This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Sarasota’s very own Circus Arts Conservatory, an institution with one foot in a historic past and both eyes set firmly on an ambitious future. Twenty-five years ago, Dolly Jacobs and Pedro Reis joined forces in an effort marked by a shared, artistic passion and translated through a high-flying romance. In an interview with SRQ Magazine’s Executive Publisher Wes Roberts, Dolly and Pedro reminisce about how they found the circus, how they found each other and how their innovative approach to education has reinvigorated an appreciation for the circus arts within our community and internationally. For a town that in many ways was built by the circus through John and Mable Ringling, there couldn’t be a more exciting torch for these two innovators to carry forward.
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As the traffic eases and the temperatures rise, the heat turns up on the local list of fun and adventure. From sunset cruising to fireworks and music, and from delectable dining to terrific theater and even a workout guaranteed to bring on the sweat without the sun, these summer sizzlers are just what you need to spice up the season.
Tekmara, a Sarasota-based startup creates the world’s first self-sustaining gardens at sea. Repair the Sea is bringing easily compostable cutlery to faith-based organizations in Sarasota. Biker and fitness fanatic Mark Hughes is taking a 4,200-mile ride to remember this summer. After operating for years out of a 16-foot box truck, custom clothier Tweeds Suit Shop opened its first brick-and-mortar store in downtown Sarasota. Professor Dr. Joseph Dituri attempts to set a world record for living undersea for 100 Days.
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The Hat Theater Collective premiers its first production of The Ballad of Old Manatee this spring.
Tzeva’s eclectic Mediterranean menu reimagines hotel dining. At JPAN, Daniel Dokko and his team blend age-old sushi traditions with modern presentation.
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Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and Desoto Counties President and CEO Bill Sadlo says he makes all decisions in the best interest of the children.
Cover: Circus icons Dolly Jacobs and Pedro Reis share the story of the Circus Arts Conservatory as the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary, photographed at the Circus Arts Conservatory Big Top at University Town Center by Wes Roberts. Previous page: Enjoying the glow of the sunset at The Bay. For more Summer Sizzlers, turn to page 21. This page: Tzeva’s charred octopus, Tweeds opening up their brick and mortar boutique and Danae DeShazer of the new Hat Theatre Collective.
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STORIES ABOUT THE LOCAL PEOPLE, PLACES AND EXPERIENCES THAT DEFINE OUR HOMETOWN
Tekmara founder Todd Kleperis hopes to make waves in sustainable agriculture.
WHEN PEOPLE IMAGINE A FARM, they conjure up images of red barns and bucolic fields dotted with grazing cattle. They don’t envision floating ocean pods that harness wave power to grow sustainable crops. Todd Kleperis, the founder of Tekmara, a name he created to illustrate the concept of technology for tomorrow, has combined his robotics experience with a passion for coastal restoration to create the Ocean Pod, or OPOD, the world’s first self-sustaining garden at sea.
Kleperis worked in the robotics field in the AsiaPacific region, where he observed the untapped energy source that waves provided. “We had a great robot, but it could only go so fast. However, I knew that the ocean had a tremendous amount of power that wasn’t yet being utilized,” he says. Kleperis’ fascination with wave power was just a drop in the bucket compared to his other marine interests, which he shared with his friend Chris, who passed away in 2021. “Chris was an incredible advocate for the ocean. He had submarines and his own marina. He did underwater research about munitions, which are a big target area. For decades since World War I, chemical weapons have been put in drums and dumped off the East and West coasts of the United States, so toxic substances like mustard gas are leaching into our oceans.” The pair had discussed starting up a coastal restoration project to address this issue, and Chris’ passing spurred Kleperis into action. “I thought that if I didn’t do this now, then I’d never do it,” he adds.
Inspired by waves’ potential as an energy source, he cobbled together technologies from various industries to create the OPOD, a vertical garden that floats atop the ocean. These eco-restorative gardens generate clean water, food and power from the sea. To provide fresh water to the growing plants, the pod utilizes wave power to desalinate the water, a system
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licensed to Tekmara from New Zealand. “With 180 of those systems, we could generate enough water for every single tap in New Zealand,” he says. To provide the plants with sunlight, the pod employs refractive light technology that does not give off heat. The pod’s sustainable innovations make it an ideal solution for a world facing ever-growing agricultural and climactic woes. “Agriculture is broken, and our soil is depleted. With the amount of drought predicted for the next 50 years, we need systems in place for people hard pressed for clean water.”
To test its food production efficacy, Kleperis began growing yellow and red oyster mushrooms inside of the pod. Within two days of launching the experiment, the pod began producing mushrooms, and 45 days later, the first crop awaited harvesting. Restaurants such as Bistr09 in San Antonio, Texas dove into the project, sourcing mushrooms for their dishes from Tekmara. Kojo, Selva and Jack Dusty at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota are in the process of trialing the mushrooms. According to Kleperis, the mushrooms’ quality is identical to those grown in a person’s backyard garden, making them an ideal topping for pizza, salads and other dishes. While the flavorful fungi are impressive, the pod supports more wonder below the ocean’s surface.
The pods will be placed along Florida’s coastline near mangroves, which act as giant filters. The red mangrove is one of the only plants on the planet able to desalinate water by itself. “With the power behind the mangroves and what we’re doing, we support eco-restorative features created by wave attenuation devices that create stacks underneath the pod that house bivalves, sea cucumbers, sea grasses, oysters and clams, creating a mini-reef area.” They also plan to introduce a red tide remediation technology to the pods this summer. Part of Enterprise Florida and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Tekmara hopes to draw in smart investors looking to conserve the ocean and help the company grow.
For now, the OPOD prototype, built in Kleperis’ garage over a three-month span, bobs by Siesta Key Circle on Siesta Key, on full display for people to see. “The Gulf Coast is a beautiful area with lots of visibility,” he says. “People are figuring out that there’s a really good thing down here. We just have to protect it.” SRQ
Explore The OPOD is located at 845 Siesta Key Circle, Siesta Key. To learn more about Tekmara and the OPDO, visit tekmara.com.
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IMAGES COURTESY OF TEKMARA.
DEEP DIVE TO REPAIR THE SEA
Repair the Sea is bringing compostable cutlery to faith-based organizations in Sarasota. Barbie Heit
A JEWISH ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT’S BLUE GREEN INITIATIVE, thanks to the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, is bringing compostable cutlery to faith-based organizations in Sarasota. Repair the Sea, a global nonprofit organization “where science and spirituality intersect from a Jewish perspective,” has a mission to protect and support the marine environment. Founded by CEO Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, the campus rabbi for Eckerd College, Repair the Sea envisions a world where the ocean is clean, where marine life is abundant and safe and where the sanctity of the sea is appreciated and protected. It is offering Sarasota faith-based organizations the opportunity to reconsider their approach to food and fellowship.
As he was teaching his students about Tashlich, a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah where Jews symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year by tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water, one of his students suggested that they do a reverse Tashlich, where they actually remove human sin from the water rather than throwing it in. Nearly 40 billion single-use plastic forks, knives and spoons are sold annually in the United States with plastic cutlery being used in restaurants, schools, offices, hospitals and places of worship. Unfortunately, the cutlery ends up in landfills or the ocean where it releases toxic chemicals into the soil and water where it is consumed by marine life and sea birds.
“Current scientific data says that by 2048 if we don't change our practices of overfishing and pollution there will be more plastic in the ocean by volume than fish,” says Rosenthal. “In Sarasota, we want to get every church, every synagogue, every mosque off singleuse plastics because it’s used once and then thrown away. People don't even think about it and it is one of the worst contributors to the degradation of the marine environment.” The Blue Green Initiative replaces single-use cutlery with fully-compostable cutlery made by VerTerra. The product is made of fallen palm leaves and scrap wood without bonding agents, lacquers, or chemicals. It decomposes in the backyard and, through the initiative, comes at no cost to faithbased organizations in Sarasota.
The Salvation Army of Sarasota County is the most recent partner. Each year, the Salvation Army serves 120,000 meals across the community. Until now, the organization served meals using plastic cutlery. Rosenthal worked with the group and arranged the delivery of 120,000 pieces of compostable products to their downtown Sarasota location in March. “Repair the Sea is not specifically a faith-based organization, but rather an educational opportunity. We're based in the Jewish tradition, but we're reaching out to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists . . . basically, everybody in order to educate them,” says Rosenthal. SRQ
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Left: Rabbi Ed Rosenthal of the Repair the Sea initiative. To learn more about Repair the Sea or make a donation, visit repairthesea.org
Right: Donald Carlson opens his first brick and mortar Tweeds Suit Shop,1423 1st St.,Sarasota, tweedssuitshop.com.
CUT FROM ENTREPRENEURIAL CLOTH
“I TELL GUYS ALL THE TIME THAT IT’S BECOME more and more of a decision and a choice to wear a suit,” says Donald Carlson. “No one really has to wear a suit to work anymore. If you’re wearing a suit, you’ve made the conscious decision to look good and stand out from the pack. I know that when I wear a suit, I feel much better, I hold my head a little bit higher and feel more professional. It sends a signal to my brain: OK, I’m working right now.” Carlson is the founder of Tweeds Suit Shop, a high-end custom suit shop, and clothier that specializes in designing one-of-a-kind pieces for a wide range of clientele. A longtime mobile entity, Tweeds Suit Shop established its first brickand-mortar location in downtown Sarasota this past March, marking a big step in the right direction for Carlson. “We started as a mobile custom clothier–we got our hands on a 16-foot box truck in July of 2019 and operated out of that for a few years,” says Carlson. “We traveled to clients’ homes and offices, for fittings and designing custom pieces. We still do that today, but now we have a home base with ready-to-order suits as well as custom suits, belts, ties, shoes and more.”
For Carlson, the decision to carve out a career in the fashion industry came naturally. His family owns a drycleaning business and Carlson grew up picking up and dropping off clothes for clients. “I’ve always been around fine clothing, which made me adopt the theories:
dress for success, look good, feel good, that sort of thing,” says Carlson. “I worked with my dad from 2012 to 2019, helping him with the financial and marketing side of his business, but eventually I got a little burnt out and decided to figure out how to get into the custom clothing business. That’s how Tweeds started.”
Clients visit Tweeds for more than just a suit. They go for the confidence that comes with knowing they’re wearing a tailored piece of clothing customized just for them. “There are a few reasons why guys will come to us, besides the point of them wanting something really nice that they look good and feel good in. There are some gentlemen that just have different builds and can’t fit into something off the rack or just aren’t able to find what they want,” says Carlson. “During an appointment, we take about 45 minutes with the client to figure out what they’re looking for. We break it down into three steps: discover, design and measure. Are they getting married, going to a wedding, heading to a black tie event or do they just need to add suits to their closet? Then we take all their measurements, there are about 30 different measurement points to create the suit, we take pictures and videos to understand what their posture looks like so we know how to properly cut the suit and then from there we pick the fabrics and design the suit from scratch.” SRQ
Tweeds Suit Shop launches brick-and-mortar. Dylan Campbell
A RIDE ACROSS AMERICA
Biker Mark Hughes is taking a 4,200-mile ride to remember this summer. Barbie
THE FIRST QUESTION EVERYONE ASKS MARK HUGHES when they learn he’s planning a 4,200-mile bike ride across America this summer is . . . “Why?” The 59-yearold semi-retired IT engagement manager originally from Michigan says he just really enjoys a challenge when it comes to fitness. Hughes has competed in mountain bike races, road races, iron man competitions and tennis tournaments and most recently in 2021, has hiked the Appalachian Trail.
The latest endeavor for Hughes involves a summer bike trip with eight to ten other bikers he met through Adventure Cyclist magazine that begins in Astoria, Oregon in June 2023. From there, the group will ride the Lewis and Clark Trail and take the northern route from Oregon to Wisconsin, hopping on a ferry to cross Lake Michigan into Lower Michigan, then ride through Canada, the northern side of Lake Erie, New York and finally Maine, where they expect to end their trip this August.
Hughes will ride a touring bike that he built himself by watching YouTube videos and reading cycling articles. He used a Linskey titanium frame for the best performance and strength and will load it with all kinds of hanging bags and gadgets for the trip. Added to that preparation is a five-day-per-week, 150-mile training regimen on a loaded bike weighing about 55 lbs. He’s been training since early January on the Legacy Trail. While Hughes says that the loaded bike felt very heavy at first, now that he’s conditioned, it is easier to ride.
The trip will take about 80 days in total riding between 60 and 80 miles a day, depending on the speed of riders. The entire trip is self-contained, meaning the riders will have camping gear, food and water on their bikes, planning to stop at campsites, hotels, hostels and warm showers which are private homes that people open up to cyclists. For safety, Hughes will use a Garmin bike radar with a Garmin head that will give him stats, a rear radar that attaches to the back of the bike with video and audio alerts for cars coming up from behind, a dynamo hub that generates electricity from the spinning wheels, allowing for battery charging and lights and rain gear for bad weather. “We’ll wake up, set a goal for the day, and as we go, we’ll find stopping points,” says Hughes. “It’s not 100 percent planned, but we'll be on the Northern Route on established trails.” SRQ
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.
Left: Ride along with Mark Hughes this summer by following him on Instagram @ MarkOnTheTrail.
UNDER THE SEA
THE CLOSEST THAT MOST PEOPLE COME to living under the sea is watching The Little Mermaid or gazing through the glass of massive aquarium tanks. For Dr. Joseph Dituri, nicknamed Dr. Deep Sea, aquatic life is no longer a fantasy, but a reality. On March 1, he submerged into the Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida with the goal of living underwater for 100 days to advance medical understanding of the body’s response to prolonged increased physical pressure experienced with subsea habitation.
Dituri, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and assistant professor of medicine at the University of South Florida medical school, has long been fascinated with the ocean. He was in the Navy for 28 years, where he worked as a saturation diving officer. Many of his colleagues were noteworthy scientists and inspired by them, he went on to study medicine with a focus on traumatic brain injuries. Hyperbaric medicine, which dates back to the 1600s, represents one treatment method for such ailments. According to Sarasota Memorial
Hospital, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a subsect of hyperbaric medicine, entails “breathing 100 percent oxygen at a pressure greater than the surrounding atmosphere,” and “helps accelerate healing by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels, tissue and bone cells.” When underwater, humans experience increased pressure, which Dituri is undergoing while working in the lodge. “I’m at a greater pressure than people at the surface,” he says, “and I’m studying what happens to patients living in an isolated and compressed environment at that higher pressure.”
Accompanied by a 10-person medical team studying everything from his physical to psychological state, Dituri also works with 100 other people helping to facilitate his mission. Based on his studies, he hypothesizes that this period spent underwater will improve his overall health. So far, the results appear promising. Dituri’s sleep data illustrates positive trends and above-average levels of REM sleep, allowing him to remain awake and alert for media interviews, classes with his university students, online lessons with high
schoolers across the globe and sessions spent writing the sequel to his novel, entitled Secrets in Depth. Going about his daily routine, Dituri has become acquainted with the marine life that surrounds the lodge, like nurse sharks, squids, schools of fish and seahorses. “Fred the lobster lives right here,” he adds, “and because I live here too, I got to watch him molt.” Human friends, like a 13-year-old girl who dove down to high-five Dituri through his portal window, also frequent his space.
While he broke the world record for the longest time spent living undersea in a fixed location on May 13, Dituri is more focused on inspiring a passion for the ocean in the next generation and furthering medical research. Scientists can apply his work to areas of study beyond the ocean and Earth itself. “Elon Musk talks about going to Mars, but it will take us 200 days to get there,” he says, hopeful that his findings will yield helpful insights for future voyages below the sea and to outer space. “I want to ignite the spirit of discovery in kids and encourage them to explore STEM careers. Kids are the key.” SRQ
Dr. Joseph Dituri of the University of South Florida is on a mission to understand how living underwater affects the mind and body. Laura Paquette
Left: Follow Dr. Dituri’s underwater adventures @DrDeepSea on Instagram and Youtube or drdeepsea.com.
20 | srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local IMAGE COURTESY OF DR. JOSEPH DITURI.
As the traffic eases and the temperatures rise, the heat turns up on the local list of fun and adventure. From sunset cruising to fireworks and music, and from delectable dining to terrific theater and even a workout guaranteed to bring on the sweat without the sun, these summer sizzlers are just what you need to spice up the season.
OUR COLLECTION OF HOT LOCAL SUMMER EXPERIENCES
Written by Dylan Campbell, Barbie Heit and Laura Paquette. Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.
SUNSETS ON THE BAY
Zumba your way down to The Bay Or if that’s not your thing, take a yoga, tai chi, core or boot camp class, all free at Sarasota’s newest public park sitting on Sarasota Bay. In addition to the workouts, the park offers a Ride & Paddle Guided Kayak Tour every Saturday morning. This free, 2-hour, intermediate-level tour through The Bay’s restored mangroves and to the north and south of the park, allows paddlers to explore Sarasota Bay and learn more about the park from experienced guides. Also offered on Saturdays, the Walking in Wonder Guided Nature Tour is a free, one-hour guided tour through the park that starts at The Nest and continues through the natural beauty of the park’s mangroves, native plants and waters. With its impressive Ibis playground, Mangrove Bayou Walkway, Common Ground lawns and paddle launch, you’ll want to spend all day at The Bay and maybe even stay for the spectacular sunset views. —B.Heit The Bay, 655 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; thebaysarasota.org
Previous page: Sunsets and cruising through the mangroves at The Bay. Below left: Catch a spectacular summer sunset on a LeBarge Tropical Cruise. Below right: From strolling along the pathways to jogging and biking with lovely water views, there is no shortage of things to do and see at The Bay.
CRUISING ON THE BAY
There is no better way to see the true beauty of Sarasota than on the water. LeBarge Tropical Cruises brings cruising opportunities to residents and visitors throughout the summer, both in the daytime and evening hours. The Sarasota Sightseeing and Nature Cruise provides a floating view of spectacular waterfront homes and local wildlife while a narrator tells you about the fascinating history and folklore of the area–and, if you’re lucky, you might see a local bottlenose dolphin or manatee. For a beautiful sunset on the water, you might try the Scenic Sunset Cruise, featuring breathtaking views of the sun as it slowly sinks into the Gulf of Mexico, live entertainment, cocktails and light-fare menu items. Whether it’s a morning, afternoon, or evening cruise, LeBarge has something for everyone. “Take a break from the heat and enjoy our beautiful Sarasota Bay with a cool drink in hand . . . we are waiting for you,” say your friends at LeBarge Tropical Cruises. The Marina Jack II offers a relaxing lunch tour or sunset dinner cruise through the intercoastal waters and the Gulf of Mexico where guests enjoy delicious dining, outstanding views and exceptional service. Docked behind the Marina Jack restaurant, located on the Downtown Sarasota Bay front, the airconditioned salons and open-air outside deck provide a delightful way to enjoy the waters of the Gulf of Mexico onboard a 96’ cruise vessel. On the Marina Jack II every seat has a view of the water, making it perfect for sightseeing. The Marina Jack II can be reserved online for public as well as private events. B.Heit LeBarge Tropical Cruises: 941-366-6116, lebargetropicalcruises.com. Marina Jack II: 941-365-4232 x 4 www.marinajacks.com
SUMMER READS | FOR THE INTELLECTUAL
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck (also the author of Go, Went, Gone.) A German setting pre and post-Wall fall in the late 1980s in which a married man rattled by the Holocaust he experienced as a child meets a young college student without a care in the world. Sparks fly when his intellectual discourse and brooding seduce the young woman. — Recommended by Roxanne Baker of Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-365-7900, shop.sarasotabooks.com
Immerse yourself in the arts and culture world Sarasota and Bradenton are so famous for. This summer, our local A&E scene includes a celebration of America along with theatrical treats and performances to delight the entire family.
