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february 2021

sarasota seer



The future’s coming faster than ever, and David Houle wants Sarasota to be ready. The cableexecutive-turned-academic-futurist serves as managing director for The Sarasota Institute, a think tank focused on navigating global challenges. The professional seer sees a chance to make Sarasota a brand not just for hospitality but for brilliance, the hottest spot in the world for the intellectual globe-trotter. But, he also sees the need to prepare society for the impacts of climate change, the depletion of resources and the threats that come with a worldwide pursuit of prosperity. Interview byJacob Ogles | Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

homes of downtown 62 Living in downtown doesn’t have to mean a multimillion dollar condo on the 10th floor. Sure, there’s high-rise life in Sarasota, and it’s growing straight up in visible fashion. But there’s also activity in Gillespie Park, Laurel Park, Alta Vista and the Rosemary District—communities within walking distance of the city core but with walkways to expansive park space. Written by Jacob Ogles | Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

young & driven


As young people find their footing in the middle of a global pandemic and economic uncertainly, they are taking career matters into their own hands. At New College of Florida, a current student and recent alum are leading the charge. Written by Abby Weingarten | Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

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february 2021


STORY PROJECT Education Foundation of Sarasota County



Cover: Leymis Bolaños Wilmott celebrates the quinceañera of Sarasota Contemporary Dance. Previous page: Futurist David Houle of the Sarasota Institute. Clockwise this page: Fallen Pine Farm Minihorse, Blackberry Roll at The Breakfast Company and Andre Pergolese of APX Barber Co. All photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

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APX Barber Co. takes fresh fades, straightline shaves and community camaraderie to the next level. Fallen Pine Farm raises a ranch full of mini horses with big hearts. Not just for strolling country fairs, Big Wave Cotton Candy revolutionizes an iconic childhood treat.

culture city


Now in its 15th year, Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Leymis Bolaños Wilmott continue to

cement a legacy. When K.D. Tobin diverged from the mundane, he embarked on a creative journey to become an accomplished abstract artist. Art incubator Kirk & Baker provides emerging artists the seeds to grow professional careers.



Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Yellow saturate the scene as 2021’s PANTONE Colors of the Year. Having an in-house mill shop is not a universal luxury for interior design firms. But, for JKL Design Group, it is.



With big portions and friendly service, The Breakfast Company pays homage to a beloved patriarch through breakfast and lunch staples. The macaroon, in all its fanciful glory, can be seen gracing every extravagant table laden with sweets. Bars batch carryout cocktails to pour a crafty one not far from the couch.



Boosting business with Sarasota County incentives.

ELITE TOP ATTORNEYS 81 SECOND EDITION | 2020 SRQ ELITE TOP ATTORNEYS PEER REVIEW AWARDS The individuals who have been honored in this year’s prestigious 2020 SRQ ELITE TOP ATTORNEYS | PEER REVIEW program have received the overwhelming support of colleagues in the professional legal communities of Greater Sarasota including Palmetto and Palmetto Bay, Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, Venice and North Port, Florida. We appreciate the attorneys who participated in the program this past summer by sharing their thoughtful nominations—it is your insight that makes it possible for us to provide the readers of SRQ Magazine with this noteworthy guide to the highly-regarded attorneys in the region.

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Wyatt Kostygan




Ariel Chates



Phil Lederer, Jacob Ogles CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Andrew Fabian, Olivia Liang, Abby Weingarten COPYEDITOR

Maude Campbell


Evan Sigmund, Woody Woodman DESIGN CONTRIBUTOR Winona Nasser EDITORIAL INTERN Grace Castilow







Suzanne Munroe Julie Mayer Magnifico Rob Wardlaw CLIENT SERVICES AND MARKETING MANAGER

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

The “SRQ” in SRQ magazine originates from the designated call letters for the local Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. “SR” was the original abbreviation for the airport before the growth in total number of airports required the use of a three-letter code. Letters like “X” and “Q” were used as filler, thus the original “SR” was revised to “SRQ,” much as the Los Angeles airport became “LAX.” As a regional publication committed to the residents of and visitors to both Sarasota and Manatee counties, SRQ captures the place that we call home.


SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT AND DIGITAL EDITION Join our readers in the pleasurable experience of receiving SRQ magazine in your mailbox every month during season and bimonthly during the summer. To reserve your subscription, provide your information and payment online. You can set up multiple addresses, renewals and special instructions directly through your online account. When you subscribe online, your first print issue will arrive in your mailbox in 4–6 weeks. Subscribe online at SRQMAG.COM/SUBSCRIBE. Contact us via email at Vol. 24, Issue 232 Copyright © 2021 SRQ MEDIA. SRQ: Live Local | Love Locall. Sarasota and Bradenton Area is published 10 times a year. IMPORTANT NOTICE: The entire contents of SRQ are copyrighted by Trafalger Communications, Inc. Column and department names are property of Trafalger Communications, Inc. and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission of the publisher. SUBSCRIPTION: Subscriptions to SRQ are $36 for 20 issues. Single copies are $4 at area newsstands.

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2021 Best of

SRQ local


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Fallen Pine Farm raises 50 mini horses with big hearts. Ariel Chates

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Spread, clockwise: Small but mighty, the Middleton horses cover the grounds of the farm at Fallen Pine. Owner Judy Middleton loves to sit and admire her minis after morning chores are done. Friendly and curious, mini horses make comforting and adorable companions, especially for the elderly and differently-abled.

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foot trailer truck, a likely combo. A little more than 40 years ago, that combo came into play for Judy and Norm Middleton when they jumped behind the wheel to venture to Ocala on a mission to bring home a horse as a surprise for their daughter. Hoping to meet their new quarter horse—known for short-distance speed and averaging a bit over five feet tall—they brought an appropriately sized trailer to bring their new fourlegged gift home. When they arrived, the sellers took one look at the Middleton’s giant truck and “almost laughed them off the lot,” they recall. The Middletons were met with an unexpected, “mini” surprise. At an adorable three feet tall, a fleet of miniature horses stole their hearts. And the rest, as they say, is history. Although Judy and her husband say they knew next to nothing about raising mini horses, they learned quickly and found their 4-H groups took to them instantly. Back at their ranch in Sarasota, Fallen Pine Farm, kids found the petite breed much less 16 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local

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This page: Not only are the minis cute, they’re also award-winning, bringing home shelves of trophies over the years. With four decades under her belt, Judy’s newest project is writing a book about raising and handling her pony pals.

intimidating than their full-size cousin. “Even a little three-year-old kid can lead the feistiest mini horse all by themself,” says Judy. “They don’t rear or buck, and they pretty much keep their four little feet on the ground.” Despite their shrunk-down size, the 50 or so horses at Fallen Pine Farm make a big impact in the lives of those who need some extra love and care. “Seeing them interact with the elderly and children with autism has been the most rewarding,” says Judy. For those in their later years, the mini horses provide gentle companionship and a childlike wonder. “I know older folks who have bought two or three of them just to have for company—especially if they have big yards with acres for them to roam.” These small creatures seem to be intuitive to those who might need them, recalling a nonverbal autistic boy who spoke his first words at the sight of the too-cute-to-trot farm animal. “I truly believe they are sensitive to us humans. They just seem to know when to show affection,” Judy shares. “When anyone in a wheelchair comes by, they always seem to go up to them first, sniff them and lay their heads softly in their laps to be pet.” SRQ

Fallen Pine Ranch Miniature Horses 16626 Winburn Dr. Sarasota, 941-322-1897,


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Right: Handcrafted barbering skills at the tattooed hands of André Pergolese.


APX Barber Co. takes fresh fades, straight line shaves and community camaraderie to the next level. Brittany Mattie


would drop he and his cousin off at his grandfather’s barbershop in West Philly to hang out, do homework and help sweep up the hair on the floor. “Growing up, I didn’t think I was going to cut hair—it started more as a hobby at 13 when my cousin started cutting. We were at a family party and he asked if he could give me a haircut. I was fascinated by it and loved how it turned out so much, he gave me the same clippers to go home with and practice on my own.” After butchering his friend Johnny’s hair the next day—“I absolutely destroyed his hair,” Pergolese laughs—he was even more determined to learn how to figure out how to give as suave a cut as his cousin did. After watching countless pre-iPhonequality YouTube videos of Donnie Hawleywoods Barbershop, founder of Layrite Pomade and a pioneer of modern barbering in California, Pergolese built up the confidence to get Johnny back in the guinea pig chair for a second go. This time, Pergolese killed it, and Johnny was stoked. Grandpop noticed his aspiring grandson was taking a liking and started throwing him tips like how to properly hold the clippers—even gifting him his own pair, along with a cape, neck strip and other barbering tools to get started. Eventually, he gave him an old chair from his own shop, which Pergolese put down in his parent’s basement. “I set up a mirror, put down a mat and made my own little barbershop to have my friends and brother come down to get their hair cut,” he says. In Pergolese’s senior year of vocational school, he realized how much he hated auto body shop and convinced his guidance counselor to let him leave school to apprentice under a man named Larry at his barbershop Sweeney Todd’s instead. That mentorship would be the turning point for Pergolese, where doing men’s hair would evolve into a committed passion and not just a basement hobby anymore. A real-life Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san, Larry would teach Pergolese master techniques, how to do fades—which were becoming more stylish and popular—as well as traditional hot

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lather shaves. “He taught me the old-school way with a blown-up balloon, shaving cream and a straight razor. Gave it to me and said, ‘Here, if you pop it, you’re not ready to do it on someone’s face yet,’” he says. “He took me under his wing, saw how well I worked my hands, saw there was passion there, so he shared his knowledge. It was an even trade-off because I would go pick him up whenever his crap motorcycle broke down somewhere in the city.” At 19, Pergolese got his professional barber’s license to cut hair at Sweeney Todd’s. And at 21, life would bring the big-city boy down to Sarasota, where he got a chair at Fresko Fadez. “I was the new guy again. I didn’t know anyone or where to start. It was basically like starting all over. Just to get a couple haircuts in a day, I would be the first guy in and the last guy to leave, hoping for a few walk-ins to be thrown my way.” After four years, he began to make a name for himself again, networking at social events like Men, Whiskey & Watches. “I hustled to mingle and meet people, get my name out there. I was totally dedicated to making this a lifelong career.” And in 2018, Pergolese would catch the break he needed to catapult himself into notoriety. Slick Gorilla hair company took notice of Pergolese’s Instagram and reached out to sponsor him. He would then spend the next couple years traveling to every major city to represent the brand at trade shows and hair conventions, speaking onstage about the education side of styling/barbering and teaching the audience how to use Slick Gorilla products. “Just as I was beginning to feel like I could take on running my own shop, I was returning back from a show in Knoxville, TN, when I got a call from a buddy, my tattoo artist, about a space that just opened up for rent that would be perfect for me,” he shares. Fastforward through some back-and-forth business banter and APX Barber Co. slid into the 1929 historic pink building downtown on 1st Street in 2019. “Back in the day, it had actually been Alfred’s Barbershop,” he says. “I found that out when I opened the closet door one day and found the original black-and-white checkered


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srqist Right: APX Barber Co., 1269 1st St., Sarasota, 941-552-9663,, @apxbarberco.

checkered tile still in there. It felt like I had made the right move.” Pergolese wanted to uphold that same old city, classic barbershop vibe, steering away from the super-modern, more clinical barbershops you see today. “I wanted mine to remind me of home: brick tiling, a fireplace, Frank Sinatra playing, somewhere that draws in walk-in traffic off the street, somewhere a dad wants to bring his son in with him.” APX Barber Co. came to life with black leather studded Deco Van Buren chairs—complete with cast-iron footrests and mahogany wood armrests. Vintage GQ, Thrasher and Sports Illustrated magazines sit in bins to encourage pre-digital-era entertainment, while artwork from his 1st Street neighbor Frank Cuerturo hangs on the walls, along with a special gift from a close friend of a bull’s head skull, hung over the fireplace—the same bull’s head that became APX’s logo with a pair of shears sticking out the top of the head. “I wanted to have the aesthetic of a man cave, or go back to that homey basement feel again,” he says nostalgically. Pergolese started out a one man show as the master and sole barber in the shop. Fast-forward to just over a year in business and he has had to put in three additional chairs and bring on three guys to the cutting room floor to

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keep up with the demand. With the same brotherly love and close-knit community mentality that was instilled in him in Philly, Pergolese has made it a point to connect and collab with fellow local businesses. Growlers filled with craft beer are always on hand from 99 Bottles for clients to enjoy a brew while getting a brushback. From pop-up Barber-Que stands with Hobson’s Choice BBQ during lunchtime to designing branded swag—including hats, quarter sleeve tees and duffel bags, drawn in traditional tattoo style by Pergolese and made by local screen printer Clothesline Creative, APX harbors the comradeship of true barbershop tradition. “Cutting hair is an expression of myself that allows me to create friendships, make people feel good and look good. At the end of the day, yes, it’s a service. But I get to watch the person’s emotion literally change in their face,” he says. “I watch them get their confidence back, the feeling like they can now go conquer the day. We joke about it in the shop, guys sometimes come in mopey, dragging their feet. And by the end, they’re dancing out the door. Seeing that pep in their step makes it that community cornerstone I always dreamed of having back in Philly, a landmark to come get a trim or shave, hangout, feel like family and feel at home.” SRQ PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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Below: Catch the wave at Big Wave Cotton Candy, 1316 North East Ave., Sarasota, 941-504-1077, @ bigwavecottoncandy.

