What’s going on downtown, Q&A with Venice MainStreet

What’s going on downtown, Q&A with Venice MainStreet

There is a lot happening downtown! Each time you blink something has changed. Venice MainStreet is committed to the Historic Preservation and Economic Vitality of Venice’s heart; downtown. We work closely with a variety of community partners to achieve this goal. Because in this day and age it takes a community to support a historic downtown. We wanted to share with you what is happening downtown now and what you can expect in the future. The hopes are you will help us by doing your holiday shopping downtown and continue supporting our heart while we transition into the future.

The Downton Beautification is an 8.4-million-dollar project initiated by the voter referendum to improve our city’s infrastructure. In fact, the downtown infrastructure greatly needed improvement. Our drainage, pipes and roads were built decades ago to serve a different need and it was time for an upgrade before they failed. During this project sidewalks, benches, trash cans and much of our landscaping will be improved as well. A pedestrian fence, ADA curbing, in pavement lighted midblock crosswalk sign and six new stop signs will be added in an effort to make our downtown safer and more friendly to everyone.

Through all of this downtown is OPEN for business and we need you to continue supporting the shops and restaurants. They are small businesses run by our neighbors. These are people who belong to our community and employ our local families. Thank you to those who have made the commitment to support them through the beautification and we hope those who haven’t yet will consider doing so. When it comes to our historic downtown we are all in this together and we need your help to keep the magic alive. Here are some frequently asked questions about the project and their answers.

Q. Are the shops and restaurants OPEN during Beautification project?
A. The answer is YES! We are open for business and can’t wait to see you downtown.

Q. Where can I park?
A. All downtown parking lots are open and we have plenty of parking available. A helpful hint: Until Christmas just drive into downtown via Tampa Ave and enter Centennial Park from there. You will have no trouble. Find other parking options at visitvenicefl.org/island-parking

Q. Where can I find the most up-to-date information on the project:
A. The city’s website hosts this. Visit www.venicegov.com under “I Want to” and then “Find Out More About the Downtown Beautification Project”. Also, regular email updates are sent regarding project activities. You can request to be added to the project email distribution list by sending your email address to Jennifer Dorning, Project Public Information Officer at Jennifer.Dorning@atkinsglobal.com. You can also reach her by phone at 239-338-7723.

Q. What streets are being affected?
A. The three main Avenues of downtown; Venice, Miami and Tampa. As well as Nokomis Avenue and Nassau Street.

Q. What has been done so far?
A. All the underground infrastructure has been completed on W Venice Ave. This was some of the most time consuming work. As of the beginning of November the shade trees, the sidewalk on the south side and the eastbound of W Venice Ave are near completion. The sidewalks are under construction on the north side of W Venice Ave with a plan for completion before Thanksgiving. Paving is scheduled on eastbound W Venice Ave, Nokomis Ave and the 300 block of Miami Ave before Thanksgiving. Westbound W Venice Ave and the 100/200 block of Miami Ave will be nearing completion prior to Christmas. Pedestrian access for your holiday shopping is being maintained to reach shops and restaurants.

Q. Will traffic patterns and sidewalks widths be changed with this project?
A. No. All traffic patterns will remain the same with 4-way stop signs being added to Tampa/Nokomis, Nassau/Venice and Nokomis/Venice Avenues for added safety. The sidewalk widths remain the same with added decorative paver borders along the curb.

Q. When will the Beautification be completed?
A. Venice and Miami Avenues are scheduled to have the majority of the work completed by Christmas when the focus will turn to Tampa Avenue. Final completion of the project is currently scheduled for March 2019. Remember, this is an estimate and dependent on many factors including weather.

Q. Why was this project started?
A. Two years ago the residents of Venice voted to upgrade and repave 74 miles of roadway and rehabilitate the downtown infrastructure, which had cracking roads, sidewalks and failing drainage infrastructure. To supplement funding, $2 million in grants were obtained.

Q. Why did they remove many of the palm trees?
A. Seventy-four the palm trees were removed. Most were severely diseased or wind damaged. They were at risk of falling over and would need to be replaced soon regardless of the project.

Q. Will they replace the palm trees?
A. Yes, over 370 new trees will be planted along Venice, Miami and Tampa Avenues. The new plantings include palm trees and shade trees along the sidewalks, too.