Lorna Bieber: The Natural World
The New Black Vanguard
SARASOTA ART MUSEUM | The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion presents artists whose vibrant portraits and conceptual images fuse the genres of art and fashion photography in ways that break down long-established boundaries. Their work has been widely consumed in traditional lifestyle magazines, ad campaigns and museums, as well as on their individual social-media channels, reinfusing the contemporary visual vocabulary around beauty and the body with new vitality and substance. The images open up conversations around the representation of the Black body and Black lives as subject ma er; collectively, they celebrate Black creativity and the cross-pollination between art, fashion and culture in constructing an image. Seeking to challenge the idea that Blackness is homogenous, the works serve as a form of visual activism. It’s a perspective o en seen from this loose movement of thriving talents, who are creating photography in vastly diﬀerent contexts—New York and Johannesburg, Lagos and London. Through September 18, 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-309-4300.
RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART | “I’m always interested in people working at the boundaries of photography,” says Christopher Jones, the Stanton B. and Nancy W. Kaplan curator of Photography and Media Art at The Ringling Museum of Art. “Nowadays, everybody is a photographer, we all take images and we’re all inundated with images all the time through social media, but I’m really intrigued with people who redirect conversations about photography and what it is.”One of the artists that caught Jones’ eye is Lorna Bieber, an artist who operates on the edge of photography who creates massive textile pieces made from recycled and manipulated imagery. Lorna Bieber: The Natural World, opened at The Ringling on May 20, and features pieces from Bieber’s Montage series including her two newest works, Ordinary Day and Quiet Night. “These pieces are almost on a similar scale to medieval tapestries. Lorna works with these li le fragments of photos and images that she photocopies from books or magazines that she manipulates and slowly creates these assemblages on the wall,” says Jones. “She’ll spend more than a year, sometimes two or three years, creating these pieces before she photographs them and prints them onto a canvas. They’re incredibly immersive and take up your entire ﬁeld of vision when you’re looking at them.” Through October 15, 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota, ringling.org.
Run Away with the Circus
CIRCUS ARTS CONSERVATORY | This summer, join in on a classic Sarasota tradition by seeing The Summer Circus Spectacular at The Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater. The spectacle is the product of a longstanding partnership between the Circus Arts Academy and The Ringling and provides the chance for visitors and locals alike to experience some of the best of what the circus has to oﬀer–all while staying out of the heat. “This is something that we’ve done with the Circus Arts Academy for many years,” says Elizabeth Doud, The Ringling’s Connie-Kuhlman curator of Performance. “The way it’s arranged is that the Circus Arts Academy handles all of the artist selection and
programming, while we provide the theater and all of the support for the production in our space.” The lineup for this year’s festival includes Heidi Herrio as the master of ceremonies, the hand balancing act, The Alexis Brothers, Garret Allen on the aerial ropes and more. “The event is an hour-long show that’s super popular locally,” says Doud. “It runs nine weeks from June 9 through August 12 with two shows a day from Tuesday through Saturday.” Tuesday to Friday at 11am and 2pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 5pm, 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota, ringling.org.
That Must Be the Entrance to Heaven
URBANITE THEATRE | Indulge yourself in the arts of the cultural coast this summer by checking out Urbanite Theatre’s That Must Be the Entrance To Heaven, which makes its world
premiere on June 9 and runs through July 9. The play, wri en by Franky D. Gonzalez and directed by Kathleen Capdesuñer, takes a cosmic journey through time and space as it follows four Latino boxers chasing a world title to achieve their personal versions of heaven. Gonzalez, the recipient of the 2020 Charles Rowan Beye New Play Commission at Urbanite Theatre, is an award-winning playwright whose work has been seen around the country and was a staﬀ writer on the fourth season of Netﬂix’s 13 Reasons Why For Gonzalez, the play is just as much about his own personal journey as it is the boxers ﬁghting for the world title. “Many playwrights write from their own personal experiences and while I’ve never boxed myself, I’m a passionate boxing fan,” says Gonzalez. “However, the stories that I’m telling in the framework of boxing are each equal
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Sarasota Arts Museum
SET SAIL ON THE OPEN SEAS
Answer the call of the ocean and partake in a sailing class or camp with Sarasota Youth Sailing and the Sarasota Yacht Club. Sarasota Youth Sailing offers eight weeks of summer camps for ages 5 through 18. Different camps for varying ages and experience levels run throughout the summer. Race clinics, Wednesday night racing for all SYS program members and a pirate day with an island treasure hunt encourage a love of the water. Campers can enroll in sailing-focused or general adventure camps highlighting other outdoor activities like kayaking and fishing. “The kids gain a great sense of independence by learning to handle a boat on the water, learn respect for nature and make friends,” says Program Director Megan Swick. On the last day of camp, participants can invite their families and show off their new skills. The Sarasota Yacht Club also provides exciting summer sailing programs for club members, their families and friends. Summer sailing camps give children ages 5-15 the opportunity to participate in the sport while learning about the marine ecosystems in which they sail. Camps for all experience levels are available, and kids get to try out other water sports. “The main goal of camp is to cultivate a love for the water, foster understanding and passion for the art of sailing and teach water safety skills while building relationships and friendships,” adds Communications & Marketing Director Emma Dodge. —D. Campbell Sarasota Youth Sailing, 1717 Ken Thompson
ROW IT OUT
Rowing is a great way to release those feel-good endorphins and stay in shape but when it’s too hot and sunny to row outside, what is a rower to do? Join the crew at RowHouse UTC, that’s what! This indoor fitness boutique offers a variety of rowing-based classes designed to burn calories, improve posture and strengthen your body from head to toe. The low-impact workouts mean a low risk of injury, and although it is gentle on your joints you will get your heart rate up, break a sweat and build muscle while rowing to uplifting music with like-minded fitness friends. “We love our Row House UTC community,” shares franchise coowner, Roberta Bake. “What a great way to spend 45 minutes with your friends working out 86 percent of the muscles in your body in the most intense and fun way–and coming out completely drenched without hurting yourself.”—
Love arts and crafts? Try Nailed It DIY Studio, a fun and new way to beat the heat this summer in Sarasota and Venice. This fun and inspiring studio allows for artistic minds of all experience levels to gather and create their own custom designs on wood. Whether you have two people or 20, highly trained art tenders will guide you through the steps of making a beautiful piece of home décor that you will be proud to display. Voted Best Summer Camp in SRQ Magazine, Nailed It is the perfect way to help beat summer boredom. They even offer Take & Make kits to do at home on rainy days. To book a project, go online and choose from hundreds of options (or submit a custom design request). When you checkout you will be prompted to choose a day and time to come in and work on your project. It’s that simple. Participants can bring any food or beverages to enjoy while crafting. It’s also a perfect event for girls’ night out, date nights, birthday parties, and team building. —B.Heit Sarasota.naileditdiy. com | 5537 Palmer Crossing Circle | 941-923-6257. Venice.naileditdiy.com | 4105 S. Tamiami Trail Unit #2 | 941-493-0568
B.Heit RowHouse UTC,
315 North Cattlemen Rd., Sarasota, 941- 444-2010, www.therowhouse.com
24 | srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local
Pkwy., Sarasota, sarasotayouthsailing.org. Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, sarasotayachtclub.org
IMAGES COURTESY OF SARASOTA YACHT CLUB AND ROWHOUSE. PHOTO OF NAILED IT BY WYATT KOSTYGAN
This page left to right: Optimist sailing at the Sarasota Yacht Club. Pick a project and become a crafts maverick this summer at Sarasota Nailed It DIY Studio. Work up a sweat inside with RowHouse.
parts of myself. In many ways, these four characters are diﬀerent facets of myself–they are the personiﬁcation of my own inner struggles, competing against each other. This play in many respects is me trying to ﬁgure out what is the most important thing in my life?” Image courtesy of Sorcha Augustine. June 9 to July 9, Urbanite Theatre, 1487 2nd St., Sarasota, urbanitetheatre.com.
FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE | Something special is always cooking up at Florida Studio Theatre and this summer is no exception. On July 21, 22 and 23, FST will host the 13th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival, which will feature more than 20 troupes, 80 artists and 29 performances along with workshops led by festival artists on improvisational styles and techniques. The headliner of the festival is none other than MC Hammersmith (real name Will Naameh), a multi-award-winning, Scotland-based hip hop comedian. “I’m a freestyle rap comedian from the suburb of Hammersmith in West London. I perform entirely improvised
THE BISHOP MUSEUM | This summer, head to The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature to check out Eco Engineers, one of the museum’s latest special temporary exhibitions. “This is our year of engineering at the Bishop so we wanted to explore engineering from a couple of diﬀerent perspectives,” says Ashley Waite, Director of Museum Experience at The Bishop. “In Eco Engineers, we’re highlighting nine native species that all modify their habitats so drastically that they’re put into this special category called ecosystem engineers.”
it.” Alexander is talking about Black Pearl Sings!, premiering June 28 as a part of Florida Studio Theatre’s Summer Mainstage Series. The play, which takes place in 1935 Depression-Era Texas, follows the unlikely bond that’s formed between Susannah, a musicologist from the Library of Congress, and Pearl, an African American woman serving time in a female prison, whose memory holds an amassment of unrecorded slaveera music. Black Pearl Sings! was originally developed in part by FST and was part of FST’s 2008 Burdick Reading Series, before premiering in the company’s Winter Mainstage series in April 2009. This time around, FST has brought Alexander back as director as well as Alice M. Gatling as Alberta “Pearl” Johnson and will feature slight tweaks and edits to the script to make it more apt to today’s contemporary climate. June 28 to July 30, FST’s Keating Theatre, 1241 North Palm Ave., Sarasota, ﬂoridastudiotheatre.org.
Laser Light Nights
hip hop comedy under my rap name MC Hammersmith,” says Naameh. “People in the audience suggest random words, random topics and tell me stories and I turn these all into entirely improvised full-length raps on the spot.” Part of what Naameh loves about his act is the shock value it brings to audience members. “As a privately-educated man with a thick English accent, it’s fair to say people don’t expect me to freestyle rap when I walk onstage. I love surprising people, and ge ing to improvise by using the audience as a scene partner. The rhyming is a secondary bonus to the joy of discovery every show,” says Naameh. Image courtesy of Lance Fuller. July 20 to 22, 2023, 1241 North Palm Ave., Sarasota, ﬂoridastudiotheatre.org.
The photography-based exhibition breaks the species down into three categories: land, water’s edge and the sea. “For the land category, we’re focusing on the gopher tortoise, the southern live oak tree and a red-cockaded woodpecker. The water’s edge highlights animals that live in the inbetween, so we have the North American beaver, American alligators and red mangroves. And ﬁnally, in the sea we have the green sea turtle, the red grouper and hard corals,” says Waite. April 7 to September 3, The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton, bishopscience.org.
Second Time’s A Charm
FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE | “As soon as I’ve directed a play, I think to myself, ‘Oh now I know how to direct it’,” says director Kate Alexander. “Because you go on a journey with a play, you have to get into the nooks and crannies of it. I think with any piece of art, any time you look at it or observe it you do so with diﬀerent eyes. Now, I get to take a decade of experience and change–both internally for myself and externally in the world–and bring all that wealth to
THE BISHOP MUSEUM | Rock the night away at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from May 25 through September 2. Break out your acid-washed jeans, stock up on the hairspray and groove along with the music of your favorite artists in the Planetarium. A variety of food options and drinks are available for purchase onsite with cash or card.
Please note, Laser Light Nights involve bright, ﬂashing lights that may not be suitable for people with photo sensitivities. Viewer discretion is advised. Laser Light Nights run at a volume similar to a rock concert. Ear plugs are advised for those who prefer a lower volume. 201 10th St W., Bradenton, 941-746-4131, bishopscience.org/laser-light-nights
srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local | 25
Black Pearl Sings
Summer Circus Spectacular
TAKE A CULINARY DETOUR
The Suncoast’s Largest Food Truck Festival will be held over the Fourth of July weekend at University Town Center. Beloved local food trucks, like Smokin’ Momma Lora’s BBQ Mobile, will join trucks from across the state and country. About 75 food trucks will participate, giving attendees plenty of options. “There are trucks specializing in desserts, tacos, drinks, American classics like burgers and barbeque, seafood and pizza,” says Brett Cecere, the event manager for Florida Penguin Productions, which puts on the festival, “as well as diverse ﬂavors from Cuba, Colombia, Greece, Poland and other countries.” Diners will also ﬁnd vegan and gluten-free options. Ticket sale proceeds from each day beneﬁt a diﬀerent local charity, and ﬁreworks will light up the festival on its ﬁnal night. —L.Paquette Floridapenguinproductions.com
All summer long, chilled soups pack dynamic ﬂavors and keep diners cool. At Two Chefs on Hillview, Frank Imbarlina and Mellissa Louty, both chefowners, cook up delectable dishes throughout the hottest months. Don’t miss Louty’s vegan Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho, with notes of tomatoes, peppers and succulent watermelon. “It’s a refreshing summer gazpacho with a little kick,” she says, “but not so spicy that you can’t enjoy it. You can taste all the diﬀerent ﬂavors.” She also ladles up Chilled Corn Soup, a cool and sweet rendition of corn chowder. Louty roasts the corn on the cob, then strips the roasted kernels oﬀ the cob, which she uses to make corn stock. Mixing the kernels with the stock creates a creamy and vegetarian-friendly blend. Imbarlina dishes out Cucumber, Pear & Yogurt Soup, featuring pureed cucumber and pear and Greek yogurt. “The soup is vibrant, crisp and fresh,” he adds. He also gives a nod to the classic Vichyssoise, a cold potato and leek soup, with his Sweet Potato Vichyssoise with Duck Conﬁt. Sweet potatoes replace the traditional white potatoes, and shallots and duck conﬁt made by Imbarlina add richness and depth. Instead of chicken or vegetable stock, he uses duck stock to complement the sweet potato. The pair rotates out their soup selections throughout the summer, providing a welcome culinary retreat from the Sarasota heat. —L.Paquette Two Chefs On Hillview, 1960 Hillview St., Sarasota, twochefsonhillview.com
SUMMER READS | FOR THE EPIC HISTORICAL FICTION LOVER
Niki by Christos Chomenidis (has already won the Prix Du LivrePrix Du Livre Européen). Niki tells her family’s life story set in Greece during World War II and its bloody political aftermath. Highlights the resilience and passion of the Greek culture, isolationism and fear of political revenge, and her star-crossed romance— Recommended by Roxanne Baker of Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-365-7900, shop.sarasotabooks.com
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.
Above: Cucumber, Pear and Yogurt Soup and Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho.
SUMMER IN A TOTE
Summer fun is in the bag! Check out the hottest bags and totes to house your summertime necessities from our editors’ favorite boutiques. This summer we are all about keeping things light. Lightweight materials such as sailcloth canvas and straw bags will be a staple accessory in your wardrobe this season. —B.Heit and M.Mitchell
This page: Dock Side Bag $48, Sea Glass Lane, 380 St Armands Cir, Sarasota, 941-3884646; Sunrise Sunset Tote $108, Surge Style, 1440 Main St, Sarasota, 941-552-8432; Hammer Handbag $235, Monkee’s, 1561 Lakefront Dr Suite 104, Sarasota, 941-358-8868.
CLASSIC FILMS AND LAWN MOVIES
Grab some popcorn and enjoy a film-filled summer. The Sarasota Opera House will play classic films like Vertigo and The Addams Family on select Fridays from May to October. “The opera house, built in 1926 as a business office, later became a movie and vaudeville theater,” says Marketing Director Stephen Baker, “so the classic film series is a perfect way to celebrate that historic tradition in the beautiful opera house.” Those looking for an outdoor film experience can swing by The Bay Park every Thursday evening for Cinema at The Bay, which rotates out classic, top-grossing and family films to appeal to all guests throughout the year. The final Friday of each month features a family-friendly movie. According to The Bay, attendees can marvel at the movies shown on a state-of-the-art 7x12 LED screen and can partake in snacks and refreshments from The Nest, the park’s concession stand, which sometimes offers refreshments based on certain films shown. —L.Paquette
Left: Kate Loxton Canvas Cell Bag $48, Sea Glass Lane, 380 St. Armands Cir, Sarasota, 941388-4646. Above: Getaway Canvas Tote $44, Florida Provisions, 1561 Lakefront Dr Suite 109, Sarasota, 941-274-0470; Hallie clutch $258, Amber Small Bucket $315, Monkee’s, 1561 Lakefront Dr. Suite 104, Sarasota, 941-358-8868. Opposite page, left to right: Sarasota Opera House presents classic films including 2001: The Space Odyssey and From Here to Eternity; surfing with the Florida Beach Horses in Bradenton just east of Robinson Preserve.
Opera House, 61 North Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, sarasotaopera.org. The Bay Sarasota, The Bay, 655 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, thebaysarasota.org
RUM IT UP
Nothing says summer better than a tropical cocktail. Rum enthusiasts can experience a free tour and tasting at Siesta Key Rum and discover what makes a great rum. The 45-minute tour allows guests to explore the 16-year-old distillery. From copper tills and a wall of aging barrels to the tikithemed tasting room, the guides strive to curate a fun and informative experience, culminating in a tasting of the company’s rums. “We infuse our rums with real food ingredients,” says Director of Operations Nicole Sullivan, “and our most popular product is the Toasted Coconut Rum.” Stop by the gift shop and ﬁll up on this summer staple on the way out. —L.Paquette
Beat the heat at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex With at least one public skating session every day, guests can take a temporary escape to a cooler climate. “We have a free try-it class with a skating coach every Saturday morning for people of all ages interested in learning to skate,” says General Manager Emma Chinault. Group rates are also available for parties of 10 or more. Hockey and ice skating summer camps for various experience levels give kids a chance to cool oﬀ while mastering a new sport. After hitting the ice, enjoy refreshments from the snack bar, including pretzels, hot dogs, beer and wine. —L.Paquette Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, 5309 29th St. E., Ellenton, ellentonice.com.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
With Florida Beach Horses, the fairy-tale fantasy of riding a horse down the beach can become reality. Participants can choose to experience two diﬀerent rides with horses rescued from across the country. The family-oriented Sand and Surf Ride, for ages three and up, features a horseback beach ride, horse surﬁng along the sandbar and horse skiing—holding onto the horse’s tail (don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt the animal) as it swims through the water. There’s also an exciting race back to the beach from the sandbar. For ages 10 and up, the Cruise Ride oﬀers a more independent experience with many of the fun activities from the Sand and Surf sessions. “It’s like a trail ride,” says Lead Wrangler Christina Pelletier, “and the horses spend the entire time in the water.” For a romantic adventure, book the sunset option for either ride. “This is a once in a lifetime experience,” adds Pelletier. —L.Paquette Florida Beach Horses, 8400 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, ﬂoridabeachhorses.com
SUMMER READS | FOR A STRAIGHT-ON ROMANCE
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift Set in early 1920s England. A maid of a well-to-do family falls for the son who is engaged to a woman of his family’s choosing. You can almost feel the sultry England summer as the longing and consummation sizzle. Made into a feature ﬁlm starring some of The Crown’s ﬁnest actors. — Recommended by Roxanne Baker of Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-365-7900, shop.sarasotabooks.com
Siesta Key Rum, 212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota, siestakeyrum.com.
srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local | 29
There’s nothing as satisfying as sipping on a cool summer beverage by the beach, pool or a shady spot downtown. Travel the globe for tasty temptations, like the Moroccan Mint Tea from #Café. “We use real mint and green tea with sugar,” says Owner Bianca Bendraouia, “because Moroccans love tea with a lot of sugar. We serve the tea in silver pots and pour it into little decorated glasses from high up to create foam.” From across the Mediterranean Sea, try the Iced Tsai Tou Vounou, or Greek Mountain Tea with Honey, from Keﬁ Streetside Cafe. Co-owner Eleni Sokos sources the sideritis herb for this chamomile-like tea from her family’s town of Messini, Greece. The anti-inﬂammatory sideritis grows on the Taygetos mountains which slope behind the town. “The name of the herb comes from the word for iron because the tea has strengthening properties. Everyone in Greece drinks it, and it’s a great low sugar decaﬀeinated option,” adds Sokos. For a burst of ﬂavor, sample the Exploding Fresh Lemonade at The George. Combining fresh-squeezed lemonade with popping boba, the beverage provides a refreshing introduction to the world of boba. “We make the lemonade to order,” says Camilla Reid, owner of The George, “and guests can customize it with diﬀerent ﬂavors.” At Ding Tea Sarasota, enjoy a Yakult Yogurt Drink, made by mixing Yakult yogurt, popular across East Asia, with fruit juice. Select from a variety of juices such as strawberry and grapefruit and customize with toppings including boba and jellies. “The Yakult drinks are light, refreshing and tangy,” adds Co-owner Patrick Luong.—L.Paquette #Café, 2781 Bee Ridge Rd., Sarasota, hashtagcafesrq.com. Keﬁ Streetside Cafe, Walk-Up Window, 1201 6th Ave. W., Bradenton, keﬁstreetsidecafe.com. The George, 5131 North Tamiami Trail Unit B, Sarasota, thegeorgesarasota.com. Ding Tea Sarasota, 2728 Stickney Point Rd., Sarasota, dingteasarasota.com.
