go to a restaurant?” The two Platinum winners, NAPULÈ and MEDITERRANEO tying for the best local Italian spot in town, put your mother’s Italian cooking to the test. Gold finalist CARAGIULOS invites you in like family, and MARCELLO serves Silver-finalist-level pasta. Taking Bronze and melting pizza lovers’ hearts across Sarasota is VALENTINO’S PIZZERIA TRATTORIA. -AA

an outpour of love come in for its sugared and salted baked goods for Bronze. -BM

TIE—Napulè and Mediterraneo

Resse Dunbar (on Napulè): All-around great food, but AMAZING brick-oven pizza! Gail Hoey (on Mediterraneo): The best of Italian dishes expertly prepared and served and the best wood-burning oven pizza outside of Naples, Italy, you will find! Kayla Fleeman (on Caraguilios): You feel like family the moment you walk in the door. From the service provided by staff to their food and cocktails, they are the best! Claudia Baeza (on Marcello): We celebrate all our special occasions at Marcello’s. You feel like you are going home to have dinner with family. Marcello cooks up a storm in the kitchen, which overlooks the restaurant. He has an impressive wine list and equally impressive low price points. I absolutely love this restaurant! Joseph Caligiuri (on Valentino’s): As close to “REAL” NY pizza as you can get. Platinum Winners- Napule, Mediterraneo / Gold WinnerCaragiulios / Silver Winner- Marcello Ristorante Italiano / Bronze- Valentino’s Pizzeria Trattoria

BEST LOCAL OYSTERS Veronica Fish and Oyster In a brand-new category this year, readers welcomed the best raw and cooked oysters in town with open arms and cocktail sauce. VERONICA’S took the competition in one fell swoop, shellfishly taking the pearly Platinum spot with its international selection. SIESTA KEY OYSTER BAR fished for compliments by taking the Gold, and WALT’S FISH MARKET was commended for consistent, safe and reliable orders. Meanwhile, MONK’S shucked its way into the Bronze barrel for sizable and tasty morsels. -BM Holly Dennis (on Veronica’s): Best selection of oysters from some of the best waters worldwide. Joyce Talbot (on Veronica’s): Quite a few choice ones, but we especially love Cape Cod and CT oysters there. Lurea Doody (on Siesta Key Oyster Bar): They serve the rare Glidden Point oysters. Diana Goshorn (on Walt’s Fish Market): By far the best seafood in Sarasota. Friendly, local, great service. Rebecca Pendergast (on Monks): Can’t improve on perfection. Platinum Winner- Veronica Fish and Oyster / Gold Winner- Siesta Key Oyster Bar / Silver WinnerWalt’s Fish Market / Bronze Winner- Monks Steamer Bar

BEST LOCAL FOOD TRUCK Spice Boys Kitchen Sarasota and Manatee counties could fill an entire parking lot with a thriving variety of mobile kick-a** kitchens. Hence, the outpouring of votes and contenders fighting to make the rankings. Pulling up for Platinum is SPICE BOYS, newbies to the food truck scene but picking up quite a loyal following in its first year for its elevated Israeli–Mediterranean cuisine. For the second year running, FIRE TACOS claims the Gold for



Florence Schmitt (on Spice Boys): There’s honestly nothing like them; interesting and delicious flavors and I love how fresh the food is. Lauren Ditaranto (on Spice Boys): Everything! Innovative, perfectly spiced, cool guys. Jakob Hart (on Fire Tacos): I shouldn’t be telling you. Doreen Clyne (on Polpo Pizza): Not only do they create fantastic pizzas but they serve dessert, too: S’mores! Kayla Fleeman (on Peachey’s): I mean who doesn’t love a fresh, warm doughnut! Platinum WinnerSpice Boys / Gold Winner- Fire Tacos / Silver Winner- Polpo Pizza Co. / Bronze Winner- Peachey’s Baking Company

BEST LOCAL JUICE CROP Juice If you’re wondering why our readers are so glowy and radiant, you can, as Lizzo says, “Blame it on the juice.” Orange you glad to hear it—CROP takes home another Platinum win this year as the cream of the, well, crop! SARAFRESH remains peachy, holding onto the Gold status from last year. Providing fresh, fabulous juice, our Silver winner, CLEAN JUICE, is a pear-fect choice for your next destination. Here to help you squeeze the day, GREEN ZEBRA and SIMON’S tie as this year’s Bronze winners! -AC Claudia Baeza (on CROP): CROP is a wonderful place to get the best smoothie and fresh-pressed juice. They are also partners in the community and they support local nonprofits. This means a lot to me. I just love having a smoothie in place of a heavy lunch! Valentina Mejia (on SaraFresh): Their juices are delicious and super healthy. Love getting them at the farmers market. Alex Hughes (on Clean Juice): Expensive but definitely tasty! Samantha Haynes (on Simon’s): Skittles is the best! Platinum Winner- CROP Juice / Gold Winner- SaraFresh / Silver Winner- Clean Juice / Bronze Winners- Green Zebra Cafe, Simon’s Coffee House

BEST LOCAL BOUTIQUE L.Boutique According to some sources, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy new shoes and that’s pretty darn close. Our Platinum winner is the perfect excuse to treat yourself. L.BOUTIQUE takes the top spot in the Best Of competition. Gold is scored by MOLLY’S, while Silver shares a three-way win with THE MET, INFLUENCE and FOXY LADY. Lastly, our Bronze winner, MARMALADE, is sweet on toast, and even sweeter for your closet. -AC Doreen Clyne (on L. Boutique): The choices of great fashion are endless. They carry everything from comfy-casual to sparkly evening gowns. Shoes, jewelry and handbags too! It’s the cashmere capital in SRQ! Fabulous female owner. Ann Heron (on Molly’s): Great selection of distinctive gifts. Joseph Gehrig (on The Met): Best selection of men’s and women’s clothing. Nicole Moreau (on INfluence): Always carries the best trends. Alex Hughes (on Foxy Lady): Another pricey place but my goodness they have style. I got my homecoming and prom dress here and they were one-of-a-kind stunning pieces!! Great for an expensive but amazing outfit or a special occasion dress! Jenna Dilorenzo (on Marmalade): Great vibe and something for everyone.

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you absolutely knead is our Silver winner THE MET. Lastly, your knot is not going to want to miss a booking at Bronze winner SPA HOLLYWOOD for your next day of relaxation. -AC

Platinum Winner- L. Boutique / Gold Winner- Molly’s - A Chic & Unique Boutique / Silver Winners- The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon, INfluence Style, Foxy Lady / Bronze WinnerMarmalade Salon & Boutique

BEST CONSIGNMENT The Woman’s Exchange Endlessly buying new clothes is bad for your wallet and equally bad for the planet! For a more sustainable approach to looking your chicest, these consignment store winners know one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Shop till you drop at Platinum-winning consignment store WOMAN’S EXCHANGE. We know you’ll look fierce and fiery getting some secondhand goods from Gold winner FIFI’S. Quality is queen at Silver winner LAURA JEAN’S, and you can dress for success—for less!—at our Bronze-winning finalist DESIGNING WOMEN. -AC Susannah Hammersley (on Woman’s Exchange): You never know what you are going to find. Excellent prices, great treasures, wonderful mission supporting the arts. Angela Massaro-Fain (on Fifi’s): Staff always helps you find something quickly if you need assistance. You can find some real treasures in the “designer” handbag section. Pallas Knight (on Laura Jean’s): I always exit with the best buys. Tina Pinho (on Designing Women): Clothes are stylish and the prices are right. Platinum Winner- The Woman’s Exchange / Gold Winner- Fifi’s Fine Resale Apparel / Silver Winner- Laura Jean’s Consignments / Bronze- Designing Women Boutique

BEST LOCAL SALON FACEPOP Look good, feel good. These salon winners know that putting your best foot forward usually starts with your face and hair. New to the SRQ Best Of pages, Platinum winner FACEPOP sounds like the best new girl band around, and according to our readers they’re the best for your face! NUOVO lost out on the top spot by a hair but managed to stay on our list as our Gold winner. Silver winner CUTTING LOOSE remains a fan favorite, as is our Bronze winner MARMALADE. -AC Kaycee Wells (on FACEPOP): What’s not to love? Their team there is amazing! They are so knowledgeable and I have seen awesome improvements with my skin because of them! 10/10 recommend! Debbie Layer (on Nuovo): I’ve gone there for years. Great job always—they really care about the clients! Joy Randels (on Cutting Loose): Coral, Travis and my stylist Yvonne are artists. Not only are they great with hair, but the salons are beautiful and the experience is always fun and relaxing. Christine Clary (on Marmalade): I’ve been to many, many salons in Sarasota and it’s the only one that has gotten the color perfect for many years. Platinum WinnerFACEPOP / Gold Winner- Nuovo Salons / Silver Winner- Cutting Loose / Bronze Winner- Marmalade Salon & Boutique

BEST MASSAGE FLOW MASSAGE AND WELLNESS Your body is a work of art, and the best way to keep it in pristine condition is to treat it to a world-class massage every once in a while. Platinum winner FLOW MASSAGE jumped straight to the top this year, while Gold winner MASSAGE ENVY tied with DIANE LANE for our Best Of list. Another spot from last year



Faydra Searlee (on Flow Massage): There are sooo many reasons to love Flow Massage and Wellness because this business is so much more than just massage. The proprietor, Samantha Haynes, if you have had the pleasure of knowing her, is serious about providing the wellness portion of her business name. I met Samantha at a BNI networking meeting, when I had a lot of health problems and weighed close to 430 pounds. Samantha did a Biocommunication scan; it reads levels within your body, stress, metals, what you may be lacking, what you may need, which can be replenished with food or essential oils or supplements. That kick-started my healthy lifestyle. I’ve lost 130 pounds so far, and anytime I have a question, Samantha is always there to help! Katy McBrayer (on Massage Envy): Jordan is a god! Kathleen Rayson (on Diane Lane): Not just a massage, but one always personalized for the client. Joy and empathy are part of Diane’s treatments. Anna Daniere (on The Met): Expert technique and great staff! Andrea Hoogwerf (on Spa Hollywood): Best island and deep tissue massage. I go every two weeks. Cannot live without it! Platinum Winner- Flow Massage and Wellness / Gold Winners- Massage Envy, Diane Lane Massage & Bodywork / Silver Winner- The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon / Bronze Winner- Spa Hollywood

BEST YOGA STUDIO Pineapple Yoga Studio Back with gratitude and good fortune, this category spreads the love across a number of different yoga studios in the region. But namaslaying Best Of again, multiple years running, is PINEAPPLE YOGA, peaking at Platinum for its philanthropic spirit and community outreach. Laying out the mat, BODY HEAT heats up the competition by rising through the ranks and claiming Gold this go-around, while THE YOGA SHACK gals grasp the Silver warrior position. Meanwhile, HOTYOGA4YOU shares its flow with THAVMA for vinyasa victories in the Bronze bracket. -BM Carol Kennecy (on Pineapple Yoga): The owner and teachers are connected to a bigger meaning behind their actions. It’s the only studio I have ever been able to leave any baggage I carry around at the door. Sarah-Jane Lyons (on Body Heat): This is the best by far. They have incredible passionate teachers. You get a great yoga workout, but most of the time it’s your meditative state getting the benefits. I always leave rebooted, refreshed and in heaven! Kelly Prince has created an inviting and lovely yogi haven! Rebecca Dart (on Yoga Shack): They offer yoga classes for TBI’s to help people who have experienced one to find the strength to help them get healthy and better with themselves, as well as strengthen their body and their mind. Nazareth Yager (on HotYoga4You): The instructors are such kind souls. They provide a safe environment to learn, grow and thrive in your practice. Staci Holweger (on Thavma): The community! Hands down, these instructors CARE! They care about our alignment and our strength in the postures! This studio is about healing the body not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well, with the sequence of asanas combined with therapeutic heat! Platinum Winner- Pineapple Yoga Studio / Gold Winner- Body Heat Yoga / Silver Winner- The Yoga Shack / Bronze Winners- HotYoga4You, Thavma

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Molly’s– A Chic & Unique Boutique We make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give. In the spirit of giving, voters turned out for their best local place to buy gifts and a chance to take one of the Best Of SRQ titles. The Platinum finalist is MOLLY’S. Tying for the Gold finalist position are ELYSIAN FIELDS and ARTISANS’ WORLD MARKETPLACE, both stocked with gifts that keep on giving. CROWDER’S bags the Silver, and SHELLY’S shops around for the Bronze. -AA Margi Furey (on Molly’s): They are always so friendly and have the cutest things! Jill Mayer (on Artisans’ World): Love that my purchase helps and empowers artisans around the world living at or below the poverty level—everything is fair trade, and it’s supercool stuff! Cheyenne Pirrello (on Crowder’s) There are so many cool things in this store, the variety is amazing and the quality is top-notch. Geri Jo Manson (on Shelly’s): Shelly’s has the most unique items! It’s the perfect place to find a hostess, birthday, shower or baby gift, or just something special for yourself! They have wonderful cards, cocktail napkins and oh so much more! And every member of their staff is so kind and helpful. They are constantly getting new merchandise and have something special for every holiday. Love Shelly’s! Platinum Winner- Molly’s - A Chic & Unique Boutique / Gold WinnersElysian Fields, Artisans’ World Marketplace / Silver WinnerCrowder’s Gifts & Gadgets / Bronze Winner- Shelly’s Gift & Christmas Boutique

Beneva Flowers & Plantscapes B E S T O F S R Q L O C A L



Special thanks to Tyrone Cochrane of Vanhunks Boarding Co.(left), and Keith Zolner, owner of Best Coffee PERQ Coffee Bar (right).

Roses are red, violets are blue and these winners are the Best Of SRQ! Our Platinum winner BENEVA FLOWERS bloomed to the top spot, while our Gold winner VICTORIA BLOOMS has just the name for the job. If you can be-leaf it, there was a tie for Silver with BEE RIDGE FLORIST and FLOWERS BY FUDGIE. Lastly, our readers went wild-flowers about Bronze winner, and newbie to our list, TIGER LILY. -AC Randy Brodski (on Beneva Flowers): The woman I worked with listened to what I wanted and created the most beautiful centerpieces for my daughter’s wedding. Rebecca Dart (on Beneva Flowers): They have the most beautiful color combinations along with the best species of flowers. Jolanta Bremer (on Victoria Blooms): Extraordinary modern arrangements. Anne Rollings (on Bee Ridge Florist): Fabulous fresh selections, good prices. Deborah Pruett (on Flowers by Fudgie): They always knock it out of the park for any occasion! Tammy Thompson (on Tiger Lily): Excellence in their floral arrangements. Quality. Platinum Winner- Beneva Flowers & Plantscapes / Gold Winner- Victoria Blooms / Silver Winners- Bee Ridge Florist, Flowers by Fudgie / Bronze Winner- Tiger Lily Flowers

BEST JEWELER Milan’s Jewelry These local gems will help you shine bright like a diamond. Platinum winner MILAN’S sparkled right up to the top and beat out previously reigning DIAMOND VAULT, who took our

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Best Special Occasion Cakes, Cakes By Ron.