Q. Why are the crosswalks changing recently?
A. New federal mandates require the city to maintain proper crosswalks. It’s called ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance. Our new compliant crosswalks will be much safer for our community of all ages and activities. New pavers will also make them beautiful! The crosswalks will be completed as each avenue is completed.

Q. What will happen to the Holiday Parade and other events?
A. Regardless of the beautification project we have had many successful and fun events downtown through the summer and we will continue to do so. The Free Friday Night Concerts begin again on November 23rd and the Holiday Parade will be November 24th on Tampa Avenue.

Q. What can I do to help?
A. Shop downtown, dine downtown and tell your friends to do the same. If you have any questions call Venice MainStreet and we would be happy to point you in the right direction 941-484-6722. Check visitvenicefl.org for a calendar of happenings downtown.

Eyes Skyward

Eyes Skyward

by Marty Damon

The beachgoer in “Venice Girl,” Karen Chandler’s winning poster entry for the 31st Annual Venice Art Festival, might just be telling us we’ll all need shades for Venice’s bright future after the Downtown Beautification Project. Each year artists submit entries to the blind judging, hoping for their work to be chosen as that year’s signature image.

This year’s winner, Karen Chandler, is a professional artist who lives on the island of Venice and whose work can be enjoyed and purchased locally. She has been painting in oils over twenty-five years, and studied at the Stevenson Academy of Traditional Painting in New York, but her field of study has been anything but traditional. She went on to study design at the New York School of Visual Arts, and photography at the New York Institute of Technology, and she later included in her work acrylics and computer art.

Karen’s affiliations are as eclectic as her range of study. She is a member of the Society of Illustrators, providing illustrations for major publishers such as Simon and Schuster and Random House. She’s been associated with the NASA Space Art Program and Air Force Art Program since 1990, and her works hang at the Kennedy Space Center and the Pentagon. Her art is also in public and private collections across the country. Given her aeronautical connections, it’s especially appropriate that the figure in her winning entry, “Venice Girl,” stands in front of the dramatic Venice Beach Pavilion, with the wings of its concrete roof soaring skyward.

Prints, T-shirts, and tank tops of “Venice Girl” are all $20 each and are available for purchase at the Venice MainStreet office, 101 West Venice Avenue, Suite 23, Monday through Friday from 9–5pm. They’ll also be available at the Venice MainStreet booth at the 2019 downtown art and craft festivals. For more information call 941-484-6722

Downtown Reconstruction: We’re Still Open for Business!

Downtown Reconstruction: We’re Still Open for Business!

by Rod Nafziger, President Venice MainStreet

While the meaning of reconstruction is, “a thing that has been rebuilt after being damaged or destroyed,” heavy use certainly hasn’t destroyed our city, but it is time for renewal. Renewal is an opportunity to bring fresh life to something, to reinvigorate it and this is what will be witnessed by the entire community on the Avenues in our Historic Downtown District beginning in July.

Venice MainStreet is excited to experience this beautification transformation and we know you will be, too. Get out this summer and share the beautification with our businesses as they will be operating as normal during the reconstruction. Don’t worry, all the businesses will be accessible during construction, we will have plenty of parking for you as none of the large public lots will be affected and full road closures will only happen after 10pm.

Through the generous support of the Gulf Coast Foundation and the Venice Gondolier Sun, Venice MainStreet is proud to announce a “Summer of Love.” Residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy Venice’s renaissance first-hand. With Gulf Coast Foundation’s commitment to Venice MainStreet, Venice businesses will be able to participate in many of our promotions with no additional constraints to their marketing budgets. Venice MainStreet has instituted a robust “Summer of Love” marketing campaign.

We strongly encourage the community to support our local businesses and partake in the summer’s entertainment. Join us downtown on July 20th & 21st for the popular annual Christmas in July festivities. Stroll the holiday decorated avenues while you shop and dine. You may even sit next to Santa on the Trolley!

Enjoy a Wine Walk on August 16th and Barstool Open, August 25th, where your team can miniature golf around downtown. Followed by the September Craft Fair, Shoptember and the 3rd annual Venice Beach Party. Sip local brews at the Oktoberfest on the 4th of October. The 31st Annual November Art Festival, will surely be the perfect way to celebrate the beautification of Downtown Venice.