Looking for something fun to occupy those rainy summer afternoons? Check out Shattered Glass Art Studio SRQ. Create a work of art with tumbled and shard glass in every color of the rainbow, or try your hand at a resin class. Channel those beach vibes in the ocean pour resin class, and prepare for your next backyard bash in a resin charcuterie board class. “We use non-toxic, BPA-free and food-grade resins,” say owners Nicole and Kevin Berry, both passionate artists and teachers. Students can pick up their ﬁnished products 48 hours after the class is over. —L.Paquette Shattered Glass Art Studio SRQ, 2740 Stickney Point Rd., Sarasota, shatteredsrq.com.
SUMMER READS | FOR THE NON-FICTION FAN
Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour by Rickie Lee Jones. A true music legend, Rickie’s soulful singing came from a place of turmoil, rejection and addiction. Rave reviews from O Magazine and Kirkus Reviews — Recommended by Roxanne Baker of Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 South Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-365-7900, shop.sarasotabooks.com
Above, left to right: Exploding Fresh Lemonade, Greek Mountain Tea with Honey and Yakult Yogurt Drink.
BEST OF SRQ OFLOCAL
SRQ READERS SET EPIC RECORDS IN THIS 15th ANNUAL BEST OF SRQ LOCAL COMPETITION by coming out in unsurpassed numbers to vote for their hometown favorites. We oﬀer an encore performance of some of the winners and honorable mention honorees from this year’s competition. #BOSRQ
READER QUOTE COMPILATION + WRITING
AND BARBIE HEIT | PHOTOGRAPHY
BY ARIEL CHATES
BY WYATT KOSTYGAN
THIS PAGE: Grammy Award–winning American folk rock music duo Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers graced the silver screen at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival with their documentary It’s Only Life After All. Image courtesy of the Indigo Girls.
VOTED ONE OF “SARASOTA’S TOP 12 DENTISTS”
BY SRQ MAGAZINE READERS
SIESTA VILLAGE DENTISTRY
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE THAT SETS YOU APART? Helping patients become or stay dentally healthy in the most understanding, comfortable, and gentle way. Dr. Ta has over 29 years of experience. She is certiﬁed in multiple advanced Dental Treatments including Implant Dentistry, Cosmetic dentistry, and Root Canal. The Dr. and her staff will take the time to listen to your concerns, evaluate your mouth, take photos of your teeth, and explain your options and costs. Our goal is for you to know the pros and cons of your different treatments to make the best decision for yourself. Our patients are the “boss” and we follow their wishes for dental health and treatments. Our ultimate goal is to give you the information and resources needed for you to make the best decision for your health.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Our motivation is to separate ourselves as a Dental ofﬁce you can trust and to provide dentistry of the most astounding quality that it upgrades our patients’ lives. We work for our patients, who consistently will be treated with nobility, compassion and regard.
“WE WILL WORK HARD, HAVE FUN, AND PROVIDE SUCH EXCEPTIONAL COMFORT AND SERVICE THAT OUR PATIENTS WILL ENTHUSIASTICALLY REFER THEIR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!”
5136 Ocean Blvd. | Siesta Key FL 34242 (941) 505-1200
BY SRQ MAGAZINE READERS
I’ve lived in Sarasota for 34 years and love this community more with each passing year. I taught Special Education before becoming a Realtor 21 years ago and what be er prep for real estate! Asking questions, listening, problem-solving and creative thinking has given me a loyal following that has made me a Top Producing Realtor with Michael Saunders & Company, a premier Luxury brokerage ﬁrm in the area.
There are a gazillion things to do from Day 1 to closing. My mission is to make the process look easy. It’s that simple. After 20 years of negotiating, staging homes to sell, dealing with vendors, working with lenders & attorneys, I realize the magic is in the minutia. It’s what my clients don’t know that’s happening behind the scenes that makes the process easy. Easy for them. Gratifying for me.
A CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE
Sherri was my Realtor® for the selling of my home and the purchasing of another. She was truly amazing for both transactions! Always knowledgeable and helped maneuver through the rough spots seamlessly. I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for a bright, honest realtor. —Heather Chapell
CLHMS (Certiﬁed Luxury Home Marketing Specialist) SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist)
Sherri Mills, Real Estate Negotiation
Expert (RENE accredited)
Michael Saunders & Company
1605 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236
VOTED ONE OF “SARASOTA’S
“TO ME, THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS IN REAL ESTATE ARE YOU, YOU AND YOU.”
BY SRQ MAGAZINE READERS
“Born and raised in Sarasota, I have a true love for the beautiful city I grew up in and the changes I have seen over the years. I enjoy spending time with my wife and li le pup Cooper. Fitness is a core belief of mine. Bucs football, comic book movies, and bourbon are some of my favorite things. Real Estate is a career I have found myself extremely passionate about. I pride myself in being the most dedicated, knowledgeable agent I can be for my clients.
Molly Higdon, a Sarasota local since 2010, a ributes her education in Business Marketing and Management and her passion for helping others as the groundwork for her success in Real Estate. Molly has built a reputation for her refreshingly friendly customer service and is known for her a ention to detail, strong work ethic, professionalism, and integrity. Molly is commi ed to providing the highest level of representation to her clients. Her goal is to create a stress-free, enjoyable and proﬁtable experience for every client whether they are buying or selling.
WHAT SETS YOUR BUSINESS APART? My track record with clients. I hold myself to an extremely high standard by going far beyond what the traditional real estate agent will offer you. My clients will tell you the same story! I love what I do and when you work with me you have a professional doing everything in his power to make sure your goals are met!
MY MISSION To achieve greatness and fulﬁllment in all aspects of life.
A CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE Selling a home can be very stressful but Jesse was there with us every step of the way to ensure we had a smooth experience. We were able to get exactly what we wanted and believe that is only because we chose such a hardworking and responsive agent! I would recommend him for your next sale or purchase!
Re-sales, Waterfront, First Time Homebuyers Luxury, Investment Properties
Keller Williams on the Water M 941.465.8583
1549 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota
MY MISSION As a member of the Sarasota Gulf Coast Homes team, our mission is to deliver excellence and aim to exceed expectations in everything we do. Our goal is to guide you successfully and easily through the contractual investment and emotional decisions involved in the real estate process. We are committed to providing you with superior service and expertise.
A CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE Molly is hands down the best realtor in the market. She is knowledgeable and truly has her clients’ best interests at heart. She is working around the clock for them and is one phone call or text message away. She gets to know you right away and is working on your behalf from the moment she meets you. If you want results and someone who is going to work for you and your best interest, Molly is the one!
Keller Williams on the Water M 941.875.1722
1549 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota
“REAL ESTATE IS A CAREER I HAVE FOUND MYSELF EXTREMELY PASSIONATE ABOUT.”
“I STRIVE TO EXCEED EXPECTATIONS IN ALL THAT I DO. MY GOAL IS ALWAYS TO HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOURS.”
VOTED ONE OF “SARASOTA’S TOP 12 REALTORS”
Danae DeShazer’s new theater collective is bringing a new kind of theatrical experience to the Gulf Coast. Dylan Campbell
LOCAL PERFORMING AND VISUAL ARTS+CULTURE
This page: Danae DeShazer has juggled many a responsibility in the creating of her new theater collective.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.
“WHEN THE PROLIFIC COMPOSER STEPHEN SONDHEIM passed away in the fall of 2021, I took it really hard. I was pretty depressed about it because I felt like we’d had this huge loss in our industry,” says Danae DeShazer. “I was listening to his song Finishing the Hat from the musical Sunday in the Park with George, and in the song the painter Georges Seurat is describing the process of creating art and how it’s all-encompassing and you pour your entire soul into something and look you made a hat, where there never was a hat. It felt akin to producing live theater–you put all of this work in behind the scenes, months and months of creation and meetings and post-it notes stuck on the wall for someone to come to the production, watch for 75 minutes, and leave.” For a creative like DeShazer, a veteran of the theater industry, with credits as an actor, director and choreographer, all it takes is a spark. In her case, Sondheim’s song is what led to the creation of The Hat Theater Collective, a new theatrical arts organization with a distinct placemaking point of view.
“I want to be inspired by a place and then pick a piece based on that place. So we could do a modern retelling of a Greek tragedy at a Greek restaurant, or just have a unique experience at an actual location.”
Building out that idea, however, took some time. Although DeShazer had spoken about a theater collective called The Hat, with her partner, playwright Derek Brookens, she had no idea where to begin. “Around that time, I saw a posting for a program called The Startup Circle which is a program for entrepreneurs put on by Realize Bradenton and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce,” says DeShazer. “I was accepted into the program and after a nine-week course, The Hat was born.” Soon after completing the course, DeShazer was approached by the Manatee Village Historical Commission about creating a theatrical production for the park. “Spirit Voices from Old Manatee,” a living history presentation that took place in the park’s cemetery had ended in 2017—the commission was looking for a new kind of immersive experience that could help raise funding for the preservation of the park’s historical buildings. DeShazer’s new company seemed like a perfect match. “I had a meeting with Andrea Knies, who’s with the commission and also a co-owner of the Compass Rose History Company. She knew I was opening a theater company and asked if I was interested in coming up with something new for them,” says DeShazer. “So I pulled in my partner, Derek Brookens, who is an actor, playwright, multi-hat-wearing person just like myself and we really wanted to find a story to tell. Theater to me is about conflict and dialogue so Derek and I both agreed that if we were going to create a new piece inspired by local history we wanted to find the right story that had enough mystery and intrigue.”
In a region renowned for its sheer size and scale of performing arts organizations, where theater companies become cultural institutions, The Hat stands out for what it’s not trying to be: the archetype of a professional theater company, a brick-and-mortar colossus like the Asolo Repertory Theatre or Florida Studio Theatre. Instead, The Hat is an ensemble, made up of creatives from around the area, not looking to create strictly theater, but instead theatrical experiences. “We’re a collective, an ensemble, we don’t want a brick-and-mortar so to speak theater. We want to partner with other community organizations to either create original or site-specific work,” says DeShazer.
That project gradually evolved into The Ballad of Old Manatee, a southern gothic love story based on the lives of real people. The production, which moves through Manatee Village Historical Park with each scene, tells the story of James C. Vanderripe and the lonesome grave: an intense love story based upon the real-life characters of James C. Vanderripe, his wife Sarah Lee and a conflict between James and Sarah’s father, the Reverend Edmund Lee. “If you would’ve asked me when I was going through the business program that a historical piece would’ve been the first production I did with this company, I would’ve said you’re crazy. But the opportunity fell in my lap and I’m very much a believer of what’s meant to be will be,” says DeShazer. “I think people are craving something that’s unique, and different and immersive. They want to be immersed in something different while also being entertained and challenged and creating conversation around what’s going on in the world.” SRQ
Left: The cast of The Ballad of Old Manatee, a production that takes place on the grounds of the Manatee Village Historical Park. Visit The Hat Theater Collective at atthehat.org.
62 | srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local IMAGE COURTESY OF THE HAT.
Discover Natural Sarasota
LONGBOAT KEY | SARASOTA
LIDO KEY | SIESTA KEY | VENICE
CASEY KEY | MANASOTA KEY
ENGLEWOOD | NORTH PORT
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
With Gulf-to-bay access, and tons of seashells, this park tends to be much quieter than others with just as much beauty. A beautiful hiking trail through the mangrove forest, a fishing dock, canoe launch, playground and picnic facilities provide everything needed for a peaceful day at the beach. 6725 Manasota Key Rd. Manasota Key
Brohard Beach and Paw Park
It’s the life for our canine companions at Brohard Beach and Paw Park, the only beach area in Sarasota County where dogs are invited to enjoy the sand and surf. The park has two separate fenced play yards–one for small dogs and one for larger dogs–both leading to the beach area where all sizes play together. Amenities include dog-waste bags, showers, benches and drinking fountains. 1850 Harbor Drive S. Venice
There’s just some-fin about Caspersen Beach, also known as the shark-tooth capital of the world. Tucked away in quiet South Venice, the beach is home to crystal clear gulf waters and amenities such as a pavilion with a park, playground, public restrooms and showers, picnic tables and boardwalks. Enjoy two miles of shaded hiking trails with cut-through paths to the waves. 4100 Harbor Drive S. Venice
Deer Prairie Creek North Entrance
Get all your ducks in a row and visit this park where you may be lucky enough to see the Florida scrub-jay, deer, river otter, bobcats, a gopher tortoise and more. This 6,400acre preserve has more than 60 miles of hiking trails. The North entrance features a large parking area for general parking and equestrian trailer parking, designated equestrian trails and a trailhead to the North Port Connector.
10201 S. Tamiami Trl., 7001 Forbes Trl. (North Entrance) Venice
Historic Spanish Point
Pathways of beautiful, sunny and shady, well-maintained gardens await you in the Marie Selby Gardens at Historic Spanish Point. Experience a docent-led tour or boat tour, or stroll on your own through the 30-acre campus showcasing a wide variety of native Florida plants. Restrooms and benches are located throughout the campus and the Bayside Cottage Café (operated by Michael’s On East) is open daily, offering sandwiches, beverages and snacks. 401 North Tamiami Trl. Osprey
Above clockwise: Brohard Beach, Deer Prarie Creek, Celery Fields, Blind Pass, The Legacy Trail and Casperson Beach. Right clockwise: Rothenbach Park, Myakkahatchee Creek, Myakka River State Park, Pompano Trailhead, Oscar Scherer State Park and Siesta Beach.
Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park
This neighborhood park is your go-to for a day of horseback riding on its 3.7 miles of trails. Situated on 160 acres under an oak canopy, it is also ideal for hiking, biking and camping. The Myakkahatchee Creek Connector Bridge connects the park to the Carlton Reserve. The footbridges, pavilion and public restrooms make the park a winner for family outings. 6968 Reisterstown Road, North Port
Myakka River State Park
Alligators, armadillos and snakes, oh my! These are just a few creatures you’re likely to encounter on a visit to Myakka River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks. The Myakka River wildlife tour is a favorite for visitors. The 45-60 minute guided tour may be experienced by boat or tram and runs every day, weather permitting. If you’re a bird watcher, bring your binoculars! Anhingas, roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets and ducks are regulars. 13208 State Rd. 72, Sarasota
Oscar Scherer State Park
Take a hike! With 15 miles of marked hiking trails, this is the place to do it, on your own or with a guided ranger walk. The only freshwater lake for swimming in the county, the park offers endless opportunities for adventurous kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Camping is very popular in the 104 total RV sites on the park.
1843 S. Tamiami Trl. Osprey
Stay out of the kitchen and head to the Pompano Trailhead where you’ll find 12 lighted pickleball courts, a half basketball court, grills, tables, a pavilion and playground. With plenty of parking and amenities for Legacy Trail users starting their journey from the North, the newly-opened Pompano Trailhead is a happy place for exercise enthusiasts. 601 S Pompano Ave., Sarasota
The whole famliy will enjoy the playgrounds at Rothenbach Park, with one designated toddler area and another section for older kids. With a shaded picnic spot, a workout area and about five miles of paved recreational trails that are perfect for walking, jogging, or cycling, this is the ultimate place for a fun family outing. 8650 Bee Ridge Rd. Sarasota
The soft, white sugary sands make this public beach oh so sweet! Located off Beach Road on the northwest side of Siesta Key, Siesta Beach is consistently ranked among the top beaches in America. Frequent dolphin sightings in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters are an added bonus, along with great spots for snorkeling and shelling. The playground and amenities, including a concession stand, restrooms and showers make this an ideal place for a day of sun and fun. 948 Beach Rd., Sarasota
Ted Sperling Park at South
Lido Key (Ted Sperling Nature Park)
Just row with it at this park where it’s so peaceful that you can actually hear the calmness of mangrove-filled water passages. Famous for kayaking, it’s the perfect place to meet up with some incredible wildlife including manatees, osprey, herons, dolphins and stingrays. Ted Sperling Park is also the launching point for kayak tours to Longboat Key. 190 Taft Drive, Sarasota / Lido Key
Zumba your way down to The Bay or take a yoga, tai chi, core or bootcamp class, all free at Sarasota’s newest public park perched along Sarasota Bay. With its impressive Ibis children's playground, Mangrove Bayou Walkway, Common Ground lawns and paddle launch, you’ll want to spend all day and maybe even stay for a spectacular sunset concert and views. 655 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
The Celery Fields
Whether walking, jogging, training for a trekking expedition or bird watching from the 75-foot man-made observational hill, Celery Fields is an ideal location for your recreational needs. The 400+ acre site is also the County’s primary stormwater collection zone. 6799 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota or 100 Coburn Rd., Sarasota
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The Legacy Trail
For ﬁtness fans in search of the perfect place to bike or rollerblade outdoors, the search is over with the newly-expanded Legacy Trail. This 18.5-mile multi-use recreational rail trail connects Venice to Downtown Sarasota and runs along a former portion of the Seminole Gulf Railway corridor. The smoothly-paved path o ers free parking areas, a series of interpretive signs and stop stations. Multiple trailheads provide access to other amenities.
We invite you to experience the great outdoors at Sarasota County’s parks and preserves. For more information about these parks, visit scgov.net/parks and ﬂoridastateparks.org.