Gold spot this year. Silver was a tie this year, recognizing both COFFRIN and CARATS. Lastly, it’s crystal clear our readers love Bronze winner JUNE SIMMONS. -AC


John Vlahos (on Milan’s): Took the ring that was a gift from my father for their wedding and turned it into an amulet that is magnificent. This is now a keepsake that can be passed on through generations. They worked with me on the design concept. I was, and still am, enthralled every time I wear or even hold the piece in my hand. Dylonn Cole (on Diamond Vault): Not only top-notch quality when it comes to service and the product itself, but also fantastically creative when it comes to design. Nancy Hielscher (on Coffrin): Trustworthy, beautiful selections. Jesse Balaity (on Carats): Greg and his staff can find anything and always support the community. Clara Villanueva (on June Simmons): Edgy and unique selection, high knowledge level. Platinum Winner- Milan’s

Here come the winners, la la la la. Walking down the aisle to the top spot is our Platinum winner SELBY GARDENS. You’ll hear bells ringing at Gold winner LAUREL OAKS. Say “I do” to our Silver winner THE RINGLING MUSEUM. And now, we can finally unveil our Bronze winners, LAKEWOOD RANCH COUNTRY CLUB and the SARASOTA YACHT CLUB. -AC

Jewelry Inc / Gold Winner- Diamond Vault / Silver WinnersCoffrin Jewelers, Carats Fine Jewelry & Watches / Bronze Winner- June Simmons Jewelry

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Joyce Steward (on Selby Gardens): Represents so much of what our area is about. Richard Weisenfeld (on Laurel Oaks): A newly renovated women’s lounge creates a remarkable atmosphere for the bride and her bridesmaids. Aneta Fornal (on The Ringling Museum): What’s not to love about it? It’s stunning. Rachel Gray (on Lakewood Ranch): Gorgeous venue and top-notch catering. Lynda Elken (on Sarasota Yacht Club): Perfect location for a nautical wedding. Platinum Winner- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens / Gold Winner- Laurel Oak Country Club / Silver Winner- The Ringling Museum / Bronze Winners- Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, Sarasota Yacht Club

BEST SPECIAL OCCASION CAKES Cakes By Ron These winners take the cake! You’ll want a piece of our Platinum winner CAKES BY RON. Our Gold winner MORTON’S will bake you crazy, and don’t forget to buy candles for the creations at our Silver-winning baker A SLICE OF HEAVEN. -AC Scott S. (on Cakes by Ron): He can make whatever you can imagine! Kassandra Burdwood (on Cakes by Ron): Every specialty cake is unique, beautiful and tastes amazing. There is no compromising here. The end product is always perfect. Gail Hoey (on Morton’s): Marvelous ingredients and decorating skills make their cakes exceptional. Camden Harding (on Morton’s): Whether it’s for a birthday or for forgiveness, Morton’s cakes will complete the mission. Paige Farr (on A Slice of Heaven): Custom-designed cakes any way you want them. Platinum Winner- Cakes by Ron / Gold WinnerMorton’s Gourmet Market / Silver Winner- A Slice of Heaven

BEST BRIDAL BOUTIQUE The Perfect Dress Saying yes to the dress is generally far from a one-stop shop, but for these bridal shop finalists, their beaming brides looked no further. SRQ voters said “I do” to Platinum finalist THE PERFECT DRESS, and left a little something Gold for SOMETHING BLUE. Tying (the knot) for Silver finalists are CALVET COUTURE and TRULY FOREVER. -AA Taylor Thompson-Poulton (on The Perfect Dress): Kim, the owner, is amazing. Every single person who works there makes wedding dress shopping an amazing and unforgettable experience. Doreen Clyne (on Perfect Dress): Ladies are fabulous at bringing out dress after dress that suits the brides shape, size and style. Albani Gustason (on Calvet Couture): I was thrilled to find my perfect dress here in Sarasota! I had just planned to just pop in to try on a couple dresses from one of their trunk shows and left beyond happy to have found my dream wedding dress. They made it a seamless process and my mom and I felt special when we came in for the appointment and had the place to ourselves. 70 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local


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scene, are either cutting back in size or shutting their doors. The Dabberts have actually moved to a better location and doubled their size. They provide the Sarasota area with artists’ work from all mediums. Two-dimensional as well as three-dimensional works are on display. Diana Buchanan (on 530 Burns): Nikki and Montana curate beautiful collections! Platinum Winner- State of the Arts Gallery / Gold Winner- Dabbert Gallery / Silver Winner- 530 Burns Gallery


The theatre lives! As film and digital media continue to redefine the human experience, the theatres’ stage remains a beacon of entertainment that is visceral and immediate. ASOLO, this year’s Platinum winner, continues to wow ticket holders with its world-class productions of both classics and contemporary work, elevating notions of what a regional theatre can do. FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE, a steady downtown staple for arts and entertainment, takes Gold, while WESTCOAST takes the stage with Silver for the power of its performers and new theatre. And a “Bravo!” for Bronze goes to VAN WEZEL. -AF

They carry great designers and all different styles! Thanks to Calvet Couture for making this process easy and memorable! Crystal Day (on Truly Forever): They helped me feel beautiful and confident on my big day! Platinum Winner- The


Perfect Dress / Gold Winner- Something Blue Bridal Boutique / Silver Winners- Calvet Couture, Truly Forever Bridal




BEST ART GALLERY State of the Arts Gallery Sarasota’s reputation for fine art far outpaces the size of its population, with galleries on practically every block that feature masters of every medium. Whether it’s landscapes, portraits, still lifes or abstract mind-benders, our Best Of winners are a cut above the rest when it comes to finding homes for the work of some of the region’s top talent. STATE OF THE ARTS takes home top honors with Platinum, with DABBERT hot on its heels with the Gold badge of honor. Meanwhile, 530 BURNS hangs its paintings proud, earning the Silver award. -AF Jeannine Ryan (on State of the Arts): The owners of State of the Arts Gallery, Tre and David, are two of the most caring individuals around. For several years now they have allowed the artists at Easterseals Happiness House to use their beautiful gallery for their yearly art showcase. This dynamic couple bends over backward to make sure we have everything we need for the show, and they treat us like we are worldfamous artists. It feels great to be valued and celebrated in this way. Tre and David are committed to our community and to allowing our artists’ abilities to shine through inclusion. We love working with the State of the Arts Gallery each year and look forward to the time we get to spend with Tre and David. Jim Smith (on Dabbert): Art galleries, on the national


Best Art Gallery, State of the Arts Gallery. “Ruby Florence,” by Mark Muench, 48”x48” oil on canvas.

Randell Johnson (on Asolo): A true repertory theatre with Broadway-quality shows for affordable prices. Jay Joyce (on Florida Studio Theatre): Top talent and an intimate theatre make for a wonderful experience. Kassandra Burdwood (on Westcoast): Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is a true rags-toriches story. Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs had a dream and that dream became real when he cut the ribbon of their newly renovated theatre this February. The troupe, who had never lacked talent or the drive to achieve their goals, found an amazing group of local philanthropists with a love for theatre who also believed in their dream. It is a story about a community of people coming together to support the arts, local young talent and the future of Sarasota. That is why I voted WBTT as the Best Performing Arts Organization. They have the talent, they have the community support and they have brought an experience to Sarasota that will enhance the culture here for generations to come. Sarah Vallor (on Van Wezel): Not a bad seat in the place. Platinum Winner- Asolo Repertory Theatre / Gold Winner- Florida Studio Theatre / Silver Winner- Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe / Bronze Winner- Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

BEST MUSICAL The Sound of Music A true mark of a great story is its ability to be retold and recontextualized for new audiences. That was the triumph of the Asolo’s platinum-winning production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which maintained the effulgence of the iconic film starring Julie Andrews while upping the stakes. The Van Wezel’s THE LION KING dazzled its way into Gold with its timeless tale of betrayal and destiny, and the Asolo rounds out the podium once again with its singsongy production of THE MUSIC MAN. -AF Ruth Semelsberger (on The Sound of Music): SRQ’s Maria gave Julie Andrews a run for her money. Rachel Kravitz Burns (on The Lion King): Breathtaking! Julie Kummer (on The Music Man): The talent in the Asolo’s production of The Music Man was stunning, wonderful singing and dancing. The sets and costuming were all top-notch. This is

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a production I would see several times, worth every moment there. Platinum Winner- The Sound of Music / Gold Winner- The

runway, while Florida Cancer Specialists’ PARTY UNDER THE STARS gala RSVP’s for the Silver. For a three-way tie, the CHALK FESTIVAL, SARASOTA FILM FESTIVAL and Suncoast Charities for Children’s THUNDER BY THE BAY MUSIC & MOTORCYCLE FESTIVAL all get a Bronze ticket. -BM

Lion King / Silver Winner- The Music Man


TIE—Teen Court of Sarasota and Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue In a region rich in charitable causes, the competition of most honorable nonprofits runs deep with a community as avidly philanthropic as ours. Tying for the esteemed Platinum title this year are TEEN COURT and NATE’S HONOR ANIMAL RESCUE. CAT DEPOT once again pounced past most competitors, raising the grant for Gold, while GIRLS INC. slid into the competition altogether and earned Silver. In the Bronze bracket, three nonprofit organizations shared endless support, thanks in part to the noticeable difference made in so many of our readers’ own lives. Shout-out to finalists THE DHARMA FOOTPRINT PROJECT, CHILDREN FIRST and VETS2SUCCESS for all they do to make this region a better place. -BM Alex Ivanchev (on Teen Court): This nonprofit is dedicated to helping troubled teens by giving them a second chance. I have seen the impact that Teen Court has had, as teens complete their community service and continue to follow down the right path. I am thankful for them, as my abilities as an attorney have greatly improved, as well as my speaking!! Kristin Kartsounes (on Nate’s Honor): They are the best! We got our dog, Sailor, from there and she is so incredible. They take great care of all their animals during their stay before finding a home. Thank goodness for Nate’s! Mary-Louise Meyer (on Cat Depot): It’s a state-of-the-art shelter for homeless cats and kittens, where they can live their lives in luxury until they find their forever homes. It is an education center for animal needs, especially cats, an outreach to the community and community cats (stray and feral) and so much more. Michelle Schlingmann (on Girls Inc.): Great organization helping local girls grow their self-esteem and showing them their endless possibilities. Cindy Effron (on The Dharma Footprint Project): Provides much-needed health and well-being services to underserved communities. Specifically, my husband has greatly benefited from the yoga classes for people with Parkinson’s. Rebecca Pendergast (on Children First): I worked there for 20 years, and still volunteer because I love their mission. Amanda Hanshaw (on Vets 2 Success): The organization as a whole and what it stands for deserves all the recognition for those it’s helping. Bryan is a wonderful person and he’s making the world a better place for so many people. Platinum Winners- Teen Court of Sarasota, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue / Gold WinnerCat Depot / Silver Winner- Girls Inc. / Bronze Winners- The Dharma Footprint Project, Children First, Vets 2 Success


Sarasota-Manatee Forks & Corks With year-round sunshine and warm weather to pair with the stellar venues for hosting large numbers, several organizations put on annual events that locals and visitors alike look forward to attending. Taking the competition and popping off with Platinum is Sarasota-Manatee Original’s FORKS & CORKS GRAND TASTING. From there, Forty Carrots Family Center’s WINE, WOMEN & SHOES LUNCHEON steps onto the Gold



Phyllis Dawson (on Forks & Corks): The setting is always at the Ringling courtyard—it’s a must-see for the eyes. Beautiful setting and your money goes to the food bank and The Ringling Museum. Diana Buchanan (on Wine, Women & Shoes): Minta Getzen takes it to the next level every year!! Taylor Montgomery (on Party Under the Stars): Energy is high, atmosphere is friendly, philanthropic hearts! This event is such a wonderful evening with the mission to help cancer patients! Lera Juno (on Sarasota Film Festival): 11 days of amazing films. Platinum Winner- Sarasota-Mantee Originals Forks & Corks / Gold Winner- Wine, Women & Shoes Forty Carrots Family Center / Silver Winner- Party Under the Stars Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation / Bronze WinnersChalk Festival, Thunder By The Bay, Sarasota Film Festival

BEST ANIMAL NONPROFIT Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue

On we go to an adorable and feel-good category, where we found some of the most votes come in. Roll over for a good belly rub, because the Platinum medal goes to a new top dog this year, NATE’S HONOR. Though longtime winner CAT DEPOT was knocked off its stoop, it still showed an impressive turnout for Gold for its state-of-the-art facility and caring staff. Tailing behind with some larger kitties, BIG CAT HABITAT treats itself to the Silver, and finding a home with the Bronze biscuit is service-animal finalist SOUTHEASTERN GUIDE DOGS. -BM Marcia Hainchek (on Nate’s Honor): Caring, dedicated people. Clean, state-of-the-art facility. Our rescue came from Honor and he’s the love of our life! Cindy Elitzer (on Cat Depot): Their animal services, of course, but also their recognition that their feline residents, their staff and their volunteers deserve and benefit from clean, light-filled, modern housing. Sandi Spahn (on Big Cat Habitat): They take care of so many cats, birds and other animals that need help. I love their shows. Elyse Chaplin (on Southeastern Guide Dogs): Amazing mission, integrity, grounded, helping veterans and individuals with vision loss. Platinum Winner- Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue / Gold Winner- Cat Depot / Silver Winner- Big Cat Habitat / Bronze Winner- Southeastern Guide Dogs

BEST CHILDREN’S NONPROFIT Children First Our greatest natural resource is in the minds of our children. We need more people who go out into the world, bringing social change and betterment to our communities, and these nonprofits are guiding our youth to lead the way. Support for CHILDREN FIRST secured them the Platinum position. Who runs the world? GIRLS INC. took the Gold. With praise of dedication to the community, CHILD PROTECTION CENTER took the Silver finalist spot and TEEN COURT the Bronze. -AA Rebecca Pendergast (on Children First): They’re my family’s savior. Adam Palermo (on Girls Inc.): They do so much for our community, as well as underprivileged girls. Giovanna McGrath (on Child Protection Center): Dedicated and

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The stories are so detailed and the puzzles are addicting. The owners are extremely personable and care about their customers enjoying the experience. Platinum Winner- The Ringling Museum / Gold Winner- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens / Silver Winner- Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium / Bronze Winner- Lokey’s Escape Rooms


The launch of redevelopment of Sarasota’s cultural waterfront dazzled and amazed readers this year, who put THE BAY approval as the Platinum accomplishment. Meanwhile, finally seeing the SARASOTA ART MUSEUM come to fruition this year was a Gold award a long time in the making. Embracing more ROUNDABOUTS managed to land the traffic feature a Silver accolade, while a Sarasota County Commission decision to save CELERY FIELDS from being replaced by a recycling plant impressed readers enough to win Bronze. -JO Platinum WinnerThe Bay Sarasota / Gold Winner- Sarasota Art Museum / Silver Winner- Roundabouts / Bronze Winner- Saving Celery Fields


Marie Selby Botanical Gardens How do you solve a problem like the SELBY GARDENS MASTER PLAN? One thing readers agree on is that Sarasota hasn’t done it. The handling and ultimate denial of the plan wins the Platinum award nobody wants. The Sarasota County School District’s severance with controversial SUPERINTENDENT TODD BOWDEN took the Gold for Community Blunder. PAID PARKING in Downtown Sarasota also raised eyebrows with the city with Silver, while the controversial ROUNDABOUTS made the competition again in a paradox category, yielding Bronze.

committed to be the voice of a child! Wendy Rose (on Child Protection Center): They do a very difficult job and are a crucial part of our community. Charlie Sutcuoglu (on Teen Court): It’s just one of the greatest teams and organizations! Volunteering there is fun, but also impactful and I love it! Platinum Winner-


Children First / Gold Winner- Girls Inc. / Silver Winner- Child Protection Center / Bronze Winner- Teen Court of Sarasota


BEST ATTRACTION The Ringling Museum Whether a seasonal or full-time resident, young or old, finding things to do in this beautiful city is far from a hard task. It’s picking a favorite that gets tough. Packed with experiences for the whole family, the Platinum finalist this year is THE RINGLING. In a close second wooing visitors with tropical landscapes and special exhibits is SELBY GARDENS as the Gold finalist. Diving into the Silver finalist spot is MOTE MARINE. Scoring the more thrilling vote is Bronze finalist LOKEY’S ESCAPE ROOMS. -AA Eileen Hampshire (on The Ringling Museum): Great for tourists and residents. Something for all ages, familyoriented. We are so fortunate to have this magnificent Florida state museum in our city. Florence Schmitt (on Selby Gardens): There’s always something to see, the gardens are stunning and my kids have so many activities. I love you Selby. Stephannie Kettle (on Mote Marine): Awesome animals and learning experiences. Candy Leak (on Lokey’s): Such a fun way to spend an afternoon, or even perfect for date night.


