Story and photos by Debbie Flessner
For more than 44 years, the Siesta Market has operated on the island; one of two grocery stores on Siesta Key, and for more than 50 years, the Morton family has either owned or worked with Morton’s Gourmet Market on Osprey Avenue. But soon, those two richly historic and beloved institutions will become one.
Siesta Market owners, brothers Vincent and Peter Messina, are retiring from the business, which would have left a big grocery vacancy at 205 Canal Road, right in the heart of Siesta Village. Luckily, Todd Morton and his father Eddie stepped in with plans to transform the building, which was bought by investor Christopher J. Brown last November for $2.8 million, into Morton’s Siesta Market.
The Mortons, like the Messinas, know a little bit about the grocery business.
“My grandfather had worked for Marable’s, and then bought it in 1969,” Todd Morton said. “In the 70s, he changed the name to Morton’s Market and ran it with my dad (Eddie) until 1997, when they sold it to Epicurean Life. But in 2007, my father and I bought it back.”
Since then, the name of the market on the corner of Osprey and Hillview Avenues has been changed to Morton’s Gourmet Market, and is a full-service specialty food store, offering a wide variety of foods and products. There’s a bakery and coffee shop, prime meat and seafood selection, “from scratch” prepared meals, an extensive fine wine selection, gift baskets, gourmet groceries, a catering department and a very popular deli.
The deli also provides a large portion of the current business at the Siesta Market, and Morton says that after his family takes it over this summer, it is expected to continue to do so.
“The Siesta Market has been there a long time, and we just want to update it and be able to offer a lot more of our prepared foods,” he said. “Our primary focus will be on the deli that exists there, and because the store is a smaller space than we have at our location now (about 4,000 square feet smaller), we’re going to try to have a sampling of what we have here. We just won’t have as many departments.”
While Morton’s Gourmet Market, which will remain open as the store’s flagship location, has an upscale atmosphere, Morton said it’s important to him and his father to keep the casual, beachy feel of the Siesta Market. After the Mortons take over the space this summer, the store will remain open while some updates are being made. But by early fall, the big restoration plans will begin.
Morton said they’re not quite sure how extensive those plans will be.
“We’re in the process of meeting with store designers to come up with the look that we want,” he said. “The timing of when the restoration begins and ends depends on a lot of different things.”
The only other grocer on the island is the Crescent Beach Grocery, located on the southern end, just south of Stickney Point Road, which delivers groceries all over the island. It’s unlikely, though, that Siesta Key residents and tourists will have to go very long without a market on the northern end of the Key, since the Mortons want to keep the closure of the store to a minimum.
As upset as many area residents were to hear that the Siesta Market owners were retiring, most seemed happy that the space would be taken over by a family who has such longtime ties to both the area and the grocery business.
Rebecca Kremer, who lives just off the Key, and frequents the Siesta Market, said that she believed Morton’s Siesta Market would be a good fit.
“I love Siesta Market, but I also like the Morton’s Market, too,” she said. “If they can bring some of their foods like the prepared salads and rotisserie chicken over to the new store, I won’t have to go anywhere else to shop.”
Todd Morton said that the imminent opening of the new store is also causing quite a buzz among his Osprey Avenue staff, some of whom will make the move to Morton’s Siesta Market.
“Our staff here is really excited,” he said. “We’re also happy that we will be able to retain much of the current staff at the Siesta Market as well.”
Morton’s Gourmet Market is at 1924 South Osprey Avenue in Sarasota, and the new Morton’s Siesta Market is at 205 Canal Road on Siesta Key. For more information, visit the website at www.MortonsMarket.com.