Turtle Beach Park/Campground
It’s hard to ﬁnd a more beautiful place to camp than Turtle Beach, with its direct beach access. The campsite is full of amenities such as RV hook-ups, restrooms and showers, washers and dryers, and a playground. Swim and kayak in the Gulf of Mexico, or hike on nearby trails before taking a free trolley ride to Siesta Village for beachside shopping and a bite to eat. 8862 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota
Urfer Family Park
You won’t be steered wrong with a visit to this park where you can still see cattle grazing near the old windmill. With three playgrounds designed for various ages, a one-mile nature trail with diverse ecosystems, and a paved ﬁtness trail, there are plenty of options to enjoy the natural beauty of this 55-acre site. A boardwalk overlooks wetlands and the historical Dr. C.B. Wilson House which has been restored so that visitors can take a self-guided tour. 4012 Honore Ave., Sarasota
Warm Mineral Springs
Relax, unwind and soak your roots in the only publiclyaccessible hot spring in Florida. Warm Mineral Springs in North Port is also the largest natural mineral water spring in the world. Temps remain around 85 degrees (give or take) all year long, making it easy to enjoy the 51 healing natural mineral properties in the water. There is plenty of parking and grassy areas to set your chairs on for a day of soaking. 12200 San Servando Ave., North Port
Visit Us In Person O cial Sarasota County Visitor Information Center 1945 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL 34236 E email@example.com P 941-706-1253 VISITSARASOTA.COM
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SRQ MEDIA | LIVE LOCAL. LOVE LOCAL
Below clockwise: Urfer Famly Park, Historic Spanish Point, The Bay, Turtle Beach and Ted Sperling Park.
A STORY OF PASSION FOR CIRCUS ARTS
Celebrating a remarkable 25 years of blood, sweat, tears, grit and cotton candy to preserve the circus arts legacy for our future.
INTERVIEW AND PORTRAIT BY WES ROBERTS.
THIS YEAR MARKS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE founding of Sarasota’s very own Circus Arts Conservatory, an institution with one foot in a historic past and both eyes set firmly on an ambitious future. Twenty-five years ago, Dolly Jacobs and Pedro Reis joined forces in an effort marked by a shared artistic passion and translated through a high-flying romance. In an interview with SRQ Magazine’s Executive Publisher Wes Roberts, Dolly and Pedro reminisce about how they found the circus, how they found each other and how their innovative approach to education has reinvigorated an appreciation for the circus arts within our community and internationally. For a town that in many ways was built by the circus through John and Mable Ringling, there couldn’t be a more exciting torch for these two innovators to carry forward.
YEARS AGO, COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED THAT THIS IS WHERE YOU WOULD BE? FOUNDER AND CEO PEDRO REIS: We were passionate about the idea of bringing back the living circus and conserving and continuing the legacy of the circus in Sarasota—the history that started in 1927 when the Ringling family brought their winter quarters to Sarasota. It’s just fantastic to be where we are today. The answer is no. We could not have imagined the amount of programs that we have today, the amount of outreach in the community, the amount of support we have from the community and from our donors and supporters. It’s just unbelievable. You start aiming in one direction, and then the journey goes left, right, zigzag, up, down, sideways and inside out, and you end up being in a different place that you didn’t expect. It has been an amazing 25-year journey.
WITH THIS MODEL YOU HAVE DEVELOPED, COULD THERE BE A CIRCUS IN EVERY LARGE TOWN IN AMERICA? REIS: In 2017 we partnered with the Smithsonian. Our big top was actually on the National Mall. We learned that there actually is a circus school in every single state of the United States. When I came to America in 1984, there were three or four schools total. Circus has become cool. It’s diverse, it’s athleticism, it’s fitness, it’s all of the above. And of course we used the word “arts” [in our name]. There was a preconceived perception–the circus was connected in people’s minds to the carnival and to the freak show. There was the bearded lady, the sword swallower—that was a P.T. Barnum thing—and a focus on profit above all. For Dolly and me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the legacy, and how we can express our true art form so that the public will see, recognize and appreciate it.
DOLLY, YOU’RE A TRUE SARASOTA NATIVE. SO YOU WERE BORN IN SARASOTA, BUT YOU WERE ALSO BORN INTO THE CIRCUS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO BE BORN INTO THE CIRCUS? CO-FOUNDER AND ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DOLLY JACOBS: I don’t know a different childhood. I feel I have had the best of both worlds because I grew up here and was part of the community, part of Sailor Circus, part of the Sarasota swim team at the YMCA, but I also was able to travel with the
circus at a young age. I’m very fortunate to have been born into the circus—the circus is a unique family. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what language you speak or what color you are, there’s a unity and a support for each other and a universal language.
I IMAGINE PART OF THAT CAMARADERIE COMES FROM THE FAMOUS PHRASE, WHICH MUST BE UNIVERSAL ACROSS PERFORMING ARTS, “THE SHOW MUST GO ON”, COMBINED WITH THE INCREDIBLE TRUST THAT YOU ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE IN YOUR FELLOW PERFORMERS. JACOBS: It’s all the work that’s involved in getting to where you are in this world we call the circus—all that it takes to become a circus artist. We’re all across the world. We’re all involved. We have that common bond where you work with somebody maybe in Stuttgart, Germany or somewhere, and then you see them 25 years down the road and you reconnect like it was yesterday. You share the training, the skills, the dedication and the work ethic. It’s not an easy life, but you get a lot of self pride out of it. And just speaking for the women that raise their children, do the acts, drive the trucks, put up their rigging, fix the costumes, make dinner, everything that a housewife would do, plus perform.
PEDRO, YOU WERE NOT BORN INTO THE CIRCUS, BUT SOMEHOW YOU WERE BORN WITH AN IRRESISTIBLE DRAW TOWARDS THE CIRCUS, RIGHT? REIS: My parents moved from one suburb to another in South Africa, and lo and behold, one morning, I woke up, went out of the house and across the street at the YMCA, I found out there was flying trapeze rigging and a trampoline. Wow, I got into lots of trouble sneaking through the fence at night and being chased around the trampoline by the warden. But it was like a magnet. There were a lot of young teenagers actually training to become professional trapeze artists. I befriended them and I would be the runner to go up to the shop and get a Coca-Cola or whatever they needed. They allowed me to go up on the flying trapeze. I just took one swing and said, “Wow!” I learned that this could become a vocation, a way of life. I realized that I could get to see the world by doing flying trapeze in the circus. In my 12th year of education at public
This spread, clockwise: Rendering of the future home of the Circus Arts Conservatory, courtesy of Sweet Sparkman. Dolly Jacobs and Pedro Reis’ act, On Wings of Love. This performing couple has had their share of hard times and celebratory times together. Here Dolly Jacobs performing at the Circus Museum. Her aerial act on the rings was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2015 and she was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship.
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school at Observatory Boys High School, three months into the final year, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just actually took my books, got up out of the classroom, and said, “Excuse me, I’m leaving now.” I went down to the principal’s office and said, “Sorry, sir. I won’t be needing the books anymore. I’m joining the circus.” I walked out of the school and never looked back. I mean, the education that circus has given me, the culture, it’s just amazing, just totally amazing. And like Dolly said, it’s not easy. It’s hard physical work, but it’s very, very rewarding.
WHAT IS THE DRAW? THE FEELING OF FLYING, OR THE AUDIENCE, OR SOMETHING ELSE? REIS: There was no audience that first time. I was thinking, “Can I actually do a somersault to this person on the other side, catch it, swing, and then come back to the trapeze bar and land back on a pedestal.” That’s an accomplishment. And so then it’s increasing levels of discipline; single somersault, layout somersault, full-twisting somersault, double somersault, double forward somersault, triple somersault, double cutaway half somersault and then a double full. It’s you that you are building. And, I’m doing something that not many other people on this earth can do—something that not many people would even dream of doing because it’s so dangerous.
ARE YOU A THRILL-SEEKER IN OTHER AREAS?
REIS: Not really. I’m not so much a thrill seeker, but instead a “unique seeker.” Dolly and I are total opposites in this area in general life. But when we are in the air, we both are asking, “What can we do that’s unique?” That’s really our signature. JACOBS: It sets you apart. Challenge yourself, push yourself, be the best at what you’re doing. It’s that drive that we both have.
IT THE HIGHEST ACCOLADE WHEN SOMEONE
in New York, and then he joined Ringling in 1925. I believe he lived with the [Flying] Wallendas on Arlington Street, where they had their home. The circus people did help build Sarasota. St. Martha’s Church was fundraised by the circus artists. John and Mable Ringling themselves; Ringling Bridge, Ringling Boulevard and Ringling Museum. Circus artists from around the world know of Sarasota, Florida as the home of the circus.
COMPLIMENTS THE PERFORMANCE? JACOBS: Oh, absolutely. REIS: I remember when I came to America in 1984. There was an organization, Showfolks, which was a social club for the circus membership in industry. It included all my childhood flying trapeze heroes—and many of them lived in Sarasota. So coming here to join Ringling was a dream come true. We were training in the Venice Winter quarters, and the Showfolks Club had a fundraiser. Afterwards, I was standing inside at the bar and this gentleman came up to me and said, “Hey kid, you got one hell of an act. My name’s Fay Alexander.” I was almost stuttering. The Fay Alexander!?! He was the guy that did the triple somersault in the movie Trapeze, in Paris at the Bouglione winter quarters.
I’M NOT SURE HOW MANY PEOPLE IN SARASOTA TODAY KNOW HOW COMMON IT WAS FOR CIRCUS PEOPLE TO COME HERE TO RETIRE. JACOBS: My father Lou Jacobs came here from Germany in 1923. He worked in vaudeville for a couple of years. His brother lived
PEDRO, ORIGINALLY YOU WERE AT THE NATIONAL CIRCUS SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS. WHAT WAS THE FIRST TIME YOUR JOURNEY WENT “LEFT, RIGHT, ZIGZAG” AS YOU SAID? REIS: Well, I started exploring how to run a non-for-profit, how to write a grant and how to raise funds. DIFFERENT FROM FLYING ON A TRAPEZE. REIS: Totally different. And very, very soon into the enterprise, we realized we got the cart before the horse. I said, “We know circus. We know how to perform, but education, in the sense of curriculum and being accepted in the educational system, we don’t.” I thought it was going to take a really, really long time to learn it all. Two of our most wonderful supporters, innovators and educators were Syd and Rita Adler. They helped us broaden our educational horizon and vision and they helped us find our first big top— a Russian tent that was basically abandoned in Orlando. We found the creditors, we borrowed as much money as we could from Sarasota Bank, thank you, [bank president] Christine Jennings, for providing the loan, and we went and we bought this tent. Now where are you going to set up the tent? Ray Pilon was then county commissioner and he loved the idea of the circus. He helped us find the landowner, John Meshad, an attorney. John allowed us to put our big top on his property at no cost. We put the tent up and we believed “if we build it, they will come.” We both laugh now because we were so naive in that sense. We imagined people would see this big tent, and they’d just show up. It wasn’t that easy. We struggled. There was pain, but it’s just that our passion was so strong that we couldn’t fail, we just couldn’t. We weren’t making any money. Dolly actually got a contract to go to Busch Gardens. She worked there for three months to pay all the acts that worked for us in our circus. When you think back, you laugh about it and it was a true testament to endurance. Never give up. Just keep going and believe in your dreams and your passion. And 25 years later, guess what, we’re still here.
THERE MUST HAVE BEEN TIMES WHERE YOU REALLY DIDN’T KNOW IF YOU COULD DO IT. JACOBS: We had a powerhouse show, incredible acts, because all of these artists who are friends of ours, believed in us and knew that we were going to present their art form at the highest level. And that’s what every artist wants.
This spread, clockwise: Dolly Jacobs on the rings, Pedro Reis performing with the YMCA troupe in South Africa. Front page of the Sarasota Herald from 1927. The Circus Winter Quarters outdoor arena located where Payne Park is today. Aerialists Dolly Jacob in regalia and Pedro Reis in the Big Apple. Reis found fame in his deathdefying performances of his original Cloud Swing and his aerial cradle act. Images courtesy of Circus Arts Conservatory.
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They don’t want to be upstaged by somebody barking to sell popcorn or souvenirs. And we did that. And having the support from the rest of our circus family really meant a lot to us. A lot of the artists cut their paycheck just so that they could help us get started. But sometimes we had more people in the show than we did in the audience. We didn’t have a lot of money for lighting and sound and all that. But the acts spoke for themselves and they were incredible topnotch performers and artists. From that very beginning, those people that came to see us, those that supported us, were blown away. Those were the stepping stones. Each year we got more people that saw the show, and if we could just get the people in the seats, we knew they would come back. REIS: We have volunteers that say, “I was with you from day one.” How amazing is that? As Dolly says, “You stand on the shoulders of those before you.” JACOBS: They gave us the foundation upon which we stand and it’s solid. Our mission and our goal is a hundred years down the road to ensure that it’s still going strong.
WORKING WITH THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, DOLLY’S HERITAGE FELLOW RECOGNITION, SETTING UP YOUR TENT ON THE NATIONAL LAWN IN D.C., THESE ACHIEVEMENTS ALL COME BACK TO AN IDEA THAT STARTED AS A LOCAL COMMITMENT. REIS: In the beginning [our idea] was bringing back the living circus to Sarasota because this is where the circus needs to live. This is where the circus needs to express itself, and then be seen by the world. The circus world has evolved. There’s a lot more contemporary circus than traditional circus. You need to embrace it because life is evolution. When we present, it’s a mix of traditional and contemporary circus. Circus is a variety show. You can have live voice, you can have canned music, you can have a horse, you can have many horses, you can have someone on a violin, you can have someone on a tightrope and on the flying trapeze. It’s really encompassing so many different disciplines; dance, movement, ballet. But
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DOLLY JACOBS ON HER FATHER, THE ICONIC LEGENDARY LOU JACOBS
I NEVER HAD TO BE ASKED TWICE WHAT I WANTED TO DO. As a little girl on the sidelines watching my father, I knew from a very young age that’s what I wanted to do. Not following my father’s footsteps, obviously he wore really big shoes, but to go up in the air at some point in my life, and I did. My father was with Ringling for over 60 years. He made his mark there. But his face and his clown makeup that he created is not just known in America but around the world. But more so than just his face, when he performed, he was an inventive comedian. He had the motorized little car, which is on display at the Ringling Museum. There’s a replica there if you want to try to get in it yourself. He had a motorized baby buggy, motorized bathtub, motorized hospital bed and all his vehicles went around the hippodrome track. Every year or so, he would create a new gag for Ringling Brothers. One year he had a little pup from the pound, her name was Knucklehead. He put little rabbit ears on her and he went a-hunting. That gag warmed the hearts of all the kids. He even performed at Madison Square Garden when he was at the very top of his fame. I remember a story he told. He was coming home on the train, without his makeup obviously, and sitting next to a family. The father was saying to the son, “What was your favorite part?” The son says, “Oh, it was when that big clown got out of that little car.” And they didn’t know he was sitting right next to them. You don’t realize until you get older the impact that your parents have on your life. I feel fortunate about the parents that I had and the exposure that I was given. People often ask me why I didn’t become a clown. Well, you have to find what’s deep inside you, that fire of desire that you have. Mine was to be the girl on the flying trapeze. I learned from my father by watching him, watching how he performed. As soon as he went through the curtain, he was on. Image courtesy of Circus Arts Conservatory
beyond that, being internationally recognized as a destination for the circus arts. Every year you have the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo, in Monte Carlo, which this year will be held on January 19-28, 2024, and now, every February and March Sarasota is where you want to be to work as an artist.
DOLLY AND PEDRO, AT SOME POINT YOUR TWO PATHS COINCIDED, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? REIS: Well, first, I always knew of Dolly. I was always dreaming about going to America and dreaming about joining Ringling Brothers and looking at program books and obviously seeing the pictures in the program; Dolly Jacobs, Lou Jacobs, Gunther GebelWilliams. This was my dream, right? So in 1983, I was in Switzerland, doing an act which we called “Cat’s Cradle”, where the catcher hangs by his knees in a frame and we, on top of the frame, leap into the air and the catcher comes out and catches you. You’re doing somersaults, pirouettes, hand to hand with no safety devices. I had been part of a troupe for four years when we decided to go different ways, and so I was thinking, “what am I going to do?” I heard about this act that didn’t exist anymore because it was too dangerous. People got killed. So I thought, “wow, that’s interesting.”
OH NO! THAT’S ONE WAY TO FIND OPENINGS IN THE MARKET! REIS: With my troupe, The Survivors, we went on to perform this act and after about a year, the [famous circus father and son team] Irvin Feld, and Kenneth
Feld were scouting on behalf of Ringling Brothers. [They were told] to go see these crazy South Africans. A dream for us was always to go to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, [and here was our opportunity]. We signed the contract and came to Sarasota in December 1983 to train for the 1984, 1985 tour. It was New Years and we were at the Holiday Inn in Venice, celebrating, and in walked Dolly Jacobs.
AND NOW WE COME TO THE LOVE STORY. REIS: And so I said to my friend Mark David, “Can you introduce us?” Dolly had on blue denim jeans and a black leather jacket. I said, “Hi, my name’s Pedro.” And that’s when I found out her boyfriend at that time’s name was Pedro as well. Anyway, that was our first meeting.
IT SOUNDS TO ME YOU WERE EQUALLY FEARLESS LEAPING FOR YOUR CATCHER IN THE AIR AS WELL AS LEAPING FOR THE ULTIMATE GOLDEN RING AS WELL. REIS: Absolutely. That was the first time we met. When I finished the tour, I was creating my new single act that I called the “Cloud Swing.” I went to practice at Sailor Circus, and lo and behold, who was practicing at Sailor Circus? Dolly Jacobs. So that’s when we kind of reconnected.
IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE MONTH OF JULY, 1990, MUST HAVE BEEN THE BEST MONTH AND THE WORST MONTH YOU EVER HAD, RIGHT? REIS: Oh-yeah, July 4th very good, and then July 5th was not so good.
JACOBS: 6th. It was two days later. We had been having a long distance romance. We were both featured aerialists and most circuses only had one featured aerialist. It was long distance, telephones and airplane flights to see each other. But in 1990, my father was already getting up there and I really needed time with him. I had been successful with all my work and I decided to stay home that year and take the year off. To stay busy I took up cosmetology. Pedro was with the Big Apple Circus. I took that opportunity to go up and visit him in New York And he popped the question. REIS: On the 4th of July, free fireworks!
THIS IS THE GOOD PART OF THE STORY. JACOBS: This is the good part. REIS: Yeah. I proposed, knowing there would be fireworks.
JACOBS: And then two days later is when Pedro’s accident happened. Somebody didn’t set his rigging properly and he crushed both of his ankles. I was sitting in the audience watching. Nineteen screws and two plates, and
that’s in the “good” ankle. I didn’t go back to Florida. I never finished my cosmetology degree. I stayed with Pedro as he recuperated in New York. Then rehab. And so the engagement went on for 17 years, the longest engagement in history. We finally got married in 2007 at the Ringling Museum and we had 250 of our nearest and dearest with us. His sisters came over from South Africa.
AS A FLIER, I ASSUME, THIS INJURY MUST HAVE BEEN MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY CRUSHING.
REIS: I had my accident and recuperated. Then we came back to Sarasota. We went to the gym, we were at the gym every day, two, three hours. Dolly was very active and still had her act. Her sister and brother-in-law got a contract with Jimmy Hamid and John McConnell. They offered Dolly a contract for the same show. I don’t know what made me do it, but I picked up the phone and I called the producer, I said, “Hey, would you like to book my Cloud Swing act?” And he said, “I didn’t know you were doing your Cloud Swing act anymore.” I said, “Yeah, I’m back.” And he replied, “We’ll definitely book your Cloud Swing act.” So I hung up the phone and said to Dolly, “All right, I have to go and practice.”
AND WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION? JACOBS: I was surprised, but not totally surprised because I know his character. REIS: I got my rigging out and went to Sailor Circus and started practicing. Of course, the Cloud Swing is one thing, the tricks that you do, but the leap, that’s another thing because you completely let go of the rope. You’re flying through the air, you’re catching the rope 26 feet away. It’s pulled up on a single pulley, tied off with a piece of string. When you break that string, you’re dropping 25 feet to 30 feet before the bungee slows you down for you to touch the lightly lit floor and then, let go of the rope.