Big Wave Cotton Candy revolutionizes an iconic childhood treat. Brittany Mattie


mother always packed a healthy picnic lunch for us from the garden instead,” she says. “I especially wasn’t allowed to have the cotton candy because my mother said it would rot my teeth. It was never a part of my palate as a child.” So when her husband Phil Pagano, owner of Uncle Phil’s Organic Popcorn Shop & General Store, came home one day with the giant cotton candy machine he claimed he got a good deal on, she was a bit confounded. A shameless sweet toother may have immediately jumped for joy at the prospect of making homemade cotton candy after dinner. But Heidi admitted her initial reaction veered more toward “Why did you get this?” and “What are we going to do with it?” Being a food-service worker at Pine View School for more than a decade, finding healthy food options and snack alternatives for not only herself and her family, but also for the students, has always been a priority. But when her daughter mentioned such a thing as dye-free, additivefree cotton candy, Heidi was intrigued and jumped online to research it. “I spent a lot of time finding an organic cotton candy source,” she says. “It was really exciting when I found a source in Hawaii.” Upon finding a lady named Dana with her own organic cotton candy business, Spun Paradise Cotton Candy Company, Heidi gave her a call. “I learned she had started making her own because her kids had food dye allergies but didn’t want them to feel deprived from other kids eating it. She figured 22 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local

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out how to use natural sugars, real fruit and natural food flavorings.” Heidi’s jaded perception of the classic candied confection dissipated. And having always had a strong love for Hawaiian culture—with the abundance of farming, tropical fruit, roadside mom-and-pop-shops, a close connection to Mother Nature, their sense of community—it felt like a sign to bring a little Hawaii Gulf side. “She told me she did wholesale sugars, so I was able to buy directly from her.” Now that she knew she could exclusively mess around with the real stuff, Heidi started experimental test trials: mixing, heating, liquefying and rapidly cooling the outsourced sugarcane and organic dextrose into Phil’s salvaged cotton candy maker. Her affinity for island life led her to brand the creation of Big Wave Cotton Candy. “The swirling of the cotton reminded me of a big wave forming.” Handspun centrifugally into a mass of fluffy fairy floss, the fine strands create a childlike urge to grab and pull off into bite-size finger holds for a meltin-your-mouth snack. Big Wave is available in eight island-inspired flavors—Lychee, Coconut, Mango, Lilikoi, Watermelon, Pineapple, Sea Salt Caramel and Banana.Customers can find containers of the old-school sweet treat, parlayed with clean ingredients and still kidapproved, in Uncle Phil’s General Store. The local popcorn barn and cotton candy shack nestled in the Rosemary District is a homey neighborhood market, a meeting place for the community and a resource for hyper-local goods. SRQ PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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FEB 2021

As a locally grown, locally owned company, SRQ MEDIA pays tribute to our community’s visionary local businesses and the people behind them who work hard to create economic opportunities every day on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

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“It is an absolute honor and pleasure to serve our community. Thank you to Katherine and our wonderful Board of Directors, staff, children and families, supporters, and partners as we collectively advocate for high-

quality education and opportunity for all. I am so deeply grateful for the last 25 years and am looking forward to helping Children First soar to new heights in 2021 and beyond!” — CEO Philip Tavill


Welfare League of Sarasota, founded the Sarasota Day Nursery with a mission to prepare children from low-income families for Kindergarten. Their work changed lives and built a strong foundation, and in 1994 the agency became Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start services. With Early Head Start services added in 1998 and a name change to Children First in 2000, the organization grew rapidly, driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities. In 2021, the agency is celebrating both its 60th anniversary and CEO Philip Tavill’s 25 years of commitment to the Children First mission. Under his leadership, Children First has grown to serve approximately 900 children and their families at 15 locations annually throughout Sarasota County with campuses in Venice, North Port, and Sarasota. The agency is a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence and ranks in the top 1% of more than 1,800 programs nationwide. Through its award-winning Families First Institute, comprehensive curricula is offered at no cost to all community members. As a Junior League Sustainer, Board Chair Katherine Martucci’s leadership and governance expertise provide critical support. She helps oversee key program expansions reducing the waitlist and increasing comprehensive services for pregnant women, children ages birth to five, and families living at-risk. Children First envisions a vibrant community that cherishes education, provides opportunities for children and families to grow and thrive, and encourages and empowers families in supporting their children. The agency’s founding principles are woven throughout its history, continuing the original mission of strengthening child and family together and creating a legacy for high-quality education, self-sufficiency, and lifelong success for everyone, regardless of circumstance at birth or in life.


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FERGESON SKIPPER, P.A. Richard (Rick) R. Gans, Shareholder

“To be named among the very best in your career is something that many aspire to but few actually achieve. Rick consistently proves he belongs at the top.”


— James O. Fergeson, Jr., Founder of Fergeson Skipper

IN 2021 FERGESON SKIPPER, P.A. is celebrating its 45th anniversary of serving the Sarasota area with superior legal services to their clients. However, the firm has even more reasons to celebrate: Shareholder Richard (Rick) R. Gans being named “Lawyer of the Year” and the firm receiving Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” accolades.

A respected, distinguished estate planning attorney, Gans was selected as “Lawyer of the Year” in The Best Lawyers in America 2021 Edition. This was the fourth time he has achieved this designation, which is an extraordinary achievement considering only a single lawyer in each practice area and metropolitan area is honored as a “Lawyer of the Year.” For Rick, this is another recognition and accolade earned in a career spanning three decades. Gans is certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in Wills, Trusts and Estates and is a Fellow in the prestigious American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. For a firm to be named as a “Best Law Firm” it must have at least one attorney named on the Best Lawyers in America list. In the 2021 Best Lawyers listing, five attorneys at Fergeson Skipper were named as Best Lawyers. This is the third consecutive year the firm has achieved this honor. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. “Best Law Firms” is based on a rigorous evaluation process. Presented in tiers, the rankings give designations to firms in only 75 major practice areas nationally and in 127 practice areas regionally. Fergeson Skipper is a full-service law firm with concentrations in federal taxation, wills, trusts and estates, litigation, business law and real estate law located at 1515 Ringling Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida. For information, call 941-957-1900 or visit


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“I believe 2021 is going to be a

tremendous year for small & midsize

businesses in Southwest Florida and

I’m bullish on the long-term prospects for growth and success!


fundamentals of what makes the area a highly desirable place to live and

operate a business were only enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our

firm’s long-standing use of video and

cloud-based services provide continuity and convenient access for our clients. Our GPS approach to setting and

monitoring business and personal goals helps clients keep focused on the

financial health of their business and

to make adjustments to stay on track as the landscape rapidly changes.


welcome any small or midsize business owner who wants to join our unique t e a m ! ” — Brian J. McGinn, CPA, Partner



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HOWARD, HOWARD AND HODGES have been providing tax planning, accounting, advisory, virtual CFO, technology integration, and payroll services to Florida businesses for 60 years. We were named Accounting Firm of the Year by the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants (PASBA), a national association of almost 200 offices. We provide our small & midsize business clients with guidance throughout the year by taking a proactive approach to business advice and income tax consultation. Our services include a full range of record keeping support, which results in opportunities for clients to take advantage of timely advice in decision making and avoiding surprises or costly mistakes. Client relationships with Howard, Howard and Hodges professionals are primarily on a monthly, flat fee basis. We also offer customized methods to meet payroll needs and recently launched a virtual CFO service to help clients build a solid foundation and accelerate their success through detailed advisory services. We are QuickBooks® Certified Pro Advisors and provide consultation to our clients using current and timesaving technology not utilized by our competitors. Howard, Howard and Hodges is a local public accounting firm. As a member of PASBA and the AICPA, we bring the collective resources of a nationwide network of CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and accountants to our firm. Additionally, through local contacts developed over the years, we are confident we can handle client needs and will communicate in a way our clients can understand and apply to their business decisions.

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MORTON’S GOURMET MARKET “The changing business environment due to COVID-19 has resulted in stepped up CDC guidelines throughout to ensure the safest possible surroundings for valued customers, staff and vendors while in-store or on-property.

During these trying

times it becomes quite a challenge however, one that we take seriously and

incorporating new safety measures has enhanced the customer experience while keeping our friendly hometown flavor. during shopping.


We have made it comfortable to say hello

An efficient and memorable experience is one of our hallmarks.

Regardless of size of order, our experienced staff are ready for your requests on the phone, on-line or in the market.”

— Eddie Morton, Co-owner

FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS, Morton’s Gourmet Market has been

Sarasota’s go-to place for all things related to fine foods and wine. A family-owned business led by father and son Eddie and Todd Morton; the store has a reputation for offering an exceptional customer experience. Their Osprey Avenue location is the center of the operation, with its full-scale deli and gourmet-to-go specialties, extensive selection of prime meats, seafood and a wonderful bakery with coffee bar. Morton’s has everything one might need for entertaining or hosting any size event or gathering including an impressive array of fine wines, craft beers, exotic cheeses, and beautiful floral arrangements. Locals and visitors alike turn to Morton’s during the holidays and special occasions for hand selected unique gift baskets, the convenience of their complete dinner menus and fully prepared foods for take-out. Morton’s is also known for their award-winning catering department, which handles events of all sizes with a full menu of party favorites and custom planning services for any size gathering. In response to customer needs this year Morton’s installed a full-service curb side pick-up and delivery component. Morton’s second location on Siesta Key, Siesta Market is a smaller version of their original concept, with an island twist, and offers a variety of staple groceries, fresh produce, meat and dairy. They stock a wide selection of beer and wine, as well as to-go prepared foods for easy picnics. Next door Siesta Village, the Village’s only full-service liquor store offers top shelf and name brand liquors, beer, wines, cigars and bar accessories for delivery on the key. As family members continuing to join the team, The Morton family will always be an integral part of the Sarasota community. One of the many ways they give back to the community is the family established and maintained Morton Culinary Education Fund which through customer purchases awards scholarships to Sarasota County students interested in pursuing a culinary career.


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“Building on its foundational values, PGT Innovations is poised for another successful year of serving its

team, customers, and communities; leading its industry; and thriving as the foremost manufacturer of premium windows and doors in the nation.”

PGT INNOVATIONS PGT INNOVATIONS WAS FOUNDED 40 YEARS AGO as a company that created a strong business by investing in its people, communities,

and innovative growth. From its inception, three principles have been a driving force behind the company’s foundation and underlying fundamental core values: Serving. Leading. Thriving. To this day, these constants still ring robust and true. These words and the deeper meaning behind them have guided PGT Innovations through decades of challenges – such as devastating storms, a housing crisis, an economic recession, and the recent global pandemic – and helped the corporation persevere through 2020. Through it all, the leadership team at PGT Innovations has remained committed to the philosophy of servant leadership, the belief and practice that the most effective leaders strive to serve others. This clear purpose carries through in the way its team members — at every level, in every department — work every day to lift up and connect with fellow employees, customers, and the communities the company serves. Last year, some examples of this mantra in action include the manufacturer’s corporate giving and volunteer efforts to support local agencies and nonprofits, including Children First, Loveland Center, SKY Family YMCA, All Faiths Food Bank, and All Star Children Foundation, as well as its dedication to regularly providing much-needed hurricane relief aid – wherever it was needed. The company’s executives and high-level leaders serve on various nonprofit boards, donate their time and energy to causes close to their hearts, and bolster PGT Innovations’ purpose and mission towards doing things for others. PGT Innovations is always looking forward to the future. In the year ahead and for decades to come, the organization’s strong structure will position it well to weather whatever storms come its way with steadfast loyalty to its exceptional team, dedicated dealers, and communities that have supported its mission from the start. 1070 TECHNOLOGY DR, NORTH VENICE, FL 34275 | PGTINNOVATIONS.COM | 1-800-282-6019

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“I live life with the wisdom of Maya Angelou’s

words: `I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people


will never forget how you made them feel.`” — Linda Domenico, owner


designer, a lifetime of traveling, and her adventures in entrepreneurship, Linda creates truly extraordinary arrangements custom-made for each of her clients.Drawing from her experience as the owner of floral studios in Santa Cruz, Maui, and Beacon, New York, Linda brings her professionalism, timely attention to detail, and diverse floral palette to metro Sarasota. Linda loves to connect with people and express their emotions through Tiger Lily’s original floral arrangements; in fact, she considers her ability to offer a wide-range of fresh designs as one of her most cherished gifts. A trusted veteran of local galas, Linda’s resume sparkles household names like Mote Marine, The Cat Depot, Lighthouse of Manasota, the Sarasota Ballet and the Sarasota Opera. Linda is just as involved in smaller, though equally significant celebrations, whether it be a family wedding, intimate dinner party, or church funeral; no matter the size, each client and each occasion is an opportunity to tell a different story and create shared memories by marrying Linda’s personal touch with nature’s finest flowers.


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“We get to help families during difficult times and learn about the amazing lives that these people have lived. It is beautiful to see the love people share with one another.” — Stephanie Toale Lynch

TOALE BROTHERS FUNERAL HOME & CREMATORY Serving Sarasota-Area Families for Generations

SERVING THE SARASOTA AREA SINCE 1948 with pride, honesty and compassion, the Toale Brothers name has become a long-term legacy

in our community – one that is now proudly in its third generation of leadership. While most funeral homes in our region have been sold to multinational corporations, this family had a different plan. In being a very small, local, family-owned and operated company, Toale Brothers made it their mission to serve the Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice communities with a personal touch – never compromised by accountability to far-off stockholders. They are accountable to you. And that’s the legacy each generation has committed to uphold, as sisters Tiffany Toale Holsbeke and Stephanie Toale Lynch, along with their husbands Travis Holsbeke and Matthew Lynch, work closely alongside their father, Owner Curt Toale. As the new generation stands at the forefront, the leadership team brings a new generation of ideas, innovations and improvements. They look to grow the family business through technology, making it easier for people to connect with their services, ask questions and receive guidance. And they stress the importance of pre-planning arrangements through informative seminars and personal consultations. When pre-planning with Toale Brothers for your future celebration of life, the benefits to your family will be real and appreciated, ranging from spiritual choices to financial assistance. From selecting an ideal permanent memorial to designing the service, paying in advance and more, you can make the day exactly as you imagine it – and your loved ones will know they’re fulfilling your wishes. Which is exactly how they should feel.