Venice MainStreet will be sharing work areas, progress and pictures of our renewed Avenues through the whole process. Like Venice MainStreet on Facebook. Be added to our email list to receive the Venice MainStreet weekly newsletter. Visit our revamped, mobile friendly website for easy access to key information at visitvenicefl.org.

The Icing on the Cake: VABI by Maria Baskin

The Icing on the Cake: VABI by Maria Baskin

“What’s living in Venice like for you?” I recently asked a group of friends. “Life is easier here,” one said as the others nodded in agreement. “But what makes it special?” l, “A sense of community. I feel I belong to a real town that cares how it develops, has history and appreciates the arts. I especially love what they’ve done with downtown Venice?” “That’s VABI,” I immediately responded. “VABI?” they asked.

VABI stands for Venice Area Beautification, Inc. a non-profit organization located west of the North Bridge. More than 150 volunteers, with the exception of one administrative assistant, are responsible for the selection, planting, and maintenance of those large potted plants, hanging baskets and the stone fountains overflowing with flowers all along W. Venice Avenue. The green shrubs and bushes on W. Venice are maintained by the Keep Venice Beautiful committee who is under the auspices of VABI. Keep your eyes out for the sculptures sprinkled around town in unexpected places. My favorite is still the one on the corner of W. Venice and Nokomis Avenues called “Maria’s Garden.”

”VABI is committed to making the Venice area a more beautiful place to live, work and play.” says Lynn Moseley, VP and chair of the Public Art Committee. VABI’s vision is to help build community in the greater Venice area by focusing on timeless projects that provide places to walk or sit and connect with nature. People can visit VABI’s latest beautification project up-lighting the banyan trees at Heritage Park along W. Venice Avenue. Create your own park adventure; pick up a map at the VABI office located at 257 N. Tamiami Trail for all 39 Venice parks.

In fact, the beautification work that VABI does is not just limited to downtown or the parks. In 2005 VABI put out a call to local artists to create murals in specific areas of Venice similar to the mural on the rear of the Gondolier building and at Venice Theatre. Another recent example is the Founders Walkway Mural leading from W. Venice to Miami Avenue. It is a lush green wooded painting by Joseph Barron called “Healing – The Enchanted Garden.”

VABI’s magic extends even beyond the island borders. Have you ever been to the Venetian Waterway Park that runs along both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway? It’s a VABI project and a must see. New park creations are in the works right at this very moment! The Ribbons Project is an ongoing effort to connect the bike trails from city of North Port to the city of Sarasota.

One of VABI’s main fundraising events each year is hosting a Christmas Boat Bash with a front row seat to view the Christmas Boat Parade. Also, at Christmas time VABI does a great job of getting residents and businesses in the spirit by allowing locals to adopt a tree at the Arboretum for free. It makes the traditional lighting of the tree at the Arboretum a spectacular event. But don’t wait for Christmas, visit the Arboretum now where VABI currently has four sculptures on display.

All this is made possible by the generous donations of our community. Please visit the VABI website at www.vabi.org, for donor possibilities and/or volunteer opportunities. Having an organization like VABI keeping our city beautiful – is like the icing on the cake we call paradise.

Hurricane Expo by Marty Damon

Hurricane Expo by Marty Damon

Hurricanes are usually known for their powers of destruction, but the opposite happened for Judy Braham when the Hurricane Expo blew into Venice last year. Her company, Gulfcoast Marketing Consultants, was created as a result of her work coordinating this first-time event.

The city of Venice had been providing hurricane preparedness information for over 30 years at City Hall. In 2017, after outgrowing their space, they kicked it up a notch. Partnering with the Venice Gondolier Sun, they formed a Hurricane Expo and moved it to the Venice Community Center, where there would be room for hurricane-related speakers, seminars and vendors. But to go from idea to reality, they needed a coordinator.
With Judy Braham’s background as an office manager, marketing representative, and her profile as an active community volunteer, it’s no surprise that she was asked to bring her organizational skills and networking abilities to launch Venice’s first Hurricane Expo.