AND THIS IS WHAT WENT WRONG, ORIGINALLY?
REIS: They pulled the rope up, tied the string and forgot to attach the bungee. Honestly, it’s a mind game. You play mind games with yourself and you have to talk your way through it—to trust yourself—to have the self-confidence to be able to do it—knowing that at any second something could go wrong. You know you can do it. So I did it. We did a short tour. We ended the season in Detroit, in the arena where the infamous Wallenda Pyramid accident happened. At the end of the tour, I literally took my rope, put it in a bag, closed the zipper and I was fine. Closure. I had total closure. I kind of say “passion is a flame and it’s okay for you to blow out the flame, but nobody else can blow the flame out for you.” And for me, it was like I blew out the flame, the candle, and I was at peace. It’s hard to describe, but that’s exactly how I feel. And then the other door opened and I got an opportunity to create an act with Dolly. A Pas de Deux, the strap act, the aerial act, new adventures. But, it didn’t last very long. We are very different characters and in the air, it was all “I’m right, she’s wrong. I’m wrong, she’s right.” It just didn’t work out.
THE WALLENDA CIRCUS FAMILY
ONE OF THE MOST DARING CIRCUS FAMILIES IN THE WORLD, the Wallendas, has held a prominent place in the circus and in Sarasota for the greater part of this century. The high-wire performers have dedicated their lives to creating world-class acts that entertain and amaze audiences of all ages. Tino Wallenda, the oldest living Wallenda still performing, is the grandson of Karl Wallenda, founder of the famous family act. A lifelong Sarasotan born in SMH when it was just a two-level wooden structure, Tino began performing at age two, with his first act on the wire at age seven.
“By the time I was 12,” he recalls, “I had the primary training I needed and made my first appearance on the high wire as part of the family act. By age 17, I became a fullfledged member of the Wallenda team.” In addition to their fame for being talented and daring, the Wallendas are well known for performing on the high wire without a net which may sound extremely dangerous and scary to the average person, but the Wallendas are definitely not average people. “While there have been some injuries over the years, we train to stay on the wire, not fall off of it,” says Tino. “Our routine is something we practice over and over and it’s been that way since my grandpa started in 1920, so we feel very comfortable and confident in what we do.”
The Wallenda’s net-less act first began almost a century ago when Karl and his troupe, who were based in Germany, were performing with a circus in Cuba. While they were there, John Ringling, who was about to move his circus to Sarasota, made a point to go see the act because he had heard how incredible their performance was. But everytime he tried to see them, the circus management would keep the Wallendas from performing because they didn’t want to lose the act to Ringling. Finally, Ringling snuck in to see the show and immediately hired the Wallendas. When the family arrived at Madison Square Garden in New York, they unpacked and set up their equipment only to find that the management from Cuba did not send them with a net. “Grandpa lived by the motto ‘The show must go on’ as most circus performers do, so they performed and did incredible feats without a net,” shares Tino. “The audience stomped their feet and whistled. The Wallendas thought that was insulting as stomping and whistling was disrespectful in Europe, so they thought they were a flop. They were actually the opposite–the audience loved them. The Wallendas from that point on performed without a net.”
The circus has been ever changing from its inception, from Tino’s perspective, but it’s the life that he and his family live and love. “We are now into the 8th generation” the father of four and grandfather of nine (with three grandchildren that have already been in on the family act) shares. “Performing on the wire is not what the thrill is about for us. The audience’s enjoyment is the thrill. We are not necessarily daredevils or stunt performers–we do what we do for the love of the fans.” With a summer tour that includes stops in St. Louis, Wallingford and Norwalk, CT, the Wallendas still perform every chance they get. They still live out of a circus trailer when they travel and are always happy to return home to Sarasota, which Tino believes to be the circus capital of the world. — B.Heit
Images courtesy of Tino Wallenda.
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SO THIS IS A MARRIED COUPLE SQUABBLING IN THE AIR? JACOBS: With the microphones off, it was a love story. But if we had had microphones on, it would’ve been a comedy act. REIS: And so I said to Dolly, “I’m going to find you a partner and enter Yuri Rjkov. “Yuri, how would you like to de-stress my wife?”
SO NOW YOU ARE BEHIND THE SCENES, SORT OF, WHILE DOLLY IS IN THE SPOTLIGHT? REIS: With the aerial Pas de Deux with Dolly and partners, I’m running the winch motor and I’m taking them up into the air. I must fly them around, and land them with precision. I mean, they have to land exactly at the right moment. You could break your feet or break your ankles. In my span of being an artist, an aerialist, I personally know how serious safety is. Knowing what can go wrong, will go wrong unless you take precautions. I look at everything. And everybody knows that about me. We had Alan Silva, who is an aerialist and does flying silks. His routine is pretty complicated. He flies way out and then from a dizzy height, 25 feet in the air, 30 feet away, and he swings down and lands in a split. The winch operator: you’re controlling that descent and that landing and there’s no room for error. That comes with dedication and experience. And taking it very seriously. It’s not flippant. You can’t be flippant about somebody flying in the air and landing on the ground. Do I feel very responsible? Yes. Am I haunted by it? No. I’m pretty at ease, because I know I can do it. JACOBS: Which put me at ease. When I was flying and he was on the winch, whether I did a solo routine or with a partner, I had total trust in Pedro. We’re human and there’s always an error. One time I was doing a solo routine in the summer program at the Ringling Museum. Beyond our control, the electricity and the sound, the lighting, everything went out while I was up there flying around. But I knew Pedro was on the winch, he was able to lower me in the dark. REIS: Manually without the power. JACOBS: And the whole audience was frozen, and Pedro says, “You okay?” And I landed on the ground and I said, “Yep, I’m fine.” Because he was on the winch. Confidence is such a key to aerial work. If you don’t have that confidence and fear comes in, then you shouldn’t be up there. If you start thinking about what can go wrong or what might go wrong and envision it, your body will follow. That’s whey when I teach, I try to tell the girls that they must always envision doing it right, you have to have that confidence.
YOUR ACTS ARE DEEPLY PERSONAL, THEY’RE VERY MUCH A PERSONAL CREATION. JACOBS: It’s like artwork. You create this art. Before I did the straps, I was on the Roman rings. When I met Pedro, I was already doing this somersault from the rings to a rope. Pedro had me change it to put the rope further away. PUSHING THE LIMITS. REIS: I have to get some insurance. NOW WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT OTHER PEDRO. REIS: Still a very good friend of mine, as it happens. JACOBS: In all honesty though, the way I was doing the somersault at the time, it was so fast and so close, there was no room for error. Whereas putting it further away, then I could use my experience from the flying trapeze where you’re letting go and catching–I have more time to see where I’m going, even with the blind spot that comes with you turning. With Pedro being at the bottom of the rope holding that rope, I had confidence in him. And without that confidence, I don’t know if I could have done it. There was a time at Busch Gardens when I was doing it, and my hand slipped off. I came down. The rope went under my arm and took all the skin off. Pedro was standing there, I landed in his arms with my toes pointed. Thank you very much. The audience thought it was part of the act. He pushed me out there, gave me a kiss, said, “Take your bow.” REIS: Just smile. Keep smiling. She fell, she came down like 20 feet. And I just caught her. Possibly more. She fell down and I just caught her. I said, “Smile, keep smiling, it’s part of the show.” We keep going, the show must go on. JACOBS: Meanwhile, all the skin’s off. And then even the emcee didn’t realize it was a mistake. He sent me back for a second bow. REIS: And that’s when she decided to marry me.
DOLLY’S TELLING ME IS THAT
YOU PUSHED HER ACT FURTHER AND FURTHER. JACOBS: Let me tell you what else he encouraged me to do. While his feet were still in braces recuperating from the accident, I got a phone call from the Nock family who do aerial. They are an incredible, historical family. And one of the family has a helicopter, and the brothers hang underneath the helicopter. One brother couldn’t do it, and called and asked if I would do the trapeze under the helicopter. He needed to know by the next day. I laughed because there was no way, but Pedro looked at me and he said, “Well, I would do it.” So he challenged me. So I agreed and I broke out in hives just thinking about it. And I’m at home on the rings, not on a
trapeze. Luckily I took my rings and threw them in the trunk of the car, thank God I did that. There was no rehearsal. We flew over the lake once, with me inside the helicopter, and then the next time I was outside the helicopter holding onto my apparatus, and the helicopter goes up and pulls me away. No safety rope, no guidelines, nothing, no harness. I did it three shows a day for two weeks. REIS: Ten days. 30 shows. JACOBS: That was a feather in my cap. REIS: And it was winter. It was cold. JACOBS: There were 50 mile an hour winds one day. REIS: She went up 250 feet in the air hanging . . . JACOBS: Over a lake. And because I’d done competitive swimming and diving and lifesaving, I’m looking at the water, hanging upside down on the rings, imagining how I’m going to enter, what dive am I going to do. REIS: And you actually did do dislocates? [A dislocate is when the performer leaves contact with the apparatus so they are they unsuspended momentarily in the air, and then catches themselves.] JACOBS: I did end up doing dislocates. REIS: She actually started doing dislocates, full dislocates. And it was amazing. JACOBS: He dared me.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTING THOUGHTS?
JACOBS: With our lifespan, here on this earth, we are dedicating all of our time and energy to preserving this art form we call the circus. REIS: Circus is one of the oldest living performing arts. When you think about the cavemen, imagine they are dancing and doing things around the fire. A performance. If you look at the Egyptians, the art on the walls, you’ll see jugglers and acrobats. The circus has been around forever, and it evolves. It goes to a different level and different stratosphere. Now there is a lot more contemporary circus versus traditional. It’s very interesting to mix it all and to blend it all together. When I came to America in 1984 there were three circus schools, and now there are more than 300 circus schools. It’s exploding, it’s exciting, it’s happening. The circus is being recognized as being cool. [For the individual performer,] it’s about your body. It’s ‘how many balls can I juggle? 8, 10, 12, 15? What’s the record? I’m going to break the record. How many somersaults can you do? Oh, three. That’s the limit. Guess what, they’re doing four.’ That’s what circus does. Push the boundaries of the impossible. Make it possible. Make the impossible possible before your very eyes, and . . . smile. SRQ
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SUPPORTING THE GREATEST SHOW
EVERYONE LOVES A CIRCUS and everyone who lives in Sarasota loves Circus Arts Conservatory–especially these key players who were involved from the very early days, ensuring that the show must go on for generations–thanks to their involvement. As CAC celebrates its 25th anniversary, Phyllis Siskell, Andy Carlson and Barb Tye met with us to share their memories of the past, observations of today and hopes for the future. Phyllis Siskell, 79 years young, is originally from Maryland. She has lived in Sarasota for 52 years and has a passion for the circus and volunteering. Andy Carlson was born and raised in Sarasota. He is the president of Arne Carlson Insurance Agency, Inc., a firm started by his father in 1947. He’s always been a big fan and supporter of the circus. Barb Tye is on the board of directors of the Circus Arts Conservatory. She volunteers for different aspects of the organization, with strong involvement in the yearly gala celebrations. — B.Heit
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH CIRCUS ARTS CONSERVATORY?
SISKELL: Many years ago, I was reading about volunteer opportunities, and ushering was one of them. I volunteered as an usher at the circus in 2010 and each year, I ushered for more and more performances because I enjoyed it so much. I just love being under the big top and now I usher at Sailor Circus, which is heartwarming.
ANDY CARLSON: I’ve always loved the circus but when our kids got involved with Sailor Circus, I met Pedro. And back then Pedro had this dream to start a professional circus. So I helped in the early organizational stages of that by finding an attorney, helping with the accountant, putting bylaws together, that sort of thing. I also helped them set up a foundation. It’s kind of interesting how it merged from Sailor Circus to Circus Sarasota, to Circus Arts Conservatory. I was with Circus Sarasota and its beginning days about 27 years ago. Pedro and I worked together but in my support of him, I was providing him with the opportunity to put his dream and his plan together. BARB TYE: I saw a performance for the first time in 2002 and loved it. From then on, I volunteered to help whenever I could. I’m especially passionate about the kids. The first time I ever heard graduating seniors speak, I was struck by their maturity and how they’ve learned leadership skills and to work together in teams. I was just really impressed by everything these graduating seniors had to say. It’s hard to watch the performances and realize that they’re kids, they’re so professional.
HAS THE ORGANIZATION GROWN AND CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? SISKELL:
Everyone has such great enthusiasm and supports the mission so well. They also have overcome so many obstacles over the years and they’ve come through so well.
CARLSON: Early Sailor Circus was a high school program and they did performances on the football field. And then they got a tent. And then they got a permanent building. And then they started adding performances and they bringing in circus professionals to help coach the kids. And that’s how Dolly and Pedro came in. Dolly and Pedro wanted to form their own circus which they did with Circus Sarasota. And then when Sailor Circus had some organizational issues where they needed to go beyond where they had been, Pedro and Dolly were there to help, to take that responsibility and grow Sailor Circus and transition it along with Circus Arts Conservatory to blend them. So a private enterprise and a public enterprise have merged together for the benefit of the kids of Sarasota. TYE: Our programs have just expanded so much. Our outreach
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Above, left to right: Supporters and pastrons of the Circus Arts Conservatory Phyllis Siskell, Andy Carlson and Barb Tye, photo by Wyatt Kostygan.
not only extends to children, but to the elderly and care facilities. We teach science to kids through circus arts in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and then, once a year, all these kids come together to show what they’ve learned in terms of science and engineering feats that you can perform through circus arts which is really quite incredible. The circus program has grown by leaps and bounds and Sailor Circus is the oldest performing youth circus in the country and that whole program has grown, too. And we now have magnet schools where kids get credit for performing in the Sailor Circus. Recently, we did a four million dollar renovation at the Sailor Circus Arena. So we finally have air conditioning and now we’re on to our next phase, where we are redoing the entire entrance to the Sailor Circus Arena–that’s our next fundraising campaign. We want to be the finest performing circus in the world.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF PEDRO AND DOLLY? SISKELL: I have a thank you card from them for a donation I made in 2005 but I think I really met them when I signed up to usher. Their enthusiasm was incredible and I thought they were just shining stars. It’s been fantastic to watch their passion for the organization–it’s been such a great ride. CARLSON: Pedro has always been energetic, focused, very interested in learning, always absorbing and willing to take risks in order to accomplish his vision. Dolly has always been the support and partner with the two of them doing it together. Pedro’s motivated and if there is a stumbling block, he’ll figure out how to knock the stumbling block down or go around it. He’s determined with lots of self-sacrifice, lots of giving up of personal time and space in order to support the kids. TYE: Both Pedro and Dolly are beyond passionate for the circus and the performances. They put their heart and soul into Circus Sarasota which is now Circus Arts Conservatory and they started in their garage 25 years ago. Their passion, their energy and everything they do shows how they feel about and love the circus and want to keep the legacy of the circus alive. Also, Dolly won the National Endowment of the Arts Award in 2015, which is the highest award given in performance artistry–no circus person has ever been given that award before.
YOU SHARE A FAVORITE MEMORY? SISKELL:
Everything is a great memory. I sponsored an event through the Community Foundation that was done at the big top. I had sponsored the popcorn and I remember that they had to delay the start of the show because the line for a box of popcorn was so long. That was a very fond memory for me. Also, watching Emma Clarke, the daughter of CAC managing director Jennifer Mitchell through the years at Sailor Circus has been a delight. CARLSON: In the very early days, we worked out of Pedro and Dolly’s garage on
card tables, trying to put a performance together. And the first year, when we set up the tent on Fruitville Road, it was an empty lot. It rained and it was muddy and Pedro was trying to attract people to come and visit. So on the rainiest, stormiest day I think we’ve had in a long time, Pedro climbed one of the king poles. At the top of the pole, the header is about a foot square and he was standing 50 feet in the air with high winds and rain performing for WWSB so he could get visual recognition in the community to encourage people to come to visit his fine performance. TYE: The first time I was asked to be on the gala committee, I was new to Sarasota as a full-time resident and I really didn’t have any resources here. Somehow I was co-chair of the gala. I ended up calling on resources I had in North Carolina where I lived and made it work!
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION? SISKELL: I’m excited for their growth, the added programs and seeing them reach their goals. And of course, helping in any way I could. I’m also excited to see what they continue to do for so many young people’s futures. CARLSON: Part of my interest has always been in employment opportunities for kids beyond a college education. The circus is like a theater. It’s an entertainment enterprise and everything that happens within the front of the house and back of the house–the entertainers, the business management, the foundation management–all of those are employment opportunities. And I’ve always hoped that we would be able to partner with educational institutions in order to train kids for other employment opportunities which some kids have been very successful at doing. Circus Arts Conservatory is becoming, if it’s not already, the leading youth circus provider in the country. The quality of the coaches, the quality of the trainers, the dedication, and the requirement for discipline and interactive behavior, is top notch. One of the neat things is the relationship of the elementary kids to the senior high school kids and to the professional performers. It’s like a weave into one big family. TYE: Just the way we’re growing and our reputation. John Ringling came to Sarasota in 1927 and brought the Ringling Brothers Circus here and we’re just keeping that legacy alive. I was on the scholarship committee for a while and the letters that the kids wrote about how they didn’t really have a place to fit in but then they joined Sailor Circus and it changed everything for them–their lives and abilities in general–it’s amazing. They now have team spirit and know how to work with other people with confidence. They start in fourth grade and go through senior year and so they’re performing before thousands of people with the confidence and the talent and everything they’ve learned. It’s wonderful. SRQ
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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
EXPANDING WITH OUR REGION
The campus fosters a genuine sense of community, both inside and outside the classroom. Class sizes are small and faculty know and support students as they work to achieve their career goals. Students are engaged in internships, study abroad programs, collaborative research projects with faculty, and consulting initiatives, to help prepare them for career success.
At USF, research is a creative and ongoing collaboration between faculty and students, administrators, business and academic partners and our local community. Together we are an ever stronger global research university that explores uncharted terrain, generates knowledge, unleashes innovation and changes lives.
NEW STUDENT CENTER
Construction is underway for the ﬁrst-ever student center and residence hall on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, set to welcome students in Fall 2024. This upcoming facility will infuse a new vibrancy into students’ college experience, offering abundant opportunities for engagement, peer connections and the establishment of enduring relationships.
THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA IS A PREEMINENT STATE RESEARCH UNIVERSITY WITH AN ANNUAL ECONOMIC IMPACT OF OVER $6 BILLION. USF’s three distinctive campuses in Sarasota-Manatee, St. Petersburg and Tampa offer unique experiences all with a commitment to student success and impact for communities and businesses. Since 1975, the University of South Florida SarasotaManatee campus has played a vital role in the community by providing educational opportunities, supporting economic growth, promoting research and innovation, and enriching the cultural and social landscape of the region. Located at the border of Sarasota and Manatee counties, adjacent to SRQ Airport, USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus features a unique, personalized learning environment for students seeking undergraduate and graduate programs. A major campus transformation is underway with the construction of a new residence hall and student center that will create affordable housing and provide a world-class student experience. In addition, planning and design has started on a 75,000 square foot building focused on meeting the high demand for professionals in nursing, health care and emerging STEM disciplines such as cybersecurity. The Nursing/ STEM building will deﬁne the future of the campus by providing advanced labs and research facilities. The University of South Florida ranks No. 42 among all public universities and No. 97 among all universities public or private in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 ranking of the best colleges in America. At the University of South Florida, our trajectory speaks to our commitment to student success and we are proud to be a top choice destination for high-achieving students. Join us as we strengthen USF’s impact, not only for our students but also for our communities and businesses.