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A retrospective of Leymis Bolaños Wilmott and the path to Sarasota Contemporary Dance’s quinceañera. Andrew Fabian


shows early signs of a career in dance. In the video, Wilmott arranges and choreographs her sisters and cousins, keeping them all in time and making sure they really sell the performance. “It’s a videotape of me dancing to Michael Jackson at a birthday party,” she says. This, apparently, was a recurring feature of her family gatherings: Wilmott moonwalking and spinning and dancing merengue or salsa for no other reason than a compulsion within her. But that grainy video convinced at least one reviewer (her aunt) that Wilmott had a future in dance. By any meaningful metric, she was right. Wilmott went on to receive formal training from the New World School of the Arts in Miami, an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, then she earned an MFA in performance and choreography from Florida State University. But her journey began like many do—with a setback. “I first auditioned for a magnet program in seventh grade,” says Wilmott, “and I didn’t even have the right attire.” She had to compete with applicants in leotards and leggings that already had formal training while all she had was an unofficial résumé that included busting moves in her living room. The program rejected her application, but her mother was not having it. “My mom made a lot of noise and really questioned the whole magnet school system,” says Wilmott, challenging the school’s narrow assessment tools.

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culture city When she finally did get into that magnet program many mango seasons ago—“thanks to my loud Cuban mom,” she adds—Wilmott came to ballet, jazz and other codified forms as an outsider, fighting to get cast and eager to prove herself. The experience came to define her entire approach to dance, culminating in a master’s thesis concert called Fuzión Dance Artists. The concert, co-produced with longtime friend and collaborator Rachel Inman, pulled from disparate influences, with Inman’s ballet background and Wilmott’s Afro-Cuban roots blending into something new and inclusive, all packaged in the formal training each of them received over the years. “I remember watching those Benetton commercials in the ’90s that were so diverse,” she says, “and I just wanted to be someone that went out and championed diverse bodies and nationalities.” And so, in 2006, Wilmott and Inman turned their theses into Fuzión Dance Artists, the tool with which the creative pair could become those champions. Their earliest practice spaces were a revolving door of borrowed rooms, some dancers with formal training, others, like a young Leymis herself, untrained but talented and aspiring. Their first shows featured a lot of choreography Inman and Wilmott worked on as graduate students. The energy was there, the youthful abandon when dancing for the joy of it, and it continued to evolve and grow into something bigger until, finally, Fuzión outgrew the garb of its infancy. “It got to a point where the company was too big for me to run out of my car,” she jokes, “and if I wanted donors to take us seriously, I couldn’t keep meeting them at a coffee shop.” The company needed infrastructure, and it got it from founding board member Muriel Gordon Mayers.Mayers enjoyed a storied career in dance, both as a dancer and an educator. Equally as relevant, she practiced fiduciary accounting. With her love of dance and her selt-proclaimed proficiency with “bean-counting”, Mayers offered the perfect complementary skills to help Wilmott carry Fuzión into the future. Only, the growth of the company called for a new name. “At some point, the word ‘fusion’ kept appearing everywhere,” says Wilmott, “so I was ready to make that switch.” After a decade of growth within the Sarasota community, nurtured and fed by its patrons, comprised of its locals,

Wilmott and her trustee partner felt the name needed to sound official and honor its place in the community. “Sarasota Contemporary Dance fit perfectly; it reflected the area where we are supported,” says Wilmott. More importantly, the name sent a message: “We’re here to stay.” And stay it has. Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) entered its 15th year poised to continue cementing its legacy in Sarasota. But its 2020–2021 season, called “Quinceañera” in honor of Wilmott’s Cuban roots, suffered a slew of cancellations following the unwelcomed arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many performance art institutions and performers, SCD and its dancers have been sorely tested. Still, Wilmott has much to be grateful for. “I have lots of friends and colleagues that have been doing the work and not getting recognition,” says Wilmott, “but Sarasota is a special place.” With strong support from area donors and philanthropic organizations, SCD survived the first wave of closures while managing to still pay its dance teachers. The support also helped buy the company time to reconfigure its operations and create some digital programming. Last month, SCD held its Dance Makers show at Jane B. Cook Theatre. With help from a producing sponsor and another longtime benefactor, Sam Alfstadt, the company managed to come up with a blended live/virtual event. The 280-seat theatre was pared down to 50 in-person viewers, while a comprehensive, multi-camera livestream was available for athome viewers. In April, the company returns with a tribute performance for Mayers, including some of her favorite pieces from the company’s extensive catalog of choreography. Though the contents of the 15th season might more readily be remembered for the absence of shows, the short-term emptiness of the studio or the desperation of seasoned performers to be onstage, the meaning of the season is one of optimism and hope. The company survived. Wilmott is still moving and shaking. “I never woke up thinking, ‘I want to have a company.’ I just wanted to shift the culture of dance and advocate for people that weren’t getting a chance. Being here this long and surviving as a company means everything,” she says. “It means there’s a legacy for contemporary dance in Sarasota; it means it’s bigger than me.” SRQ

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DELIBERATE DIVERGENCE Painter, writer and wandering creative K.D. Tobin takes the road less traveled. Andrew Fabian


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Opposite page: Artist K.D. Tobin with his work displayed at Stakenborg/Greenberg Fine Art Gallery, Sarasota.

TWO PATHS DIVERGED AT A STOP SIGN IN CONNECTICUT and K.D. Tobin could not decide which way to go. The well-worn path would take him to his family’s insurance brokerage where, as the eldest of his siblings, he had grown into the role of expected heir for more than a decade. If he went the other way, however, he could follow a decidedly different path toward a destination far removed from insurance licensure, monkey suits and expense reports. “I had wondered the last two years there, ‘Geez, what if I kept driving straight and called my folks and said I’m not gonna be able to make it in today?’” In 1994, Tobin finally took the road less traveled and moved to California, where he would become a full-time painter. “You couldn’t find two more diametrically opposed careers,” he jokes. Tobin’s life since then has been a series of explorations in a variety of mediums: He produced commercials for PR firms, dipped a toe in screenwriting, operated a two-person graphic design business with his wife and dabbled as a connoisseur of travel. But his work putting paint to the canvas yielded his most noteworthy and lasting portfolio of creative works to date. He settled in Santa Monica, where he came to treat his practice of painting as a nine-to-five, the floor of his 60-foot-by-15-foot studio strewn with canvases. In those days, Tobin worked on outsize pieces of over seven feet, crawling and walking over his work to reach every coordinate on the canvas. “The constant in all of those pieces, I think, is the man standing alone,” he says, referring to the recurring motif of solitary human figures in his “Human Condition” series, some in business suits. Whether or not the lonely men in suits in some way reflect his uninspiring days in the insurance business, he cannot tell. “I’m sure there’s some sort of tedium from the insurance industry expressed in it,” he says, “but it’s not melancholy; I was happy to be creating.”



culture city

During this time, Tobin began to absorb through osmosis both the abstract and figurative work of Richard Diebenkorn and Caio Fonseca, among others. From these influences and the subliminal spaces from which all creation manifests, Tobin borrowed a certain preoccupation with geometric forms and a bold, childlike approach to color. But he would also develop a sort of signature style by layering acrylic paint over crackle paste. When dry, the paste creates a textured look on the canvas much like sun-dried mud on the banks of a river, and from there, he storms up a brain full of concepts that work for the particular pattern of cracks on each canvas. Somewhat ironically, Tobin’s “Santa Monica” series, his self-declared “homage to Diebenkorn,” was not painted until well after moving to Sarasota in 2003. The series seems to go down a rabbit hole at the entrance of which rests Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” series, with squares and straight lines favoring the outer edges of the canvas. But the images seem to spill and fragment into the cracks of the dried paste, giving Tobin’s work a tactile appeal and more dimension. The spoils of Tobin’s travels through seaside states include exhibitions up and down the coasts of both California and Florida, countless pieces sold and hung in private collections around the world and, in 2006, the title of Golden Certified Working Artist, a sort of ambassadorship for Golden Acrylics that sees him travel the Southeast teaching others how to work with the paint. In 2017, he published a novel, a sex-filled story that follows seven characters and their travels around the world. “There are a couple of production companies interested in making it a dramatic series,” he says with an air of conspiracy, “and if it gets picked up I’ll finally tell my mother about it.” It’s a life and a body of work that in many ways is a testament to Tobin’s willingness deviate to a lesser-known path, to choose a fork with gusto if it should diverge, and to reflect it back to the world like a postcard that reads, “I was here.” SRQ

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culture city

This page: Hector Esteban Jara, Death

By Salt, 2016, Kirk & Baker Inc. $498. and the wallet carrying the artwork.


Digital gallery and art incubator Kirk & Baker supplies emerging artists with the seeds to grow. Brittany Mattie

KIRK & BAKER IS LIKE THE COOL, EDGY, YOUNGER AUNT OR UNCLE you go to to lighten the load. They’re easy to relate to, connect with and provide a little extra help to convince your parents to let you do something. The content producer and fine art incubator looks after emerging local artists—either mid-career that have already been putting in the elbow grease and looking for a second wind, or young artists just starting out hoping to catch that lucky break—by helping them gain more exposure. Unifying art and business, Kirk & Baker makes it more viable for these emerging artists to explore their potential and succeed in their field for a more sustainable, long-standing career. Behind Kirk & Baker is a collective of artists themselves with an understanding and empathy for the aspiring profession of artistry. Founder and former Ringling College of Art + Design grad Sarah Jane Baliotti spent the last few years traveling around major US cities—subconsciously cultivating inspiration for Kirk & Baker’s concept by working for art nonprofits or freelance creative gigs. “After seeing the current art market environment and how artists are treated, I made it my purpose to eliminate the ‘starving artist’ stigma, as well as provide access to multiple avenues that would have not been accessible prior,” she says. Alongside Baliotti is a fellow Ringling College grad and well-known figure in the Sarasota art community Joseph Patrick Arnegger. With his own impactful body of work, he’s held the helm as the exhibition curator at the Ringling Museum of Art for over a decade, and also contributed his cultural eye and passion for local groups such as S/ARt/Q. The two came together through a shared mantra centered around expression, innovation, rebellion and an affinity for the underdogs. 38 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local



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CARSON’S STORY Over the past two years Carson, 4, endured a lot of changes in his life. His parents divorced and his mom remarried, then became pregnant with twins. Understandably, Carson experienced a lot of big emotions, which were hard for him to express. Before attending The Florida Center’s Starfish Academy preschool, he was emotional, angry and easily triggered if someone invaded his personal space. At Starfish Academy, Carson receives the support and attention he needs. His teachers help him identify and communicate his feelings, and set steadfast boundaries about what behavior is acceptable and what is not. The social emotional consultant helps Carson when he’s feeling vulnerable, without disrupting the classroom. She also provides tips and advice for Carson’s parents. Carson continues to show very positive improvements. Instead of acting out, he verbalizes his feelings and uses calming techniques he’s learned. The social-emotional skills he has gained have Carson on a path to success!”


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This page, clockwise: Manny Rangel, Nucleus, 2017, Kirk & Baker Inc., $1,908. Manny Rangel, White Line Fever, 2017, Kirk & Baker Inc., contact gallery for pricing. Joseph Patrick Arnegger, Sailors Take Warning, 2019, Kirk & Baker Inc., $1,200. Shop the artists’ goods at

Operating by “seasons,” Kirk & Baker curates and represents a seasonal lineup of talented area artists. In that designated time, they will connect, manage and exhibit their bodies of work to the collector’s market for a better chance they’ll end up into the hands and homes of an avid aesthete. The first exhibition kicked off in 2020 with the fall/winter season: “SZN 1: Gulf Coast”—featuring four local artists. These freelance creatives are then given the opportunity to make further revenue on their art through unique merchandising options and the ability to access the manufacturing side of the company. “We offer wholesale and limited-edition goods handmade and produced in London, UK, from an eco-friendly warehouse,” they share. “The business of merchandising art is an untapped market waiting to unfold and bloom with the next wave of fine artists.” Featured paintings, mixed-media works and photographs are transferred from canvas onto retail items such as clutches, wallets, bandanas, scarves, passport holders, keychains and other luxury accessories. Kirk & Baker will then market and provide point of sale through local pop-ups, its online showroom and e-shop, retail partnerships and more. “All of our options are free for our artists to participate in and offer them a look at options for work without ever breaking the bank.” Kirk & Baker focused on making themselves a global presence through the Artsy marketplace. The internationally regarded online platform is the largest of its kind and allows you to discover, buy and sell fine art through its website and app. Through collaborative consumption, its search engine and database draw connections and map relationships among works of art all over the world. But in order for artists to benefit from Artsy, they must be part of a greater entity—as it does not promote free agents without representation. Artists must be accepted in a gallery, auction house, museum and/or collector in order for their work to be shared on its platform through their respective representative’s profile. Accepted as a “gallery” of sorts, Kirk & Baker has the ability to upload content, have access to Artsy’s resources and ardent following to drive more traffic to their artists. By partnering with this major e-player, they’re able to give their artists a better chance to get noticed and a greater bandwidth to create potential clientele. SRQ 40 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local



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perfectly sum up the range of human emotion felt during this unprecedented year. Ultimate Gray and Illuminating: a cheerful bright yellow, complement each other in the same way the partly cloudy icon on your weather app. You’re prepared for some cloudy skies, but hopeful for a bit of glowing shine. —Ariel Chates

This page: Nepalese Trivet, $22, Artisans’ World Marketplace, 128 South Pineapple Ave.,, 941-365-5994; Nora Fleming Napkin + Toothpick Holder, $14, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941-921-1221; Yellow Cocktail Napkins, $2.50, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941-921-1221; Squirrel Print, $25, Mercantile Home & Apparel, 1463 Main St.,, 941-366-2457; Hobo Wallet, $58, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941-921-1221; Cheese Knife, $5, Mercantile Home & Apparel, 1463 Main St.,, 941-366-2457


