Pine is poppin'
PAT COPELAND | SUN
ANNA MARIA – The Renaissance on Pine Avenue continues with five new shops opening since fall and shoppers flocking to the street, which has become a destination for locals and tourists.
New shops include Vinny and Cheryl's Italian Kitchen and Shiny Fish, opened in October 2011; Tide and Moon and Just Beachin' Gifts and Collectibles, opened in January; and Dogs For The Earth, opened in March. In addition, Relish Vintage and Artisan Boutique, which opened a year ago, will be expanding to Angler's Inn, aka Thelma by the Sea, in May.
Vinny and Cheryl's Italian Kitchen
314 Pine Ave.
The aroma of Italian delights embraces you as you open the door to Vinny and Cheryl's Italian Kitchen, where the laughter is quick and the food is as fresh as it gets.
Vinny Esposito comes by his passion for food honestly. As a boy in Italy, he learned to cook from his grandmothers. By the age of 17, he had a culinary degree and was on his way to America to work in his uncle's butcher shop in Newark, N.J., where he learned kitchen skills from butchering to baking.
He also worked as an executive chef, a caterer for the Sopranos television cast and crew and the Star Ledger newspaper and as a restaurant consultant. Cheryl Greco met Vinny when she was his baker in New Jersey. Four years ago, they came to the Island so Vinny could retire.
"He began baking for the neighbors, and everybody got to know his food," Greco said.
"I did a catering for an Island couple and word spread," Esposito added. "People found out about our reputation.
"I designed the kitchen for Martini Bistro and helped build the food business at the Pine Avenue General Store, which still carries some of my products."
They began looking for their own place and found the location on Pine Avenue. There Esposito makes a wide variety of Italian lunch and dinner specialties and the Italian baked goods. Greco makes the natural and organic baked goods and mans the front of the store. Diners can eat in or take out.
"I butcher my own meat, use free range chicken, use organic olive oil, make my own sausage and mozzarella," Esposito pointed out. "We make everything from scratch.
"People who come here get high quality products. We're trying to bring back the healthy, old-fashioned way of cooking."
A couple of lunch diners declared their sandwiches of the day "absolutely fantastic" and the desserts "delightfully delicious."
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The phone number is 941-896-9754.
Shiny Fish Emporium
306 Pine Ave.
This store grabs your attention the minute you walk inside because every nook and cranny is filled with fun things from ice cream bubbles to Havaianas gemstone flip flops.
Rebecca Preston and business partner Renitia Bertoluzzi own the store. Preston, who came to the Island from New Jersey with her husband and son, has a background in jewelry design and interior design.
"A friend offered us a place to stay on the Island and we fell in love," she recalled. "I always dreamed of living in Florida, and we loved the people we met.
"I had the idea for this business model for 20 years. I combined all the creative and design ideas I had in one place to share with people. I focused on beach glam – 1950s Palm Beach meets Beverly Hills."
Many of the items feature Preston's original designs such as AMI skimboards, which can be used by kids at the beach or as decorative pieces or serving platters, baby clothes, T-shirts with Preston's catch phrase, "Sugar Yourself in Sand," and the Cha Cha Chipster character for the ice cream bubbles, which are homemade Hawaiian ice cream wrapped in rice flour.
Other items include Jonathan Adler decorative pieces, Apple Park organic baby gifts, unique European toys, Italian car fresheners, handmade jewelry, surprise balls, children's games and Moulin Roty dolls from France.
"I love it on Pine Avenue," Preston said. "It's like a neighborhood. You can take the trolley or ride your bike.
"You can go to the beach, have dinner, shop in the stores. It's a destination and with the porches, it's so inviting."
Preston said she and artist Deborah Webster are developing a calendar of craft workshops for kids to be held in the store, and people can rent the store for anything from a baby shower to a cocktail party. She also offers decorating services in the beach glam style.
Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Just Beachin' Gifts and CollectIbles
314 Pine Ave.
Eclectic is the operative word here with three rooms stuffed with antiques and collectibles. Owner Susie Bassarear loves to shop for bargains.
"I'm very eclectic," she said. "I like everything. I'm a picker. I go out and find things that are unique and different.
"I enjoy the public, talking to people and passing on a great deal. I cater to locals and tourists."
Bassarear has a background in retail and was a manager for Publix for many years. She also had a room in an antique mall, but said she outgrew it and decided to venture out on her own.
Two of her specialties are new brand name swimsuits and sunglasses, which she said she sells for "unbelievably low prices" and calls her "bread and but ter." For summer, she plans to add a beach room with basic beach needs.
Other items include vintage collectibles, costume jewelry, handmade jewelry, Island-style home décor, sand dollars, antique glassware and linens and more.