-JO Platinum Winner- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Master Plan Denial / Gold Winner- Superintendent Todd Bowden / Silver Winner- Paid Parking / Bronze Winner- Roundabouts




Best Community Accomplishment, The Bay Sarasota. Rendering from Sasaki Associates Inc. Inspiration— Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red Blue and Yellow, 1930

In its inaugural appearance of the Best Of competition, this category proved particularly contentious amongst voters. Comments came in candid and blunt on the controversial topic of building upon the Sarasota downtown skyline. Many were vocal about worries of congesting the streets and blocking accessible views of sky and water. Others believe new additions to be a testament to the architectural heritage and design the city prides itself on, while providing beautiful rooftop destinations to actually take in the sky and water. When one voter questioned, “Is this a joke?” another mentioned enjoying romantic rooftop views at sunset. No matter what side of the street you stand on, Sarasota’s ever-evolving outline is as unique as the passionate residents who call it home. -BM John Daniels (on The Mark): Gives the skyline a sense of city. Brian Jones (on The Mark): Changed the skyline. Screw the haters… Danielle Glaysher (on None): Stealing our skies. Dor Brown (on None): Too many high-rises too close together. Marilyn Gillen (on None): Starting to look

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like Miami. Erin Wilder (on VUE): Adds class and sophistication to the Bayfront. Barbara Gardner (on VUE): Despite the controversy, it looks great. Kathryn Parks (on Art Ovation Hotel): Beyond contributing to the skyline, it contributes to the streetscape and connects the urban fabric of downtown. Tanya Zucco (on Epoch): WOW! The vision, the beauty, the elegance, the luxury style and life it’s bringing to Sarasota!


The Out-of-Door Academy The educators at THE OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY once again earned high marks from readers. A nurturing atmosphere that fosters learning put the school once again at the top of the class as the Platinum Winner. SARASOTA CHRISTIAN, meanwhile, finished with a solid Gold and CARDINAL MOONEY was noted with high marks for Silver. ST. MARTHA’S rounds out the class with a Bronze-worthy report card. -JO Reenie Madrigal (on The Out-of-Door Academy): Excellent teachers, parents and kids; it’s a very committed group (family) that makes it work. Even the kids love attending ODA. Karen Reeves (on Sarasota Christian): This sweet school has been both a pillar of service in our community as well as educating our children’s hearts and minds for over 60 years. Linda Burry (on Sarasota Christian): Our son has been at Sarasota Christian since pre-K; there is no other choice. Each teacher is extremely caring and individualistic and their educational approach to help my child succeed and thrive from one grade to the next is amazing. So blessed to have Sarasota Christian as our school. Linda Ann Remley (on Cardinal Mooney): It’s a very important part of my decision to move here, and 28 years and two alumni later, it was a great choice! The entire school knows what’s happening on a daily basis with your student and stands ready to assist with encouragement and support. It’s a true community of like-minded people committed to excellence in education and realization of each student’s potential. Ashley Spitler (on St. Martha): It has by far been the BEST experience for my daughter, Talulah, who is in first grade. Platinum Winner- The Out-of-Door Academy / Gold Winner- Sarasota Christian School / Silver Winner- Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School / Bronze Winner- St. Martha Catholic School

BEST CAR DEALERSHIP Sarasota Ford Our readers found the best place to start their engines at SARASOTA FORD. Customer service and community contributions pushed the business across the finish line with a checkered flag and Platinum honors. WILDE LEXUS SARASOTA raced to the Gold honor, while BMW OF SARASOTA rushed away with Silver. SUNCOAST AUDI nabbed a pretty sweet deal itself as a Bronze Winner. -JO



Erin Wilder (on Sarasota Ford): Usually going to a car dealership is a long boring process, but anytime you are there, they offer you a meal voucher, massage chairs, movie theater, popcorn, etc. They actually have good food at their cafe! Albani Hogan (on Sarasota Ford): They are an all-around great local business because of the atmosphere they have created for their customers and the good they do for the Sarasota community. Joe Clark (on Wilde Lexus Sarasota): Lowpressure, personable, not trying to always “sell” you something. They want to make sure to get you in a vehicle you love. Ask for Mike! Mike Burke (on BMW of Sarasota): Never having owned a BMW in the past, in December we purchased two vehicles—a 740i for me and a 530i for my wife. The management and sales team went above and beyond in making our decision easy for us. Joy Randels (on Suncoast Audi): I have been a loyal Suncoast customer since I moved here 20 years ago. Their staff and Ron Belzer, who was my first service advisor and now runs the service department, are top-notch. They go out of their way to take care of their customers. In 20 years, I have never had a negative experience. Platinum Winner- Sarasota Ford / Gold Winner- Wilde Lexus Sarasota / Silver Winner- BMW of Sarasota / Bronze Winner- Suncoast Audi


If this award came with a green jacket, LAUREL OAKS would be the one strutting in style. The contest secured the most votes (in this contest higher is better!) and took home Platinum honors. LAKEWOOD RANCH climbed the leaderboard to a Gold win and UNIVERSITY PARK swung into the contest with a Silver win. THE CONCESSION and THE FOUNDERS sunk enough shots to tie for Bronze. -JO Susan Hendrix (on Lakewood Ranch): We have met so many great people who have made us feel at home. We really enjoy The Lodge on Friday nights and the food has been delicious! Even the staff goes out of their way to make us feel welcome. Michael Seifert (on Lakewood Ranch): What makes Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club the best is a combination of outstanding facilities and friendly, caring people. The conditions of the three golf courses are the best that I have played on in the area. The course is always in outstanding condition, which is why my nonmember friends Platinum Winneralways want to play here. Laurel Oak Country Club / Gold Winner- Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club / Silver WinnerUniversity Park Country Club / Bronze Winners- The Concession Golf Club, The Founders Golf Club


The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota It may seem strange we live where people vacation – but we get it. It’s a pretty beautiful place to call home. And give or take about 10 minutes in any direction, you can block a weekend for a luxurious getaway. Look to book your next staycation at THE RITZ-CARLTON, who earns a five-star rating for Platinum. Enjoy the creative happenings in the heart of downtown’s ART OVATION HOTEL, who checks into the Gold suite. Then, soak in the panoramic rooftop views at THE WESTIN, whose hospitality brings them in at Silver. LIDO BEACH RESORT finishes with Bronze amenities, acclaimed by tourists and locals alike. -BM Michael Tutcher (on The Ritz-Carlton): Valentine’s Day, my wife surprised me with a very nice weekend there. Even got my staff to conspire against me and had clothes packed for all the activities and even had my golf clubs dropped off at the Ritz golf course. Steve Hemphill (on The Ritz-Carlton): Getting to stay local and in luxury is a bonus! The Beach Club allowed us to relax and be served by the fantastic ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz. Linda Larsen (on Art Ovation Hotel): Happy front-desk people when we stayed last year for our anniversary. They made us feel so special. Stephanie Savalli (on Art Ovation Hotel): The concierge was able to get us tickets to sold-out shows. Dylonn Cole (on The Westin): So close to home, and yet the views give a whole different perspective of our awesome city. Stayed there with my friend Abbe last year and had a blast. Even took their free shuttle from there to Classico for a drink. Felt like a tourist in my own city and made me fall in love with it all over again. Rooftop at night is fantastic to end the staycation as well. Gail Jubb (on Lido Beach Resort): It was the perfect getaway with my dog while my roof was being done. Platinum Winner- The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota / Gold Winner- Art Ovation Hotel / Silver Winner- The Westin Sarasota / Bronze Winner- Lido Beach Resort


What greater gift is there than the love of a pet? In exchange for their fur-ever (or feathered) love, we turn to the best in the practice to keep our extended animal family in good health. The votes are in, and the top dog this year was CLARK ROAD ANIMAL CLINIC, Platinum finalist for the second year in a row. SARASOTA ANIMAL HOSPITAL sniffs out the Gold, throwing a Silver bone to the ANIMAL HEALTH CENTER, and BAY ROAD ANIMAL HOSPITAL wagging all the way home as the Bronze finalist. -AA Debra Pruett (on Clark Road Animal Clinic): Dr. Thom and staff are the best and truly care about their fur patients and families. Beautifully remodeled interior with state-of-the-art

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technology. Katy McBrayer (on Sarasota Animal Hospital): Saved my cats life when others said there was no chance. Sandra Day (on Animal Health Center): Compassionate care for our corgis for 30 years! Christina Emilius (on Bay Road Animal Hospital): Dr. Smith cares about all his critter patients! Platinum Winner- Clark Road Animal Clinic / Gold Winner- Sarasota Animal Hospital / Silver Winner- Animal Health Center / Bronze Winner- Bay Road Animal Hospital


2020 ABOVE:

Best Contractor Josh Wynne playing Atlas.


Detwiler’s Farm Market If you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food. Here are the local grocers that voters chose to fill their fridges. Cleaning up with the Platinum is DETWILER’S yet again. But not close behind is MORTON’S, who stocks up for the Gold finalist position. -AA Phyllis Dawson (on Detwiler’s): I voted Detwiler’s for best local grocery because not only do they have great prices, it’s a family-run business and they make you feel at home with their customer service. The feel of their store also makes it feel like an old town general store! Thomas Simpson (on Morton’s): Been shopping at this location for over 50 years. Platinum Winner- Detwiler’s Farm Market / Gold Winner- Morton’s Gourmet Market


Mark Sultana of DSDG Architects In a community so rich with architecture legends, it says something when a handful of modern artists dominate awards each year. MARK SULTANA ARCHITECTS once again towers with the Platinum space, while JONATHAN PARKS lays out plans to keep his spot as the Gold winner. SWEET SPARKMAN afixes itself in the scenery for a win with STUDIO SUAREZ, tying for Silver, while DAMIEN BLUMETTI designed this year for the Bronze. -JO Katie Weppner (on Mark Sultana): Provides the most personalized experience. He truly takes design to the next level. Andrea Hartwick (on Mark Sultana): Clean and fresh designs. I also love his overhangs for weather protection. Ellen Berman (on Jonathan Parks): He helped me reimagine a 1980s Sarasota home into a contemporary design perfectly suited for my lifestyle. Jonathan was 100 percent invested in the process, from drawing the new floor plan to selecting finishes, working with the contractor, and creating a discipline for staying on budget. Above all, he was a joy to work with. Erin Adams (on Damien Blumetti): Unbound creativity. Platinum Winner- Mark Sultana of DSDG Architects / Gold Winner- Jonathan Parks of Solstice Planning and Architecture / Silver Winners- Sweet Sparkman Architects, Apex-Studio Suarez / Bronze Winner- Damien Blumetti


Josh Wynne Construction Who do you call when you need some work done on your home? Our readers recommend many of the region’s top builders when it comes to contract service. Reader fave JOSH WYNNE CONSTRUCTION laid a foundation of support to secure the Platinum award. VOIGT BROTHERS CONSTRUCTION built its way to the Gold win, while the NAUTILUS HOMES bid secured a Silver. JOHN CANNON HOMES had enough references from our readers to land a Bronze-winning contract. -JO 80 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local


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Sue Drost (on Josh Wynne Construction): They are outstanding in every department. Pays attention to every detail to make sure all is done right, environmentally responsible, does a thorough consultation to ensure customer’s interests are met and budget is met. Quality in every area! Devin Harms (on Voigt Brothers Construction): Clean jobsites and happy customers with beautiful finishes. Each house looks fantastic when finished and they never cut corners. Michael Zuppardo (on Nautilus Homes): Amazing people who care about results! Thomas Barrell (on John Cannon Home): So easy to work with! Willing to make changes. High-quality work. Quality of work and materials. Platinum WinnerJosh Wynne Construction / Gold Winner- Voigt Brothers Construction / Silver Winner- Nautilus Homes / Bronze Winner- John Cannon Homes


April Baillete of DSDG Architects Our home design is a reflection of our story. And if this year’s votes reflect anything, it’s that the best local interior designer is APRIL BALLIETTE, holding the Platinum position for multiple years in a row for her professional and impeccable work. Breaking into the design race and finishing strong to take home the Gold position is CARRIE RILEY.