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This page: Flower Sponge, $14, Just/Because, 7 South Blvd. of the Presidents,, 941-388-1939; Corkcicle Tumbler, $28, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941-921-1221; Bath Bomb, $9, Shore St. Armands, 465 John Ringling Blvd. #200,, 941-296-0301; Posh Pasta Cookbook, $25, Shore St. Armands, 465 John Ringling Blvd. #200,, 941-296-0301; Vionic Flip Flops, $65, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941-921-1221; Isle Jacobsen Grey Slip On, $85, Molly’s - A Chic and Unique Boutique, 1874 Stickney Point Rd.,, 941921-1221; Metal Flower, $7.50, Mercantile Home & Apparel, 1463 Main St.,, 941-366-2457; Porter Tumbler, $25, Shore St. Armands, 465 John Ringling Blvd. #200,, 941-296-0301; Plant Potters, $9.75 (small), $12.50 (large), Mercantile Home & Apparel, 1463 Main St., mercantilehomeandapparel. com, 941-366-2457; Woven Senegalese Basket, $42, Artisans’ World Marketplace, 128 South Pineapple Ave.,, 941-365-5994

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the vision behind JKL design Group’s in-house mill shop. Abby Weingarten

HAVING AN IN-HOUSE MILL SHOP IS NOT A UNIVERSAL LUXURY FOR INTERIOR DESIGN FIRMS. But, for JKL Design Group, it is. Instead of contracting out custom furniture pieces or decor elements to carpenters and craftspeople all over the nation, JKL Owner/Interior Designer Kurt Lucas decided to keep it local and in the family. For years, Lucas had been collaborating with furniture maker Mark Nodeen of 390 Design on work for his clients’ upscale residences, restaurants, storefronts, hotels and clubhouses. Absorbing the 390 Design brand and woodshop seemed like an ideal next step. Whatever Lucas’ clients need, Nodeen and his crew can now make. “When I first started making furniture, it was my dream to one day collaborate with JKL Design Group and Kurt Lucas—he has really been the ultimate inspiration for me for years,” Nodeen says. “He bought one of the first pieces of furniture I ever made for his house [a dresser], and that’s how we got to know each other. Collaborating with him and his team of designers is really a dream for me. It allows me to expand my creativity and always challenges me to be a better woodworker.” 46 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local

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For 25 years, Lucas has been growing his capacity to provide all-inclusive design services. His firm handles commercial, multifamily, residential and hospitality projects—from remodels to new construction —and the principal designers on staff are certified by the American Society of Interior Designers and the Council for Interior Design Qualification. Skilled JKL designers use Revit, AutoCAD, 3-D renderings and MEP coordination to create one-of-a-kind concepts for clients, and the mill shop helps masterfully execute those visions. Lucas first launched JKL in 1997 and now has 30 employees, including 10 on-staff interior designers. The firm has a 20,000-square-foot facility in Sarasota with a showroom, an onsite drapery workroom and even a warehouse to store all furnishings and accessories before they are delivered to clients. “JKL is really concerned about controlling the quality of the projects we do. We are allinclusive and we have our own mill shop in-house because we want everything to be ‘JKL perfect,’” Lucas says. “Our work is timeless. We like to design with just one 48 | srq magazine_ FEB21 live local

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Below: Vignettes of the interiors of DaRuMa in The Landings designed and fabricated by JKL Design Group. JKL Design Group, 1839 61st St., Sarasota, 941-358-4994,, @jkldesigngroup

thing in the background, and that’s good taste. I tell my designers to create outside the box, to be edgy, and smart and clever.” Lucas supports talented local artists rather than continually sourcing pieces for the firm from other parts of the country—a move that puts more gas in the tank of the regional economy. “I moved here 29 years ago with $300 in my pocket and now we have one of the best design firms on the west coast of Florida. Sarasota is my home now, so it’s important for me to take care of my town,” says Lucas, who is originally from Oklahoma. “I want to support the local talent, because there is so much of it.” Some of JKL Design Group’s projects, for which the mill shop has handled numerous custom wood elements, include Esplanade Golf & Country Club in Naples, the Legacy Naples Apartments, and The Vue and BLVD Sarasota residences. The latter is a 49-unit building with luxury condominiums, located on the southeast corner of Boulevard of the Arts and North Tamiami Trail in Downtown Sarasota (not far from the Rosemary District, the Quay and the Bayfront). BLVD Sarasota has recently been a main point of attention

for JKL. For the condos, the mill-shop team has created a modern waterfall live-edge slab and walnut desk, a set of five-foot-by-five-foot cypress outdoor tables for the patio at the penthouse and a walnut wood wall in multiple layers with a natural dull rub finish. On the restaurant front, the team has handled such locales as DaRuMa Japanese Steak House and Sushi Lounge in Sarasota and Fort Myers, Café Venice Restaurant & Bar in Downtown Venice, Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key, Brick’s Smoked Meat in Downtown Sarasota, and Summer House Steak and Seafood Restaurant on Siesta Key. For personal residences, the JKL mill-shop crew has made a 40-foot solid walnut closet with endless shoe storage and houndstoothwrapped leather drawers; an aqua blue epoxy table with walnut trim, a white oak interior and a tapered white oak table base; a side table made of ambrosia maple and purple heart; and solid walnut cabinets with an Australian beefwood and epoxy swivel waterfall desktop. Concepts for bars, benches, consoles, dining tables, decorative walls and shelves are regularly being worked into the woodshop, PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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which is fully stocked with rows of lumber and state-of-the-art equipment like high-end power sanders and saws. It is where Nodeen spends hours poring over JKL blueprints, building jigs and mapping out protocols. JKL clients seek a distinct look in their pieces rather than uniformity. They want furnishings and designs that cannot be picked off of big-box-store shelves or that have been mass-produced. The mill shop is always ready to give clients something that will spark conversations and turn heads. “There’s a certain standard of perfection JKL strives for, and that always pushes me to be my best. Clients come to the firm because they want flawlessness, and we want to give them the finest possible level of craftsmanship,” Nodeen says. “When we are working on a penthouse or a high-end restaurant, nothing less than perfect is acceptable. It keeps me on my toes, and I love the challenge. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the client’s eyes light up when we finally reveal the final product. It makes me love what I do.” SRQ

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Below: Cali Omelet comes with everything but the kitchen sink.


The Breakfast Company honors a beloved patriarch with Greek breakfast and lunch staples. Andrew Fabian

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forage IN MANY WAYS, THE BREAKFAST COMPANY MEMORIALIZES the late George Soublis, the man that founded El Greco in 1990. “When he passed away, we knew we wanted to get back into the business as a tribute to the family legacy,” says grandson Dimitri Syros. That legacy includes some of Soublis’ unwritten rules: large portions, plentiful flavor and doting family-style service that reinforces endearing traits about Greek families. And his hard-hugging, hardworking and hard-bantering family brings that same ethos to breakfast and lunch staples at their Bradenton diner. In the El Greco items that make a triumphant return, Soublis’ rules are writ large. The famous Greek salad comes with a whole vegetable farm, including seasonal greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, pepperoncini, kalamata olives and sliced beets.

Clockwise: THe Florida French Toast. Twin sisters and daughters of George Soublis, Terri Syros and Patti Corcoran and Dimitri Syros. Blackberry roll. A photo of the late George Soublis. The Breakfast Company, 7246 55th Ave. E, Bradenton, 941-201-6002.

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Topped with what can reasonably be called a brick of feta cheese and lightly doused in El Greco’s original dressing, the salad already eats like a meal before adding chicken, gyro meat or stuffed grape leaves. Other El Greco goodies include a gyro now served on house-made pita bread like Soublis used to make early on. It comes served with an outsized ramekin of garlicky tzatziki sauce that the restaurant also sells to go. The avgolemono soup might be the only iteration of the Greek staple within 100 miles that goes as far as it does with the lemon. Comforting, rich and tangy, one customer loves it so much she takes a cup home several times a week. “She calls it her hug at the end of the night,” says Patti Corcoran, who runs the restaurant with her twin sister Terri Syros (both daughters of Soublis). But the triumphant return of these dishes hardly characterizes the full scope of what The Breakfast Company offers: Breakfast and baked goods are where the family really makes its statement. The California omelet,

which weighs about as much as a starter log, comes stuffed with grilled chicken breast, smoked bacon, baby spinach and Swiss cheese. Then, an entire Hass avocado is sliced and placed on top. Sliced tomatoes and a honking, griddle-toasted buttermilk biscuit come on the side, making this a meal that can easily be split between two fullgrown adults. “I remember once when we tried to raise the prices at El Greco and Daddy started making the chicken entrée with a half-chicken in protest,” says Corcoran of the preoccupation with plus-size portions. The Florida French Toast, created by Dimitri, is an inspired bit of breakfast candy. Slices of brioche crusted with crushed, crunchy cereal get the French treatment, but are topped with fruit (mango slices, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in this case), homemade whipped cream, a tangy citrus glaze and shredded coconut. Compared to the omelet, the toast feels a little lighter though is still filling, and a hint of marzipan flavor suffuses the whole sweet affair.

Finally, we come to what could rightly be considered the new restaurant’s signature item, a baked treat that takes the Soublis aesthetic almost to the point of parody: cinnamon rolls. Cartoonishly big, the rolls were the pet project of Corcoran, who arrives as early as 3am to bake them fresh daily. Any of the flavors will do, but when ordering a baked good the size of a bean bag, the maple bacon roll seems most appropriate. As an added dash of ridiculous, the rolls come doused in extra icing when ordered. At the back of the restaurant is a large wooden table separate from all the others. “Pappou’s Table” is for large parties, but it’s also where Terri, Patti, Dimitri and the rest of the family gather after hours to connect. The table is strong, able to support the full weight of a dozen oversize plates of food. “Daddy always used to say, ‘Let me love you with my food,’” says Syros, and if that’s the formula, then The Breakfast Company loves its guests a lot. SRQ

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Sorrento Sweets Le Macaron

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Choulala Pastries L’Opera Bakery Bistro


Swooning for macaroons.

Ariel Chates.

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN THE MOVIE ADAPTATION of Marie Antoinette’s life knows that Kirsten Dunst is the star, but a certain luscious dessert could be nominated for best supporting actress. The macaroon, in all its fanciful glory, can be seen gracing every extravagant table laden with sweets. These decadent treats may be best known in their French pastel-colored Hollywood glory, but the macaroon has international cookie cousins in the Italian style made of almonds, sugar and egg whites or as chewy coconut clusters popularized in America by the Jewish community thrilled to find a sweet treat they could eat during Passover. No matter which you indulge in, you’ll sure feel like a queen. Spread: Coconut Macaroon, Pastry Art, 1512 Main St.,, 941955-7545. Toasted Caramel, C’est La Vie, 1553 Main S.,, 941-9069575. Italian Macaroon, Sorrento Sweets, 1473 Main St.,, 941-3309049. Raspberry, L’Opera Bakery Bistro, 2336 Gulf Gate Dr.,, 941-922-2253. Assorted Flavors Box, Le Macaron French Pastries, 382 St. Armands Cir.,, 941-312-4408. Lemon Poppyseed, Choulala Pastry, 309 John Ringling Blvd.,, 941-388-0391

Pastry Art

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SAGE—THE CLARITA, a light and refreshing margarita that is also clarified; OLD SPANIARD, Sage’s signature old fashioned with saffron and cinnamon flavors; THE PINEAPPLE COCONUT DAIQUIRI, featuring RumHaven, a rum made with coconut water; THE CLEAR BIRD, a truly elevated rum tiki cocktail with a clear hay hue; THE NEGRONI, slightly lighter than the classic gin libation, Sage’s version is the perfect sip at home or on the beach; and THE METROPOLITAN, a Cosmopolitan made with hibiscus tea instead of cranberry juice. Three servings in each glass bottle, $23/each. 1216 1st St., Sarasota, 941-4455660,, @sagesrq.

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Cheers to the bars batching carryout cocktails so you can pour a socially-distanced not far from the couch. Brittany Mattie



THE ABILITY TO PULL UP TO A HIGH-END RESTAURANT to pick up a round of craft cocktails for carryout is a phenomena society has yet to come across in modern-day dining. Call it a global pandemic, call it a clever response to hospitality-targeted restrictions, call it a Millennial flex, but this new-age evolution to enjoy a professionally premade libation in the comfort of your kitchen or backyard is genius. And we’re here for it. Want the grab-and-go hookup to create your own boozy masterpiece at home? Conveniently packaged in takeaway cups or bottles, along with the accompanying garnishes, a few local restaurants capitalize on this neoteric service to have their reputable bar teams creatively mix, hand-batch and package your go-to libations to-go. SRQ PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

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STATE STREET—BRAMBLE, fresh muddled blackberries, gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and créme de mûre; AVIATION, gin, lemon juice, Luxardo liqueur and créme de violette; MEZCAL NEGRONI, shown above left, mezcal, Campari, sweet vermouth and a lemon twist; THE CLEAR BIRD, a truly elevated rum tiki cocktail with a clear hay hue; MANHATTAN, bourbon, simple syrup, Angostura bitters and cheer; and OLD FASHIONED, a Cosmopolitan made with hibiscus tea instead of cranberry juice. One serving, $10/each. 1533 State St., Sarasota, 941-951-1533,, @statestreetsrq. THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE—BLACKBERRY DAIQUIRI, Bacardi white rum, fresh muddled blackberries, crème de mûre blackberry liqueur, fresh lime juice; PAINKILLER, shown above right, Gosling’s dark rum, fresh pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut, fresh-squeezed lime juice; BEE’S KNEES, Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon and lavender honey. One serving, $12/each. 5312 Holmes Blvd. #B, Holmes Beach, 941-213-9926,, @doctorsofficeami.