   It all began when Judy sent a note to Tim Smolarick, publisher at the time of the Venice Gondolier Sun, commenting on a column he had written. He responded with, “Can you come in? I think I have a job for you.” Soon she was attending every marketing event around, spreading the word about the upcoming Expo. In the spring of 2017 the expanded combination of products, services, and educational seminars proved to be a success.
The Hurricane Expo returns this year, with Judy again at the helm. It will be held at the Venice Community Center, Friday May 4th and Saturday May 5th, and admission is free. There will be speakers from Florida Power and Light and ABC 7 meteorologist Bob Harrigan, and information at the tables of the Sarasota County Emergency Management, Suncoast Humane Society, American Red Cross, and many more.
When Judy was organizing the Expo, she recognized a problem for local business owners. A proprietor might want to reach out to the public, but was unable to leave his place of business to participate in a two-day event. Judy realized she could take her two years of experience planning the Hurricane Expo and three years of marketing in the health care field and create her own company. Gulfcoast Marketing Consultants was formed to help small businesses with event planning, networking, and image consulting, and to free up the owners to continue business as usual.     As an example of the range of services Gulfcoast Marketing offers, Judy will soon be networking on behalf of chiropractors Dr. Dennis Rhodes and Dr. Andrew Tilka of Venice Health Institute, and she’s already begun planning the upcoming Sand and Surf Festival to be held at Venice Train Depot and Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park on August 4th.

For more information about the Hurricane Expo, visit the Facebook page Hurricane Expo/Venice, FL
Also, check out Facebook Sand and Surf Festival.
For contact information on Gulfcoast Marketing Consultants – GulfcoastMktg@aol.com   941-445-2561

Freedom Boat Club Goes International by Heidi Reslow

Freedom Boat Club Goes International by Heidi Reslow

“Great family. Great friends. Great Community. Great Business,” says John Giglio, CEO of Freedom Boat Club, whose headquarters are right here on the Island of Venice. And he does not take it all for granted. “Every day I thank God for everything I have. I am so fortunate.”
So what’s a boat club and why join one?  We have all heard that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat, and the day he sells a boat. Introducing Freedom Boat Club (Freedom) – the number one private membership boat club in the USA.
“People understand the costs and logistics associated with boat ownership.  Freedom Boat Club takes all of that pain away,” explains Giglio.

Here’s how it works. There is a one-time entry fee to join Freedom, plus monthly dues. Freedom members have unlimited access to the club fleet and can choose from flats boats and fishing boats, to deckboats, bowriders, pontoons, sailboats and in some markets, cruisers. Think about it. You get to choose from a variety of boats without having to own one. There are no maintenance, service or storage fees. And here’s the pièce de résistance. Freedom members who join on a year round basis reap the added benefit of reciprocal access, and this is one of the most valued features of a membership with Freedom Boat Club.
“Our competitive advantage is reciprocity,” Giglio explains. “The small competitors cannot replicate what we have perfected. A Freedom member in Florida will have the same experience when they reserve a boat in Boston or San Diego. It should not be any different.”
So what is the secret recipe for a successful Freedom franchise? Equal parts interested boater franchisees, sustainable population in the right location, and ample marina space – then just add water. Key West, for example, is an active boating destination, but not a good fit for a future Freedom location due to the lack of a large residential population base. And while there are other boat clubs opening in Florida and nationwide, these are mainly small Mom & Pop shops and boat dealers who have a tough time competing against the successful Freedom business model.
Since becoming sole president and CEO in 2012, Giglio has been full throttle forward. Freedom’s membership and franchise business skyrocketed during the recession and continues to grow. Today Freedom Boa Club boasts 16,000 boaters in 150 locations across 30 states, 3 in Canada, and growing. Since it was first launched 29 years ago, Freedom has set the standard with its unique blend of a super-high level of customer service combined with well-maintained and impeccably clean boats. And Giglio is not greedy; he is willing to share the formula, but can the competition execute the formula?
As with every business, there are waves, hurdles and challenges, and Freedom is no different. Giglio describes it this way. “If I can’t add another slip, I can’t add another boat. If I can’t add another boat, I can’t add another member. Lack of marina space is the only thing that is slowing us down.”  To tackle this problem, Freedom has begun to acquire small and medium-sized marinas, from 10 slips in Casey Key to 110 slips in Naples, their largest marina yet. The sweet spot for Freedom are marinas with a 40-50 slip capacity that can easily be converted into a Freedom franchise.
Giglio says, “People are still buying boat memberships and people are still buying franchises. Business has not slowed down and we are not done yet; there is a lot more to do. He adds, “The great thing about this business is that there are not a lot of people doing it, and the private boating club concept translates across virtually every country.”
Prior to 2013, Freedom franchises extended as far west as Texas and the Great Lakes. In line with their 5-year plan, Giglio saw land ahoy in California first, followed by 2 locations in Vancouver and another on Canada’s east coast. Over the past 12 to 18 months, the company has been laying the groundwork for true international expansion.
Bienvenue Beneteau and Jeanneau, the largest boat manufacturers dans tout le monde (in the whole world). These boat moguls supply the Freedom fleets with the majority of their inventory. Last year, Jeanneau approached Freedom to expand its proven franchise model into Europe to meet the increasing demand for boat club membership.
Giglio lights up when he describes how it all came to fruition. “Jeanneau chased us and brought us to France because they have the vision and see the potential. The French boaters do not have the USA mindset of having to own their own boat. They are so far ahead of us in their culture of sharing, and we are so happy to be a part of the next evolution of this sharing philosophy.” Hence the Freedom-Jeanneau partnership was launched.