2020 TRACEE MURPHY curates her way into the Best

Of competition, debuting this year with a Silver piece of décor. Acclaimed for her creative sense of style, longtime finalist ANA SANTA MARIA isn’t far behind with Bronze. -AA Joseph Hargrove (on April Balliette): April has a terrific sense of color, space and design and integrates them very well with her knowledge of local sources of materials, art and accessories in the local market. Sarah Reynolds (on Carrie Riley): Carrie Riley and her team are so far above the competition in professionalism and cutting-edge design. Justin Labadie (on Tracee Murphy): They do excellent work! The spaces they design that I have photographed are simply stunning! Jason Aragona (on Ana Santa Maria): She knows what she is talking about, has outstanding taste and is the friendliest person ever! Platinum Winner- April Balliette of DSDG Architects / Gold Winner- Carrie Riley of Riley Interior Design / Silver Winner- Tracee Murphy of Trade Mark Interiors / Bronze WinnerAna Santa Maria of Apex-Studio Santa Maria

BEST HOME BUILDER Nautilus Homes If you lay a strong enough foundation, it’s easy to build up a community of fans. Just ask the team at NAUTILUS HOMES, who constructed a Platinum win this year. JOSH WYNNE CONSTRUCTION set up a happy residence in the Gold neighborhood, while VOIGT BROTHERS CONSTRUCTION built up a Silver win. JOHN CANNON HOMES raised the roof high enough for a Bronze honor in this year’s parade of home builders. -JO Steve Hagan (on Nautilus Homes): I would be remiss if I didn’t commend Ryan Perrone and his team of professionals, considering their passion for caring, workmanship, attention to detail and flat-out helpful attitude, which they applied every day on our home project. I recall saying to my wife, “They care as much, or more than we do, about getting things right.” Jimmy Thornton (on Josh Wynne Construction): Best in town, best in Florida, best in the US. Elizabeth Cooley (on John Cannon Homes): Builds beautiful homes and fits them into the lots in a pleasing way. Platinum Winner- Nautilus Homes / Gold Winner- Josh Wynne Construction / Silver Winner- Voigt Brothers Construction / Bronze Winner- John Cannon Homes

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It is thought that the best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them. So whether you are searching for the dining set that says you are the best dinner host in town, or a simple piece to prop up your tired feet, these finalists are where to go to find it all. Pulling up a seat to the big contender’s table is SOFT SQUARE, who jetted to the top of the finalist list to take the Platinum position. COPENHAGEN IMPORTS was a close contender, packing up the Gold, making PECKY the Silver finalist, and HOME RESOURCE stepped up to take the Bronze. -AA Dylonn Cole (on Soft Square): Perfect selection and great service. Such an eye for modern and yet comfortable furniture. Ashley Hunter (on Copenhagen Imports): Love supporting this local and family-owned business of 35+ years. Attentive staff and one-of-a-kind pieces found here. Holly Dennis (on PECKY): Bespoke quality and unique, unlike a chain furniture store. Eileen Hampshire (on Home Resource): Been here a long time, professional, great products, nice people. Platinum Winner- Soft Square / Gold Winner- Copenhagen Imports / Silver WinnerPECKY / Bronze Winner- Home Resource





If you want solid footing under you, our readers suggest giving a call to FLOOR & DECOR. The company won the Platinum honor in this new entry. CHAPPIE’S also made up enough ground to sink the Gold win, and 24-7 FLOORS round-theclock work ethic impressed enough to secure a Silver. DESIGN WORKS dolled up enough Sarasota flooring fans to get the Bronze. -JO Linda Burry (on Floor & Decor): Everything and more you will ever need to put floors in your home or condo, all at very reasonable prices. Experts on-site to help you choose and to teach you how to do the job if you are a DIY person. Marie Bonilla (on Floor & Décor): The perfect place to shop for all types of flooring and tile in all styles and price ranges! You can literally get lost in all the aisles of tiles! Roberta Hamilton (on Chappie’s): Chappie’s has been in town for many, many, many years and is dependable, family-oriented and fairly priced.

Dealing with a local company is “our kind of business practice.” Herbet Sauer (on 24-7 Floors): Scott stands by all his work and offers the most reasonable pricing I’ve found. Holly Dennis (on Design Works): Huge selection to meet just about every budget. Platinum Winner- Floor & Decor / Gold Winner- Chappie’s Carpet & Floors, Inc. / Silver Winner- 24-7 Floors / Bronze Winner- Design Works


Living in the Sunshine State doesn’t mean we can’t have it made with the shades. The team at BUDGET BLINDS keeps many a window shuttered, earning it the Platinum win in this niche category. DOMENICK’S blocked the light and secured the votes for a Gold finish, while M&M won the Silver by giving clients more than a candy shell. MARK WEPPNER shares the Bronze with BEGINNING TO END. -JO Nicholas Ferris (on Budget Blinds): Budget Blinds provide outstanding choice as well as affordable quality blinds and fittings. Happy to be straight and honest with their clients if they are getting a better deal! Platinum Winner- Budget Blinds / Gold Winner- Domenick’s Blinds & Décor / Silver WinnerM&M Wallcoverings & Blinds / Bronze WinnersMark Weppner of Universal Window Solutions, Beginning to End Interiors & Blinds

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BEST LANDSCAPING Michael A. Gilkey, Inc.

The field of landscape architecture may enjoy the same level of awareness as designing buildings, but our readers enjoy the fields nonetheless. MICHAEL A. GILKEY cultivated another Platinum award here, while ARTISTREE grew itself some Gold grass. TWIN BLADES hedged out any other competitors to come away with a Silver, while HELMUTH laid it down for the Bronze. -JO Platinum WinnerMichael A. Gilkey, Inc. / Gold Winner- ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design / Silver WinnerTwin Blades Land Service & Maintenance / Bronze Winner- Helmuth Landscape Pros

BEST HVAC Badger Bob’s Services What’s cooler than being cool? BADGER BOB’S will boast with breeziness when it busts out its Platinum award from this year’s reader survey. But COOL TODAY can still chill with a Gold win. D&D rolled in at Silver, while SEAN MCCUTCHEON’S cozied onto the list with a Bronze. -JO Mary Jo Zaksas (on Cool Today): I designed and built a unique room that replaced the pool equipment storage room off of our lanai for my growing collection of exotic Dracula orchids. The room required an air conditioner that connects to a CoolBot to bring the temperature to 55 degrees at night and 72 degrees during the day. Cool Today




has been very accommodating and available when needed to keep my equipment working well. Kelly Goldstein (on D&D): I know the owner of D&D Air well, and know he holds a high standard for himself and his team to perform honestly and professionally in every area of service they offer. In my personal experience, they have been prompt and efficient and I would recommend this company for any servicing or new A/C unit needs. Sarah Tyson (on Sean McCutcheon’s): I have been helped by Sean McCutcheon’s Heating and Air Conditioning without fail since 2011. They are always receptive and courteous. Real professionals and I’d say “good neighbors.” Platinum Winner- Badger Bob’s Services / Gold Winner- Cool Today / Silver Winner- D&D Air Conditioning / Bronze Winner- Sean McCutcheon’s Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc.

BEST POOL Gettle Pools The sweet deckside bask of Platinum status will brighten the trophy case at GETTLE POOLS this year. But reveling in the Gold will be WATER DESIGNS, a company with plenty of readers at its

pool party. HOLIDAY POOLS enjoyed a relaxing dip with our readers as well, with enough poolside pizzazz to pick up Silver. -JO Platinum WinnerGettle Pools / Gold Winner- Water Designs / Silver Winner- Holiday Pools of West Florida Inc.

BEST PLUMBING Aqua Plumbing Nobody, but nobody, wants to live with clogged pipes for long. Our readers say a call to AQUA PLUMBING will keep the water running clear as Platinum. BADGER BOB’S cleaned up enough for a Gold award, and ADVANCED PLUMBING wins a Silver-level endorsement. -JO Phyllis Dreyfuss (on Aqua Plumbing): Unlike other repair shops, Aqua knows how to balance the client’s repair costs and safety with replacement costs of an entire system…how refreshing and honest. The repair people were courteous, on time, left full notes on all work and warranties. Stephen Sutter (on Aqua Plumbing): First, the scheduling staff is excellent. If there is an emergency, the staff gets a tech out right away. They always provide an estimate if new items are required. The repair and installation guys do a great job. They leave your house, repair completed, no mess. Robert Holzler (on Badger Bob’s): Badger Bob’s is always there when I need them. From a human being there to answer the phone after hours to same-day service, they have always been there for me. Carolyn Angiolillo

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(on Advanced Plumbing): This company does all the plumbing work in the condo building that I live in, and when it was time to renovate my bathroom, they were one of the companies that I received a bid from. All the work that they did was professionally done and at a very reasonable price. Platinum Winner- Aqua Plumbing & Air / Gold Winner- Badger Bob’s Services / Silver WinnerAdvanced Plumbing Solutions and Design

BEST CPA Kerkering Barberio Want an accountant capable of balancing your needs as well as your books? Our readers point to the team at KERKERING BARBERIO, who landed at the top of our spreadsheet again with a Platinum win. SUPLEE AND SHEA tabulated enough support for a Gold win, while MILES & THIRION added up to a Silver finish. HBK CPAS, JOHN MICHAEL SMITH and KOONTZ & ASSOCIATES round out the list, all tying for Bronze. -JO Kathy Korr (on Kerkering Barberio): Very nice people and very detailed. Erik Arroyo (on Miles & Thirion): They have a personalized touch and are extremely competent. Always available. They are involved in the community and incredibly caring. Kelly Goldstein (on Miles & Thirion): As financial advisers, we work closely with accounting and attorney firms. Whenever we have had mutual clients in common with Miles & Thirion, we’ve




felt they are in excellent hands and feel confident referring to their team. John Michael Smith (on John Michael Smith): Obviously, I am a bit biased. We take time to work with our clients, to give them what they are not able to do themselves and fill in the void. This is for the business clients. We listen to what the clients are requesting to allow them to sleep well at night and continue to grow and develop. Platinum Winner- Kerkering Barberio / Gold Winner- Suplee and Shea Cramer & Rocklein / Silver Winner- Miles & Thirion / Bronze WinnersHBK CPAs & Consultants, John Michael Smith, Koontz & Associates

BEST AGENCY Studio BCC Need to spread the word on the work your organization is doing? Our readers spread only good word of mouth about STUDIO BCC, the Platinum winner this year. Meanwhile, GRAPEVINE COMMUNICATIONS sends Gold vibes down the wire. ROOKS AGENCY moves into the Silver position. ALYSSA GAY CONSULTING messaged her way to a Bronze finish. -JO

Darcy Kelly-Laviolette (on Studio BCC): If asked to accomplish “X,” the studio will give you “XYZ”—and then some! Whatever this versatile team of designers creates for you, it will not only be high-quality, but it will be stylish, modern, cutting-edge and a standout piece among other branding. R.J. Diaz (on Studio BCC): Brian and his team at Studio BCC have been a key partner in branding and marketing for my company Modus Builders. From the design of my logo and marketing collateral to a new website getting ready to launch soon, I can’t think of a better resource than Studio BCC in the SRQ area. Michelle Bell (on Rooks Agency): They are all very professional and always have their clients’ best interests in mind. Rooks Agency stays at the forefront of all the new and traditional tools available in the marketplace to keep their clients one step ahead of their competition. Brianna Graber (on Rooks) Agency: Rooks Agency goes above and beyond for their clients and truly cares. The team has top-notch marketing insight and can help bring a business to the next level. Lori Downing (on Alyssa Gay Consulting): She wanted to open her own digital marketing consulting firm and was brave enough to quit her job and take the plunge. She did so well that she is just celebrating her second anniversary and has had to hire two people to help her. We have seen some of the

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accounts that she has helped and it’s exciting to watch their exposure grow in our “digital” world! Platinum Winner- Studio BCC / Gold WinnerGrapevine Communications / Silver Winner- Rooks Agency / Bronze Winner- Alyssa Gay Consulting

BEST FINANCIAL ADVISOR Steve Griffin of Full Spectrum Financial Group

One thing Sarasota’s elite earners always want is to earn more. That’s where the community’s trusted financial advisors step in. STEVE GRIFFIN saw his stock rise this year, winning Platinum recognition. JAKOB HART though, certainly earned trust with our readers, enough for a Gold win. And the team of ALLEGIANT PRIVATE ADVISORS prompted a rush on Silver. -JO Joseph Goldstein (on Steve Griffin): What makes Steve Griffin the best? His genuine care for clients, thoroughness and always putting their best interest first. Ask any client and they will most likely echo similar sentiments. Carolyn Angiolillo (on Steve Griffin): Steve has helped me invest in products that have made me financially secure for the rest of my life, with funds for my beneficiaries! Steve is a caring and conscientious professional who I trust. Nicholas Ferris (on Jakob Hart): Jakob is a fabulous individual who is caring and conscientious with his clients! He provides financial planning with outstanding integrity




and professionalism. Robert Weiss (on Allegiant Private Advisors): Outstanding support, great results, in touch with the world. Platinum WinnerSteve Griffin of Full Spectrum Financial Group / Gold Winner- Jakob Hart of Hart & Hart Financial Services / Silver Winner- Allegiant Private Advisors

BEST LEGAL FIRM Berlin Patten Ebling BERLIN PATTEN EBLING had this category dead

to rights, conquering the court of opinion and winning the Platinum award this year. But WILLIAMS PARKER made a motion into the Gold slot. Readers also made a good case for BAND GATES & DRAMIS, which was picked for Silver by our jury of readers. -JO Richard Biter (on Berlin Patten Ebling): They know real estate law inside and out…there is no one better!! Lou Walton (on Williams Parker): They’re a unique law firm with highly qualified attorneys with graduate degrees and board certifications in different areas of the law. As a retired attorney myself from “up north,” I’ve been very impressed with their depth of knowledge in particular legal areas. Greg Carlson (on Band

Gates & Dramis): Erik Arroyo at Band Gates & Dramis is a consummate professional. He goes all in to help his clients, and he is my go-to expert for any legal advice. Platinum Winner- Berlin Patten Ebling / Gold Winner- Williams Parker / Silver Winner- Band Gates & Dramis

BEST LOCAL BANK Sabal Palm Bank Sarasotans say the safest place to stash your cash is probably SABAL PALM BANK, the Platinum winner in our survey. But GULFSIDE BANK holds a solid share of support, enough for Gold winner status, and CENTERSTATE BANK also needs to be taken into account, as it earned Silver this year. -JO Paige Farr (on Sabal Palm Bank): From day one, the bank gets to know you and your business, and you are always greeted by your name when you come in or call. There is no telephone tree, which makes it so much easier to reach the person you want. Calls are answered right away and you are directed to whichever department or person you need. It’s the closest thing you can get to the oldtime banks of the past, and I very much appreciate that. Audrey Oxenhorn (on Sabal Palm Bank): When I enter, I am greeted by my name and feel so welcomed. Every bank employee has been respectful, knowledgeable and kind to myself and other guests. I am grateful that they are part of the Sarasota community. Marie Pender (on Gulfside Bank): They’re new, but the Board of Directors has

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many years of experience in banking. Love local! Judy Wang (on CenterState Bank): Suntrust did a terrible job managing my application. I found out through a third party that my application wasn’t going to go through because the property was nonconventional, and I almost lost my chance at the condo. Through a friend, we heard about Rick Barber and CenterState Bank, well-versed in Sarasota properties, and they saved the day by helping me get a loan. Eileen Hampshire (on CenterState Bank): They are just so friendly and helpful; everyone seems able to multitask to get customers served in a timely manner. You never have to wait and people are always in a good mood. They make a point of addressing you by name so you feel comfortable, like you belong. Platinum Winner- Sabal Palm Bank / Gold Winner- Gulfside Bank / Silver Winner- CenterState Bank

BEST CREDIT UNION Achieva If you’ve lost a little faith in the banks over the last decade and a half, there’s a number of credit unions in the region ready to serve. ACHIEVA holds favor with our readers, who give it Platinum honors this year. But readers grade SUNCOAST highly enough to win it Gold. The USF FEDERAL CREDIT UNION brings some bull power to the contest with a Silver win. -JO Doreen Clyne (on Achieva): Love that the leadership/employees walk the talk and support partners in health by wearing scrubs on Mondays.