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THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE—APRICOT OLD FASHIONED, Old Forester bourbon, apricot liqueur, Trinity bitters, splash of maple; PREFERRED REMEDY, shown above left, Old Overholt rye, Nux Alpina black walnut liquor, sweet vermouth, black walnut bitters. One serving, $12/each. 5312 Holmes Blvd. #B, Holmes Beach, 941-213-9926, WHITNEY’S—FROSE, shown above right, frozen rose served with a fresh cut strawberry; STRAWBERRY BOURBON SPRITZ, house strawberry shrub, soda, Four Roses bourbon and mint; BLOOD ORANGE PALOMA, blood orange–flavored Pellegrino and Corazón Silver Tequila; MIMOSA, Veuve du Vernay Brut and fresh-squeezed orange juice; BLOODY MARY, Nue Vodka, Zing Zang, celery and house-pickled veg. One serving, $8–$13/each. 6990 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key, 941-383-4606,, @whitneylbk.

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GROVE 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch, 941-893-4321. CONTEMPORARY GOURMET DINING GROVE Restaurant, Patio and Ballroom is the newest offshoot of PIER 22, the award-winning waterfront destination headed by restaurateurs Hugh Miller and Greg Campbell. A full-service restaurant and events venue offering contemporary gourmet dining. The menu is elevated yet approachable and locally inspired. Housemade dishes emphasize fresh seasonal ingredients as well as innovative cooking methods, and with 27,000 square feet of dining space including an elegant 400 person ballroom there’s room for everyone at the table! M-Th 11:30am-10pm, F-Sa 11:30am-12am, Sun 11am-10pm. MARINA JACK 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, 941-365-4232. SEAFOOD, STEAKS AND PASTA The Sarasota landmark offers its customers exceptional food and great atmosphere while dining on the water. Come to the dining room on the second floor and try some new items on the dinner menu. Start with braised mussels in a chorizo broth or short rib tostadas, which feature Gouda cheese and pulled slow-braised short rib. Open daily for lunch and dinner. M–Su 11:15am–11pm.

MORTON’S GOURMET MARKET 1924 South Osprey Ave., Sarasota, 941-955-9856. GOURMET GROCER It’s the place where you can spend a lazy Sunday morning sipping coffee and breaking off pieces of a scone, a frenetic Friday evening collecting rare cheeses, meat and wine for Saturday’s soiree or a quick lunchtime bite to go. For the la er, Morton’s fresh-made sushi, salad bar or ready-togo tea sandwiches are longstanding local faves. M–Sa 7am–8pm. Su 9am–6pm. PIER 22 1200 1st Ave W, Bradenton, 941-748-8087. CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN Pier 22 takes waterfront dining to a new level. On the mouth of the Manatee River, the picturesque se ing is relaxing and the perfect backdrop for any outing. With over 26,000 square feet of space, Pier 22 also offers catering and space for events. They focus on fresh, homemade fare and unique twists on everyday dishes. For lunch, try their so -shell crab sandwich with jalapeno tartar sauce, with a side of poutine. While watching the sunset on the patio, dine on their fresh game of the day, sourced from around the world and always a surprise. M-Th 11:30am – 10pm. F-Sa 11:30am-10:30pm. Su 11am-10pm. Happy hour daily 3pm-7pm and Sunday Brunch 11am-3pm. TSUNAMI SUSHI & HIBACHI GRILL 100 Central Ave, Suite 1022, Sarasota, 941-366-1033. ASIAN FUSION In the heart of downtown Sarasota Florida, Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill stands alone for creative sushi, fresh sashimi and a new spin on asian fusion-all at remarkable prices. FRESH SUSHI- Made fresh before your eyes by their talented chefs. FULL BAR- They feature a full bar, with specialty cocktails like the Hibiscus Rose, Japanese Julep and Shinsu Sour. ASIAN ENTREES- Fresh and flavorful with the unique taste of Japan. M-F 11am-Close; Sat/Sun 12pm-Close; Closed Daily 2:30-4:30pm.

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DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOODS It’s not all high-rises. Sarasota’s downtown-adjacent hoods saw a boom in 2020.

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Living in downtown doesn’t have to mean a multimillion dollar condo on the 10th floor. Sure, there’s high-rise life in Sarasota, and it’s growing straight up in visible fashion. But there’s also activity in Gillespie Park, Laurel Park, Alta Vista and the Rosemary District— communities within walking distance of the city core but with walkways to expansive park space. Real estate professionals say whether individuals want the privacy of living in their own singlefamily home or the bustle of condominium life, there’s huge appeal to locating near the center of nightlife and commerce in Sarasota. “Everybody wants to be downtown,” says Frank Lambert, a broker associate with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. He’s sold property for years in the Rosemary District, which enjoyed a well-documented renaissance over the past four years spurred largely by a city push for redevelopment and revitalization. He points to developments like Zahrada, a cluster of a half-dozen three-story condo projects priced at $1.5 million and up—a level of luxury unthinkable in the neighborhood a decade ago and still a steal compared to high-rises in the heart of downtown. With 32 development projects completed in the district over the past four years, interest has started to stem out in nearby communities like Gillespie Park. “That’s becoming the most amazing story, even more than Rosemary,” Lambert says. “Five or six years ago, people were afraid to move to that area.” But, improvements to the 10-acre namesake park and the opening of a police substation, successful efforts to redevelop turned Gillespie into one of the hottest words in local real estate. Lambert recently handled a sale on an empty lot that went for $429,000 where new owners plan to build a single-family home.

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The target market, he suggests, can be buyers anywhere from 29 to 89, whether it’s young professionals with office jobs who want to live, work and play in downtown, or it’s retirees who long for the metropolitan amenities Sarasota has to offer but want to leave the bustle of life in a major city. Gillespie offers the proximity to downtown with a neighborhood atmosphere. “For me, one of the things I love to see now is individuals just walking their dogs at 5am, or even at night when the sun starts to go down,” Lambert says. Architect Jesse Balaity moved into Gillespie Park a couple years ago, and his company Balaity Property Enhancement has multiple projects underway. One of those is a new modern home for Balaity himself, who believes in the community enough to make his own long-term investment there. “This is my own little dream home,” he says. He’s building a 2,700-square-foot space that wraps around a pool courtyard. He’s excited by natural aspects like a grand oak on the property, but also by the fact that Gillespie Park has become a community where traditional properties can stand on the same street as ultramodern homes. His own property sits down the street from a lighthouse-style home, and there’s 1960s ranch homes and 1920s Mediterranean homes there as well. The market as a whole is leaning toward modern architecture in the region, Balaity says, and he’s also working on a similar home for a client on the same street. While some avenues in Gillespie Park are primarily dotted with cottages and bungalows, a range of style and history can be spotted out the window. Balaity describes his home as built on minimalist clean boxes, though with a cost greater than $300 per square foot it certainly counts as a luxury build, and he’s employing the benefits of running his own firm to add plenty of bells and whistles—from high-end plumbing fittings to custom doors and a private hot tub. Ultimately, the neighborhood calls to Balaity, though, primarily because of its history. “I bought two existing houses as teardowns, and one of the things I did was strip the cypress siding to use for the interior,” he says. “I may be the only one who knows that, but I know the transition for the neighborhood here is important.” As Gillespie becomes a more desirable location for high-end builds, it means a change in the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the community. That gentrification weighs on Balaity; he’s actually discouraged some clients from buying homes for teardown that were still in relatively good shape. For now, he sees new development replacing blighted and dilapidated properties. That’s a positive gentrification, one that hopefully lifts values for those living in Gillespie Park for years while bringing excited new residents to the community. Balaity also notes the homes built in the city 80 years ago could even be constructed under today’s zoning codes. The days of 20-foot setbacks and suburban garages fronting the street disappeared as the prevailing thoughts on planning evolved and shifted. In Sarasota, significant modernization arrived beginning with code updates in 1994 and stepped forward further with the Downtown Master Plan. But that also makes room for a higher level of construction. “I can make this every bit as nice as if I was building in the West of Trail neighborhoods,” he says. Of course, this isn’t the only place around downtown where such an evolution takes place before the eyes of the community. It’s for better or worse, but real estate experts generally benefit winning out. Jonathan Abrams, an agent with Michael Saunders & Company, sees enormous interest in Laurel Park, where residents enjoy close proximity to commercial amenities in Burns Court and cultural treasures in Towles Court. He has seen homes selling in Laurel anywhere from Left: Frank Lambert, broker associate with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.

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“I bought two existing homes as teardowns, and one of the things I did was strip the cypress siding to use for the interior. I may be the only one who knows that, but i know the transition of the neighborhood here is important.” — ARCHITECT JESSE BALAITY :: BALAITY PROPERTY ENHANCEMENT

$550,000 for a townhome unit or nearly $2 million for a new modern home. There’s a huge range of customers that can take part in the rush for downtown, whether someone wants to drop $200,000 to $300,000 for a bungalow in Gillespie Park or the Rosemary District or they want to build something for a couple million, tricked out with smart features. “Of course the main segment is always looking for move-in ready,” Abrams says. Especially in this year’s rush to downtown, many buyers from out of state put the highest priority on finding a property in Sarasota where they can close in 30 to 45 days. But there’s still plenty of interest in new builds as well. David Weekley Homes just sold out of newly constructed units at the Enclave at Laurel Park City Homes, with a series of three- and fourstory townhomes priced around $600,000 a unit. And there are plenty of people looking to move here. While the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on real estate in early 2019 the same as for other businesses, one of the surprise developments of the economic downturn is that it didn’t set back residential real estate—at least not in Florida. Rather, it seems to have spurred some customers from the Northeast to finally make that retirement move to the region, or even to advance their move by a few years thanks to an ability to work from home and take it with them anywhere in the country. Realtors also say the lockdowns in other states, for better or worse, have pushed more buyers to Florida, where cultural options from group gatherings to a simple night out remain available. David Crawford of Catalist Realty says that early-on, there were some questions about whether the pandemic would deliver an especially hard punch to downtowns. Indeed, some restaurants have closed because, restrictions or none, the number of working professionals commuting to offices dwindled as more people started working from home. But as the dawn that the pandemic wouldn’t shut the world down forever came to be, the market has shown itself to be strong and reliable. “When we became a little more flexible in our rules and people saw we were open for business, that’s when they started to come here,” Crawford says. And there’s a range of price points that buyers want to find when they search downtown. Long-established neighborhoods like Laurel Park can be exclusive and expensive, he said. But as commerce grows downtown, it’s actually pushed the boundaries out a bit, and many buyers are looking to neighborhoods like Alta Vista. Farther inland, the neighborhood doesn’t offer high-rise views of Sarasota Bay, but it does have many existing homes that are move-in ready and provides easy access to one of the city’s most expansive green spaces, Payne Park. Luxury brokers like Lambert don’t see as much interest that far east of Tamiami Trail, but that leaves room for buyers seeking a place downtown who don’t have six figures to put on a down payment. Crawford says many buyers coming into the region for the first time see a lot of desirability hunting down smaller homes in established neighborhoods. Right: Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement on a home site under construction in Gillespie.

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“you have a little more affordable price point in alta vista. there’s a growing interest in homes, in particular, that boast east access both to payne park and to east downtown. there’s a lot of pull for a place where you are able to walk to payne park or to the bayfront.” — DAVID CRAWFORD :: CATALIST REALTY

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“You have a little more affordable price point in Alta Vista,” Crawford says, noting townhomes are available for even young workers and singles looking for a place to own for under $300,000. “There’s growing interest in homes, in particular that boast east access, both to Payne Park and to east Downtown. “There’s a lot of pull for a place where you are able to walk to Payne Park or to the Bayfront.” Different neighborhoods will allow different types of construction around Sarasota. As just a short primer on local zoning, Gillespie Park is considered by the city as a Downtown Neighborhood, which means you can build single-family houses and even put a guesthouse on the lot, but don’t expect any mixed-use construction with restaurants and condos in the same structure. Mixed use can be found in the Rosemary District, which is zoned as Downtown Edge. Laurel Park has its own zoning overlay district, allowing a range of developments but with some hoops that builders must jump through to get permission in the city. Alta Vista is zoned as a traditional residential neighborhood, so single-family homes rule there. As for what buyers want in homes, there’s definitely a hunger for the new, Lambert said. “People want all the toys,” he said. Whether that’s smart home security and integrated home entertainment, there’s a premium placed on new technology and creature comforts. Abrams said many people in search of new homes insist on a pool, more important in the downtown outskirts neighborhoods than the views hungered for by the condo dwellers on Palm Avenue. “It doesn’t have to be a huge pool, but maybe a splash pool,” he said. There seems to be no slowing in the push for coastal contemporary architecture and finishes on homes. White and gray paints and Shaker cabinets hang in the kitchens of many units. And with Sarasota’s clientele, Lambert says one piece of home technology in recent years has become a must: an elevator. Particularly when clients build on the small lots around downtown, sometimes on lots of less than 6,000 square feet, where more home gets packed in with a second or third story. With many newcomers to Sarasota arriving at the age of 70 or older, flights of stairs don’t make for a great selling feature. “Elevators have become the norm in multistory, even in single-family homes,” he says. “Our market needs that.” He recalls a few years ago realizing when a three-story condo unit opened in the Rosemary District with a rooftop bar but no lift, even many active culture-philes had no interest. “There’s lots of those people who are in their 70s and want a cocktail before they go to the opera, but they don’t want to walk up three flights of stairs.” Of course, there’s still always a place for those city dwellers who want to overlook the Bay. Abrams right now is selling units at The Collection, a luxury condominium tower being completed in May with a penthouse unit still available with a $4 million asking price. With views of the city skyline and the Bay from its Second Street location, he sees it further raising the bar on condo life downtown, which continues to see more luxury each year. It seems there’s a place for the well-monied retiree and the upstart young professional within walking distance of downtown, with price depending only on how many fancy elements you want at move-in and how many steps you are willing to walk to reach the Sarasota Opera House. That’s ultimately the great attractor to the area, Balaity says. It’s a way to enjoy the independence, privacy and primacy that comes with a home, while also benefiting from the amenities living in the heart of the city. He notes that before deciding to build in Gillespie, he and his partner looked around Sarasota, both toward townhome developments in the area or to condos. “Nothing seemed like a good value compared to a custom home that’s still only four blocks from Main Street,” he says. SRQ Left: David Crawford of Catalist Realty.