Le mariage with Jeanneau will provide Freedom with everything the company needs to expand internationally. The European Freedom franchises are able to source their fleets in Europe and this plays well into the hand of Jeanneau due to the Europeans’ acquired taste for a high quality of watercraft.
And if you ask overseas consumers what they like and want from the United States, the most often heard term is the “American lifestyle and fun”; in French terms, la joie de vivre. Thus, European Freedom members will be much more likely to plan their USA holidays around Freedom locations due to reciprocity factor. But even more so, France requires a rig-orous 30-day instructional course to receive a boating license, for a 6.5 meter or even a 40 meter boat; the process is the same. Thus, French Freedom members can seamlessly step on to a Freedom boat in any of the 50 states without any training prerequisite.
The rendez-vous with the Jeanneau management team earlier year was off the charts on the beaufort scale for Giglio and his group. By summer 2018, the first 5 French Freedom Boat Clubs are scheduled to open on the west coast of France, followed by other locations in France and across Europe.
Giglio is grateful to the Venice Community for its continued support and to Venice MainStreet for spreading the word about the people who live and work here. He says, “I don’t think a lot of people know the magnitude of our business. Our headquarters is right here in Venice, we have 250 employees, and we are now expanding internationally.” Giving back to the community is also very important to Giglio and his wife, Lisa, and they recently chaired the Black Tie Gala at the YMCA where Giglio serves on the board.
Are you ready to catch the Freedom wave from Florida to New England, from Texas to California?  Is it time for you to become a Freedom Boat Club member or a franchisee? Call Freedom Boat Club today at 888-781-7363 or visit the website at www.Freedomboatclub.com

Venice MainStreet Makes a Difference in our Community by Bob Cushing

Venice MainStreet Makes a Difference in our Community by Bob Cushing

Why did you fall in love with Venice?  Was it the way the city “felt” when you walked around?  I know I did. I loved the quaint buildings, the wide streets with medians filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers.  The buildings were different than the strip malls where I came from.  Did you know many of the buildings were built in 1926?  Many of our buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the entire downtown Plan!  Yes, downtown Venice is on the National Register of Historic Places – one of only 3 cities with that recognition – along with Savannah, GA, and Washington D.C.

Ok, so the City is historic – and old (at least   by Florida standards).  But it is more than that – it has that magical feel of a town where you dreamed of living.  Did you know that the downtown we enjoy now was not always that way?  Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, many of our downtown shops were vacant, and those still in business were tee shirt shops and tattoo parlors.  There were very few restaurants and clothing stores.  That was when a group of concerned folks started Venice MainStreet, an organization devoted to building up the economic vitality of downtown.  Now, over 30 years later, we have helped shape downtown Venice to what it is today.

Venice is:
Vibrant – With its wide range of shops, restaurants, and businesses, all within walking distance of a beautiful beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Not many downtowns can offer that.

Beautiful- Parks abound within the historic district and around the city. John Nolen, the renowned city planner of his era, wanted a park within walking distance of all residents.  We have over 30 parks to enjoy.