And might I add, no unnecessary fees are charged. They really are a credit union who recognizes the needs of their customers. Becky Fisher, financial advisor, and her assistant, Christina, are fabulous. Leonard Balistreri (on Achieva): Christmastime is special to me, and two years ago I wanted to help my branch get better traffic, so I asked them if I could come over with my brass quartet and play Christmas music for their customers. We did it two years in a row and last year we played at the Bee Ridge branch as well as the one near Fruitville Road. Jason Aragona (on USF Federal Credit Union): I’ve banked with them for 25 years!! Platinum WinnerAchieva Credit Union / Gold Winner- Suncoast Credit Union / Silver Winner- USF Federal Credit Union


Atlas Insurance Agency No one loves to place a claim, but our agents say these agents have their backs. ATLAS tops our survey with the Platinum space. Policies at BEN BROWN are as good as Gold. PURMORT & MARTON secured Silver, while AL PURMORT came in with the Bronze. -JO

Anne Rollings (on Atlas): They educate themselves to anticipate industry trends that affect their clients’ companies and prepare their clients so as to limit the exposure of the company and thereby provide some coverage peace of mind. Every person on the Atlas team consistently provides exceptional service. T. Raymond Suplee (on Atlas): I have dealt with Atlas Insurance Agency for over 45 years. They have a great staff and do a lot of planning for the future. They are a familyowned business, and even though their original leadership is no longer there, they continue to outperform in the marketplace. Lawrence Bowman (on Purmort & Martin): They believe in face-to-face meetings to discuss coverage needs and schedule these regularly to make sure that their clients are always insured properly. Platinum Winner- Atlas Insurance Agency / Gold Winner- Ben Brown Insurance / Silver Winner- Purmort & Marton / Bronze Winner- Al Purmort Insurance

BEST EYE CARE Center for Sight If eyes are the windows to our souls, then we better be sure to select a worthy optometrist to peer into them. You don’t need 20/20 vision to see CENTER FOR SIGHT was the top contender for Platinum finalist for best local eye-care practice. The EYE ASSOCIATES comes in as a Gold finalist, leaving the Silver position to COASTAL EYE. And framing up to the Bronze position this year is SPECTACLE GALLERY. -AA

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Marie Bonilla (on Center for Sight): State-of-theart facility with great doctors and eye-care experts. Diana Cowans (on The Eye Associates): A large service that makes you feel like the only patient they have. Carole Briggs (on Coastal Eye): On Manatee Ave. in Bradenton, Dr. Murray Friedberg found, and told me, about two conditions that other ophthalmologists missed. Brock Doyle (on Spectacle Gallery): Thorough medical eye exams, eyewear selection and personalized service. Platinum Winner- Center for Sight / Gold WinnerThe Eye Associates / Silver Winner- Coastal Eye Institute / Bronze Winner- Spectacle Gallery


The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch THE GLENRIDGE turned out to be the hottest spot

to age in place, securing the retirement community the Platinum slot. PLYMOUTH HARBOR won over enough voters to deserve the Gold position, while DEL WEBB landed in the Silver spot and finalist SUNNYSIDE VILLAGE took quality care of the Bronze. -JO Hailey Amos (on The Glenridge): Worked there for four years and the management in all departments are beyond outdoing themselves, and the members are nothing but kind. Sara Sinaiko (on Plymouth Harbor): My aunt lived there and her daughter (my cousin) is now a




resident. My cousin just celebrated her 90th birthday. She moved to Plymouth Harbor with her husband, Roberto. When he passed away, she stayed in her beautiful apartment and enjoys her active senior lifestyle. Jim Reed (on Del Webb): Because I live there! Sue Drost (on Sunnyside Village): All who work there seem to love their jobs and help the residents. Well-run, has so much to offer and the residents seem very happy there. Love it. Platinum Winner- The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch / Gold Winner- Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay / Silver Winner- Del Webb Lakewood Ranch / Bronze Winner- Sunnyside Village

BEST PEDIATRICIAN Dr. Ted Meyer Trust yourself, you know more than you think. And our SRQ voters know who they can trust to look after their children. Once again, DR. TED MEYER proves his commitment to the field by capturing not only the voters trust but the Platinum position for best local pediatrician. Consistent practice and determination kept DR. ROBERT WEISS in position for Gold, while DR. KATHERINE KEELEY earned the Silver and DR. HOWARD FUCHS the Bronze. -AA

Renae Recher (on Dr. Ted Meyer): His passion and love for the kids and his bedside manners are the best. Ellie Falck (on Dr. Ted Meyer): He saved my son’s life…literally! Forever indebted. Eboni Curry (on Dr. Robert Weiss): I went to Dr. Weiss as a child. Now my child is in his care. Loving staff and superb medical care! Stephanie Cz (on Dr. Katherine Keeley): Amazing with kids, incredible doctor, actually listens to parents’ concerns! Mollie Cool (on Dr. Howard Fuchs): Realistic, down to earth, kind, personable, knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy. Platinum Winner- Dr. Ted Meyer / Gold Winner- Dr. Robert Weiss / Silver Winner- Dr. Katherine Keeley / Bronze- Dr. Howard Fuchs


Pearly whites and smiling delights are the goal of all our winners for Best Orthodontist. Platinum winner DR. DAVID FREEMAN takes the crown this year. Our Gold winner, DR. KAREN VARONE, knows the drill, and has wisdom about teeth that landed her a top spot. You’ll be enameled with our Silver winner DR. FRANK PAZULSKI, and our Bronze winner DR. CLAUDIA MORICZ? She’s got your plaque! -AC Carmen Perna (on Dr. David Freeman): Takes great care of his patients! Love those smiles. Ludmila Reigel (on Dr. Karen Varone): Amazing continued on page 98

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Allow us to introduce you to the most knowledgeable and motivated realtors in the Sarasota–Bradenton housing market. Welcome home the Top 12 readers’ favorite real estate agents. The picks for this year’s dream team include RYAN SKRZYPKOWSKI, KATY MCBRAYER-LYNCH, PATRICIA TAN, DARREN DOWLING, SHANNON WADE ROGERS, SARA FERGUSON, LYNNE

“They sure are handy when you smile, so keep your teeth around a while,” said Dr. Seuss. Here are the TOP 12 DENTISTS SRQ voters trust to maintain theirs— DR. THOMAS DOAN, DR. STEPHANIE COLE, DR. ADAM STILL, DR.

KOY, DAVID PERKOWSKI, LENORE TREIMAN, ANDREW VAC, DAVE BEACHY and CAREY BEYCHOK. They know the area like the back of their hands and

readers selected them as their key favorites. -BM Emily Ainger (on Ryan Skrzypkowski): The most dedicated real estate agent who really cares for his clients! Always so enthusiastic, positive and gets the best deal possible for everybody! Erin Wilder (on Katy McBrayer-Lynch): She knows the market better than anyone in town, can negotiate the best deal for her clients, cares about her clients now and in the future. Kenneth Knowles (on Darren Dowling): Dude sells hella houses. Nicholas Ferris (on Patricia Tan): Will always go the extra mile!!! Robert Holzler (on David Perkowski): Very friendly and gets to know you. An agent that you keep as a friend after you close the deal. Stephanie Savalli (on Sara Ferguson): Very smart broker with a strong work ethic. Jennifer Stieg (on Carey Beychok): She goes way above and beyond to service her clients.

personnel, Dr. Varone is precise and patient. Giovanna McGrath (on Dr. Frank Paluski): Perfection! My teeth are perfect! Kind, caring and has had the same staff for 15 years or more! Chelsea Dieter (on Dr. Claudia Moricz): Moricz Orthodontics is nice because Dr. Moricz makes you feel comfortable, listens and addresses all of your concerns, and is very thorough with her work. She takes pride in her business and it shows! Great doctor and great staff! Platinum Winner-


Claire Morda (on Dr. Thomas Doan): The whole office is knowledgeable and efficient and Dr. Doan is a fabulous dentist. He has done extensive work in my mouth and made me go from a person who always hated smiling and picture taking to never even thinking about it. I spent many hours in that chair and was always confident I was getting the best treatment anywhere. Avory Block (on Dr. Stephanie Cole): She’s a professional who makes you look forward to your doctor’s appointments. Michael Katzer (on Dr. Adam Still): Excellent dentist supported by excellent assistants, hygienists and overall support staff. I find that Dr. Still monitors your condition carefully, without recommending any work, until it is necessary. Like all (excellent) dental care in this area, it is not inexpensive, but should be worth it in the short and long run. Kelsey Perrill (on Dr. Richard Stanley): They are so compassionate in what they do. They deliver five-star care and treat each of their patients like their own family. They deliver quality care every time. Michelle Stamm (on Dr. Jenifer Back): Simply can’t be beat. They take their time with you, listen and are super nice. They go the extra, extra mile! Charles Varah (on Dr. Douglas Fabiani): Practical, professional and not trying to make you different from who you are. A gem!


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Dr. David Freeman / Gold Winner- Dr. Karen Varone / Silver Winner- Dr. Frank Pazulski / Bronze WinnerDr. Claudia Moricz


David Stevenson Physical Therapy It will take time, it will take willpower. It will also require persistence and determination in combination with the dedication of a committed physical therapist, like the ones SRQ voters wrote in to support in a turning of tables. DAVID STEVENSON holds the Platinum position for best local physical therapist, while COASTAL ORTHOPEDICS scores



the Gold, SIESTA KEY lunges into the Silver rank and DONNA BARCOMB bends for the Bronze. -AA Giovanna McGrath (on David Stevenson): Has fixed every fracture I have had beautifully! Victoria Kolbe (on Coastal Orthopedics): Amazing experts, very skilled and dedicated. Got my shoulder back to normal after surgery. Plus they are fun. Doreen Clyne (on Siesta Key): Very competent. Great listeners. Professional, kind and caring. Platinum Winner- David Stevenson Physical Therapy / Gold Winner- Coastal Orthopedics / Silver Winner- Siesta Key Sports & Physical Therapy / Bronze Winner- Donna Barcomb Professional Physical Therapy

Lokey’s Escape Rooms

Guard your loved ones. The key holders at LOKEY’S captured enough votes to win the Platinum spot on our survey for Best New Business, and we can’t figure a way out of giving them credit. But the marketing team at KAJ CONSULTS also messaged their way to a Gold win, as the skincare professionals at FACEPOP cleared their way to Silver. Meanwhile, ERIDEL KITCHEN & BATH installed themselves in the Bronze spot. -JO Becca Freeman (on Lokey’s): Many escape rooms have great puzzles or great atmosphere or great staff, but it’s so rare and wonderful to find all three. Richard and Chelsea at Lokey’s are the best hosts—kind and helpful and above all passionate for their craft. They have the magic touch! Nancy Forbes (on KAJ Consults): What makes them the best is that I can rest assured that I will get what I need to move my business forward, with responsive and reliable support. Jeanne McDaniel (on FACEPOP): Cassi and Kim continued on page 106

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Dr. Janet Bailey COMPREHENSIVE DENTISTRY Dr. Janet Alberti Bailey considers herself almost a native of Sarasota since she and her family moved from Chicago in 1980. After graduating from Riverview High School, her passion for dental care was ignited. She first earned a degree as a Dental Hygienist and after working several years, furthered her education and earned her General Dental degree at Indiana University School of Dentistry. Dr. Alberti Bailey has been committed to the dental profession for 33 years, and continues to enjoy caring for her patient’s dental health. As a longtime resident of Sarasota, she has seen a lot of growth and change, but what hasn’t changed is her philosophy and belief in conservative dentistry. She grew up with the mindset of taking care of and restoring valuables. Keeping teeth to her are considered very valuable! Among her list of treasures is her Husband, J Albert Avila MD (Emergency Medicine Physician and Owner/Director of The Center for Urgent Care, located on SR70 in Lakewood Ranch), and their 6 children and 2 grandchildren. Her services include prophylaxis, sealants, mercury free restorations, cosmetic bonding, crowns, veneers and restoration of dental implants. She shares her practice with Carl Mallick, DDS and Samuel Leggitt, DDS.

COMPREHENSIVE DENTISTRY 2124 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, FL 34231 P 941.924.7928


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Exceptional Dentistry Drs. Doan, Suarez, and Cole have set their practice apart in providing the ultimate in personalized, comprehensive dental care using the very latest in modern dental technology. We are a general and advanced cosmetic dental practice that are well versed in all aspects of dental care. Whether it is a simple procedure to the most complex, our team can deliver precise and pain-free care where integrity will always come first. What is unique about your practices that sets you apart? PASSION We absolutely love what we do every day because not only are we passionate about the art and science of dentistry, but also level of engagement with each and every one of our patients. Being the best at something requires the passion to achieve the highest of excellence from our customer service to our clinical skills. From the moment of your first phone call, our team will take every step to ensure that all of your concerns are taken care of to the finest details. We make continuous investment in the latest digital technologies and education that provides us the flexibility to do same day dentistry or comprehensive restorative interdisciplinary dentistry with utmost care. At the end of the day, it is the passion for what we do that allows our patients feel that they are well taken care of in our unique dental family. What do you love most about your job? PEOPLE The Business of Dentistry is not just about teeth. It is about the connection to people on how we can help. Whether it is relieving pain or restoring a beautiful smile, it is about engagement to the ones that we are in service to. We love it when we can be a partner in someone’s healthcare and to achieve their goals. When we do, everyone wins.

What does it mean to be recognized by SRQ readers as Top Dentists? PURPOSE Being recognized by those who are under our care and from those who have seen our work in the community, we are truly humbled and honored. Each day, we treat one patient at a time and giving them our fullest attention. When we are voted to be the Best of SRQ Local, it is a validation that we have a made a difference in someone’s life. This is what matters and gives us purpose. We are blessed to have all 3 exceptional doctors in our practice to achieve this accolade. This is what matters and gives our team, Linda, Karen, Chris, Phyllis, Rachel, Tiffany, Lindsey, Knute, April, and Doina, purpose.

DR. THOMAS DOAN 2019 President of the Florida Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Fellow of the American College of Dentists, Founder of Project Christmas Smile in 2002, 2006 Partners of Peace Award from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Sarasota Magazine Top Dentist since 2012, SRQ Magazine Best Dentist Finalist 2018, Best Dentist 2019 and 2020

DR. CHRISTINA SUAREZ Recipient of Sarasota Magazine Top Dentist since 2017, and SRQ Magazine Best Dentist 2020

DR. STEPHANIE L. COLE Recipient of SRQ Magazine Best Dentist 2017, Finalist 2018, Best Dentist 2019 and 2020

E X C E P T I O N A L D E N T I S T R Y O F S A R A S O TA 1999 Lincoln Drive, Suite 102 Sarasota, FL 34236 P 941.365.4418 E EXCEPTIONALDENTISTS.COM


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“Homework is what I do best!” As a lifelong resident of southwest Florida, I have extensive knowledge of the area and its history. My family started developing local real estate in 1946— a tradition continued by my husband—which gives me an in-depth understanding of this market. I began my own career as a new home sales representative for several of the area’s finest builders, and then joined the RE/MAX Alliance Group, Florida’s #1 RE/MAX office, where I am a top-producing agent. The Suncoast is such a wonderful place: beautiful beaches, a vibrant cultural life, fine dining, and every outdoor activity imaginable. I myself enjoy participating in regional half-marathons as an active member of the Manasota Track Club, and often enter 5K and 10K events that benefit charitable causes to give back to the community in which I feel blessed to live. I love Sarasota so much that I raised my family here—my three sons attended local schools, and I am happy to share my insights into our public school system with other parents.

