Just 2 months after closing of Village location, Southbridge store follows suit; family business goes back to 1958
By Jane Bartnett
Once again, the sign above the entranceway to a Davidson Drugs said it all: “Thank you Sarasota for 65 remarkable years. It has been a pleasure to serve the community.”
Less than two months after the longtime family business ended on Oct. 28 its presence in the Village that went back 65 years, its second Siesta location on the south end at Southbridge Mall also experienced the same fate.
During the last week of December, a “store closing” sign emerged that noted that all inventory was 50% off. The company had already ended its pharmacy business and kept the location on Midnight Pass Road open as only a general store, but that didn’t last long.
It was in the mid-1960s, according to Davidson Drugs president Richard Davidson, that the south-end location was established in the plaza that now holds Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar restaurant. In the mid-’70s, the business was established in the current spot.
Since then, Davidson Drugs remained a constant presence while the area saw plenty of change – as did its industry.
“They’ve been very good business neighbors and I wish them well,” said Monica Galfre, owner of plaza neighbor Silver City. “I will really miss the convenience of being able to run in and pick up a card or whatever I needed.”
Fellow plaza neighbor Nathan, co-owner of Green Turtle Shell & Gift City, added “It’s hard to think of many family-owned drugs stores that are still around today. I wish them the best.”
Independent drug stores across the nation are struggling to survive, and Richard Davidson in October pointed to many factors in the family’s decision to begin the elimination of the business. Staffing shortages, inflation, the high cost of drugs, limits in reimbursement, and supply issues that began during COVID-19 are but a few of the reasons.
Meanwhile, neighboring businesses are watching and waiting with great interest to see what kind of business will take its place in the large, 10,253-square-foot locale. Speaking of the property, Davidson said he expects the space to be available for lease after the existing merchandise is sold.
A sign on the outside of the building states that Hembree & Associates, a commercial real estate broker in Sarasota, is handling the leasing of the property. Hembree is also serving as the broker for the former Davidson Drugs space in the Village.
The Davidson family owns its space in the mall, while others rent from a different landlord. Behind the building sits its corporate office.
As of late January, the south store was still open although most of the shelves were bare. When asked to speculate on a what kind of business he thought may be interested in leasing the property, Davidson said that he believed that the location could become a restaurant or retail establishment.
Tana Anderson, co-owner of nearby Crescent Beach Market, said that she would welcome a restaurant. “There’s real demand for a nice breakfast and lunch restaurant. I think that would do very well in the Davidson Drugs space. So many people walk here, which helps with parking,” she said.
Gary Kompothecras, a nearby resident and owner of the neighboring Crescent Club, expressed hope that a service business will open in the space. “We need some more services on the Key and in the south end of the island,” he said. “The banks are gone, the drug stores are now gone. We have no commerce and I hope to help revitalize the area.”
Kompothecras hopes to build on the south end a seven-story, 120-room hotel along with a five-story parking garage.
Added Bryan Guenther, a longtime Realtor who recently re-established his business in neighboring Crescent Beach Plaza based in part upon the area’s potential, “It was a fun store to shop at with a family-run atmosphere. The market is changing and the south island is becoming an exclusive place to live.
“There are many businesses that would like to open on Siesta Key in that location. There is very little commercial space to rent on the south island. One of the best uses of the space may be to divide it up into several smaller stores.”
Davidson Drugs was created by John Davidson in the 1958, first occupying a space in the Village near where the Beach Bazaar now sits. At its pinnacle, the business featured seven Sarasota locations.
The family will continue to be involved in the Siesta Key real estate business, owning several commercial rental properties.