The Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market was packed with shoppers and their dogs this past Saturday morning. Locally grown colorful produce, plants and plenty of food options. As usual, the big red double decker bus that is Java Dawg Coffee was packed with folks wanting a good cup of Joe Dawg. Foot traffic on Main Street was up, as people and their dogs shopped the boutiques, and dined at the cafes, including our favorite, Cafe Americano.
This Labor Day has us thinking about, and appreciating those hardworking independent business owners across Florida. The one constant that we are witnessing now more than ever is how these businesses are supporting their communities by bringing in items that are created and produced by local artisans.
At Wet Noses Dog Boutique on Main Street, we discovered one-of-a-kind, beautifully-painted adirondack chairs. For an unbelievably reasonable price (which includes the chair), your dog’s portrait is painted with the theme of your choice.
At Bella by the Sea on Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue, fresh cut flowers in containers (for the picking) greet shoppers outside. Guys and dogs can take a load off, grab a refreshing cold beverage, and enjoy the scenery on the breezy front porch, while the ladies take in the delights of what’s inside. (Gentlemen, this is not a bad way to spend an afternoon). Take a stroll down to Emerson’s, and check out the world-renowned artist’s brand of quirky humor on tee-shirts, martini glasses and notecards. Emerson could have chosen any place in the world to settle down and set up shop. He chose Anna Maria Island with good reason. Quaint and vibrant Pine Avenue has been named the Greenest Little Main Street in America by the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.
On St. Pete Beach’s historic Corey Avenue, Gone to the Dogs has an artistic array of locally created and produced items, including colorful bags by Clara. New designs are always coming in. The proprietors of Groovy Cats & Dogs in Tampa have worked hard to stock their store with items that are not only locally produced but sustainable too, like dog-themed artwork and decorative accessories for the home.
In Dog We Trust is a cool new line of locally-designed bandanas and tee-shirts. Right now, they are exclusively available at Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater, a big supporter of local artists. The Doggie Door on Park Avenue in Winter Park is another big supporter of local artists, and carries the PawPalettes line of notecards, a Florida company. Pawsitively Posh Pooch has become a destination for dog lovers looking for couture doggie clothes. One line (created by a Florida-based artist) has become internationally-known for its unique designs and use of vintage material and accessories. Think: Coco Chanel. “Dress shabbily and they’ll remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they’ll remember the dog.” (With apologies to Ms. Chanel and Bella by the Sea).
Another constant that each of these retailers has in common is their support of local shelters and rescue groups. Like the beautiful Cat Room at Pet Food Warehouse, built out specifically to showcase adoptables from Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Or the fundraising events held regularly at Dog-Mania & Cats in Dade City and The Green K9 in Mount Dora. Time and again, these independent business owners have graciously donated their product, services and money to benefit local animal advocacy programs.
Stats to Ponder: Did you know that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community? That same dollar amount spent in a national big box chain store returns only $43 to the community. Spend that same amount ($100) online, and nothing is returned to the community.
The New Barker dog magazine would like to tip our hats to the dedicated Local Independent Business Owner. From the retailer to the restaurateur; the groomer to the trainer; the hotelier to the owners of dog day care centers; the veterinarians, artists and photographers: thank you for your own dedication and support of the local economy.
Shopping local benefits each of our communities in more ways than one.