AWARDS AND CERTIFICATIONS RE/MAX International Platinum Club Award RE/MAX International 100% Club Award

I enjoy working closely with my clients, both buyers and sellers and am proud to be nominated as a Top Realtor by SRQ readers for the second year in a row. As my clients know, when you work with me, you get me; you receive my personal attention. Sellers, I will match your property with qualified buyers through the global power of the RE/MAX platform; buyers, whether you are shopping for a home or condo, golf course or waterfront property, it would be my pleasure to help you find your place in the sun.

Institute for Luxury Home Marketing’s Million Dollar Guild Five Star Real Estate Agent Residential Construction Certified Certified New Home Specialist

RE/MAX Alliance Group 2000 Webber Street, Sarasota, Florida 34237

C 941.315.4348 E

PRISTINE-REALESTATE.COM Each office independently owned and operated.

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“I create lasting

connections with my clients.” Having sold real estate all over the world, I know there is something extra special about Sarasota. It’s not just the fabulous real estate but also the huge array of things to do, the culture, the people and world class beaches. I’m fortunate to live in paradise while being able to help my client’s dreams come true. Building relationships with clients is very important to me, I want them to refer me to their friends and family for years to come knowing I treat every customer with care as their trusted advisor.

A FOCUS ON THE HUMAN ELEMENT “Retaining and focusing on the human element of a real estate transaction in a digital world is what sets me apart from other Realtors. I create lasting connections with my clients by going further, pushing harder, and fighting for them as if it was my own home,” says Dowling.

What is your background and how did you become a Realtor? Real Estate runs through the blood of my family. Born in the UK, I grew up into the family real estate business and it was quickly apparent that a career in property sales and becoming a realtor is what I wanted. I’ve sold real estate across the world, from across the pond in the UK to Dubai, from the Caribbean to Europe, and now selling people their dream homes in paradise - Sarasota, Florida. The best part of my job is that I don’t see it as a job; being able to show my clients a property that then becomes their home is a true highlight for me. Retaining and focusing on the human element of a real estate transaction in a digital world is what sets me apart from other Realtors. I create lasting connections with my clients by going further, pushing harder and fighting for them as if it was my own home. I learned discipline and work ethic in my sporting career as a cyclist which led me to become a three time British National Champion. I have taken this skill set and applied it to my real estate business establishing myself to many as your “Local Cycling Realtor.” What does it mean to be recognized by SRQ readers as a Top Realtor? Being recognized by SRQ magazine readers as a Top Realtor makes all the hard work, stress and behind the scenes negotiating worth it. Knowing that SRQ readers have recognized my passion for getting not just the best deal, but the right deal for my clients, fills me with an immense sense of pride. As a REALTOR, I am a key part of what is often a buyer’s or seller’s biggest financial decision in his or her lifetime. Being trusted as a guide with such responsibility makes the endless hours of hard work rewarding.

DARREN DOWLING Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate 100 N Tamiami Trail | Sarasota, FL 34236 C 941.204.0493 E


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Katy McBrayer An SRQ Magazine Women in Business Winner (2018), Katy McBrayer stands out as a person and as an award-winning and exceptionally accomplished REALTOR®. Katy connects with her customers, dedicated to each of their individual needs. She is a natural-born leader as she guides them in making one of the most important decisions of their lives. Having lived in Sarasota for over 20 years, Katy utilizes her deep-rooted connections to make the experience of buying or selling real estate the best it can be. She prides herself on her area knowledge and expertise in all things real estate. Her life beyond real estate is the driving force in Katy’s service minded focus. Katy is Vice President to Teen Court of Sarasota, Inc - a nonprofit that focuses on changing the lives of at-risk youth and providing a law related education for student volunteers. She credits this program for saving her life as a teenager. The experience taught her the value of service and giving back to your community. Katy is a passionate public speaker and mentor. She further parlayed her life lessons into her real estate business which has helped make her one of the most unique, loved and successful REALTORS® of our region. What does it mean to be recognized by SRQ readers as a Top Realtor? I am grateful. To have a community, family and friends that support me and my passion is the greatest gift.

“To have a community that supports me and my passion is the greatest gift.”

CORPORATE BIO Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the highest volume producing affiliates in the Sotheby’s International Realty® brand, is the leading luxury real estate brokerage firm in the markets it serves, providing exceptional service and market knowledge to buyers and sellers of single-family homes and condominiums throughout Florida and in the Carolinas.

McBrayer Group, Premier Sothebys International Realty 50 Central Avenue, Suite 110 Sarasota FL 34236 P 941.400.2406


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“We’re proud to have a team of industry experts.” Ryan Skrzypkowski and the team at the RSTS Group have become recognized both locally and nationally as innovative influencers within the industry. We couldn’t be more proud of this local group and the fact the the residents of Sarasota and Manatee County are able to utilize such a quality service. This is the 3rd year that the RSTS Group have been recognized within the Best of SRQ within their industry - and they are absolutely worthy of the title again. Over the last three years we have seen the group grow from Ryan and Theresa, the husband and wife team, to the power house of 6 that operate the team day. They believe that the community of realtors have underdelivered on providing a service that is required and expected by the consumer and have been on a mission to change that for 5 years now. They do this by employing specific roles within their team so each team member is committed to being the best in a small part of the business, rather than one agent trying to do it all.

ABOUT RYAN SKRZYPKOWSKI “Real estate is not a job, it is a lifestyle, I feel unbelievably grateful to be able to do this in the place that I love—with the people that I love, serving clients that we love. I want my clients to be able to refer me to their closest friends and family members and to know that they will be taken care of” It means the world to be recognized by SRQ Magazine readers as a Top Realtor® To be recognized for the third year running is more than an honor to Ryan and his team! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Last year, 2019 was a record breaking year for them, and already their sales are up by 675% for 2020. This growth in production is fueled by their desire to improve, their commitment to serve their customers and their need raise the bar for themselves and for the industry as a whole. Some of their recent successes include White Lane, a property on North Siesta that had previously been listed for over 3 years without a sale. The RSTS Group took over the listing and had the property sold in less than 30 days, to one of their own personal clients. Another recent story is Tidewood, where a bay front property had been sitting on the market with barely any activity for 6 months. The RSTS Group sold the property in just 7 days. The team has almost 50 5-Star reviews on Zillow. Jay & Denise Henderson, who had worked with the team before to purchase a piece of land in the south of Sarasota recently listed their home in Red Hawk Reserve and commented, “Ryan and his team listened to our needs and properly priced our home for sale. They began with a “coming soon” marketing photo and home detail. Within 96 hours of being placed on the market, we had a firm offer. The photos taken of the exterior views in addition to the interior showed the beauty of our home. The detailed description of the home and community gave interested buyers a reason to visit the property. To close a deal with a happy Seller and a happy Buyer in four days is an indication of a professional and caring Realtor. I would highly recommend Ryan and his team.”

RYAN SKRZYPKOWSKI RSTS Group, Coldwell Banker | Global Luxury P 941.387.6630



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are welcoming with their friendly personalities. They explain and provide you with valuable information about DMK products and your particular skincare needs. You end up leaving feeling relaxed and your face looks fantastic! Nikki Pislaan (on Eridel Kitchen & Bath): Brand-new company, but entering into it with over 20 years of experience in kitchen and bath, as well as interior design. Great custom product made in the US with detailed design and installation service. They also collaborate and work alongside many local designers, builders and architects. Platinum Winner- Lokey’s

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Escape Rooms / Gold Winner- KAJ Consults / Silver Winner- FACEPOP / Bronze Winner- Eridel Kitchen & Bath

BEST SARASOTA ELECTED OFFICIAL Vern Buchanan Here’s one election US Rep. VERN BUCHANAN already has on lock. The seven-term Republican placed first in the critical primary and takes the Platinum honor. Outgoing Sheriff TOM KNIGHT locked up the Gold honor this year. And freshman State Rep. TOMMY GREGORY can boast to the local delegation that he won the Silver in this campaign. -JO Lisa Worthy (on Vern Buchanan): I like how Mr. Buchanan reaches out to his constituency on a regular basis to ask our opinion on matters in which he will vote on. Making that effort, and listening to the information he receives, is why I vote for him. Alyssa Gay (on Tommy Gregory): The thing that stands out to me most about Tommy is just how much he truly cares about the community and the state of Florida. He has unbelievable experience and knowledge, but he remains humble and is always accessible to his constituents and even those who aren’t residents of his district. Platinum Winner- Vern Buchanan / Gold Winner- Tom Knight / Silver Winner- Tommy Gregory

BEST MANATEE ELECTED OFFICIAL Vanessa Baugh County Commissioners wear the crown north of University Parkway. Manatee County Commissioner VANESSA BAUGH won Platinum honors in a landslide, while fellow County Commissioner CAROL WHITMORE took the Gold spot. But constitutional officers earned some love as well. Sheriff RICK WELLS secured a Silver star finish. -JO Joanna Pace (on Carol Whitmore): Commissioner Carol Whitmore supports and promotes animal welfare in our community. She will “do the right thing” when it comes to our four-legged friends! Mary Daugherty (on Carol Whitmore): Her heart is what makes Carol the best. Her background and experience have served her well to represent all the citizens in Manatee County. She is truly a woman of the people. She realizes that economic development, good jobs and a strong local economy will buoy all the citizens of Manatee County! Yet, she realizes smart growth must be balanced with quality of life for it to be sustainable. Platinum Winner- Vanessa Baugh / Gold WinnerCarol Whitmore / Silver Winner- Rick Wells

Best of SRQ Local Competition Methodology Every year over 4-6 months, we invite our astute readers to vote for their favorite local eats, shopping, arts and culture, attractions, professional services and hotspots culminating in the buzzworthy special “Best of SRQ Local” awards feature published in the April 2020 edition of SRQ Magazine. Only locally owned establishments may be nominated for the “Best of SRQ Local” Readers’ Competition, e.g. independent restaurants and locallyowned companies and boutiques. Limited to one ballot per person. Readers are asked to provide their name, address and email to verify each ballot. Ballots submitted without an email verification cannot be counted. Incomplete ballots with too few votes overall or those with votes only in 2 to 3 categories will not be accepted. Celebrate with us at the TGIF Best of SRQ Local Party on Friday, June 5, 2020 at Aloft Hotel in Downtown Sarasota. 106 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local


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Gosselin’s Salad


Montreal transplants bring Sarasota a culinary and cultural experience not yet seen or tasted here with Avlí Mess Hall. Brittany Mattie

AFTER MORE THAN TWO DECADES OF OPENING MORE than 25 world-class restaurants throughout Montreal, Canada and Alexandria, Egypt, where was restaurateur Edward Zaki to go from there? Learn how to sail and take his wife Mila on a yearlong sabbatical and catamaran around the world? Maybe. It was a possibility. But Zaki wasn’t ready to throw in the dish towel and retire from restaurants quite yet. Still at the helm of acclaimed French restaurant Chez Victoire in Montreal with partner and Executive Chef Alexandre Gosselin, the duo of 15 years had a yearning for a new venture—something was pulling them down south, but not to another big, fast-paced, densely populated city like Miami or LA, already saturated with plenty of options for elevated ethnic cuisine. Stumbling upon Sarasota, on what seemed like a serendipitous happenstance, Zaki and Chef Gosselin snatched up an opportunity on the corner of Main Street and Orange Avenue as a sign of new beginnings. The team was eager to bring the mini metropolis something they hadn’t quite tapped into yet here, a breath of fresh air to the evolving foodie subculture downtown. Enter Avlí Mess Hall Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar.

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Locals may have noticed the long-standing orange paint of the former El Greco’s facade change to a bright coastal blue, evocative of the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean. But the real transformation happened inside. Zaki, Gosselin and General Manager Mila Aguiar went to work renovating the entirety of the interior—gutting the original infrastructure to basically nuts and bolts for a fresh start. After knocking down a wall or two, removing a layer of the ceiling once or twice, adding in a bar and trading out dark carpet for cobblestone-esque flooring, the “open courtyard” concept of avlí, (from ancient Greek,) came to life with a bright, enlivened, homey space. And with “mess hall,” meaning a place where groups of people meet or gather to eat, drink, laugh and socialize, the opened space can live up to its name. “We wanted to bring to Sarasota what we do in Montreal,” says Aguiar. “Flavorful Mediterranean-styledfood—withoutboundaries or restrictions on a specific country—all fresh, made in-house, locally sourced, with a Montreal flair.” From a vibrant bar with hightops to more cozy, casual seating and a designated, formal dining area, Avlí Mess Hall invites all types of gatherings to convene and converse. Share meze plates of Pickled Olives, Smoked Fish Rillettes, Fried Calamari or Zucchini Beignets, and then uncork a bottle of white Assyrtiko, arguably Greece’s most iconic wine grape variety, indigenous to the island 108 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local

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Left to right: Zaki Gosselin and General Manager Mila Aquiar. Lamp chop special.

of Santorini. Hot mezes like Cairo Falafel, Alexandria Kefta, Spanakopita and tapas style spreads of spicy feta, tzatziki, Syrian baba ganoush, farmers market hummus and muhammara served with grilled pita to please the masses and go down nice with Alpha beer, a traditional Greek lager. If the evening’s going swimmingly, stick around for the homemade Baklava dessert with pistachio, almond, thyme honey and pickled cherries or a couple rounds of Pasion Alegria, an artisan sangria from Spain made from red wine of native varietals, citrus fruits and cinnamon. While international mixed tunes emanate throughout, the decor romanticizes Southern European culture and coastlines with an eclectic collection of design elements. Zaki and Aguiar took to yard sales, antique shops and Circus City Architectural Salvage to deck out the refreshed space. Swing doors distressed in blues and greens and hanging from the ceiling by link chains are not hard to spot, along with a mini clawfoot bathtub filled with firewood logs, a captain’s wheel, nautical rope knots, brass-detailed candleholders, a vintage wine rack and an upcycled metal boudoir made into a server station. It doesn’t take long for Avlí to dispatch diners to a boho fishing village along the Mediterranean Sea. And back where the magic happens, Chef Gosselin showcases his extensive French training with an affinity for healthy, wholesome ingredients, and an

eye for balancing colors and flavors when plating. Avlí’s farm-to-table Mediterranean cuisine means Gosselin’s kitchen cuts no corners—baking their own breads, preparing their own dressings, cooking all meats and fish over a wood fire, and sourcing only locally grown produce. But while many Sarasotan foodies have now come to expect much of the aforementioned already from new restaurants, Avlí sets itself apart with a contemporary flair and some unexpected twists. Gosselin’s French-style cooking tends to get playful with adventurous dish combinations and alternative takes on other country’s ingredients and spices. Piri Piri Chicken Breast sizzles off the charcoal grill with cheddar potato puree and smoked paprika yogurt. The Moussaka comes stacked with prime ground beef, zucchini, eggplant, béchamel and tomatoes in herb oil and cinnamon. The Saganaki with seared cheese and ouzo arrives tableside, flambé lit in a castiron pan with fluffy pita bread, while Grilled Octopus uniquely boasts mint, coriander, peanuts, yogurt, black garlic and rice krispies. “His dishes are like works of art,” says Zaki of his partner. “You don’t even want to touch them. And as visually beautiful as the presentation is, the well-balanced flavors of acidity and texture—with ingredients you may not think necessarily go together— create a mind-blowing culinary and cultural experience.” SRQ PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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At Blackbeard’s Ranch, steaks make the case for sustainability. THE DRIVE OUT TO THE END of Fruitville Road is characterized by a gradual change in scenery. Churches of varied denominations cluster on both sides of the road—Faith Baptist, New Life Lutheran, Palabra de Fe—and these give way to empty lots adorned with centuriesold live oaks draped in Spanish moss. At a threeway stop 12 miles east of I-75, the topography is devoid of recognizable landmarks of the built environment—fast food chains, gas stations, traffic lights—with only the asphalt to serve as a constant reminder that humans have cut a tame path through the saw palmetto and wiregrass prairies of the state’s interior. Further still, the quality of the road changes abruptly, as if civilization decided these parts are too far to be worth the trouble of heavy machinery. Like the pockmarked asphalt, the landscape is now dotted with sloughs and oak hammocks, innumerable creeks and springs, populated by white-tailed deer. Even amidst an arid winter, the terrain bursts with life in all shades of green, which bodes especially well for animals both wild and domesticated. This idyllic landscape is also the paradise for a certain bipedal animal—real-life cowboys. Jim Strickland is one such cowboy. His family has been in Florida’s centuries-old cow-calf game since the 1800s, and Strickland took over

his family’s livelihood at the tender age of 17. “I wanted to be a cowboy at eight years old,” he says from beneath a cattleman’s cowboy hat in a hardy baritone with a slight Southern drawl. Today, he manages Blackbeard’s Ranch, a 4,500acre property that has likely felt the heavy hooves of cows and calves for more than 300 years. The ranch shares a border with the northern wilds of Myakka River State Park, forming a nearly continuous tract of land. After a stint as a real estate agent and a stretch as a property appraiser for Manatee County, Strickland had a front-row seat to the sale and development of lands like those found on the ranch or in the state park, so he came back to ranching with a new perspective. Nowadays, Strickland does more than make a romanticized living chasing cattle around: He’s added land steward to his résumé. “We’re right at the headwaters of the Myakka River,” he says, which means that Blackbeard’s plays a vital role in the hydrological health of the region. Both the pastures and pristine parts of the ranch help to filter impurities out of rain runoff, runoff that eventually makes its way into Charlotte Harbor and into the region’s drinking water. As Strickland tells it, the Florida lands he grew up on exist under constant threat of being paved over. When that happens, it’s typically without sufficient

A day in the life of Blackbeard’s Ranch.

