‘It’s completely our store now’

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Transition for young entrepreneurs is complete as Casa del Sol shines bright

Live globally but shop locally.

That’s the essence of what led Erika Schmid and Nicholas Browne to open their Casa del Sol Boutique at 5221 Ocean Blvd. in Siesta Key Village.

Filled with clothing, accessories and special items meant for enjoying the sun, the beach and island life, the couple are looking forward to celebrating the boutique’s first anniversary in June. 

“We have a wonderful blend of brands imported from Australia, Portugal, Thailand and Mexico,” said Schmid.

“And a number of lines made in Florida, Hawaii and here in America,” said Browne. Added Schmid, “We try to be different than the rest of the Key.”

The designs and aesthetic of the store exudes a relaxed, welcoming and sophisticated bohemian seaside vibe. It reflects the pair’s international travel and interests. Both taught English as a second language while living in Vietnam in a small beach town called Hoi An. He also taught English in Costa Rica and China.

Browne’s photographs from their travels dot the walls and the music is carefully curated.

He is a south Florida native from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area and Schmid grew up near Long Beach Island on the New Jersey coast. They met as students at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.  

Looking back, it almost seems Casa del Sol was destined to be, Schmid said. Her best college friend at Eckerd was the daughter of Susan Balas, who owned the landmark Beach Bazaar store as well as the Island Trader boutique. After graduation, Balas hired Schmid as swimwear buyer for both stores, which she did for several years. 

Schmid took a year away from the Key to teach English in Vietnam with Browne until COVID-19 led them both back to Siesta Key.

“We started working with Sue again on Island Trader’s online presence and doing more photography,” said Schmid. When she offered the couple the chance to buy the Island Trader store, they gladly said yes.  

“We were so fortunate,” Schmid said.

Soon, the couple closed Island Trader and reimagined the shop into their own beachside boutique that they called Casa del Sol.

“We try to be timeless. Our goal is to offer our customers effortless fashionable designs that can be worn year after year. Linens, cottons, breathable designs, that’s what we look for,” said Schmid. “The Italian Bella Amore line is a customer favorite. We carry their tops and soft dresses.”

Shoppers will also find a selection of gift items and accessories from Spartina, and the popular “enewton” bracelets and necklaces. The Aloha Collection splash-proof, light-weight bags from Hawaii are also popular.

“The Alco jewelry line from Destin, Florida, is made for the beach,” said Schmid. “It’s water and tarnish resistant and made from mixed gold and silver metals.”  

Other Florida-made products featured in the shop include the Rilevare natural beauty products, and their own popular Casa Costera clothing that features the “Live in the Rays … A Lifestyle Under the Sun,” line of hats and T-shirts for men and women.

“We donate 1% of each sale to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program,” said Browne. “The brand is doing well. And guys really like the Rhythm Australia surf brand graphic T-shirts.”

Schmid and Browne are part of a new generation of young retailers on the Key — much like Sean and Tana Anderson, who in 2022 gave new life to the Crescent Beach Market, as well as Ian Steger, who owns Project Coffee in Siesta Village. They bring an exciting new spirit to the island and a fresh approach to merchandising and branding.

Casa del Sol and the Crescent Beach Market also share a landlord. Chris Brown has re-invigorated many Siesta Key properties, and he has plans to refresh the look of Casa del Sol and neighboring Created Gems in the coming months.  

“We’re very excited about it,” said Schmid. 

Brown’s improvements to the Crescent Beach Market included the dramatic and vibrant Siesta Key mural depicting Siesta Beach and its iconic lifeguard chairs. The colorful artwork graces the side of the building and greets drivers and pedestrians entering and exiting the Key at the base of the south bridge.

Looking ahead, the young Casa del Sol entrepreneurs plan to strengthen their online presence and grow their clothing line.

“This store reflects the way that we feel about Siesta Key. It’s open and comfortable and special. Our shop is for people like us who love to travel and who love this special place,” said Schmid.

As they look ahead to their store’s first anniversary, the future looks bright.

“The month of March was phenomenal,” said Schmid.

Added Browne, commenting on the transition, “It’s been very affirming for us. It’s completely our store now.”

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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