Walkable – The sidewalks are wide, walkers stroll in front of store fronts and meander in and shop.  The buildings are 3 stories tall, not like walking in the canyons of other towns.  The entire downtown district is 9 blocks.  In fact, our city with its distinguished heritage is becoming the city plan of the future, called New Urbanism.

Enjoy the:
Lifestyle – This city has a group of very engaged volunteers. We have a vested interest in its future and we help to get things done. We helped create the iconic Venice gateway arch, design the Children’s Intergenerational Fountain in Centennial Park, and we sponsor events and music.  We help make this city what it is – now and in the future – by remembering our past.

However, we cannot do it alone.  We need volunteers, and you can become Community Partners of Venice MainStreet.  By joining, you will hear about our plans and upcoming events.  You can participate and become engaged in the community.  The annual cost is $35 for an individual member and $50 for a family membership.
You can also support Venice MainStreet by purchasing the 30th Annual Downtown Venice Art Festival poster for only $20 or by designating a brick in a loved one’s honor to be placed around the Intergenerational Fountain for $100.  All proceeds benefit Venice MainStreet.

Please join now and help keep Venice the town you fell in love with.  I did…

Venice MainStreet contact information:
Website:  www.VisitVeniceFL.org
Tel #: (941) 484-6722

The Historic Venice Train Depot:  A Legacy  by Maria Baskin

The Historic Venice Train Depot: A Legacy by Maria Baskin

Every Christmas after our house is all decorated, I place the family’s wooden train set under the tree. I purchased the set for my now thirty-six-year old son, Jonathan, when he was little. I have continued the tradition of placing it under the tree because even though he is grown, the childhood memories linger.

Venice has its own history with trains going back to when our city was first established. You will find the 1927 Historic Venice Train Depot, the only surviving passenger station in Sarasota County, has had and still has some interesting stories to tell. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the Train Depot is located north of the Venice Avenue bridge in the Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park. The sun-tanned yellow Depot building is connected to an arched covered passenger waiting area complete with wood benches. Sitting underneath the arches felt as though I was entering a Renaissance abbey. I recently learned from the Chair of the Depot Committee of the Venice Area Historical Society (VAHS), George Miller, that the architecture is Mediterranean Revival. It is a perfect place to relax or go on a tour and find out some fun facts about who was instrumental in bringing the Depot to Venice and how it has evolved over decades.

In 2003, a group of trained docents from the VAHS began giving tours of the Depot building and the campus. Here are some of the questions about the Depot you may or may not know the answers to:
•    The Depot was not always at its current location. Who built the first Depot and where was it located?
•    In the late twenties Venice became a ghost town. Do you know why?
•    The Depot was built with two waiting rooms. Do you know why?
•    What do the Kentucky Military Institute, the U.S. Army and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have in common?
•    Who was Gunther Gebel-Williams? (Think tigers.)
•    The Depot closed in 1975, and the building fell into disrepair. Who purchased it in 1999 and brought it back to life?
•    The original Depot cost $47,500. Can you guess how much the renovation cost?

Plans to preserve the Depot’s circus train heritage are under way. A retired circus rail car has already been purchased from the Florida Railroad Museum. Once renovations are finished, the car will be divided into different sections which will display the lifestyles of circus performers. Exhibits in a central display area will showcase key aspects of Venice’s circus history. This rail car will only enhance the synergy among the Depot campus, Legacy Park, Legacy Trail and the Venetian Waterway.

Take advantage of this treasure in our city with a tour tailored to your interest from as little as 15 minutes to as much as 45 minutes.

Year-round – Saturdays between 10am-1:00pm
November – April
Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays 10am – 3:00pm

Eat, Walk, Learn – A New Way to Explore Downtown Venice by Heidi Reslow

Eat, Walk, Learn – A New Way to Explore Downtown Venice by Heidi Reslow

We invite you, the reader, to embark on a Historical Culinary Walking Tour presented by Venice Culinary Tours.  Guests gather under the clock at the Venice MainStreet kiosk in Centennial Park, don their special name tag, and make introductions all around.  Once everyone is acquainted, a trained tour guide will take you on a leisurely three hour walking tour, complete with rest stops.  Full time residents, part time snowbirds, guests, and visitors from near and far will enjoy this one-of-a-kind tour.