Andrew Fabian

strategies in place to help mitigate the unseemlier effects of fertilizer runoff commonly associated with golf courses and water-hungry lawns. So, Strickland has taken up arms to help battle the encroachment of concrete and preserve the green spaces so vital to Florida’s ecosystem, and as he set out to assemble his squad of horse-mounted sustainability soldiers, he found what many would consider an unlikely ally. Julie Morris cuts a formidable figure. She is tall, with piercing blue eyes, well-sunned skin and a quick trigger for talking all things conservation. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in environmental studies, then earned a graduate degree in wildlife ecology and conservation from the University of Florida. A lot of her career has been spent advocating for conservation easements, in which landowners sell their land to the state or federal government at a discount in exchange for a guarantee that the land will be effectively preserved forever. This is where the priorities of a cowboy and a conservationist overlap. “People have a misconception about agriculture and ranches,” says Morris, “but ranchlands are the next best thing to pristine—they protect a lot of habitat.” Lands like the native sloughs or orderly pastures on Blackbeard’s Ranch do more than feed and

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water well-adapted cows with nutrient-rich grasses: They attract birds and creepy-crawlies, provide a pollination amusement park for bees, and create a wildlife corridor in which endangered species like the Florida panther can thrive. So, the domesticated cows and calves raised on Blackbeard’s Ranch have unwittingly become an important cog in the living machine that is Florida’s ecology. Strickland and Morris’s collaboration often sees them side-by-side on a Kawasaki Mule, the cowboy keeping his eyes peeled for the condition and location of his herd, the conservationist adding to her to-do list of environmental projects that will support the native landscape best—a controlled burn here, a clearing of overgrown underbrush there, perhaps the addition of a drainage ditch to prevent excessive flooding. Strickland obliges Morris in her counsel, no matter the scale, because he is committed to running one of the most sustainable cow-calf operations in the state. “Of all the ranches in the state of Florida, our way of doing it accounts for only two percent,” he says, and in a billion-dollar state industry, he is willfully cutting himself out of a lot of money. “Rancher’s don’t get rich selling beef anyway,” he adds, “They get rich when they sell their land to developers.” In addition to adopting science-based sustainability practices for the land, Strickland has also imposed a set of exacting standards on the production of his bovine commodity, not to win blue ribbons in the court of public opinion, but because he PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAX KELLY.

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believes it is the right thing to do. The standards include, among other things, a commitment to producing the cleanest grass-fed beef possible. No antibiotics or steroids course through the veins of his free-range herd, just pure protein and nutrients from clean fields of green. This yields top-shelf meat—tender, flavorful, red and juicy. Strickland can finish the beef with grass or grain, the latter yielding a higher fat content while the former is considered a more premium product. After a long day in the sun, Strickland likes to cut into some of the beef he ages on the ranch and light up a gas grill for a simple rancher’s lunch. It might include anywhere between three and ten ribeyes depending on the number of cowboys and cowgirls (or formerly vegetarian conservationists), along with a buttered baguette wrapped in foil and tossed on the grill’s top rack. “I’m not much of a cook,” he says, though with meat so lovingly raised on his open pastures, it would be hard to go wrong with just a dash of salt and pepper before throwing the cuts on the grill. “We have the only prime beef that’s born, raised and processed entirely in-state,” says Strickland. He and Morris hope to leverage that seemingly inane fact into more awareness for the conservation of unspoiled land as well as ranchlands. Great chefs and experienced foodies all say the same thing: Good food is as much about the story as it is about the preparation. An apple can be an apple, or it can be the symbol of a family orchard maintained for several generations

by descendants of the original planters. In the latter, the apple might not actually contain more sweetness or a ruddier glow than an apple from a neighboring orchard, but when it’s prefaced by a story, it speaks to the human propensity for a good tale. For Blackbeard’s Ranch, it’s no different. In their effort to bring more awareness to their advocacy for conservation, Morris and Strickland conceived of a plan both simple and brilliant. “We started using the food to tell a story,” says Strickland. They now give tours to legislators, conservationists, ranchers, chefs and, lucky for this author, media outlets, and these tours most often end with a version of the preceding rancher’s lunch. In these cases, the steaks serve as a pristine selling tool for a worthy cause. Blackbeard’s has also set out to select a handful of restaurants to carry its meat products, with Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island as the earliest adopter. “We’ll probably cap it at just three or four restaurants,” says Strickland, “because producing beef this way means you can’t produce the volume of more profit-driven beef suppliers.” But, again, the steaks are just a means to an end, a way to package sustainability and environmental stewardship in a palatable format. A porterhouse can just be a cut of beef, or it can contain within its fibers the whisper of a story about a rancher and a conservationist vanquishing the evils of land mismanagement. That sounds like a darn good steak. SRQ

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A MEZZE-MERIZING PLATTER Scrumptious mezze platter wants you to share the love.

Ariel Chates

THE SPIRIT OF SHARING is at the heart of the mezze platter. Why order one dish, when you could order 20? For your next dinner party, skip Taco Tuesday and instead, feast like a Greek god, treating your palate to the wonders of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Grab some colorful cushions and arrange them around a low table decorated with candles and draped in printed cloth. More is always merrier with guests, but especially with food. Fill the room with your favorite people and the table with plates of hummus, baba ganoush, warm pita bread and as many other delicious bites as can fit. Turn up the tunes, lay your feet up on a pillow, dig in and only stop when you’re fala-full.

CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: MEZZE PLATTER Chicken skewers, gyro meat, hummus, tzatziki, spanakopita, tomatoes, beets, Greek olives, feta and grilled pita; Apollonia Grill, 4956 S. Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, YELLOW LENTIL DIP Yellow lentils with red onion, oregano and EVOO; Blu Kouzina, 25 N. Boulevard of the Presidents, Sarasota, SAMPLER APPETIZER Htipiti (spicy feta dip), hummus and tzatziki; Athen’s Family Restaurant, 2300 Bee Ridge Rd., The Colannade Plaza, Sarasota, MEDITERRANEAN PLATTER Baba ganoush, hummus, tahini, couscous and chopped salads served with falafel and pita bread; Fresh Start Cafe, 630 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota,, @Fresh_Start_Cafe. LOLITA’S SAMPLER Spreads of fresh salmon, tzatziki and eggplant caviar served with warm bread; Lolita Tartine, 1419 5th St., Sarasota, 112 | srq magazine_ APR20 live local

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nosh CROW’S NEST MARINA RESTAURANT 1968 Tarpon Center Dr., Venice, 941-484-9551. CASUAL FINE DINING The Crow’s Nest is a casual fine dining restaurant, serving fresh seafood, steaks and other traditional Florida favorites. Located on the Island of Venice and nestled between the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Intracoastal Waterway on the north and east, Crow’s Nest has become a waterfront fixture for surf ‘n’ turf. M–W 11:30am-10pm. Th 11:30am–11pm. F-Sa 11:30am–12:30am. Su 12–10pm. DUVAL’S FRESH. LOCAL. SEAFOOD. 1435 Main St., Sarasota, 941-312-4001. SEAFOOD Duval’s Fresh. Local. Seafood. is excited to announce: Duval’s Free. Local. Shu le! Your experience at Duval’s should be what you’re expecting. For dinner, try the Chef Selected Fresh Catch, an offering of the freshest fish in the market, and fillet your fresh catch in-house. Featuring a 3-5-7 Happy Hour and late night. M–Th 11am–9pm. F–Sa 11am–10pm. Su 10am– 9pm. ELEMENT 1413 Main St., Sarasota, 941-724-8585. MODERN MEDITERRANEAN In the heart of downtown Sarasota, you don’t want to miss the upscale Mediterranean grill, Element. Try their Sambuca shrimp with bacon crème, crisp prosciu o, tomato fennel compote and pine nuts. For dinner, their 12 oz. bone-in center cut porcini-encrusted veal chop is delectable. For a large party, order the table an entire roast suckling pig; which serves four to six guests and is cooked with apples, figs and shallots. Equipped with an extensive wine list and an enticing array of cra cocktails, dining at Element is a must-try experience. M-Th 4:30pm-10pm. F-Sa 4:30pm11pm. Su 10:30am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-10pm. F-Sa. GECKO’S GRILL & PUB 6 convenient locations. Serving AMERICAN PUB FOOD WITH A GOURMET TWIST Fresh fare, smooth spirits & exceptional hospitality since 1992. Locally owned and operated, Gecko’s polished casual atmosphere, fantastic food, service-forward culture and specialty cocktails make it an enduring community gathering place. Serving Lunch, Dinner & Late Night and a favorite of Locals and visitors alike. Voted “BEST SPORTS BAR.” Featuring daily Happy Hours, weekly Chef’s Specials, locally sourced seasonal produce & beef from our farm and ranch partners, all your favorite sporting events, award-winning Kids Menu and teams of friendly hospitality professionals.


GROVE 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch, 941893-4321. CONTEMPORARY GOURMET DINING GROVE Restaurant, Patio and Ballroom is the newest offshoot of PIER 22, the award-winning waterfront destination headed by restaurateurs Hugh Miller and Greg Campbell. A full-service restaurant and events venue offering contemporary gourmet dining. The menu is elevated yet approachable and locally inspired. Housemade dishes emphasize fresh seasonal ingredients as well as innovative cooking methods, and with 27,000 square feet of dining space including an elegant 400 person ballroom there’s room for everyone at the table! M-Th 11:30am-10pm, F-Sa 11:30am-12am, Sun 11am-10pm. LEMON TREE KITCHEN 1289 North Palm Ave., Sarasota, 941-552-9688. HEALTHY CASUAL DINING Lemon Tree Kitchen’s all day menu highlights American Classic dishes that li the body and mind while providing a comforting meal that will appeal to the everyday diner. With wholesome clean ingredients and hand-cra ed dishes that meet every lifestyle choice, Lemon Tree Kitchen uses locally-sourced ingredients. Open daily for lunch and dinner. M–Su 11:00am–9pm. LIBBY’S NEIGHBORHOOD BRASSERIE 1917 South Osprey Ave., Sarasota, 941-487-7300. CASUAL FINE DINING Libby’s serves bistro classics and seasonal New American cuisine. Named a er the restaurant’s unforge able family matriarch, Libby, this modern American brasserie evokes style and uniqueness with a welcoming warmth. Start with the Brasserie Tartare or the Crispy Brussels. Entrees include the Double Brined Porkchop, served with yukon gold mashed potatoes and Steak Au Poivre, a wood grilled NY Strip steak. Indoor, bar, and outdoor seating is available at this Southside Village favorite. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Su–Th 11:00am–9pm. F-Sa 11:00am–10pm. MARINA JACK 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, 941-365-4232. SEAFOOD, STEAKS AND PASTA The Sarasota landmark offers its customers exceptional food and great atmosphere while dining on the water. Come to the dining room on the second floor and try some new items on the dinner menu. Start with braised mussels in a chorizo broth or short rib tostadas, which feature Gouda cheese and pulled slow-braised short rib. Open daily for lunch and dinner. M–Su 11:15am–11pm.

MATTISON’S - 3 Locations: Ma ison’s City Grille, 1 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, 941-330-0440/ Ma ison’s Forty-One, 7275 S. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota, 941-921-3400/ Ma ison’s Riverwalk Grille, 101 Riverfront Blvd., Bradenton, 941-896-9660. AMERICANN, EUROPEAN, PROVINCIALLY SOURCED MENU ITEMS Chef Paul Ma ison, executive chef and proprietor of Ma ison’s, operates a successful culinary group on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located in Sarasota and Bradenton, each Ma ison’s restaurant location is unique to its neighborhood, offering Chef Paul Ma ison’s signature menu items, outstanding service, and quality ingredients, while supporting the community, regional farmers, and culinary suppliers. Each Ma ison’s location offers outdoor dining, happy hour and live music. Ma ison’s Catering Company is an award-winning, chef-owned and operated company. Hours vary by location. MORTON’S GOURMET MARKET 1924 South Osprey Ave., Sarasota, 941-955-9856. GOURMET GROCER It’s the place where you can spend a lazy Sunday morning sipping coffee and breaking off pieces of a scone, a frenetic Friday evening collecting rare cheeses, meat and wine for Saturday’s soiree or a quick lunchtime bite to go. For the la er, Morton’s fresh-made sushi, salad bar or ready-to-go tea sandwiches are longstanding local faves. M–Sa 7am–8pm. Su 9am–6pm. MUSE AT THE RINGLING 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota, 941-359-5700. CONTEMPORARY CASUAL DINING Upscale local cuisine with international flair is the inspiration for Muse’s concept and development. Muse at The Ringling provides a comfortable and contemporary dining experience in a magnificent, artistic setting. Muse creates menus with an eye for presentation, using fresh and high quality products. Intriguing combinations and variations on cuisine anchor the innovative menu. The ideal dining spot to complement a day in the galleries or a night at the theater, Muse offers diners a culinary adventure where dishes are approached as works of art. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Su–M 11:00am–5pm. Tu–Sa 11:00am–8pm.