The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus serves the region through programs focused on business, health sciences, risk management and insurance, cybersecurity, education, criminal justice, hospitality, tourism and other areas that beneﬁt our community. Courses are delivered on campus, online and through hybrid instruction, making it convenient for students to work while completing their education. Financial aid and generous scholarships are available to help students, many of whom are the ﬁrst in their families to attend college, veterans who have served our country and working adults who are returning to complete their degrees or upskill. The campus also offers dual-enrollment courses enabling high school students to earn college credits as they work toward graduation.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA | SARASOTA-MANATEE CAMPUS 8350 N. TAMIAMI TRAIL | SARASOTA, FL 34243 | 941-359-4200 | SARASOTAMANATEE.USF.EDU
“Education is the foundation upon which our future thrives, and as we grow, so does our commitment to supporting our students and the community. Together, we are expanding horizons, unlocking new opportunities and building a brighter tomorrow.”
Karen A. Holbrook, PhD
Regional Chancellor, USF Sarasota-Manatee campus
SPECIAL BRANDED CONTENT FEATURE | HIGHER EDUCATION GUIDE TO COLLEGE | SRQ MAGAZINE | JULY-AUGUST 2023
SPLASH OF COLOR
Tzeva’s eclectic Mediterranean menu reimagines hotel dining. Andrew Fabian
LOCAL EPICUREAN ADVENTURES AT THE TABLE
WITH A FEW ILLUSTRIOUS EXCEPTIONS, dining in a hotel restaurant is rarely a choice made with gusto. It’s often the last resort of the weary vacationer who checked in close to midnight. Or the sensible option for a business traveler abusing their expense account. At downtown Sarasota’s Art Ovation Hotel, a new concept bucks the bland to offer both its guests and the city a menu as inspired as its art exhibitions.
Called Tzeva—which means color in Hebrew—the concept finds its inspiration in some less well-known Mediterranean cuisines, namely Israeli. Meanwhile, Executive Chef Ken Shiro Lumpkin—who helped Kojo establish itself as a culinary staple and whose resume includes work with a Jewish caterer—infuses hints of his Japanese background into a menu of shareable plates that delight with some unexpected twists. As anyone who’s enjoyed Israeli food already knows, a table full of salatim (Hebrew for salads), a few hummus selections and a stack of toasted pita is a great way to kick off a meal and, in some cases, preclude a full meal altogether. Tzeva’s rotating salatim, served cold and in small dishes much like Korean banchan, might include julienned pickled carrots with herbs or an Israeli corn salad, each light and refreshing. Hardy hummus accompaniments might include the masabacha—best described as a rustic or deconstructed hummus in which most of the
chickpeas are left whole—or the vegetarian hummus, which comes topped with roasted curry cauliflower, a dash of sumac and shredded mint. These begin to either whet or squash an appetite depending on how many pita-wielding hands are present at the table.
The small plates selections depart from the purely authentic and introduce some of Tzeva’s more inventive dishes. A toasted feta comes topped with dukkah—a Middle Eastern blend of nuts, herbs and spices—and drizzled with thyme honey. On their own, the cheese, dukkah and honey almost eat like a dessert, but the addition of Castelvetrano olives and house pickles on the side balance the sweet with splashes of salt and brine. The falafel, meanwhile, would be a fine dish even if it only came with the scratch-made chickpea fritters, but served atop a smoked tomato chutney it gets a savory, smokey twist that warrants a thorough cleaning of the plate with whatever pita remains from the opening course.
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Left: The charred octopus explodes with color and flavor from the small plates selections. This page, left to right: The interior gets a bright makeover for the bright menu. Grouper shashlik puts a Gulf spin on an Israeli-styled kabob.
Crispy tangles of kataifi threads top a whole chicken in a savory broth. Toasted pita and a cauliflower hummus offer a clean appetizer. Scratch-made falafel are the perfect occasion for the complex smoked tomato chutney.
Explore: Tzeva Modern Mediterranean Cuisine, 1255 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota, 941-413-7425, Tzevasarasota.com
Al ha’esh (Hebrew for “on the fire”) kebabs showcase more of Tzeva’s blending of traditional and modern flavors. The chicken shashlik comes with perfectly grilled chunks of chicken thighs served alongside hardy Bombay yams. An accompanying apricot chutney establishes a welcomed pattern of bringing sweetness to savory dishes. A grouper shashlik puts a distinct Gulf Coast spin on kebabs and an occasion for the return of the smoked tomato chutney. It also introduces a bit of Chef Lumpkin’s Japanese roots with a puree of kabocha, a type of winter squash found in Japan that yields a rich, creamy, sweet flavor.
For large plates, a lamb shank gives diners all the comfort of a beef stew but with the pastoral flavor of lamb. Like the chicken shashlik, the meat itself isn’t overdone with spices that detract from the pure joy of eating roasted meat. The rich jus at the bottom of the plate is best sopped up with the kabocha korokke fritters that come on the side. By far the most exciting large plate on the menu is the Moroccan chicken.
This heaping dish features a spatchcocked whole or half chicken seasoned with ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend that includes salt, cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black and white pepper, cayenne, allspice, cloves and nutmeg. The kataifi threads on top are best enjoyed with the delicious broth, combining the aromatic appeal of a yellow curry with the silkiness of a rich bouillon. A half-chicken order is plenty for two, especially when ordered as a second or third course.
While all options on the dessert menu strike the restaurant’s balance of artistry and accessibility, the black sesame brulee might very well be one of the best desserts in downtown Sarasota. The unexpected juxtaposition of a creamy brulee with the nuttiness of black sesame seeds is at once surprising and decadent. Though the hotel’s guests may very well stumble into Tzeva’s menu by the same paths of convenience, the region more broadly gets another destination dinner spot in a food scene very much on the rise. SRQ
forage 84 | srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.
ON A ROLL
JPAN’s bluefin tuna cutting reminds novice and seasoned sushi lovers why the time-honored cuisine has stood the test of time. Laura Paquette
ON A WARM SPRING EVENING, guests crowd the back room of JPAN Sushi & Grill at University Town Center. Bunched together like sardines, they hold up their phones hoping to capture a shot of the night’s star attendee. I stand a few rows deep into the group and crane my neck to get a better angle. When I catch a glimpse of the VIP guest, I gasp. Amidst a throng of people—many die-hard sushi enthusiasts—I’m witnessing the transformation of a 170 lb. Pacific bluefin tuna into an inventive eight-course meal that calls upon hundreds of years of sushi mastery to give diners an unforgettable experience. A special event put on by JPAN, this Bluefin Tuna Cutting draws in sushi fanatics living in Sarasota and those from cities farther along the Gulf Coast, like Tampa. “We want to share Japanese culture with guests and help them feel the love that the chefs put into the dishes,” says Daniel Dokko, the restaurant’s owner and chef.
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This spread, clockwise: A hand roll at JPAN; Rice is a key component in sushi and requires practice to master. Food preparation at JPAN. A 170 lb. Pacific bluefin tuna awaits tasting by guests.
I take my seat, sandwiched in between two couples that have chosen this event for their special occasion dinners. The husband from the pair to my right regales me with tales of his previous attendance at similar events, known as omakase, in which the chef’s whims drive the menu. As there is no set menu from which guests choose, they put their trust in the chef to deliver them an exquisite meal.
While I enjoy a good California or crispy tempura roll, I’ve shied away from the likes of raw fish and caviar. Listening to my tablemate express his hope to sample JPAN’s sashimi, or slices of fresh raw fish, I hold my chopsticks like a battle weapon. My five-dollar Publix sushi lunches have left me unprepared for what’s to follow. Dokko makes the rounds in the dining room, stopping by each table to welcome and check on guests. When he reaches me, I fear he’ll realize that I’m an imposter, stumbling over the pronunciation of basic styles of sushi.
Instead, he asks if I’ve ever had tuna before, at which I relax into my seat. “Yes, but only from a can,” I say. “This is a different kind of tuna,” he says, his face at once mournful for my deprivation from the bluefin variety but eager to watch me taste it for the first time.
Fifteen species of tuna roam the open seas, but the bluefin ranks among the most coveted. The fish’s higher fat content infuses the meat with a buttery flavor. “About 15 years ago, the bluefin was endangered and being overfished,” says Dokko. “If someone caught one, they’d ship it to Japan because it not only consumes more bluefin than any other country but is also willing to pay more for the product.” Innovations in aquaculture and industry control have spurned sustainable fishing efforts, allowing restaurants to choose between line-caught and farm-raised varieties. The Spanish company Balfegó, which has supplied tuna to JPAN in the past, is an aquaculture pioneer, catching only adult Atlantic bluefins who populate their farms. JPAN paid a little over $4,000 for the fish that I’m gearing up to eat—and that fish is on the smaller side. Their menu features bluefin tuna on special occasions, and the chefs must put a great deal of thought into preparing and serving the fish.
“This fish was line-caught off of Mexico and is smaller than farm-raised ones. We need to use the whole fish within five days, and we don’t want any to go to waste,” adds Dokko. Even with a smaller fish, his team still has their work cut out for them.
“Not many chefs have the opportunity to work with a whole tuna. It’s hard for restaurants to order one, so they often order tuna loins, or parts of the tuna, to avoid having to worry about not using the entire fish.” Dokko and his partner have over two decades of experience in cutting a whole tuna and have learned from their mistakes. “We don’t want to make a mistake cutting it because we could lose a lot of the meat,” he says. “35 percent of that tuna becomes waste in the form of bones, the head, fins and tail, so there’s no room for error.”
For sushi chefs, practice is key. In Japan, students attend special sushi schools, devoting themselves to the art for a period of 4-5 years with the goal of becoming an itamae, the head sushi chef. Coming up in the American restaurant scene, Dokko underwent a more informal training process. While working as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant in Orlando, Dokko trained under the restaurant’s owner, learning the intricate step-by-step process that goes into perfecting the dish.
“I started by making rice, which is the most important part of sushi. The rice has to be cooked properly with the correct amount of seasoning. It can’t be mushy.” Sushi has been around in Japan for hundreds of years, but the modern iteration with sticky rice sprang up around the 1820s. According to BBC Ideas, chefs had discovered that it was possible to speed up the rice preparation process and serve fresh raw fish atop the rice. In centuries past, Japanese chefs used rice to ferment fish, which could take months. The rice had an unpleasant flavor, so it was tossed aside. But the new cooking methods meant that the sticky rice could be elevated and take on a leading role in the dish. “I probably cooked thousands and thousands of batches of rice,” Dokko says.
This spread, clockwise: The bluefin tuna must be cut into loins, a process requiring skill and training. Fresh edible flowers top the sashimi plate, featuring three cuts of bluefin tuna. Daniel Dokko, JPAN’s chef and owner, gives diners a crash course on bluefin tuna. Chefs prepare the bluefin tuna, ensuring exquisite presentation in each dish.
Plan a Visit JPAN Sushi Bar and Grill, 229 North Cattlemen Rd., Sarasota, jpanrestaurant.com.
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Once a student has mastered rice cooking, they move on to learning how to roll the sushi, another exercise in patience and skill. “Sushi rolls look easy, but you have to know how much rice to put on the nori or seaweed, and how to roll it tight enough that nothing falls out.” Sampling the hand rolls served as two different courses during the meal, I appreciate the extra effort.
Hand rolls, a little like sushi burritos, are uncut sushi rolls that guests can pick up and eat with their hands. Seeing that hand rolls are rising in popularity in larger cities, Dokko is eager to introduce them to Sarasota. “What’s different about the hand roll is the nori. It’s more expensive and higher quality. We hope to serve hand rolls made tableside so that the nori stays crispy.” In the spicy tuna and warm crab salad hand roll, the heat of the tuna contrasts with the cool, sticky
rice, all encapsulated in a crunchy nori shell. I devour this roll, marveling at the texture of the seaweed. Most sushi that I’ve had features a more chewy type of nori, which would be difficult to eat by hand. “It’s not about the roll itself, but about what chefs are putting into it,” adds Dokko. The spicy tuna is smooth and melts on my tongue, making me wonder why I’ve been so hesitant to try the fish in its purest raw form.
I get another chance with the final course, the sashimi plate. Three cuts of lean, medium and fatty tuna ranging from pink to deep red sit in front of me on a blue floral patterned dish. Their clean edges showcase the chefs’ years of training to properly cut fish. Everyone else digs in, despite remarking after the first seven courses that they’re stuffed. I call to mind Dokko’s presentation at the beginning of the night, breaking
down the process of cutting the fish in the correct manner. Chefs cut the tuna into four quadrants or loins. While almost all other types of fish must be frozen to kill parasites before being served to guests, tuna is a rare exception. A myriad of factors, from the fish’s tendency to swim in deep ocean waters with less exposure to parasites and modern fishing quality control methods mean that diners like me can enjoy the sashimi at its freshest.
Over sliced cantaloupe, I marvel at everything I’ve had the opportunity to try. Sea urchin, or uni, wagyu beef, caviar and shiso leaves left my mouth watering, but, as Dokko expected, the bluefin tuna swam circles around its canned cousins. “The sashimi is supposed to bring the wow factor,” he says. “You get to eat three cuts of the fish you just watched being cut. It’s the main event.” SRQ
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A HERO FOR OUR FUTURE
Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and Desoto Counties
President and CEO Bill Sadlo says he makes all decisions in the best interest of the children. Barbie
“THERE ARE TWO PHONES, whose call do you pick up first–the donor or the kids? The answer is always the kids.” This is something Bill Sadlo heard 35 years ago at a training conference for Boys & Girls Clubs and he carries it with him to this day.
Sadlo, a Sarasota resident since age six when his family relocated from Long Island, NY, originally planned to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and older sister and become a teacher after graduating from college. Working for a nonprofit had never occurred to him but luckily for Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, that’s where he ended up back in 1987 and remains today. His affiliation with the club, however, goes back even further to the time he was a boy and his parents enrolled him at the Fruitville Boys Club (now the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club) so that he would have a safe place to be after school and during the summer while they were at work.
“Sarasota was very different from Long Island but the Club introduced me to kids from all different backgrounds and helped me to forge connections with adult role models.” Sadlo recalls. “The Club was also where I learned to wrestle which later earned me an athletic scholarship to Appalachian State University.”
While he was very familiar with the Club as a boy and teen, Sadlo’s professional journey with the organization officially began in 1987 when he received a call from a high school friend asking if he would help coach wrestling there. That call ended up changing his entire career trajectory. He immediately started as a counselor and wrestling coach and returned every summer break from college. When he eventually transferred out of Appalachian
State to the University of South Florida, he volunteered at the Club year-round. At first, it was a rocky start as in 1988, the Club was facing difficulties and was about to close its doors. Thankfully, Executive Director, Mack Reid, came on in 1989 and turned the organization around. He also became an important mentor to Sadlo and eventually hired him for his first full-time job after he graduated college in 1992. With a degree in secondary education, Sadlo was asked to be an assistant program director. He continued to move up in the ranks of the organization before becoming president and CEO in 2011 when Reid retired.
“For me, having a safe place to go as a kid and now being able to provide that same safe space for today’s youth is what is most important to me,” shares Sadlo. “Going to where youth needs us the most and having a positive impact on their futures is what inspired me then, and what continues to inspire me today.”
For over 50 years, Boys & Girls Club has played an integral role in the lives of local youth by providing daily programs and services. Their core mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The vision is to provide a world-class Club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through the doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle.
A success story that Sadlo is proud to share involves an opportunity that came about a few years ago in DeSoto County. At the time, the area had no youth development programs so his group teamed up with local citizens to do
something about that. In 2018, they opened their sixth facility out of the former Smith-Brown schoolhouse in Arcadia and began providing local children, ages 6 to 18, with year-round programming to help them excel in school, become leaders and adopt healthy habits. Prior to officially opening this site as the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club, Sadlo and his team held the first enrollment event in July 2018 and were at capacity in less than two hours. In 2019, the City of Arcadia transferred the lease of the Smith-Brown Recreation Center that sits adjacent to the site. With lead support from the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust, they transformed the structure into a multipurpose gymnasium for youth with designated space for physical activities, project-based learning and enrichment programs that further foster their personal development. They are also adding another 10,000 square feet to the facility for additional youth development programs and expect construction to be completed sometime later this summer.
“The community of Arcadia needed this important resource. The expansion of this Club will give parents peace of mind knowing their kids are safe, that they will be in an environment that helps them build important life skills, that they will get help with their studies and be exposed to the many opportunities the Club has to offer,” says Sadlo. Words of wisdom that Sadlo likes to share with youth program leaders often: “Use your voice for good. We have a responsibility to make the community a better place. You are our future leaders so speak up, your voice has power.” SRQ Bill Sadlo was honored as one of SRQ Magazine’s good heroes in March 2023.
STORIES FROM OUR PHILANTHROPIC COMMUNITY
90 | srq magazine_ JUL/AUG23 live local
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.
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FROM THE EDITORS OF SRQ MAGAZINE | FALL 2023
ARCHITECTS PORTFOLIO MHK ARCHITECTURE
CONTENTS H & D
Home design stories, inspiration and thoughtful architecture on the West Coast of Florida—from Anna Maria Island and Lakewood Ranch to Sarasota, Venice and the Barrier Islands.
8 SURFACE TONE
Countertops and floors play crucial roles in defining the overall style and aesthetic of a kitchen.
KITCHEN BLING | BLACK+GOLD
While it would be impractical to fully redesign your kitchen every year, you can make small, sustainable changes over time. Updating kitchen fixtures is an easy and effective way to give your space a fresh and modern look without breaking the bank.
OLD IS NEW AGAIN
When you look through Damien Blumetti’s portfolio, it’s clear that modern architecture is his specialty. What isn’t immediately obvious is just how much of Blumetti’s forward-thinking design sensibility is rooted in the past. In his Siesta Key Bay House project, Blumetti was able to translate midcentury architectural practices into a fresh and contemporary modern home.
TIMELESS KITCHEN TRENDS
Kitchens are among the most difficult rooms to design because so many of the features are a big commitment. In a living room, you can buy new furniture and paint the walls if you need a change. Replacing countertops, tilework, fixtures and appliances is a lot more disruptive. Here, four local interior design professionals share insights into some of their latest projects, and how they designed kitchen and dining areas that will stand the test of time even as they employ current trends.
10 ARCHITECT’S PORTFOLIO
MHK ARCHITECTS’ STUDIO DIRECTOR
29 IN CONVERSATION WITH CEO DAVID HUNIHAN OF LEE WETHERINGTON HOMES AND FOUNDERPRESIDENT ROBERT MILLIGAN OF PREFERRED SHORE REAL ESTATE
COVER Damien Blumetti Architect Home, photography by Ryan Gamma.THIS PAGE Damien Blumetti Architect Home, photography by Ryan Gamma. Trade Mark Interiors Home, photography by Nicholas Ferris.
4 SRQ MAGAZINE | SRQ HOME&DESIGN FALL 2023 FALL 2023
ask the expert
OWNER & INTERIOR DESIGN DIRECTOR
NCIDQ CERTIFIED, ASID MEMBER & IIDA MEMBER
What key strategies do you employ to find inspiration for your interior design projects?
Drawing inspiration from multiple sources is essential to my design process. Nature, with its organic forms and harmonious palettes, is a constant source of inspiration. For my Florida clientele, integrating the natural environment into interior spaces is crucial. Additionally, haute couture fashion provides a wealth of ideas, enabling me to incorporate rich colors, textures, and create dramatic focal points. Infusing spaces with elements inspired by nature and fashion elevates the design, adding a sense of beauty and allure to each project.
Can you describe measures that ensure your design choices stand the test of time and remain relevant for years to come?