Your guide will give you an in-depth history of Venice, including John Nolen’s plan to effectively balance his design between two transcendental ideals: civic and nature.  As guests stroll through the City on the Gulf, they will learn about Venice’s unique architecture, its folk lore and hear amusing stories about its host of characters!  The tour will lead the group to four restaurants and two foodie specialty shops.  Guests will receive all kinds of informative tidbits along the route with a few surprise stops.  What better way to spend an afternoon in the company of new friends and being filled up with great food and learning something new about Venice!

Our experienced tour guides are chosen for their knowledge of the area as well as their love of food and all things culinary.  They provide an entertaining and memorable event coupled with cuisine samplings to delight everyone’s palate.  What a great way for family and friends to spend quality time together.  Venice Culinary Tours is sure to exceed your expectations, whether you are a newcomer to Venice or a long-time resident.

Founder Susan Robinson and Venice Tour Manager Gabe Levinson started Key Culinary Tours in Sarasota and expanded their culinary offering to include Venice because of its rich history and tradition.  “Thousands of people stroll the unique shops and gourmet restaurants each day,” says Susan, “and Venice is one of the most charming downtowns in Florida, and arguably the world.”

Robinson had a concierge business in Sarasota, and received numerous calls for historical tours of Sarasota.  To meet the needs of her customers and their inquiries, she decided to create her own tours.  First, she and her husband went to Miami and in the course of three hours, she learned about one select neighborhood and enjoyed fabulous Cuban food. Her business partner Gabe Levinson is an architect originally from New York whose second love is food. Attracted by the weather, beaches, and architect structures, Levinson moved to Venice five years ago, met Robinson, and together they created Key Culinary Tours.

A recent Culinary Tour Guest myself, I can attest to Levinson’s love of Venice.  He shares his passion about John Nolen’s master design for Venice and brings to life the buildings of Venice like no one else can.

“One recent culinary guest,” Levinson relays, “has lived in Venice for over forty years.  As she listened intently about the Ringling Circus parading through the streets of Venice, she told me that it happened exactly as I described.  This was a walk down memory lane for her, and she could picture it just the way I imaginatively conveyed it on the tour.  For me, it was wonderful to have someone on the tour who actually went to the parade and experienced it in its heyday.”

Tour guests continue to rave about their experience.  Livvy Faford had this to say. “The Venice Key Culinary Tour was an afternoon of interesting historical facts about our beautiful city of Venice.  It was fun to try several new restaurants that were part of the tour and we enjoyed the stops at several specialty shops” And friend Nancy Spokowski adds, “As relatively new residents, my husband and I enjoyed hearing various interesting pieces of historical information about Venice from our guide.”

The Venetian tour has been operating since December, and is a great way to try new local restaurants, meet the restauranteurs, and experience the cuisine.  The restaurant always showcases a signature dish on the tour.  An international tour is already established in Sarasota and the Robinson-Levinson team is looking to add an international tour to the Venice tour menu.  Other ideas are in the works as well, including a shark and artifact finding tour geared toward families with a guide to show folks the best place to find their treasures.

For Robinson, she wants people to embrace Venice on both a culinary and historical level.  “We are thrilled to be here and strive to offer an authentic experience to the community.  Sarasota serves as a template for other types of tours, including a Happy Hour themed tour, and Venice equally lends itself for similar types of tours.  Gabe and I continue to fine tune our tour offerings, while maintaining the same quality and consistency.  And through our business partnership with Venice MainStreet, we are able to connect the community with restaurant and destination partners.”

Tour participants will come away with their heads filled with history and their stomachs filled with delectable delights.  A double whammy at an affordable price of $65.00 per person.  Tours run Tuesdays through Fridays from 2pm to 5pm.  To reserve your space on a tour, please call 941-893-4664 or visit www.keyculinarytours.com


TriMonsters: The Team Sport Any Kid Can Do by Heidi Reslow

TriMonsters: The Team Sport Any Kid Can Do by Heidi Reslow

Following their first steps, toddlers will soon take off to scampering through the house beginning their lifelong quest to explore every nook and cranny.  Next comes the tricycle to the bicycle stage, complete with scrapes and bruises.  And finally, living in the Sunshine State with water all around, every kid should be able to swim, from a safety standpoint.  And there you have it, the recipe for the TriMonsters Venice Youth Triathlon Team.