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The Sarasota Institute will explore the future of humanity on a global scale.



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interview with The future’s coming faster than ever, and David Houle wants Sarasota to be ready. The cable-executiveturned-academic-futurist serves as managing director for The Sarasota Institute, a think tank focused on navigating global challenges. The professional seer sees a chance to make Sarasota a brand not just for hospitality but for brilliance, the hottest spot in the world for the intellectual globe-trotter. But he also sees the need to prepare society for the impacts of climate change, the depletion of resources and the threats that come with a worldwide pursuit of prosperity. Born out of conversations between Houle, retired marketing master Philip Kotler and financial fund manager Jason Voss, The Sarasota Institute in concept came about in 2017. The entity released its first white paper a year later, and in 2020 was set to begin a series of symposiums on those topics challenging mankind in the 21st century. Of course, there’s been challenges this past year even Houle could not predict, a pandemic being the most notable, that’s pushed the fledgling institute into virtual mode. But that’s also offered an opportunity to build a reputation extending beyond the Suncoast. We spoke with Houle and asked him to tell us the future.

SRQ: You served for years as Ringling College of Art + Design’s resident futurist. What’s the relationship between the Institute for the Ages and our local colleges? David Houle: It’s completely separate from Ringling. But in 2019, we saw the four university presidents, who you can see are now on our board. Carol Probstfeld, the dynamic leader of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF), took me on a tour of the campus and showed me the Neel Performing Arts Center, and as a professional speaker I said this is the perfect auditorium for what we want to do, so she has contributed that. This was obviously all pre-COVID-19.

What was the original vision for The Sarasota Institute? Sarasota is such an interesting place, kind of like a combination of Santa Fe , NM and Monterey, CA. Really interesting people come here to retire and to live. You go around the world, mention Sarasota and you get a lot of, “Oh, I have been there.” Phil wondered if we should ask the Aspen Institute to do something here. I said that doesn’t make sense. Let’s just call it The Sarasota Institute. We set up with 10 topics for the Gulf Coast of Florida, the United States of America and humanity. We want to lead framing these big questions, and then lead in coming up with answers for these questions. About a year ago, we started selling memberships and talking with local foundations. Of course, they had a bad experience with the Institute for the Ages, but I told them I wasn’t asking for money, just advice and counsel. We ended up selling memberships for $250 for 12 months, and we were planning to have four or five live events at the Neel Performing Arts Center, plus put out various white papers. We did one in January on what we would call an educated person in 2035. It was successful and drew about 250 people.

Then on February 29, we had a leap year look at climate change. My background includes setting up the nonprofit This Spaceship Earth, so that was great. But then we started getting details about people being treated at Doctors Hospital with COVID. Our average age of memberships is 60, so we were the first entity that canceled an event.

How has the pandemic changed operations? We had emergency online webinars. What is the future of education, post-COVID? What is the future of climate change post-COVID? The future of democracy or capitalism. As a futurist, I’m very trend-oriented and into pattern recognition. I was asking a lot of people about this and we are not going to be out of this anytime soon. We’re not going to be anywhere remotely in a post-COVID-19 environment until about a year from now. I converted it all to online and virtual and cut the price for memberships. For everybody who already bought at the original price, we gave them an extra year. That’s where we are. We also originally set up as a [limited liability corporation] and we’ve since converted to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit because we’ve got people who want to make donations even in this current environment. Now the interesting thing is, when we started the membership, it was a very Sarasota–and Bradenton-based thing because of the physical nature of it being on the campus of SCF. But we now have between 2,800 and 3,000 emails for people subscribing to us to get out notices and columns—and they are from 23 countries. The whole time, the idea wasn’t just to be another Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning, or a Ringling Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. We’re getting memberships from around the world, and the idea is to amplify Sarasota to the world and to be a 21st-century think tank.

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You have stressed a desire to be nonpolitical even as you tackle these questions. How will you manage that, especially at a time when our politics have become so tribal? When people hear “think tank,” they think of something from the Beltway, you know, conservative or progressive. Or it’s the World Economic Forum or the Aspen Institute, which has kind of been corrupted by big corporations. Because we are of the 21st century, we’re not beholden to any corporations, and we are not restricted to any locale in our idea or our vision.

When you discuss issues like climate change, will you focus on immediate issues facing the Gulf Coast, like sea-level rise? Or will you try and focus on issues of importance all around the world? The answer is in our URL, which is I don’t want a .com or a .org. “Global” is a prerequisite for anything we do. Yeah, we’re going to be American-centric to some degree right now because of the fact that’s the predominance of our membership. But we talked about democracy on December 3, and it was top of mind because of everything that was going on here [postelection challenges], but it’s a global issue. Everything about natural resources is a global issue. You know I’m a big climate change person, and I can tell you sustainability is a meaningless word unless you talk about it from a global point of view. Yes, we’re going to talk about sea-level rise, but we’re going to talk more about the fact that between now and 2030, there’s going to be between 50 to 100 million climate change refugees, mostly from South and Eastern Asia. And while our membership is American-centric, we are global with our perspective. But the problem with climate change in the climate justice thing is that, you know, post World War II, Americans sold the “American way of life” to the world. If everybody on the planet had the American way of life, we’d have to have five planets to sustain us. So, America has to take the lead because we set up the false narrative that everyone can live a materialistic life. So, you know, India and all the other poor countries have come along and said, “Well, why should you keep on doing what you already did?” The viewpoint is how do you go forward with a global singularity of a single focus on climate?

How do you tackle these issues in a way that transcends our traditional political lines? I have taken a position as our managing director and editor, so to speak, that there is no partisanship. If you want an example, we just did something on the future of democracy on December 3. But it wasn’t about Donald Trump or Joe Biden or the things in the headlines at the time. It was about how we could have the most transparent and secure election in history even in the time of the COVID pandemic. We talked about the Millennial generation showing up and working the polls. Then we talked about what it would mean in the future having the highest turnout since 1908. This was a spectacular

story about the success of democracy, but the media is dumbing it down to what Trump is doing today or tomorrow. We talked about the state of democracy globally. We were talking about the global, the rise of authoritarianism and how democracy confronts that. And we talked about whether America is ready now for Nordic capitalism. All of this is not really about party at all.

What’s the hope for what The Sarasota Institute can do for the Sarasota brand globally? I was set to talk to Visit Sarasota County until COVID hit. We were going to work with that organization and the stronger voices in the seasonal tourism community to talk about how we can promote people coming here. We talked about working things out with hotels or on passes. We want people to come down here in the nonseasonal months because there’s intelligent conversation here. Part of my vision with this was always that Sarasota is a unique place. We have two presidents of Harvard that live here, and the greatest president of ABC ever is here. I live in Florida because it’s cultural, it’s educational. The Aspen Institute was formed in 1949 and was initially embraced by guys who owned the ski industry. The original idea was just to bring people in the summertime and make them into year-round resorts. So, we want to talk about coordinating with the tourism bureau and putting together “smart people packages.” We’ve already gone online and started promoting the area in that way.

“If everybody on the planet had the American way of life, we’d have to have five planets to sustain us.” — David Houle

Is there anything you can emulate in terms of raising awareness of the intellectual cache that exists here? The Cross College Alliance has that as its mission, and I’m not getting in their way. But we have the college presidents on our advisory board, so obviously the future of education is a major focus. With half of our advisory board as educators, we have that orientation.

Can you explain a little bit about what futurists do and how that shapes the Institute? I’ve written a series of books, and the first was titled The 2020s: The Most Disruptive Decade In History. I’m working on another now called The 2020s: The Decade of Cognitive Dissonance. We’re at a time of incredible transition, and there’ll be more change in the next 10 years and in a 30- or 40-year period. So I know this think tank had to be about the future. It’s much more future-oriented than the Aspen Institute, which is much more about ideas; the first few years of the Aspen Institute were based on the great books and on getting philosophers and professors to talk together. The other model I looked at was the World Economic Forum. The idea there was embraced by central bankers and world leaders to come together in Davos, Switzerland, a cool place, once a year. This is like that but very much future-focused. Being a futurist simply means I am much more future-focused. We’re trying to lead the thinking about the future of humanity. SRQ

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AS YOUNG PEOPLE FIND THEIR FOOTING in the middle of a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, they are taking career

matters into their own hands. At New College of Florida, a current student and a recent alum are leading the charge. Third-year student Aleah Colón-Alfonso and recent graduate Erin Crobons have created their own individual businesses in a year marked by unparalleled shakiness in the job market. These entrepreneurs are showing Gen Z’ers what it’s like to be resourceful regardless of the circumstances—a critical-thinking approach they have learned at the state’s honors college right here in Sarasota.



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ALEAH COLÓN- ALFONSO SHE BUILT TWO COMPANIES, ALL BEFORE GRADUATION. Colón-Alfonso, an immunocompromised student who has always had entrepreneurial ambitions, is designing health-focused products to help people like her thrive. Three years into her studies at New College studying biological psychology and neuroscience, she has already created two companies: Aleah Wares (a line of patient-friendly sweaters) with added openings to make it easier to put on or take off during long IV treatments and Stay Safely Away (wearable merchandise—from T-shirts to masks—that allows customers with immune issues to “stay distantly social” during the COVID-19 pandemic). Colón-Alfonso began working on the latter company ( while in quarantine in the spring of 2020. “I had been noticing the lack of mask wearing and social distancing in Sarasota, and I just wanted to wear a sign around my neck that said, ‘Please, I don’t want to be on a ventilator’ to try to encourage people to have better behaviors,” she says. “Clothing became my wearable sign.” Colón-Alfonso has small fiber neuropathy, Lyme disease and accompanying secondary illnesses. She received these diagnoses before the age of 18 and was in a wheelchair for much of her senior year of high school. Her illnesses may be inconvenient, but she doesn’t view them as hindrances; Stay Safely Away speaks to that way of thinking. Colón-Alfonso’s website officially launched on July 20 and she has since shipped orders across the globe. Her most popular item is a face mask that asserts “Science Is Real.” The growth of this company is so much more than I had expected. I made a map for myself to track where the orders were coming from and I quickly outgrew it,” Colón-Alfonso says. “I’m running the company by myself from my dorm, from the beach, anywhere I can. It’s a one-woman show. I already have people telling me that what I’m doing has a possibility of making a real difference. It’s so surreal and exciting.”


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ERIN CROBONS SHE OPENED A STUDIO MID-PANDEMIC, FOUR MONTHS AFTER GRADUATING. Erin Crobons—a devoted dancer, choreographer and teacher throughout her collegiate career—was wrapping up her senior semester at New College in May 2020 when the pandemic erupted. A local dance studio, where she had been instructing for three years, shut down. The psychology and applied mathematics student was soon out of college and out of work. And her beloved young students—ages four to 18—suddenly had nowhere to dance. So, Crobons boldly decided to create her own studio: a space called Energize ( The physical location at 5900 South Tamiami Trl,, Ste. F, Sarasota, opened on September 7. “I had always imagined opening my own dance studio,” Crobons says, “but I planned on it maybe being 20 years in the future, after I had already started my career.” The economic effects of the pandemic sped up the process. Crobons found a 1,200-square-foot space to teach group and individual classes, which she would hold in person and simultaneously stream live on Zoom for students ages 18 months to 18 years. Crobons is currently the only instructor for the studio (ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and lyrical dances are her specialties). She has been dancing since she was six years old and competing since age 10, and she is the recipient of two choreography awards from the 2019 BravO! National Dance and Talent Competition. “I work pretty much all day every day. I do it for my students. I think it gives them a sense of normalcy to be here. It makes me happy to know they can come to dance and that it makes their day better,” Crobons says. “I also put an emphasis on the whole dancer—not just learning techniques but also having them grow as human beings and be able to express themselves. I teach them that there is no ‘can’t.’” SRQ


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Sarasota County just renewed its incentives. What’s that mean for job creation? Jacob Ogles WHEN THE GREAT RECESSION DELIVERED A BLOW TO THE HOUSING INDUSTRY, it forced PGT Industries in Venice to consolidate facilities in Florida and in North Carolina. Thanks in part to economic incentives offered by Sarasota County, the company known for producing storm-resistant glass weathered the economic downturn from Venice, where it brought all its manufacturing operations. The company in the past year announced it’s on the grow again, focused on job creation at locations throughout Florida.It’s perhaps the greatest success story out of an ILLUSTRATION BY WOODY WOODMAN.


economic development initiative launched more than a decade ago. One that impressed voters enough that they renewed the program in November as the region faces a very different financial downturn, but one that still leaves workers hungry for highpaying jobs in a diverse number of fields besides hospitality and construction. More than 65.33 percent of voters in Sarasota County approved renewal, and similar city-level referenda were approved by 61.67 percent of the city of Sarasota and 68.2 percent of voters in North Port. The tax exemption means each jurisdiction

can grant businesses that are expanding or relocating a property tax incentive of up to 100 percent of taxes owed for up to 10 years. The exemption, which must be approved by commissioners in each jurisdiction, will only be available to companies increasing jobs and paying higher wages than the local median income. Dave Bullock, president and CEO of the Sarasota County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), said the vote ensures a tool remains in the toolbox for economic development in the community. Since first being approved by voters in 2010, srq magazine_ FEB21 live local | 79