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OAK & STONE - 2 Locations: University Park, 5405 University Pkwy., Sarasota, 941-225-4590/ South Sarasota, 4067 Clark Rd., Sarasota, 941-893-4881 PIZZA AND CRAFT BEER At Oak & Stone, artisanal wood-fired pizzas are handcra ed and diners can select to B.Y.O.P. (build your own pie) or choose from the menu’s many custom cra pizza options. The standard tavern fare is elevated with options such as Smokey Gouda Mac n’ Cheese and Pretzel Crusted Tuna. Fresh offerings such as delicious salads and hummus plate round out the menu. Oak & Stone boasts the largest RFID technology self-serve brew wall in the region, with 56 taps that showcase local and American cra breweries, self-pourable by the ounce. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Su–Th 11:00am–11pm. F–Sa 11:00am–12am.

PIER 22 1200 1st Ave W, Bradenton, 941-748-8087. CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN Pier 22 takes waterfront dining to a new level. On the mouth of the Manatee River, the picturesque se ing is relaxing and the perfect backdrop for any outing. With over 26,000 square feet of space, Pier 22 also offers catering and space for events. They focus on fresh, homemade fare and unique twists on everyday dishes. For lunch, try their so -shell crab sandwich with jalapeno tartar sauce, with a side of poutine. While watching the sunset on the patio, dine on their fresh game of the day, sourced from around the world and always a surprise. M-Th 11:30am – 10pm. F-Sa 11:30am-10:30pm. Su 11am-10pm. Happy hour daily 3pm-7pm and Sunday Brunch 11am-3pm.

OPHELIAS ON THE BAY 9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, 941-349-2212. FINE DINING With indoor and outdoor dining options boasting incredible waterfront views of Li le Sarasota Bay, Ophelia’s On The Bay is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a delectable meal. From their PEI mussels presented in a saffron-anise e broth to incredible cocktails such as the Pink Lady, you can’t go wrong. Happy Hour M–Su 5pm–6pm. Dinner M–Su 5pm–10pm. Sunday Brunch 11am–2pm.

SHARKY’S ON THE PIER 1600 Harbour Dr. S, Venice, 941-488-1456. SEAFOOD A er just one visit to Sharky’s On the Pier, Fins at Sharky’s or Snook Haven, you’ll understand why all three restaurants have become Venice-area landmarks, smack-dab on the water. Boasting unparalleled views of the 720-foot long Venice Fishing Pier and Gulf of Mexico for over 30 years, Sharky’s has made a name for itself as Florida’s No. 1 Beach Bar with complimentary live music and entertainment, family friendly fun and a whole lot of

ocean. M–Th 11:30am–10pm. F–Sa 11:30am–12am. Sun 11:30am–10pm. TSUNAMI SUSHI & HIBACHI GRILL 100 Central Ave, Suite 1022, Sarasota, 941-366-1033. ASIAN FUSION In the heart of downtown Sarasota Florida, Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill stands alone for creative sushi, fresh sashimi and a new spin on asian fusion--all at remarkable prices. FRESH SUSHI- Made fresh before your eyes by their talented chefs. FULL BAR- They feature a full bar, with specialty cocktails like the Hibiscus Rose, Japanese Julep and Shinsu Sour. ASIAN ENTREES- Fresh and flavorful with the unique taste of Japan. M-F 11am-Close; Sat/Sun 12pmClose; Closed Daily 2:30-4:30pm.

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WORKING TOGETHER TO BECOME TOBACCO-FREE The collaboration between Virginia B. Andes Volunteer Community Clinic (VBA) and Gulfcoast South Area Health Education Center (GSAHEC) began at the end of 2016, when the two organizations initially joined forces to promote tobacco cessation services. Since then, this collaboration has blossomed into a more comprehensive and successful tobacco program in North Port and Charlotte County. VBA provides no-cost medical, pharmaceutical and wellness services to uninsured residents of Charlotte County, and GSAHEC strives to provide health education that improves the well-being of underserved communities. Subsequently, it was a natural development to combine efforts to improve the services each organization provides to tobacco users in North Port and Charlotte County. This collaboration has resulted in the total integration of tobacco cessation services into the VBA Wellness Program, offering easy access to quality cessation services and allowing for the possibility of better healthcare outcomes overall. VBA has become one of GSAHEC’s primary referral sources and its patient conversion rate—from referrals to attendees—is one of the highest. Each time a patient is identified as a tobacco user, tobacco cessation interventions are incorporated into their wellness treatment plan. From there, the patient is referred to Tobacco Free Florida services and enrolled in the monthly on-site tobacco cessation course provided by GSAHEC’s trained tobacco cessation specialists. VBA and GSAHEC staff work together to support and follow-up with each of these patients, who are encouraged to develop their individualized quitting plan and eligible for free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This partnership has demonstrated how effective tobacco cessation interventions can be when incorporated into the clinical practices of a healthcare organization. Since the collaboration began, 489 VBA patients have received intervention for tobacco cessation and over 304 patients have benefitted from receiving free NRT and incorporating tobacco cessation into their wellness treatment plans. If you would like to work together to help your patients/clients/employees become tobacco-free, please contact Gulfcoast South AHEC for more information.


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As quoted by Dr. David Klein, co-founder and medical director and Suzanne Roberts, chief executive officer, “We are truly grateful to have developed such a successful AHEC partnership over the past several years. Many of our patients have made significant changes in their lifestyle due to our AHEC collaboration. We look forward to continued success for our patients this new year.” This successful approach may be followed by other organizations to reach out and effectively serve their patients who use tobacco.

Suzanne Roberts, M.Ed., Chief Executive Officer

Dr. David Klein, M.D., Doctor and Co-Founder

2201 CANTU CT. #220 SARASOTA, FL 34232 | 941-361-6602 | GSAHEC.ORG

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All Faiths Food Bank Kicks Off Annual Campaign Against Summer Hunger

The Food Bank kicked off its annual Campaign Against Summer Hunger with a walk across the Ringling Bridge. It will launch a six-week dollar for dollar match challenge of $1.4 million from April 1 through May 15 to fund summer food programs to feed 40,000 students and their younger siblings who are at risk of going hungry over the summer. The Campaign Against Summer Hunger has become the community’s strongest line of defense against child hunger. Last year, 228 partners and programs worked together to provide 37,668 children with 3.3 million meals.

Discover the History of Transportation in the Sunshine State Discover the History of Transportation in the Sunshine State Did you know that people have been traversing Florida’s waterways in boats for at least 7,000 years? That “Old Cabbage Head,” the steam engine now housed at the Manatee Village Historical Park, was driven by Florida’s first African American conductor? Or that in the 1950s, Bradenton was home to the world’s largest trailer park and its resident Tin Can Tourists? Discover all of this and more as you explore the history of transportation in the Sunshine State using The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature’s newest Pathways tour “Reins, Trains, and Tin Can Tourists.” Pathways is a free smartphone- and tablet-based app that helps you learn more about the objects in Bishop’s unique exhibitions and the sometimes surprising stories behind them Check online for hours.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Launch Reentry Navigator Program Aware that a positive reintroduction to society is crucial to success, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation has partnered with the Sarasota County Sheriff ’s Office (SCSO) to launch the law-enforcement agency’s inaugural Reentry Navigator program. With funding from Gulf Coast, the Sheriff ’s Office has hired “reentry navigators,” who will connect inmates to reintegration programs before and after they leave the county

jail, helping them avoid returning and ultimately keeping the community safer. The Reentry Navigator program was among a dozen jaildiversion and treatment strategies recommended last summer by Sarasota County’s Criminal Justice Commission to the Sarasota County Commission.

Florida Studio Theatre Receives Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Florida Studio Theatre (FST) proudly announces it has been approved for a $15,000 Art Works grant to support The Suffragist Project: Celebrating 100 Years of the Woman’s Right to Vote. In honor of this historic milestone, The Suffragist Project has brought together more than 60 community partners, each creating their own artistic, cultural and educational programming. As part of FST’s contribution to the project, the theatre has launched Historically Speaking, an educational touring program; commissioned four playwrights to develop new plays inspired by the movement for women’s suffrage; and created an original devised play.

Junior League of Sarasota Grant Provides Preschoolers with Outdoor Classroom The Junior League of Sarasota provided a $4,000 grant to create an outdoor classroom for preschool students attending Starfish Academy at The Florida Center for Early Childhood. The funds were used to purchase special equipment designed to improve the students’ emotional and physical development. Starfish Academy, an inclusion preschool where typically developing children learn alongside those with developmental delays and/or disabilities, specializes in implementing innovative educational techniques.

SMART Receives $39,776 in Grants and Donations Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, Inc. (SMART), is pleased to announce that they have received multiple grants and donations in January 2020 totaling $39,776. This includes an $11,200 grant from the Bank of America Client Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, to support therapeutic riding and equine-assisted

activities scholarships for children with autism. SMART also received unrestricted donations of $16,000 from the Second Chance Foundation and $1,500 from the Manatee Memorial Foundation. The Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club donated $7,000 to support two Warriors in Transition sessions in the spring and to adopt two of SMART’s horses—Magic and Norman. The Norman and Phyllis Siskel Donor Advised Fund donated $4,076 to support the Warriors in Transition session and SMART’s literacy program in February 2020.

Music Scholarship Program for Local High School and College Students Holds Third Annual Auditions Saint Boniface Episcopal Church is holding their third annual Young Artist Showcase Auditions on April 4. Applications are open to local high school and pre-degree college students from the Sarasota–Bradenton area. The Young Artist Showcase program began in 2017 as an initiative to provide performance opportunities to local and aspiring young musicians. The Saint Boniface Friends of Music felt that there were not enough scholarships and performing opportunities for young musicians with a desire to pursue music as a profession and they made a commitment to form a program that would benefit these students. Flash forward to present day: The Saint Boniface Young Artist Program is thriving in 2020.

Grant Helps Girls Inc. Expand Mental-Health Services A grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation enables Girls Inc. of Sarasota County to serve more vulnerable girls and their families with much-needed Girls Inc. programming and mental-health services. The $25,000 grant, approved by the foundation’s Board of Directors, will help Girls Inc. expand its family-strengthening program to reach girls living in crisis situations, with a concentration on Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA) residences and girls with similar needs. The funding will support on-site services for girls and their families at SHA housing as well as scholarships so additional girls can participate in after-school and summer programs at Girls Inc.’s main campus on Tuttle Avenue.

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giving coast Florida CraftArt Adds Four New Board Members Founded in 1951, Florida CraftArt is a memberssupported, statewide nonprofit gallery with a mission to serve contemporary fine craft artists and the creative economy in Florida. The organization is overseen by a Board of Directors and is proud to welcome four new members: Claudia Larrain, John Mascoll, David Ramsey and Stacia Schrader. Florida CraftArt shows more than 250 of Florida’s fine craft artists’ work in its downtown 2,500-square-foot gallery space. The adjacent gallery features eight curated exhibitions annually. Workshops, performances and other outreach programming coincide with each exhibition to engage and educate the public and enrich the vibrant art community in St. Petersburg.


UnidosNow Receives $20,000 in Honor of Their 10th Year Anniversary

Virtual Reality Aids Clinical Staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital

UnidosNow, the Sarasota-Manatee-based nonprofit guiding low-income, first-generation students to pursue their postsecondary education, received a $20,000 donation from one of its founders and local attorney, C.J. Czaia, and his law firm, Czaia Law, honoring the organization’s 10-year anniversary. UnidosNow was established in 2010 to address the integration needs of the region’s fastest-growing and most underrepresented demographic in the area: the Latinx community. Attorney C.J. Czaia, Kelly Kirschner and Luis Eduardo Barón founded the organization knowing the value the Hispanic community was bringing to the region, and wanting to help Latin youth and their families reach their highest potential.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) is using virtual reality (VR) technology to create an immersive experience that will let clinicians walk around in and evaluate the layout and design of patient rooms and procedural areas planned in the new SMH-Venice hospital, now under construction on Laurel Road. The VR platform allows SMH team members to share important feedback as they take a virtual tour and experience what it will be like caring for patients inside the hospital. Construction on the hospital is on track to “top out” (reach its highest point) in April and open in the fall of 2021 with 110 private patient suites.

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last flight

looking at the sun coming up onto the buildings and thought about all the great views we have and what a pretty town we live in. Your favorite virtue . . . Loyalty. In our hometown, we do too much complaining and too little collaboration to find out how we can improve the community.

ESPRESS YO SELF Waking up at the crack of dawn and slinging exotic brews with the founder of O & A Coffee and Supply, Justin Banister. Brittany Mattie

You may have come to recognize the glabrous face of a certain mobile coffee cart whilst seeking out the lion logo Roar Blend roast or a caffeinated pick-me-up. But what you may not know about this Kansas City native is that he shamelessly has a thing for a certain Latin pop-star, Disney classics, gelatin-based candies and holds a license to operate aircraft. Share a cup of joe with Justin and learn what makes the beverage connoisseur and patron of fidelity tick. a recent day in the life? I typically get up around 6am and head to the coffee shop— helping staff prepare for the day as we get set up then making a cup of coffee to sit down and take my first few breaths while sipping it. Throughout my day, I work with customers in the shop, as well as our wholesale clients, helping them with different solutions for their stores in coffee needs— whether it be replying to emails or on-site development, installs or

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repairs. Then in the afternoon, working on palate development for our staff with new coffees and new flavor profiles. When you were a kid, you dreamed of . . . Being a fighter pilot in the Navy. Your guilty pleasure . . . Gummy bears and Shakira. Thought you had driving to work today. As I was driving into downtown Sarasota, I was

Your last supper would include . . . Ribs from Gates & Son’s Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, frozen custard with gummy bears and, of course, a cup of coffee, which would be the Panama Esmeralda Geisha varietal from the Carmen Estate Lot 601. Favorite Villains . . . Captain Hook, Inspector Javert from Les Misérables. Words you use too often . . . “Totally...” and “Basically...” Your favorite music artists . . . Showbread, The Monkees, As Cities Burn, Shakira, Muddy Waters, Jack White. Your favorite food of the moment . . . Poké bowls from FushiPoké. Your T-shirt motto? “Coffee.” If you could snap your fingers and appear somewhere else . . . Irazú Volcano National Park in Costa Rica. Song that describes your life right now? “Run This Town” by Jay-Z. Scariest thing you’ve ever done? My first solo flight as a pilot when I was 16, flying over Kansas City.

Biggest fashion faux pas? Shoulder pads and bell-bottoms. If not yourself, who would you be? Walt Disney. If you could undo one invention in the world, what would it be? The Keurig. Funniest thing you remember doing as a kid . . . I was actually a very serious and business-minded child. I guess you would have to ask my mom about this. One thing you will never understand . . . Facial hair, because it’s something I will never attain. If you had a boat, what would you name it? Esmeralda. With two more hours in the day . . . I would play in the coffee lab and create things, work on palate development and inventions of new coffee equipment. Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button in your life? I don’t think I would have either. For what fault have you been the most tolerant? I am pretty tolerant. If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? James Hoffman (author of The World Atlas of Coffee), Matt Perger (owner of Barista Hustle), and my mom. Which cartoon character best represents your personal philosophy? Mickey Mouse, because of his loyalty and how he cares for his friends. SRQ


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