With a degree in architecture and a lifelong passion for the field, architecture plays a significant role in my design approach. I meticulously consider the architectural elements, proportions, and exterior style of a space. My aim is to create a harmonious and complementary interior design that accentuates these features. When selecting materials, I believe in looking to the past to achieve a timeless and classic feel. Materials like marble, terrazzo, and concrete offer a natural and enduring aesthetic. The ultimate goal is to create a cohesive and unified environment that withstands the test of time, without being swayed by passing trends.
How do you personalize design solutions to reflect the unique personality and lifestyle of each client?
Personalizing design solutions is a fundamental aspect of my work. I believe that each client’s space should be thoughtfully crafted, akin to a unique timepiece tailored specifically for them, whether it’s modern or traditional. By incorporating elements that resonate with their lives, I establish emotional connections and add significant value. Successful examples include sourcing bedding from a beloved vacation spot, incorporating a porch swing reminiscent of cherished childhood memories, designing around a vintage movie poster or commissioned painting that holds personal meaning. These personalized touches enhance the overall design, creating spaces that are truly one-of-a-kind and deeply meaningful to my clients.
& MASTERS SARASOTA OFFICE 630 S. ORANGE AVE - 200D SARASOTA, FL 34236 941-706-3300 WWW.ANDMASTERS.COM
More than design on a page. More than materials used to build. More than a project to complete.
With And Masters , you get exquisite attention to detail, a peerless sense of design, and a passionate partner in creating a space you value & love.
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Though hardwood floors have a timeless appeal, they aren’t wellsuited for use in kitchens. Hardwood flooring is susceptible to scratches, dents, and stains, and it may even warp due to the excess moisture in a kitchen environment. Lepper sees a lot of demand for flooring that has the look of wood but is designed to withstand the rigors of the kitchen environment. “Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) is a great product for this area because it is waterproof and can easily withstand high humidity,” Lepper enthuses. “You could potentially have a flood, remove it, and then put it right back down.” LVP is engineered to be highly durable, so it is resistant to scratches, dents and stains. This low-maintenance wood floor alternative is also more budget-friendly than traditional hardwood.
Granite for Good
For the past two decades, quartz has been one of the most preferred materials for kitchen countertops. Though quartz can mimic the luxurious look of a high-end marble, this engineered stone is both more affordable and more durable. With these qualities, it’s safe to say that quartz countertops are here to stay. However, Lepper has noticed that an increasing number of homeowners are opting for granite countertops instead. “Granite is a natural stone and it is very unique,” Lepper says. “To walk through granite yards and see this beautiful stone that has been mined from the earth is incredible. There’s nothing like it. This means that with a granite countertop, you’re getting a one-of-a-kind look.”
When designing a kitchen, it’s important to find the right balance between timelessness and trends. The kitchen that’s trendy today may feel very dated in a year or or two. Lepper’s suggestion is to keep trends localized. “Doing something unique with your kitchen island is a great way to add that splash of individuality or the wow factor to the space,” she says. “Then play it safe and do something simpler on the perimeter of the kitchen.”
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H & D
COMPILED BY KATE WIGHT
Countertops and floors play crucial roles in defining the overall style and aesthetic of a kitchen.
Amy Lepper from Yoder Homes and Design Works shared her observations on the latest trends in flooring and countertops for the kitchen.
HOMES IN PARADISE
AS STUDIO DIRECTOR AT THE SARASOTA OFFICE OF MHK ARCHITECTURE, Stephen Balut likes to blend indoor and outdoor spaces and focus on breathtaking coastal views, while capturing cross breezes in the local masterpiece homes he designs. “A lot of the homes we work on are legacy homes for families, vacation homes and permanent homes where we focus on a casual, communal atmosphere that is both uplifting and celebratory,” says Balut. “It’s all about helping our clients enjoy life to the fullest with the people they love.”
HOME+DESIGN | FALL
With a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Balut is uniquely qualified to be involved in multiple phases of new home construction. With an engineering degree combined with construction experience and an architectural license, he holds what he refers to as a ‘tri-fold background’ making him well-versed in all aspects of new home development. Balut moved to Sarasota a year ago from Virginia, where he ran his own practice for ten years. He was scooped up by MHK Architecture, a firm founded in Naples by Matthew Kragh in 2009, to lead the charge in bringing the firm’s reputation and experience
to Sarasota. Currently, MHK has ten offices including the beach communities throughout Florida, the low country to the high country of the Carolinas, and stretching out West to the mountains of Denver and Aspen Colorado— and, they’re growing. Last year, the firm expanded from 50 employees to 100. They’ve designed over 3,000 houses total, with over 300 completed last year alone. While the offices are scattered across the country, Balut shares that they operate like a family, with regular Zoom meetings to collaborate, share stories and exchange knowledge. ”I really enjoy the personal side of the business and I’ve become friends with a lot of my clients over the years. I know very well what it takes to
Opposite page: Gulf Shore Drive, Naples. This page, top: Bird Key Home, Sarasota.
Above left and right; Kingfish Road, Naples
SRQ HOME+DESIGN | FALL 2023 SRQ MAGAZINE 11
“We enjoy what we do. And we really work hard to create these beautiful legacy homes for our clients that will be enjoyed for generations.”
Stephen Balut, MHK Architects
build a business word of mouth and that’s basically what I’ve been asked to do here in Sarasota,” shares Balut. “MHK is a boutique architecture firm; we’re high-end and custom with great experience, efficiency and technical abilities. We focus on solid relationships with our clients, and we build a team that is passionate about what we do. We care about what we do. We enjoy what we do. And we really work hard to create these beautiful legacy homes for our clients that will be enjoyed for generations.”
Currently, Balut and his team are working on nine homes in the area; all on waterfronts. Two on Bird Key, two on Sarasota Bay in Harbor Acres, two on Little Sarasota Bay, one on Saint Armand’s Key, one on Longboat Key and one on Siesta Key. MHK works in a variety of styles so each home is customized to the client’s specific needs,
tastes and desires. Balut went on to share that many of the homes designed by MHK fall into the coastal contemporary style which is a large umbrella that contains a variety of substyles. For example there is the more traditional coastal contemporary style that focuses on symmetry, monumentality, balance and order; there is the cottage style that focuses on breaking the massing down into interesting volumes with unique materials and finely detailed decorative elements, there is the minimal style with a dialogue of volumes, streamlined edges, and a focus on reductive architectural purity.
“The possibilities of architecture are wonderfully immense and no matter the style we seek to find beauty and timelessness for each of our clients” says Balut.
12 SRQ MAGAZINE SRQ HOME+DESIGN | FALL 2023 ARCHITECT’S PORTFOLIO
BIRD KEY ABODE
This house on Bird Key is a paradigm of the coastal contemporary work that MHK is well known for. The elegantly detailed home integrates elements of the Old Florida style–metal roofs with narrow and deep overhangs, simulated lap siding, board and batten siding, brackets and corbels. The mass of the house is broken down into perfectly proportioned volumes to create a more intimate human scale with nooks and unique moments. Natural materials such as wood and stone are incorporated as tasteful accents throughout the house. Lighting design and home automation are state-of-the-art and designed to be upgraded for years into the future. Like all MHK legacy homes, this house is designed for stability, security, precision, and beauty.
“Our work is inspired by Florida Cracker homes in the vernacular context, landscape, and climate. It’s about designing homes that provide shade and relief from the harsh sun and celebrating the outdoors while at the same time providing security during intense weather systems. “We design fairly large houses, but we break them up in a way that feels very human-scaled and comfortable. We combine the indoor areas, often about 6,500 SF, with the outdoor area—often about 2,000 SF in a way that feels casually open yet intimate at the same time.”
Ordinarily, from the time a contract is signed to the time that the design process is completed typically takes about nine months. And then, depending on the house, it takes about 18 months to build. Throughout the process, Balut works very closely with the general contractor, landscape architect, engineers, interior designer, tech consultants and the client, of course, is very involved throughout each phase. The most important decisions, he says, are made in the first two phases of design– concept and schematic design.“ These are the two phases that define the quality and integrity of the holistic design and in turn create the future vision for the property. And so these are the most fertile, the most fun and where the most passionate energies are swirling around for us to devise the most beautiful home that we can. Even though we’ve done over 300 houses last year, each project is unique and we approach it with a fresh perspective and eye on how to make it as beautiful as it can be for that specific site and client,” says Balut. “Every single house is a jewel and we treasure the process of making them a reality.” H&D
STEPHEN BALUT Studio
Sarasota MHK Architecture O 941-271-4408, C 941-779-7832, firstname.lastname@example.org mhkarchitecture.com
This page, top; Bird Key Home, Sarasota. Below: Gulf Shore Drive, Naples.
Of all the rooms in a house, kitchens are undeniably among the most costly and time-consuming to renovate. While it would be impractical to fully redesign your kitchen every year, you can make small, sustainable changes over time. Updating kitchen fixtures is an easy and effective way to give your space a fresh and modern look without breaking the bank.
One of the prominent trends in kitchen design is the artful mixing of metals. In the past, many homeowners felt like they had to strictly adhere to using a single metal ﬁnish throughout the kitchen. Now, homeowners are embracing the freedom to create a striking and dynamic look by blending diﬀerent metallic tones. “No ma er what look you are going for, mixing metals adds visual interest to any kitchen,” Lowe says. “I feel the days of every single metal in your home being exactly the same are gone.”
“The new Odin Semi-Professional kitchen faucet brings customization to a whole new level,” Lowe says. “Arc and square spouts harmonize with Guyana Teak lever handles in any ﬁnish, creating endless combinations and endless appeal.”
Le : Odin Smart Touch Pull-Down Kitchen Facuet with Square Spout in Ma e Black. SmartTouch Technology with TempID, tap on/oﬀ functionality with temperature indicating LED Light. MagneDock Technology, magnetic wand docking system. Optional voice activation technology available for us with connected home devices. Imagery courtesy of Brizo.
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Eva Lowe, the showroom manager at Hydrologic Plumbing & Lighting in Sarasota, shares her insights on the latest trends in kitchen ﬁxtures and design.
Aesthetics aren’t the only consideration when it comes to interior design. Kitchens are one of the most heavily-used rooms in the house, so it’s important that they are as practical as they are visually pleasing. Workstation sinks have become increasingly popular in large part because they strike the perfect balance between form and function. “Workstation sinks have an accessory ledge that allows custom accessories like cutting boards, colanders and rolling mats to integrate seamlessly into the sink,” Lowe explains. “These sinks help you maximize your workspace while keeping your counters clutter-free.” Though workstation sinks have historically only been available in stainless steel, you can now find versions made from fireclay and composite materials. This innovation in materials makes the workstation sink more appealing to a wider cross-section of consumers.
Matte Black and Gold
Kitchen fixtures come in a wide array of colors and finishes, but Lowe notes that the combination of matte black and gold is holding strong right now. Together, matte black and gold offer a striking and sophisticated aesthetic while also exuding a timeless quality that transcends trends. Gold and matte black are versatile colors that can complement a variety of different design styles from modern to industrial, making them an ideal choice for those looking to update their kitchen with a trendsetting twist.
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WRITTEN BY KATE WIGHT, PHOTOGRAPHY BY RYAN GAMMA
Damien Blumetti blends well-established architectural practices with modern design sensibilities.
OLD IS NEW AGAIN
WHEN YOU LOOK THROUGH DAMIEN BLUMETTI’S PORTFOLIO, it’s clear that modern architecture is his specialty. What isn’t immediately obvious is just how much of Blumetti’s forward-thinking design sensibility is rooted in the past. In his Siesta Key Bay House project, Blumetti was able to translate midcentury architectural practices into a fresh and contemporary modern home. Blumetti received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Florida in Gainesville. While still in school he interned with Guy Peterson, a decorated architect, and another University of Florida alumnus. Blumetti would go on to work with Peterson for nearly a decade before opening his own architecture firm in 2017. “Guy has been my mentor, and still is my mentor,” Blumetti says. “I really learned how to be an architect under his umbrella.”
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Under Peterson’s tutelage, Blumetti became well-versed in a regional style of post-war modern design known as the Sarasota School of Architecture. This movement spanned the years between 1941 and 1966. “It’s interesting because it’s part of a lineage,” Blumetti says. “Guy worked directly for architects who belonged to the Sarasota School of Architecture and then I worked for him. And what I’m doing now, I hope, is carrying the torch a little bit of this really strong legacy we have of architecture in Sarasota. It’s really important to me to pay homage to the people who originally paved the way.”
While Blumetti has a reverence for the architectural traditions of his predecessors, emulating those principles isn’t his only priority. He wants to design buildings that meet his clients’ needs and exceed their expectations, while still showcasing his own distinct design style. In the Siesta Key Bay House, he was able to achieve all of these objectives.
“Going back to the Sarasota School, they were always experimenting with new materials including different types of concrete mixtures,” Blumetti says. “These clients are from Venezuela, and when I did some research it was very apparent that concrete was prevalent in the native construction of Venezuela. So they weren’t scared of the idea of having a concrete house. Actually, they really loved the idea.”
Many modern-style homes feature concrete walls, but they tend to have a smooth finish. Blumetti took a novel approach by using boardformed concrete for the Siesta Key Bay House. Board-formed concrete is a construction method where concrete is poured into forms lined with wooden boards. When the concrete dries, it retains the pattern of the wood grain on the surface.
The Siesta Key Bay House is largely constructed of this boardformed concrete, as well as actual cedar, giving it an organic feel that is unusual in modern architecture.
The same boards that were used to create the texture on the concrete were then reused on the house.
“Instead of just throwing them away and using new wood, we were able to recycle them and use them as the wood elements in the house,” Blumetti says. Sustainability is always a big priority for Blumetti, and it was also important to the clients for this project. Blumetti blended older techniques and newer technology to make the home as eco-conscious as possible. “In the 1950s, homes didn’t have air conditioning,” Blumetti explains. “Architects had to use passive design systems like orientation, large overhangs, and lifting buildings off the ground. There were no flood requirements back then, so houses were raised to help circulate air around the house. It was a very forward-thinking idea back then.”
Passive design elements are prevalent throughout the Siesta Key Bay House, though adaptations have been made. Instead of installing the jalousie windows that were popu-
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lar in the mid century era, Blumetti used sliding doors to open up the house and create cross-ventilation. Outside, there is a 16-foot overhang on the south side of the house to keep the sun from hitting the abundant windows directly. But Blumetti also sourced heat-absorbing glass to help with the ambient heat.
One of the most compelling features of this house can’t be conveyed through photographs. Blumetti wanted every room in the house to have a view of the water, so he folded in some of the walls in order to create sightlines that most people would deem impossible. Blumetti has nothing but praise for his clients, who were very open to his unconventional design ideas.
“They allowed us to explore and push the boundary a lot further in materiality than we would have with different clients,” he says. “That freedom is sometimes the thing you need to push you in a different direction and I’m very grateful for that opportunity to push it as far as we did.”
It’s easy to get sidetracked by Blumetti’s deep knowledge of design principles and how they impact the function of a home. But his aesthetic sensibilities are equally remarkable. The Siesta Key Bay House is as visually stunning as it is technically interesting. Even though it’s made of imposing materials like glass, concrete and galvanized steel, the exterior appearance of the house is almost ethereal, floating serenely above the landscape. Inside, polished concrete floors provide a textural contrast against the board-formed concrete walls. According to Blumetti, the aesthetic appeal is a byproduct of the materials and techniques used.
“There’s a rawness to this building. You can see how it was constructed and you understand it because we’re not covering anything up,” Blumetti says. “I think there’s almost an instant patina to it, which is kind of unique. It’s not precious but it is beautiful, and I think that’s an interesting duality.” SRQH&D
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Architect: Damien Blumetti Architect Interior Design: Kathy Bush at Home Resource Kitchen Cabinets and Bathroom: B&B Cabinets Carpets and Flooring: BMMI (concrete floors) and Gulf Coast Stucco Photographer: Ryan Gamma Photography
Damien Blumetti Architect, 2131 Hillview Street, Sarasota | damienblumetti.com
WRITTEN BY KATE WIGHT, PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF OF THE DESIGNERS
When interior designers are hired for a new project, they have more factors to consider than many people realize. It’s not enough to just design a space that’s visually appealing. They need to make sure that the home functions the way the homeowners need it to. And while interior designers stay up to date on the latest styles, they don’t just outfit a home with trendy finishes and furnishings and call it a day. Trend-heavy design can quickly become dated and can lack a sense of individuality. The best interior designers are adept at creating spaces that are trendy yet timeless while also reflecting the homeowner’s personal style. Kitchens are among the most difficult rooms to design because so many of the features are a big commitment. In a living room, you can buy new furniture and paint the walls if you need a change. Replacing countertops, tilework, fixtures, and appliances is a lot more disruptive. Here, four local interior design professionals share insights into some of their latest projects, and how they designed kitchen and dining areas that will stand the test of time even as they employ current trends.
Four local design professionals share insights from recent kitchen projects.
GRAND LIVING AT THE LAKE CLUB TRADE MARK INTERIORS
THE LAKE CLUB PROJECT IS A FAMILY HOME designed in a breezy, coastal cottage style. Kristen Tolbert is the design director at Trade Mark Interiors and was the lead designer on this project. “Our goal was to create a home that was refined yet comfortable,” Tolbert says. The clients for this project have two teenage children living at home as well as adult children who are out of the house. Tolbert needed to create a space that worked for the people who live there full-time, while still being able to accommodate larger family gatherings. She met this need by creating multiple seating areas. Just off the kitch-
en, there is a cozy breakfast nook that is ideal for day-to-day meals. Meanwhile, down the hall, a larger dining table is perfect for holding larger family meals or game nights. Colorful kitchen cabinets are very fashionable as of late, and Tolbert put her own twist on the trend. She steered clear of jewel tones, opting instead for light blue cabinets that fit in with the home’s coastal feel. She went for an even bolder blue in the butler’s pantry. When designing a coastal home, Tolbert likes to layer in plenty of textures. You can see that throughout this space, from the beaded boho chandeliers to the gnarled wood wall
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hangings to the rattan-wrapped dining chairs. She was even able to marry this detail with another interior design trend. “Glass front kitchen cabinets are popular right now, but they can smudge easily,” Tolbert says. “They’re not always practical.” Once again, Tolbert was able to include this trendy design Trade Mark Interiors, 941-879-9494 | trademarkinteriors.com — Images courtesy of Trade Mark Interiors.
feature in a way that worked for her client. Select cabinets in the kitchen and pantry feature custom-made textured glass panels so the homeowners can enjoy the look of glass-front cabinets without constantly having to clean them.
H & D Images courtesy of Trade Mark Interiors
MODERN FAMILY AT LEMON BAY DSDG ARCHITECTS
THE LEMON BAY POINTE PROJECT IS A FAMILY HOME designed to have a tropical warm and tropical modern feel. Mark Sultana is the owner and principal architect at DSDG Architects. “The homeowners purchased an amazing lot on a peninsula, so it’s surrounded by water on three sides,” Sultana says. With such a unique property, making the most of the view was imperative.
While this home looks like a two-story house from the outside, the design is a little more complicated than that. The clients wanted their children to have second-floor bedrooms for privacy, but they also didn’t want anything that was massive just for the sake of it. Instead of building a full second story and creating square footage that the clients didn’t need, Sultana added a second story only above the garage. In the rest of the house, he raised the roof to be level with the two-story portion.
The extra-high ceilings in the main living areas give this home a light and airy feel. They also provided an opportunity to maximize the view even further by installing more windows above the wall-to-wall glass doors that provide a panoramic
view below. The unconventional ceiling heights also made an impact on the kitchen design. Sultana continued the wood veneer used for the upper and lower kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling, so it looks like a massive wall of cabinetry. But while the cabinet wall makes a big stylistic statement, the rest of the kitchen is intentionally minimalistic.