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agenda the incentives have been awarded to nine companies. While the businesses receiving the support promised a collective 956 jobs would be created in the region, they have in fact created 1,649 jobs with an annual wage of $46,467.44. The activity primarily took place within the manufacturing sector. “With the economy like it is now, every company is looking for every advantage they can get,” Bullock said. “Interest rates are low and there is a lot of interest in capital investment. This makes it a little more enticing.” The premise is incentives will prove worth the public investment through lost property taxes because the exemption helps generate high-wage jobs to the benefit of the local economy. But there’s also value in the exemption in simply getting the attention of scouts and business relocation consultants in the first place. Especially since the state of Florida has largely pulled out of the incentives game, the local incentives help to check a box on the list of attractive qualities of a community to


businesses looking to move. “No one comes here just because they get an exemption, but it helps make that decision,” Bullock says. Meanwhile, a community that doesn’t offer an exemption at all may not even make the short list of possible options. “It keeps us in the game and keeps us equal to other communities.” But Bullock stressed that the exemptions also help existing companies looking to grow. One of the largest success stories for the exemption has been PGT, but it’s hardly the only such story. A total of nine companies received tax exemptions allowed through the Sarasota County program between 2010 and 2019. Only one time, regarding a national roofing company that hoped to move its headquarters here, did county officials deny a request for incentives that had been negotiated by the EDC. But for the companies that did accept the deal, a collective 956 jobs were promised to the region and 1,649 jobs actually arrived. To date, the average wage for those new

employees sits at $46,467.44, higher than the $29,969 average income in the county. North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke, who sits on the EDC board, pointed to Tervis, a legendary tumbler company that expanded its global brand significantly in the past decade. Incentives approved by the county encouraged the Venice manufacturer to keep its production facilities in Sarasota County, and the company said it plans to continue to remain in the region in the future even as the methodology for making products evolved. In fact, as the company reevaluates the use of its north Venice facilities, which may involve downsizing, the fact that local incentives exist mean it could also expand with new buildings in other local jurisdictions. The company is in talks with North Port about opening facilities there and tapping into the city’s incentives, which were renewed the same day as the county. “It’s an important tool in our toolbox,” Luke said. But is that allowing the private sector to use incentives to pit governments against one another? In this case, Sarasota County officials welcome the chance to keep a manufacturer’s operations in the region. It touches, though, on how competitive governments become in wooing employers. Indeed, a presentation to Sarasota County Commissioners last year before renewal of the tax was placed on the ballot stressed that neighboring counties will offer incentives to retain or recruit companies even if Sarasota County does not. Both Charlotte and Manatee counties offer similar tax breaks to Sarasota County. So, did extending the exemption keep Sarasota under consideration with any major businesses considering a move here soon? Bullock can’t say for sure, but said the EDC is always in conversations with companies, and it’s probably best the organization didn’t have to announce a sunset of local tax incentives. About five manufacturing and logistics companies continue to engage EDC about a potential move to the region— Bullock cannot disclose names or further details. In total, there’s some 400 new jobs at stake in negotiations. “Not all these jobs will come about,” he stressed. “You get a lot of tire kickers, just like you may look at a bunch of cars before you settle on one. But we’re confident some of these are going to happen.” SRQ

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Featured Honorees ATTORNEYS FOR NON PROFITS Pennewill, Elizabeth Colvin Community Foundation of Sarasota County 2635 Fruitville Rd Sarasota, FL 34237 941-556-7152; Lic.#156140

BUSINESS LAW McLain, G Robert Jr Metcalfe & McLain, P.A. 100 Wallace Ave., Ste. 260 Sarasota, FL 34237 941-365-4174; Lic.#84475

CONSTRUCTION Gurley, David E Gurley & Associates 601 S Osprey Ave Sarasota, FL 34236 941-365-4501; Lic.#402214

CRIMINAL DEFENSE Griffith, Kevin McIntosh Law 766 Hudson Ave, Ste B Sarasota, FL 34236 941-306-3230; Lic.#102647 McIntosh, Brett McIntosh Law 766 Hudson Ave Sarasota, FL 34236 941-306-3230; Lic.#993972

EMINENT DOMAIN Blucher, Paul A Blucher Law Group, PLLC 7300 Delainey Ct Sarasota, FL 34240 941-361-1145; Lic.#860409

the featured individuals appearing in the february 2021 second edition of the 2020 elite top attorneys awards program do not reflect the complete list of honorees—the complete list can be found in the sept/oct 2020 edition of srq magazine.



Kowtko, W Matthew Kowtko Law Group, P.A. 1800 2nd St Ste 882 Sarasota, FL 34236 941-227-4945; Lic.#111142

Featherstone, Ryan A Dunlap & Moran, P.A. 22 S. Links Ave Ste 300 Sarasota, FL 34236 941-366-0115; Lic.#17824


Riddell, Cynthia Riddell Law Group 3400 S Tamiami Trl Ste 202 Sarasota, FL 34239 941-366-1300; Lic.#51456

Sensenig, Christine Sensenig Law Firm, P.A. 1515 Ringling Blvd. Ste 230 Sarasota, FL 34236 941-953-2828; Lic.#74276

LAND USE ENVIRONMENT Colburn, Casey The Colburn Firm 7321 Merchant Ct Ste A, Sarasota, FL 34240 941-928-6801; Lic.#647551

RISING STARS 2020 Rising Star Grollman, Jacob Grollman Law 544 12th St W Bradenton, FL 34205 941-896-6775; Lic.#118711

PERSONAL INJURY Linehan, Gregory P Wittmer & Linehan PLLC 2014 4th St Sarasota, FL 34237 941-263-8314; Lic.#87970

Program Methodology SUMMARY To create the list, the magazine contracted DataJoe Research to facilitate an online peer-voting process and Internet research process. DataJoe Research is a software and research company specializing in data collection and verification, and conducts various nominations across the United States on behalf of publishers. To create the list, DataJoe Research facilitated an online peer-voting process. DataJoe checked and confirmed that each published winner had, at time of review, a current, active license status with the appropriate state regulatory board. If we were not able to find evidence of a lawyer's current, active registration with the state regulatory board, that lawyer was excluded from the list. In addition, we checked available public sources to identify lawyers disciplined for an infraction by the state regulatory board. These entities were excluded from the list. Finally, DataJoe presented the tallied result to the magazine for its final review and adjustments. FINAL NOTE We recognize that there are many good lawyers who are not shown in this representative list. This is only a sampling of the huge array of talented professionals within the region. Inclusion in the list is based on the opinions of responding lawyers in the region. We take time and energy to ensure fair voting, although we understand that the results of this survey nomination and Internet research campaign are not an objective metric. We certainly do not discount the fact that many, many good and effective lawyers may not appear on the list. DISCLAIMERS DataJoe uses best practices and exercises great care in assembling content for this list. DataJoe does not warrant that the data contained within the list are complete or accurate. DataJoe does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions herein whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. All rights reserved. No commercial use of the information in this list may be made without written permission from DataJoe. QUESTIONS For research/methodology questions, contact the research team at

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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR FIRM. Matthew Kowtko: Right now, I have four attorneys in total, including myself. The firm focuses on family law of every type-and we also cover criminal law as well. A lot of family lawyers will handle domestic violence, which is civil, but then there's also the domestic violence criminal. That said, my criminal representation is more broad than that; we do handle drugs, drug possession, theft, grand theft, things of that nature. I've been done an enormous

amount of DUI's recently. That's a specialty area with all its own little sets of rules that it helps to have someone who is an expert in. We don't handle any crimes against minor children or violent crimes against individuals. In family law, we handle divorce, custody, child support, and domestic violence. That's a pretty broad range, and it helps us to be able to work with a client across the spectrum. When you are married, or when you have children involved, then it's family law. Without children, a divorce

is about equitable distribution, alimony, property rights, things of that nature-when children are involved; you have parenting plans and parental responsibility. MANY PEOPLE DON'T EXPERIENCE A LOT OF LEGAL CONFLICT IN THEIR LIVES, AND SO WHEN THEY NEED AN ATTORNEY, THEY DON'T HAVE A LOT OF THE FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE AS TO WHAT IT'S GOING TO BE LIKE.

Kowtko: Something I have to explain to clients regularly is that life is not like the TV show Law and Order. On Law and Order, you go from a murder being committed through an investigation, a court case, and a conviction in less than 60 minutes. Oftentimes, in real life, felonies can take six, eight, twelve months of legal wrangling. I have to advise clients that are under suspicion that there are three absolute rules in a criminal situation; One,



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ABOUT MATTHEW KOWTKO Ma ’s approach to the practice of law combines pragmatism, innovation, dependability, dedication, and tenacity; he’s a persuasive and successful trial lawyer, as well as an assertive and decisive negotiator. Clients describe him as compassionate, knowledgeable, professional, responsive, and a bull in the courtroom with a keen ability to think clearly and rapidly under pressure. From the moment you meet Ma he will educate you in the process of your case, and him and his team will start working immediately to build an individualized approach and case strategy tailored to your unique situation to defend and protect your rights.


don't tell anybody anything. You don't speak to anybody but your lawyer. Anything that you say to anyone [other than your lawayer] could be discoverable. Second. I tell people it doesn't go as quick as people think, especially in COVID right now; jury trials have been shut down and then reopened, so criminal cases with juries are starting to go, but they're still working slow. I think our local case docket has some 300 cases now, where you would normally only have maybe 50 or 60. And I have to manage their expectations about the outcome. The outcome is always different, and it's extraordinarily fact-specific. If they have a video of you doing something wrong, then it's more about mitigating damages than it is about proving innocence. Obviously, the law presumes that you're innocent. I tell clients, "my job is not to prove anything; my job is to make the state prove everything." So our job is less about proving someone's innocence as it is about poking holes and making sure the state comes to the right conclusion. that's very different than Family Law, where I would say less than 1% of cases go to trial. The law [when it comes to families] is extraordinarily broad. Trials and family law are all done by judges, not juries, and the law gives a lot of discretion to a judge. Often-

times you are in an arbitrary realm about what feels right versus what can be proved. I tell my clients, "it's not about what you think it's about what you can prove." You have eight hours, maybe sixteen hours, that's one or two days, in front of a judge who doesn't know you. Judges are very boxed in on what they're allowed to do, and you may not like the plan they are able to require. So it's better to negotiate because statistically, you and your significant other will follow a plan more closely if it's one you two have agreed to, rather than one a judge dictates, and you and the other parties can get creative, and creativity often is what gets the job done. WHAT ARE THE TRAITS THAT YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD LOOK FOR IN AN ATTORNEY? Kowtko: First priority is finding someone who communicates with you, the client. My biggest referral source is from my current clients or former clients. Oftentimes when clients fire their prior lawyer and come to me, the biggest explanation that I hear from them is that they're attorney didn't communicate. That's why I built the firm to have skilled lawyers at every turn. My assistant is a barred attorney; my paralegal is a barred attorney. My clients get responses within 24 business hours. When you hire me individually, you get two lawyers on the team, not one. It's important that you can trust in your lawyer, in their experience and expertise. I tell clients regularly in both criminal and family, "that this Is not a battle, it's a war. If you go in to win every single battle, you're likely going to deplete yourself, and you're going to lose the war." This why

I say communication because you need to have a lawyer that will explain their entire strategy. That way, when you, as the client, have to make a temporary decision on temporary issues, you will understand that it's part of a long-term strategy to get to a specific end. ON YOUR WEBPAGE, THE FIRST WORD YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOUR FIRM IS "AGGRESSIVE" WHAT IS THE THINKING ON THAT? Kowtko: Differential than with my family cases, in my criminal and high litigation cases, I would say maybe 30% of those cases will go to trial, not because I want them to go to trial, but because I am willing to go there. Not all lawyers want to take that step, and I have tried to build a reputation in a town that I will, that I will take a case to trial. There are cases where you need to be aggressive to properly take care of your client, and it helps to have it known that you will fight for your client. It also has to explain that, at least in law, truth is just as arbitrary as anything else. Truth is tied to perception. We think of things that are true, like "the sky is blue," which is true. But sometimes it's gray. That's also true. It depends on when you look and where you are. This has to do with helping clients manage their expectations. They have to understand that their truth isn't necessarily the truth and that their truth may not be the truth the court sees. Truth is oftentimes not as clear as people want it to be. HOW DO YOU HELP CLIENTS DEVELOP A REALISTIC GOAL FOR THEIR SITUATION? Kowtko: In criminal law, it's usually a little bit more clear than

