It’s transition time

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The Village’s Davidson Plaza seeing new tenants and a possible new trend

By Jane Bartnett

Major changes are on the horizon for Davidson Plaza, the popular shopping and dining center in the heart of Siesta Village. The unexpected Oct. 28 closing of the long-standing Davidson Drugs store – it served as the anchor of the shopping center and a staple of the community for 65 years — set the stage for new businesses in what was already a plaza in transition.
Existing Davidson Plaza tenants, as well as residents and the small businesses that make up the community, were surprised and concerned. When Davidson Drugs closed, company president Richard Davidson reported that because of the company’s agreement with Walgreens (which bought the pharmaceutical operations), leasing the space to another drug store was not permitted. That statement fueled increased speculation about what kind of retail or restaurant establishments might consider the valuable location.

And one of the questions was this: Will the current, changing real estate culture continue to bring about national brands instead of the local businesses that have long been part of Siesta Key’s identity?
What is next is beginning to take shape and seems to answer that question. Well-placed sources within the Siesta Key business community have reported that talks with national retailers Alvin’s Island and Tommy Bahama are moving ahead.
Alvin’s Island, the largest beach store chain in the southeastern United States, is expected to open in the 8,500-square-foot space that was the home to Davidson’s.
A Tommy Bahama retail store is believed to be the new tenant for a second, 2,904-square-foot space that was once occupied by the Sarasota Medical Center as a primary and urgent care doctors’ office. That space has been vacant since September 2020.
With corporate offices in Miami, Alvin’s Island has 34 existing locating in Florida and Alabama, including a store on St. Armands Circle.
Tommy Bahama, a national lifestyle brand owned and marketed by Oxford Industries, also has an existing retail presence in the Sarasota area and on St. Armands Circle.
This past summer, Southern Tide, a premium coastal lifestyle brand that is also owned by Oxford, opened its doors in Davidson Plaza in June, next door to another Oxford brand, Lilly Pulitzer.
A second Southern Tide store opened soon after the Siesta Key store in the Mall at University Town Center. Lilly Pulitzer, a Davidson Plaza tenant since 2019, also can be found at St. Armands Circle, and at the Mall at University Town Center.
In recent months, when reached for comment, Davidson has stated that he does not discuss his tenants. Davidson did not respond when called for comment on this article.
When contacted, Joe Hembree of Hembree & Associates Commercial Real Estate also declined to discuss his company’s involvement in leasing the two Davidson Plaza properties.
In the early part of 2024, another Davidson Plaza tenant, Sassy … the Little Day Spa, will join its sister business Sassy Hair Salon in relocating to 219 Avenida Madera in the Village. The property, owned by the Davidson family, was formerly occupied by the Seafood Joint and Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream in separate storefronts that will now be combined.
Sassy Hair is currently located at 209 Beach Road, next to the Foxy Lady boutique. Once in their new space, the two Sassy businesses will operate together under one roof, providing hair and spa services. “The move will more than double our space,” said spa manager Patricia McDaniel. “Depending on permits and construction, we hope to be able to open there in late January.
Until that time, Sassy Spa will remain in its Davidson Plaza space it has occupied since September 2021.

Meanwhile, as the retail face of Davidson Plaza and Siesta Key Village evolves, a continuing parade of up-scale national brands have been making their way into Siesta Key. Prior to Southern Tide’s arrival, in June of 2023, Kilwins — the national chocolate, ice cream and confectionery franchise with roots in the resort community of Mackinac Island, Michigan — moved into the corner store of Davidson Plaza at the edge of Ocean Boulevard in 2022.
Kilwins became the second national brand at the plaza, joining Lilly Pulitzer.
Mike Migone, senior investment advisor at SVN Commercial Advisory Group in Sarasota, believes that the influx of national retailers will have a positive financial impact on the future of Siesta Key.
“It will bring more people to the island, and it will raise the value of the retail and residential market,” he said. “But parking will continue to be an issue.”
In addition to the anticipated changes at Davidson Plaza, Migone noted that Benderson Development’s desire for a 210-room hotel in the Village will potentially further change the face of the area.
“We’re seeing an upscaling of Siesta Key Village. National retailers will continue to come in and all of this will raise the value of the Siesta Key retail and residential market,” he said.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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