"It's a little of this and a little of that," she said. "Things that are odd and different, things that I like. My favorite part is finding out the history behind the pieces and learning about them.
"I fit in on Pine Avenue because it's a green street, and I'm recycling things. My whole focus is recycling and giving back to the community."
Current hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tide and Moon Jewelry
314 Pine Ave.
Handcrafted silver and gold bangles, pendants and earrings abound in this unique shop, where owner Laura Shely makes about half the jewelry herself.
Shely first came to the Island with her husband and children in 2001 from Minnesota and they were smitten. They sold her store and their home there and moved to the Island in 2005. She worked for Beall's Corporation Inc. until 2008, when she opened her first Island jewelry shop in Bradenton Beach.
"It was tiny room at Club Bamboo," she recalled. "I outgrew the space and found a new space in Holmes Beach. Then I decided to go where the action is and started to look for a space on Pine Avenue.
"I have a metal smithing studio. I make silver and gold jewelry and use real stones – everything from amethyst to tourmaline – and set raw and finished stones."
She also carries accessories; beach jewelry; handbags, each of a different design; the embroidered AMI kitchen towel made by a friend; and her children's book, "The Adventures of Rusty and Hazel."
"I have written all my life," she explained, "and I decided to write a children's book. It was inspired by my granddaughter.
"It was published in December and was illustrated by Dee Pastorius. I'm working on a second adventure with the same characters plus a loggerhead turtle."
Shely said she is very happy to be on Pine Avenue and pointed out, "It's a mom and pop avenue. Everybody who owns their store works in their store.
"It gives it that hometown feeling and makes it special. Everybody who comes in here says they love Pine Avenue."
Store hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dogs for the Earth
308 Pine Ave.
This store has seriously gone to the dogs with all natural, eco friendly care and products for your favorite canine.
Co-owner Kathy Splawn, an animal behaviorist and nutritionist, is in charge of animal services, while co-owner Annie Weir, with degrees in fine and graphic arts, is in charge of art. While living in Naples, they began to look for a place there to open their store, but were unsuccessful.
"We took a holiday to regroup," Weir recalled, "and ended up on Anna Maria Island."
"We were in a coffee shop on Bridge Street and the server told us to go to Pine Avenue," Splawn added.
"We saw this building and fell in love," Weir continued. "It was like the one in our dreams on an eco-friendly street."
"It was important for us to be in this type of environment and to educate people to let their pets lead an eco-friendly life, like you and I," Splawn said.
The pair offers acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, holistic treatments for injuries and aches and pains, grooming, massage, human grade (no by-products), organic dog food, dehydrated organic dog treats and toys. An agility-training center is planned soon.
"Our grooming is a little different," Splawn noted. "We do them one at a time, and they get great attention. They also get a massage and aromatherapy."
Weir is in charge of the art that decorates the shop and is for sale and she explained. "It's all recycled, upcycled, eco-friendly, positive impact art. When you see it, it makes you feel good. We have a constant open call to artists."
An Earth Day Family Festival is planned for Sunday, April 22, from noon to 4 p.m. There will be representatives for product vendors, give-aways and an art and science contest for kids from grades K through 5.
Weir said they were particularly impressed that the building owners took great care to attract businesses that would serve the community and benefit the residents.
"They were very serious about that," Weir stressed. "We love being part of this – the greenest little main street in America – and we're here to help promote it and have that vision. We are delighted by the community."
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a closing day flexible between Sunday and Monday, depending on the dogs.
Relish Vintage and Artisan Boutique
505 Pine Ave.
This popular store has outgrown the historic Sears Cottage and will be moving in May to a new historic building, Angler's Inn, beside the Village Café at Rosedale and currently under renovation.
"I hope to stay open in my present location until after Food and Wine on Pine on May 5," owner Rhonda Grote said, "and hope to be open in the new location before Memorial Day, May 28."
In the new location, Grote will expand her most popular items such as vintage, upcycled and reclaimed designer brand clothing. Some of her currently featured artists will make the move, and she will add a culinary market.
"Relish Marketplace will be a resourceful living department store," Grote explained, " with eco-friendly housewares, creative cooking gifts and food. Five of my artists will have their own pop up shops that they can design."
"Sally McClure will partner with me in the culinary area. She will have her own pop up shop with high quality, hand crafted kitchen living merchandise."
Grote also plans on holding workshops with cooking demonstrations and serving locals' and visitors' entertainment needs.
"I will make some packaged foods like granola bars and chutneys and will offer made up picnic baskets for people to take to the beach or park," Grote said.
Watch The Sun for further information on Relish.