The TriMonsters’ mission is to educate, inspire and empower youth about the sport of triathlon.  Parents are encouraged to introduce their children to the fastest growing sport in the U.S.  Compared to traditional youth sports like soccer, football, baseball, and basketball, the triathlon offers an individual sport within a team atmosphere.  Kids can practice on their own, on their own time, in their own space. Unlike other team sports, a triathlon is made up of different disciplines, and requires efficiency in many skill sets.

Coach Deb Peters’ credentials are extensive.  She is a USAT Certified Level 1 and Youth & Junior Triathlon Coach.  Peters is a member of ACE – American Council on Exercise, a Certified Personal Trainer, and a Certified Health Coach.  She is also the Florida Regional Youth Coordinator for the USA Triathlon.

Focused on family fitness, Peters came up with the idea in 2014 to add youth triathlon in to her DP Fitness adult business.  She placed a little ad in the local paper, and seven kids signed up.  TriMonsters is now going in to their 5th season and were the 2016 Regional Champions.

Peters explains, “Participation in youth triathlons can start a lifelong passion for a multisport lifestyle and healthy living.  We welcome the opportunity for parents to let us teach their children important life skills through the sport of triathlon!”

She continues, “We focus on safety first and always. Although the kids do compete, our priority is on technique and skills.  The kids develop healthy habits, strengthen camaraderie relationships, put their best foot forward, and just plain have fun.”

The great thing about training for and competing in a Triathlon is that people can do this from the time they start as a kid until they are well into retirement age.  Tom Brady may be the greatest quarterback of all time, but how much longer will he appear on the professional field?

So what motivates the kids to come?  Coach Deb will meet a parent out and about in the community, and explain the concept of TriMonsters. The Triathlon is a relatively new sport for kids, and once adults understand what TriMonsters is all about and that it is for kids, the lightbulb goes off, they see the benefit, and enroll their kids. TriMonsters offers a one-time complimentary 1 ½ hour practice, and invites kids to give it a try.  When the newcomers see the other kids swimming, biking and running, they want to join in on the fun and become part of the team.

Then the transition occurs, and the kids encourage their parents to start training.  Deb says, “I see this all of the time.  Now more parents are getting involved so that they can experience the same things that their kids are doing.  Just like their kids, the parents learn critical thinking, discipline, goal setting, self-confidence, capacity to push themselves to the next level, and to work their hardest.”

TriMonsters caters to kids aged 5 to 15.  The Trimonsters triathlon season runs from March to September, and kids have the option to participate in four or five triathlons during the season.  Training takes place on the weekend, one day for just 1 ½ hours.  One prerequisite is that the kids have to know how to swim. Safety is a priority, and a lot of focus is on swimming because all of the confidence is built in the water.  Plus, the kids learn all about the tides, meaning of the flag colors, open water safety, and the ocean life.

The triathlons are age specific distances.  The 5-10 year olds swim 100 yards, bike 3 miles, and run a half mile.  At age 11, the distance doubles, which presents a new challenge for those aging up.

All of the kids, regardless of their age, have to know what to do without any assistance.  Let me walk you through the event.  You arrive at the venue race in the morning.  You push your bike into transition, all alone, and find your spot.  You set up your bike, lay down your towel, put your shoes and socks there, grab your cap and goggles, and head to the water.  You swim your race distance, exit the water, remove your cap and goggles, and run towards transition, where your bike and shoes are.  As you enter transition you have to find your bike amongst rows of other bikes, sometimes, hundreds.  You find your bike, put your helmet on, grab your bike and push it out of transition, then get on, and off you go.  After completing your ride, you head back to transition, find your spot to re-rack your bike, and then head off running to the finish line. Now imagine, a five year old doing this!  Scary and tough for an adult.  Come out and see for yourself the determination, grit and character of these kids hard at work.

Deb says, “The kids are so proud when they finish.  No one can take away their accomplishments and their feeling of pride.  Some moms tell me that the kids will not wash off their race number written on their arm for days for it is like a badge of honor.”

Are your kids ready to be part of the sport of Triathlon? Are they ready to learn the team motto: Be Safe! Have Fun! Be Awesome!  To sign up, please call TriMonsters Head Coach, Deb Peters at 813 731 8767.  A phone call is a must, as there are pre-intake questions.  We look forward to teaching you and your children about triathlon!