“I’ve noticed a trend that people want their kitchen to be pretty and uncluttered at all times,” Sultana observes. “People want big walk-in pantries to hide the clutter. We’ve been incorporating large walk-in pantries on almost every new build.”
While this home has a pantry, Sultana took the uncluttered kitchen trend to a whole new level. Appliances including the dishwasher, refrigerator and ovens were deliberately hidden away behind the kitchen. The only visible appliance is an induction cooktop that lies virtually flush against the counter. “With this design, the kitchen has that clean aesthetic, but it’s still very usable,” Sultana says.
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DSDG Architects, 941-955-5645, dsdgarchitects.com — Images courtesy of DSDG Architects.
2021-Best of SRQ Logo-SilverWinner.indd 1 3/14/21 11:05 AM 2023
REGIONAL TRENDS IN REAL ESTATE AND HOME BUILDING
CEO DAVID HUNIHAN ON LEE WETHERINGTON HOMES: Lee Wetherington Homes has been building throughout Sarasota and Manatee Counties for over 40 years since the 1970s. Headquartered in Sarasota, near Lakewood Ranch—we were one of the first builders to move our headquarters into Lakewood Ranch over 20 years ago. We are a high-end luxury custom home builder. We haven’t been that our entire history—that’s who we’ve become and where we are now. Our founder, Lee Wetherington, was originally a drywall contractor who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and used to vacation here. In the early-mid ‘70s, he moved here and started a home-building business with a partner. He eventually decided to open his doors around 1981 as Lee Wetherington Homes. When I first started with the company in 1995, they were doing about 32 homes a year—by 2005, he had built over 400 homes. At that time, we were the largest local home builder in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The landscape has changed a lot since then. The Great Recession hit and that caused the market to collapse. A lot of builders went out of business. Lee Wetherington Homes came through it in 2010-2012 by going back to its roots as a custom builder. We now do about 36 to 50 homes a year on average with an average price of about $2.5 million including a home and home site package. While Lee has turned over the day-to-day operations to the management team, he is still involved in the visioning and direction of the company and the design in many cases for models, I always want him involved in that. There are five shareholders of the company—Lee has the most shares and then there are four of us who also own shares. Part of why I think Lee brought me back (I was with him from 1995 to 2000 and came back about two years ago) is to work on the company’s legacy. We’re working on setting the company up with the proper standard operating procedures, infrastructure and personnel so that the vision will continue well into the future as something that I like to refer to as the Wetherington way. We’ll be able to continue to benefit our customers long after we’re gone.
BROKER AND PRESIDENT ROBERT MILLIGAN ON PREFERRED SHORE REAL ESTATE: Originally from Boynton Beach, I relocated to the Sarasota area in 1996 and have been a broker in Sarasota for 19 years. I’m passionate about the lifestyle that we get to enjoy here in Florida. I started Preferred Shore in 2014, and the idea was to become a fresh choice for customers who really appreciate the coastal lifestyle in all of the different market areas that we operate in. It’s my pleasure to share insight with customers to help shorten their learning curve for integrating in our community, gaining new social circles and learning how to participate in the different hobbies and activities that our coastal area offers. My associates have worked with me to close over 30,000 transactions that total over $8 billion in sales volume—so that vision has been working really well. We have created some different processes—one of which is to double down on doing a really nice job at digital media by housing that entire process in-house with staff. We’re uniquely positioned to get very creative with the marketing campaigns we offer customers. My associates have now earned nearly $250 million in commissions as a result of all of their hard work and the tools we’ve created to support them. There’s a great ripple effect in doing good work and helping people to accomplish their dreams through their career in real estate.
JULY-AUGUST 2023 EDITION ENGAGING READERS THROUGH FEATURED INTERVIEWS
ROBERT MILLIGAN FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, PREFERRED SHORE REAL ESTATE
DAVID HUNIHAN CEO, LEE WETHERINGTON HOMES
JULY/AUGUST 2023 | INTERVIEW BY WES ROBERTS – EDITED BY BARBIE HEIT
ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS
David Hunihan is the CEO of Lee Wetherington Homes, the Sarasota-based custom home builder with an over 40-year local legacy of providing tailored customer experiences and creating exceptionally-cra ed luxury residences. Hunihan is ﬁrmly entrenched in Southwest Florida’s building industry – and has been for more than three decades. His extensive career includes a prior stint at Lee Wetherington Homes, working his way up from on-site sales associate to president.
Spanning 1995 to 2000, Hunihan played a pivotal role in growing Lee Wetherington Homes’ annual sales volume from $12 million to over $50 million. Hunihan has an intimate knowledge of the Suncoast’s housing market, having held operations and senior leadership positions with many of the region’s reputable builders, including Neal Communities, M/I Homes, Emerald Homes and Medallion Home. He is also the past president of the ManateeSarasota Building Industry Association and a Lifetime Spike of the National Association of Home Builders. A New Jersey native, Hunihan’s experience in marketing, sales, operations, construction and development has led him to oversee a multiaward-winning home builder.
Robert Milligan is founder and president of Preferred SHORE Real Estate, an independent full-service real estate brokerage specializing in both residential and commercial real estate, with corporate oﬃces in Sarasota since 2014. Since becoming a broker/ owner in 2003, Robert has helped his associates earn more than $241 million in commission income on 30,000 transactions, totalling more than $8 billion in sales volume. Robert is credited for assembling a dynamic leadership team that has been a catalyst for the ﬁrm’s growth throughout the Suncoast region with additional oﬃces in downtown St. Pete and Tampa. The ﬁrm aims to expand in aﬄuent communities across Florida as a leading independent luxury brokerage.
WE’RE SEEING UNBELIEVABLE GROWTH IN FLORIDA. HOW IS OUR REGION CHANGING?
HUNIHAN: A builder I used to work for would state that Florida is a retirement destination where maybe 50 or 75% of the boomer population (the people that are going to retire) at least consider spending part of their remaining life in Florida, whether it’s as a second home or retiring here and being full-time. It’s always been this way, but it’s grown. And there are a couple of reasons why. The baby boomer generation was a cohort for about an 18-year span. We’re still in the middle of that, maybe towards the tail end of it, but we still have another few years of people that are retiring and will consider moving to Florida. We’re still a large vacation place with Disney World, our beaches, golf courses and all the things that people love to come to Florida to do. After the lockdowns, the lifestyle that people had here versus other parts of the country, the fact that if you’re going to have to be at home or be outside it’s just a better place to do that. All of those demographic trends and things have caused people to want to live here. That has been both a blessing and a curse: a blessing in that business has grown. The curse of course is how do you handle all that additional business when we have a supply chain that’s already strained, a labor pool that’s already strained and there’s only so much land you can develop. So we’re dealing with all those things right now.
MILLIGAN: What we’re seeing is quite dramatic, I think we knew that baby boomers were going to continue to retire to Florida, and then there might be a tapering of that energy. Instead, we got hit by an unexpected pandemic situation where we had an unbelievable surge of people, that in a lot of ways were demographically di erent than we expected. It’s been a very welcome and pleasant surprise for our industry. We can vicariously see that trend through the production of our agents. We have one agent who has been with me for about
three years now. Her name is Carissa Pelczynski, and in 2022, she closed $51 million alone. She’s actually closed in just three years, over $100 million dollars. She and her family just moved here from New York themselves just three years ago, so they were part of that migration. She’s built this incredible business now and has been enjoying that success. That’s one great example of the power behind this trend of people migrating to this area. Another great example is Michelle Ward, an agent who was with a couple other companies a short time before joining me seven years ago. She closed $82 million last year with her team. She’s focused on the luxury market which has exponentially been increasing in price and the number of transactions. Of that $82 million, many homes were waterfront, luxury homes. She has a beautiful $10 million home on Siesta Key on the market now and the people who are looking at this home are generally from the northeast. There aren’t that many people running around buying $10 million houses, but the people who are looking at it are not typically from Florida–that’s what we’ve been seeing. That property was actually featured on Fox Business’s Mansion Global a couple weeks ago. Lots of wonderful things are happening as a result of all of this energy and focus being on our beautiful state here.
HOW DOES OUR LOCAL INFRASTRUCTURE HANDLE THIS GROWTH?
HUNIHAN: I’ve been in this business in Florida for over 30 years and I could literally, until about three years ago, count on one hand the amount of people from California, Washington or Oregon that we were selling homes to. The people from the Northeast and the Midwest would generally come here. But we have quite a few people that bought homes from us recently coming from Portland, Oregon and California. That really is surprising. And as for the people coming from Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, etc., even more of them are coming down here now. I grew up in New Jersey, worked in Manhattan and went to school in
Boston. So if you want to talk tra c, you want to talk crowded, we have not even come anywhere near what 13 lanes of tra c going each way, going over the George Washington bridge or the Garden State Parkway in the morning is compared to what it is here. The big thing for me is how we handle that as a community. That really goes back to good planning and smart growth. Lakewood Ranch has done a great job of that over the years. They started back in the ‘80s, planning for today. They had a map and a plan for infrastructure and arterial roads, north-south roads, communities, interior retail, industry, o ce space, knowing that they wanted a live/work/play community, a place where people could come and live and work and stay and recreate and not even have to go out, but also that would be able to accommodate growth.
MILLIGAN: The majority of our business is in Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota and Charlotte Counties. We also operate in Fort Myers, Naples and Miami. So we are really statewide. As far as handling infrastructure, I’m no city planner, but there are pros and cons to everything. As a local, I’m very nostalgic about the way Sarasota was, but on the other side of the coin, there are a lot of great amenities and nicer restaurants and things to do now that we didn’t have then. Being a father of three boys, when I was growing up here, mostly everybody my age wanted to get out of here. And now that Sarasota’s become such a vibrant destination with more things to do, I’m hopeful that people, such as myself with children that are growing up here, may hope to remain here and stay closer to home and keep the family together.
WHAT CHANGES DO YOU SEE IN LIFESTYLES?
HUNIHAN: The retirees who have planned all their life have this idea of moving to Florida and being on the water or being on a golf course. I think that’s changing with the younger generation. What you’re seeing is more an overall lifestyle. They’re more interested in what they can walk to and where the good co ee shops are, where they can go
SRQ HOME+DESIGN | REGIONAL TRENDS IN REAL ESTATE AND HOME BUILDING :: JULY-AUG 2023
see a good concert and eat out. That’s where I see the master-planned communities being attractive. Lakewood Ranch, as an example, opened their newest section of downtown called Waterside. It’s a really neat area that was designed on a big lake so that people can sit out by the water and have a variety of choices. They have a Wednesday night market where they have music in the town square and they have food trucks and people can come and hang out and meet their friends. Lakewood Ranch is always big on recreation and ﬁtness, so they have lots of walking and biking trails throughout the community. I think those are the things that this generation is looking more for. Rather than looking for a speciﬁc view, they are prioritizing lifestyle.
MILLIGAN: People are preferring lower maintenance in general. One of the big trends that I’ve seen is that people are just a little bit more ambitious to get out and explore, explore more hobbies, more a nity groups and more social interactions. Concierge service is important to people who have the means to have that convenience, and of course, at the most basic level, pool service, lawn service, those sorts of things. People don’t want to personally fuss over their home quite like our parents used to.
WHAT SETS YOU APART?
MILLIGAN: We have been very intentional about developing leaders within our company. And we really double down those e orts with the people who are most productive. It might seem odd to some people initially, but we help the people in our organization who don’t need help more than we do with people who do need help. And that might sound mercenary if you’re not a student of leadership, but it’s really no di erent than, for example, a bank not wanting to lend money to people who need money so much as they want to lend money to people who don’t need money. That’s really been the philosophy that I’ve had as a leader–when I recognize somebody in our organization as a great up-and-coming leader, I don’t wait for them to ask for support. I
reach out to them and ask, “what more can I do for you to help you gain even more momentum with this success that you’ve already started to attain on an individual basis?” That’s probably the primary secret to our organization’s success. From a cultural perspective, we have a very energetic, enthusiastic group of real estate agents who are very well trained and who love the industry. I receive praise from our peers and other brokerages all the time that whenever they see we are on the side of the transaction they’re having, they always feel conﬁdent that it will be as smooth a process as possible. We want to make sure that our agents are exceptionally competent and really doing a nice job for their customers. We’re one of the few, if not only ﬁ rms, that have taken the entire digital media creation process in-house with sta including video production. Literally everything is created from start to ﬁ nish, edited all in-house with our sta . So that has been something that our agents and customers really appreciate. From a branding perspective, we are a luxury brand, but we have positioned ourselves in a way that it feels more like a fresh choice. We’re more of a casual, elegant type of vibe. Customers resonate with that. Of course with the “shore” brand, we exude more of an appreciation for coastal lifestyle. That brand has been resonating nicely with customers and I would say that that is one of the ways that we’re a bit unique.
HOW DO YOU ENGAGE PHILANTHROPICALLY?
HUNIHAN: We are so blessed to be able to build the American dream and we want to support the communities that we build in. Lee has been doing this for decades—supporting the community in a variety of ways but there are a few speciﬁc charities that are near and dear to our heart. Lee’s always been a big supporter of the Boys & Girls Club. There are buildings named after him here in town and he’s been on their board and continues to support them. We just recently helped build out a building for them and do
an expansion. Lee also started a Lee Wetherington Foundation that the company supports, through which he supports other local charities. We support the Sarasota Medical Pregnancy Center, which helps women in crisis pregnancy. We’ve also recently joined the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund with their Builders Give Back program.
MILLIGAN: We get behind the individual philanthropic e orts of our agents and we would like to consider Lee Wetherington’s type of template where we unify and combine the collective e orts of our real estate agents to support a charity in a more meaningful way. I am personally involved in SYC Cares at the Sarasota Yacht Club where I am serving on the board as the rear commodore.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE OUR LARGER REGIONAL FOOTPRINT?
MILLIGAN: My analogy, which some ﬁ nd amusing, is that I liken Tampa to Manhattan, St. Pete to Brooklyn and Sarasota to the Hamptons. Sarasota is the vacation spot for the a uent and where people come to play and have fun. St. Pete’s a little bit weird in the best possible way, kind of like Brooklyn. And Tampa is more like Manhattan in the sense that there’s not quite as much beach and boating and people really seem to go there primarily to work. But as far as the markets go, they’re all in pretty good lock step with each other. Average prices are a little bit less in St. Pete than they are in Sarasota, and then even less yet in Tampa. So Tampa would be the most a ordable of the three markets, in general. Right now, more than ever, each little area has its own little micro-market going on. The most choice areas of each of these places are all very hot, very low inventory. But we’re seeing property sit on the market longer that is maybe 15, 20 years old and a little bit cosmetically in need of some updates. We have to be more granular than ever to understand the nuances in whichever type of real estate we’re dealing with in a very speciﬁc geographic location.
HUNIHAN: We have ﬁve new models coming out of the ground. One of the things that we’ve gotten requests for from people more recently is more of a transitional or contemporary modern design. But you’re also seeing people who are ﬁ rst-time, Florida buyers that want the traditional Florida open design and want to see what they’ve been waiting to buy. So how do you mix those things in the same home? Sometimes we do it with materials, sometimes we do it with the design of the ﬂoor plan. Sometimes we do it with maybe a speciﬁc room that we can showcase. We’ve now gone to a mixture of materials instead of everything being just tile and stucco and drywall—we’ve mixed metal and wood and stone and concrete, and then some of the traditional tile and drywall. People are looking for more ﬂexible space in their homes. If somebody’s going to have to be in their home, they want to be able to have a place they can relax, a place to work and they want a nice outdoor living area. So what’s next? We’re going to be going to a community down in the Venice and North Port area called Wellen Park. We’ll be opening those models hopefully a little bit less than a year from now in the Everly neighborhood. But we also have some new communities here at Lakewood Ranch. People are now trying to plan technology into their home from the original design standpoint so we have structured wiring included in all of our houses and we try and think about those things from day one. We’re building in Wiﬁ so that homeowners have the ability to move around their house with laptops—we even have Wiﬁ boosters out on the lanai.
MILLIGAN: We added Ken and Jason D’Agostino in St. Pete to spearhead our commercial endeavors a couple years ago and merged with their commercial brokerage. That’s been going really well. We’ve got a very robust commercial side of our operations now. And that’s very active here around Sarasota, but also St. Pete and Tampa, of course, if not moreso in those more larger metro areas.
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REGIONAL TRENDS IN REAL ESTATE AND HOME BUILDING
BY THE SHORE BLU INTERIORS
THE SHORE PROJECT WAS DESIGNED AS A COASTAL luxe landing spot for part-time Sarasota residents. Chelsea Dunbar, the owner of Blu Interiors, designed this one-of-a-kind space. “These clients had actually lived on their yacht full-time,” Dunbar says. “They came to us after they had purchased the guest house of a larger structure on the water and needed a designer to make the home work for their lifestyle.”
Interior designers are often involved with new builds in the early planning stages so they can weigh in on aspects of the project including floor plans. Because this home had already been built, Dunbar had to figure out how to make the existing floor plan work for her clients. That can pose a challenge, but luckily that wasn’t the case here.
“Our clients enjoy dining out and rarely cook for themselves at home, so they weren’t necessarily looking for a big kitchen for entertaining,” Dunbar says. This turned out to be a big advantage. Since the kitchen is mostly only used during holiday gatherings, the design choices were mostly cosmetic in nature. Open shelving in kitchens is very trendy right now, but it’s not practical for every homeowner. Since these clients didn’t require a lot of kitchen storage, open shelving was the perfect choice for the space. And that’s not the only trend on display.
“Mixed metals are very popular right now, and our customer was very open to that,” Dunbar says. “Using a mixture of stainless steel, gold and brushed bronze in the kitchen added texture and made the space feel more custom.”
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Blu Interiors, 941-500-4563, bluinteriors.com — Images courtesy of Blu Interiors.
THE SEASCAPE PROJECT IS A GLOBALLY-INFLUENCED RETREAT designed in a primarily British West Indies style with a coastal contemporary flair. Ana Santa Maria, the owner and principal interior designer of Studio Santa Maria, brought this project to life. “The clients are world travelers, so it was important to honor that,” Santa Maria explains. “So you’ll also find a lot of Far East and French Polynesian influences throughout the home.” The homeowners on this project love to entertain, so the kitchen and dining areas were incredibly important to them. They requested features like a large kitchen island and an open-concept floor plan that would give guests ample space to move around. A separate wine room was also a must-have. Their other main requirement was for the design team to capitalize on the stunning waterfront view. Santa Maria took all these factors into consideration when designing the space so she could address their needs. Glass sliding doors open to reveal an outdoor kitchen and seating area, adding even more space for entertaining. Instead of opaque building materials, the wine room is encased in glass so the waterfront views remain uninterrupted. The design team even created custom drapery pockets in the beams, so that the roller shades for the windows would be essentially invisible when not in use.
Even as Santa Maria worked to balance multiple interior design influences while also meeting the needs of her clients, she still found a way to integrate a current trend into the design. “One trend I’ve noticed is that custom hoods are making a comeback,” she says. “In contemporary coastal homes, they’re often built in and hidden completely.” However, the homeowners’ flair for entertaining provided a wonderful opportunity to include a custom hood as a design element. “These clients love to entertain and they love to cook,” Santa Maria says. “So the fact that we could place the island to have a stove where you’re facing people as you’re cooking and entertaining, that was important to them. Having the custom hood allowed us to do that.”
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GLOBAL SEASCAPE STUDIO SANTA MARIA
Studio Santa Maria, 941-957-8187, apex-studio.com — Photography by Mark Borosch Photography.