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family law. In criminal law, the vast majority of the clients say, "I didn't do it." That they are not involved in whatever the event is. With family law, people think they know what they want [when you start], but as you develop the rapport with the client and develop the case, it's good to keep going back to expectations. Expectations need to be adjusted both in family law and criminal law all the time. If the state comes up with a new video or a new email, or a new picture, that may require you to change the way you handle that changes. So expectations need to adjust with the reality of the circumstances. Also, the sooner you get a lawyer, the better off you are, especially in a criminal case. Clients may make mistakes in a criminal case if they talk when they shouldn't. Usually, by the time criminal lawyers get involved, it's a day late and a dollar short. They tend to come in after the client has had an interview with the cop. Most people, especially the innocent ones, but even the guilty ones, want to believe that they can prove that they're innocent. They believe that "if I talk to the cops voluntarily, they'll see the truth." But again, your truth is maybe different than the cop's truth. There are stories in the news all the time about people who spend ten


years, 15 years in jail, and they are innocent, but the case did no go their way. I tell clients that if you are suspected of a crime, then nobody is your friend-the cop is not your friend. You don't want to talk to them without a lawyer being present. If a client is smart enough to retain a lawyer first, then you tell the police, "I'll be glad to be involved in your investigation, but I want my lawyer present." THIS IS PROBABLY A BIGGER PROBLEM ACTUALLY FOR THE INNOCENT PERSON. THE INNOCENT PERSON WANTS TO BE HELPFUL, BUT SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, THERE IS A GUILTY PERSON, AND THEIR STORY AND YOURS WILL NOT MATCHUP. Kowtko: You actually see that a lot in domestic violence. When you and your spouse get in a fight, and the wife or the husband calls the cops. You want to tell the cops your story. People start talking, "well, I didn't start it. Yeah. I hit him." Or "Yeah. I hit her, but I didn't start it. She hit me first." And you may think you are helping yourself, but you are not. You are making statements that are very hard to back off from later. People want to prove their innocence, which is not actually what is necessary; as I said, the other side needs to prove your guilt, and people want to seem compliant, which can actually be disastrous. FOR MOST PEOPLE THAT HAVE A CONFLICT THAT REQUIRES A LAWYER, IT IS LIKELY THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE EVER BEEN IN THAT SITUATION. WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR THEM TO WALK IN YOUR DOOR? Kowtko: We do it differently than many firms. We are more relaxed-it's part

of my theory. I'm young, for a lawyer, and I'm not old school law. A lot of people have the perception that the lawyer will look down their nose at them. I want to make people comfortable. I shouldn't be part of your problem. I should be part of your solution. Our clients have challenges in their lives that are not easy to handle; they need help, whether you're accused of a crime or whether you were getting divorced, or whether you have a child that you haven't seen in a period of time. I should not be your problem; I should be a tool for you to help you get to a good end. That's one of the benefits, actually, of family law. You know you've helped a family, specifically when you've helped a child get through something. Adults can adapt, can get through a divorce, but kids, especially single-digit age children, don't have any control, and they didn't choose to be in this situation then. We have a dual role, one to help the parent who's my actual client, but also I have an ethical obligation to make sure that the child has as best outcome possible. So ultimately, one of the best benefits of my job is at the end of the case, when a client comes and says, "my Johnny's happy," or, you know, "Susie's happy, and they've adjusted well." And after the legal conflict has been received, the client comes back and says, "thank you for getting me through that hard time and helping me and my kid adjust." That's the benefit of being in family law. You are helping that six-year-old kid get to the best possible life, and you know that they are probably not going to end up a statistic in twelve years. SRQ

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601 South Osprey Avenue Sarasota, Florida 34236

Direct: (941) 556-1480 Fax: (941) 365-2916

HONORS Highest attainable Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell International Attorney Directory. A Florida Trend “Legal Elite” in construction law. Recognized by Chambers & Partners Guide to Leading Business Lawyers and Law Firms in the World. Acknowledged by Super Lawyers as a leading Florida Construction & Surety lawyer. Listed in Best Lawyers in America for expertise in Construction Law.

David E. Gurley HONOREE Construction Law


BIO David E. Gurley is the principal shareholder of Gurley & Associates. He has been Florida Board Certified as an expert in Construction Law since 2005. Mr. Gurley’s practice for the last thirty-five years has concentrated on matters relating to the construction and design of private and public development projects including, contract negotiation and drafting; project oversight and Board of Claims proceedings; construction and design defect analysis and documentation; scheduling and delay claims; lender issues; project takeovers and completions for sureties; surety indemnity actions; construction licensing and disciplinary matters; and, the mediation, arbitration and litigation of construction and design disputes. Gurley & Associates’ clients include multiple ENR Top 50 contractors; surety companies; CD insurers, national and international “big box” retailers; REITS; private development companies and, major construction materials supply companies. Mr. Gurley is admitted to practice in all Florida courts, Texas and in the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. He counsels clients nationwide and in the Caribbean basin in the avoidance and resolution of construction and bond claims arising from commercial, hospitality, theme park, medical facility, luxury resort, high rise residential, transportation and public infrastructure projects.



Construction Law, Surety Law, Business and Commercial Litigation, Insurance Defense, Insurance Coverage, Condominium Law, Trial Practice

J.D., Florida State University, 1983

Mr. Gurley is AV peer review rated by Martindale-Hubbell and is listed in Best Lawyers in America for construction law. He has been recognized by Chambers & Partners Guide to Leading Business Lawyers and Law Firms in the World and by Super Lawyers and Florida Trend magazine as a leading Florida construction and surety lawyer.

PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS · American Bar Association (Fidelity and Surety Law Committee; Forum Committee on the Construction Law Committee) · Florida Bar · Sarasota County Bar Association · Construction Law Institute, Certified Instructor · National Bond Claims Association · Defense Research Institute · Florida Surety Association · Master, Judge John M. Scheb Inn of Court

MISSION Gurley & Associates is a commercial litigation, construction and surety boutique law firm with a national and international reach. Gurley & Associates provides the responsiveness and personal service of a boutique law firm, with the experience and attention to detail that are the hallmarks of larger firms.


B.S., Florida State University, 1981

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HONOREE Eminent Domain BIO Paul Blucher, Esquire has been practicing eminent domain law in Florida since 1990. In 1997 he founded Blucher Law Group, PLLC dedicated to protecting property owners and business owners’ rights against the government. Blucher notes, “We help clients understand their rights – that attorney’s fees and costs are paid by the government and that owners are entitled to be paid full compensation for the taking of their property, compensation which may be more than the government's appraised value. TESTIMONIALS “Paul Blucher possesses all of the qualities of a great attorney: exceptional expertise, ethical conduct, compassion and concern for clients. His advice and counsel allowed us to successfully navigate one of the most difficult periods we have ever experienced.” — Melanie Michaels, Ph.D and David Sorg, property owners June 2020 FLORIDA BAR DATE OF ADMISSION

Paul Blucher, Esq.

PRACTICES Eminent Domain, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Title Closings and Title Insurance

September 24, 1990. Member: Florida Bar Eminent Domain Committee 1990, Federal Bar MD Fla. 1997; Fla. Bar Real Property Probate & Trust Law Section. 7300 Delainey Court Sarasota, Florida 34240 (941) 361-1145




University of Pittsburgh, School of Law JD 1990

HONOREE Real Estate BIO Mr. Featherstone is a locally born, AV Preeminent® real estate and business law attorney with a practice focused on residential and commercial real estate transactions, including title analysis, title curing, and title insurance and representation of individual and business entities in the buying, selling, developing, and leasing of residential and commercial property. His practice also includes the representation of clients in the purchase and sale of all types of businesses. His services include contract negotiation/drafting, resolving disputes, and conducting real estate and business closings. He is also approved counsel for various national and community banks, and is involved in the legal analysis, documentation and closing of secured and unsecured loan transactions. MISSION I adhere to the highest ethical standards in pursuing my clients’ interests, and work diligently to remain abreast of the latest developments in laws impacting my areas of practice. The relationships I establish with clients typically develop into strong, longstanding ties, the outgrowth of which is the bulk of my referrals come from satisfied clients.

Ryan A. Featherstone

DEGREES Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Finance from University of Florida (2001) and J.D. from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California (2005)



Sarasota and Manatee County Jurisdiction

CONTACT INFORMATION rfeatherstone@ 22 S. Links Ave., Ste. 300, Sarasota, FL 34236 (941) 366-0115

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HONOREE Rising Star BIO A lifelong resident of Sarasota, Jake Grollman concentrates his legal work solely on criminal defense and has represented individuals charged with various misdemeanor and felony offenses. During his career as a defense attorney, Jake has tried numerous jury trials, from DUIs to Attempted Murder. He works relentlessly to protect the rights of the accused and has proven his ability to get results, whether in front of a judge or jury. He is committed to providing the attentive service and representation necessary to obtain the most favorable outcome for his clients and their future. MISSION In today’s world, when I have the privilege of representing your liberty interest, it is more important than ever that I maintain an unwavering commitment to fighting for your Constitutional Rights.


Jacob Grollman

University of Central Florida B.A. (2011); Florida State University College of Law J.D. (2015)


FLORIDA BAR DATE OF ADMISSION September 28, 2015 All Florida


State Courts, U.S. Federal District Court - Middle District of Florida

544 12th St. West Bradenton, FL 34205


(941) 896-6775

Criminal Defense

HONOREE Civil Law Litigation BIO G. Robert McLain Jr. is a litigation-oriented attorney representing commercial and individual clients in civil, criminal, and family law matters. He began his legal career at a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C., before returning home to Sarasota to practice law with his father. Since then, he has successfully litigated against individuals, corporations, and a foreign government and has helped clients resolve commercial disputes, malpractice claims, probate disagreements, torts, criminal charges, and marital dissolutions. FIRM PHILOSOPHY At Metcalfe & McLain, we believe that effective representation requires more than aggressive advocacy. It requires rationality, reason, and decency. Whether the case is a civil, criminal, or family matter, we practice Civil Florida Law.


G. Robert McLain Jr. Metcalfe & McLain, P.A.

DEGREES George Mason University School of Law, J.D., Magna Cum Laude, 2008 University of Florida, B.A., (Philosophy, minor in English), 1998.

AFFILIATIONS Sarasota County Bar Association, Family Law Section, Florida Bar, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, John M. Scheb American Inn of Court (Barrister)

CONTACT INFORMATION rob.mclain@ 100 Wallace Ave. Ste. 260 Sarasota, FL 34237 (941) 365-4174

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HONOREE Residential and Commercial Real Estate and Title Insurance Transactions BIO Cynthia A. Riddell is an attorney at Riddell Law Group. She is admitted to practice in Florida as well as the U.S. District Court in and for the Middle District of Florida and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in and for the Middle District of Florida. She focuses her practice on Residential and Commercial Real Estate Closings and Title Insurance Transactions. Cynthia grew up in Sarasota and after law school returned to join her father, attorney Jeff Riddell, in the practice of real estate transactional law. At Riddell Law Group our mission is to guide buyers and sellers through the real estate transaction process to closing with efficiency and professionalism. The majority of our real estate work is performing residential real estate closings which affords us the opportunity to help clients during one of the largest financial purchases one may make during one’s lifetime which is an awesome responsibility and one we are grateful to be a part of.

Cynthia A. Riddell



Stetson University College of Law, St. Petersburg, Florida, J.D.

Real Estate Section of the Sarasota County Bar Association, Former Chair

University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida B.A.

Sarasota County Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, 2011– 2013, Board of Directors

CONTACT INFORMATION 3400 S. Tamiami Trl. Ste 202 Sarasota FL 34239 (941) 366-1300

HONOREE Labor and Employment BIO Christine Sensenig is the managing partner of The Sensenig Law Firm, P.A. She provides human resources and employment law advice as well as litigation defense to employers of all sizes in all aspects of the employment relationship To build strong long-term relationships with clients, the Firm explores the “why” behind a client’s concerns. In employment law, clients have needs in “real time” and the Firm believes in being an accessible resource to our clients. “I do my best because I am counting on you counting on me.” — Maya Angelou

Christine Sensenig



1995, University of Florida Levin College of Law

Florida Trend Magazine Legal Elite, 2009-2020

1992, University of Florida, M.L.A., B.A. 1988.

SuperLawyer, 2015-2020 AV Rated by Martindale Hubbell 2015 to present

CONTACT INFORMATION csensenig@ 1515 Ringling Blvd., Ste. 230 Sarasota, FL 34236 (941) 953-2828

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HONOREE ATTORNEYS FOR NONPROFITS BIO Betsy Pennewill serves as corporate counsel at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, working with donors and professional advisors to craft planned giving agreements. She is also skilled in real estate transactions and estate planning matters. Pennewill is a member of the Public Policy Committee of the Southeastern Council of Foundations and the board president of Charitable Gift Planners of Southwest Florida. She is also a member of the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council. MISSION Community Impact Powered by Philanthropy: The Community Foundation of Sarasota County unites people and organizations to create opportunities across generations to improve lives. Each one of us has the potential to impact a person, cause, community. Be The One. DEGREES


Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Stetson University College of Law, 1998 Graduated from Miami University with a degree in Finance, 1990


License to practice law in Florida since 1998.


CONTACT INFORMATION 2635 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL 34237 (941) 556-7152

17 years

Florida Jurisdiction

HONOREE Land Use and Environmental Law "Much of my firm’s work comes from other lawyers," says firm Principal, Casey Colburn. "Being entrusted to assist their valued clients is the highest honor. Thanks to SRQ for providing a forum for our legal community to recognize Top Attorneys." Over 25 years, Casey earned a national reputation for solving problems among clientele ranging from Dow 30 conglomerates to fixed-income seniors. When Casey arrived in "sleepy" and seasonal Sarasota nearly 20 years ago, he dove-into Sarasota-Manatee civic life. A founding director of the Sarasota Young Professionals Group, and a leader in local, state and international civic, charitable and professional organizations, the community’s year-round vibrancy, skylines, and shorelines reflect Casey’s involvement. MISSION The Colburn Firm helps solve real estate matters complicated by federal, state and local government regulation and enforcement, waterfront, land use and development issues, green building, environmental permitting, due diligence and docks.


Casey Colburn

Zoning, Land Use & Conservation Environmental Permitting and Enforcement. Cleanup, Remediation and Redevelopment. Federal, State and Local Approvals. Real Estate Due Diligence and Development. Shopping Center Law. Green Building. Code Enforcement. Federal, State and Local Legislation. Waterfront Permitting and Development. Docks and Riparian Rights

CONTACT INFORMATION 7321 Merchant Ct, Ste. A Sarasota, FL 34240 (941) 928-6801 (850) 692-9656

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HONOREE Personal Injury BIO Greg Linehan grew up in Sarasota before leaving to attend college at the University of Florida. After receiving his Bachelors Degree, he attended law school in Miami. In 1997, he relocated back to Sarasota to be near family and friends while building his practice in Personal Injury and Worker’s Compensation law. Mr. Linehan became a partner at Wittmer | Linehan in 2007. He primarily focuses on Personal Injury law, including auto and motorcycle accidents as well as Worker’s Compensation cases and Social Security Disability claims. Greg enjoys the ability to use his expertise to help members of the Sarasota community, whether through his practice of law or by serving on the board of various local community based organizations.


Gregory Linehan WITTMER | LINEHAN


U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, 1997



St Thomas University School of Law, Miami, Florida, 1996 J.D., Juris Doctor


University of Florida, 1990, B.A., Bachelor of Arts

(941) 365-2296

2014 4th Street Sarasota FL 34237

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