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Orchestrating the Eggstravaganza is Fun for All Involved

The Annual Eggstravaganza Easter Egg Hunt, planned for Centennial Park on Saturday, April 15, 9:30am creates excitement for all ages.  The festivities culminate with over 500 happy, giggly children eagerly tripping over the coattails of the Easter Bunny and each other as they rush to scoop up 7,000 Easter eggs. The volunteers with their big smiles and extra-big hearts jockey for position to guide the children to find colorful eggs.

Managing this year’s Eggstravaganza, is Venice MainStreet’s Nick Sperry. Sperry is the Event Coordinator for this popular annual gooey sugar-fest. Planning starts early with the purchase of 7,000 plastic eggs that will hold candy, toys, or prizes provided by local merchants.

2017 Eggstravaganza JPEG

Each year in Venice’s Centennial Park, Venice MainStreet along with the members of Venice Lions Club set out those 7,000 eggs for different age groups – 1 day to 2 years, 3-4 years, 5-7 years, and 8 and up. “This event is popular with the members of the Venice Lions Club,” says Shelley Devine, project chair of the event. “Our members are delighted to hide the eggs, then help the little ones to make sure all are happy.”  

Just before the hunt begins, the Easter Bunny and volunteers from The Warehouse arrive to lead the eager children in song and dance, sure to include the popular Macarena. Music and entertainment provided by Venice’s very own Don Hay and Kathy Lehner, who brings extra fun to the event with her Easter themed jokes.

This year’s major sponsor, Modern Woodmen of America, is happy to participate in this popular Spring event. “Our support of this project is paid back to us in the pleasure of watching the kids grab those eggs,” says Casey Bolam of Modern Woodmen of America, “and in taking part in an event that means so much to community. It is a privilege to be a part of the Eggstravaganza.”

Erin Silk, Director of Venice MainStreet, reminds parents to bring baskets for the children and to arrive early to enjoy the entertainment. For more information on the event, phone Venice MainStreet at 941-484-6722.

A Community Treasure Marks Its 70th Anniversary


The entire Venice MainStreet family congratulates the Venice Lions Club on their 70th Anniversary. Since 1947 this service club, one of the first in our community, has been providing needed services, mainly

 focused on those needy citizens who have issues with their sight. 

Venice Lions hold a monthly clinic where those in need receive primary health screening, diabetes blood sugar testing, a complete vision screening, a thorough hearing test plus free glasses, free hearing aids, even free eye surgery if needed. They collect about 24,000 used eyeglasses in our area which are then cleaned, calibrated and sent to underdeveloped countries for distribution to those in need. Hearing aids are also collected, and brand new state-of-the-art hearing aids are fitted to those in need. These free services are provided by this 52-member club.

But wait, there are more reasons Venice MainStreet is excited about the Venice Lions.

Every Spring for years, along with Venice MainStreet, the Venice Lions Club has managed the wildly popular Easter Eggstravaganza at the Gazebo. Some 7,000 eggs are distributed, some with prizes, some with toys, some with candy. Children line up an hour ahead of time for this annual event. Mark your calendars for April 15th for this year’s Eggstravaganza!

Then, in the Fall, ghosts and goblins roam downtown Venice in the annual Halloween Parade, which the Venice Lions have hosted since its inception. This gala parade features hundreds of kids dressed up in their best costumes, accompanied by costumed adults – all to the delight of hundreds of watching parents and grandparents.

These events contribute to the wonderful community atmosphere that characterizes Venice, a great place to live, work, play and shop.

There is another service the Lions provide that makes Venice the wonderful town it is -- for 68 years the Venice Lions Club has sponsored a Little League team. Once a year, on Opening Day, club members work the concession stand at the Little League park so that parents of the players can attend the festivities.

Add a regular Waterway Clean-Up, the popular Shark Tooth Scramble at the Shark Tooth Festival, and you have a vital, valuable and respected community service organization.

So, Venice MainStreet salutes Venice Lions Club for 70 years of service – and we look forward to more from this dedicated group of citizens in the future.

For more information on the Venice Lions Club visit

VMS & VHI to Be Recognized

John Nolen2

Venice MainStreet and Venice Heritage Inc will be recognized by the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County at an Awards Luncheon on Saturday, February 25th. 

At its first Awards Luncheon, the Coalition will recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the preservation and understanding of Sarasota County's prehistoric and historical resources. Besides honoring those who have devoted themselves to maintaining the integrity of our remaining architectural, archaeological, and historical assets and educating the public to their importance, the Heritage Awards aim to raise the level of public support for governmental and citizen-based efforts to preserve our common past so future generations may learn from it.

Venice Heritage Inc and Venice MainStreet have been awarded the Public Education Award for their joint project to install sign toppers on city street posts to identify the "John Nolen Plan of Venice Historic District" that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 8, 2010.

Following are the four award categories that will be presented on February 25th:
HISTORICAL RESEARCH: Contributions through research and publication to increase knowledge of Sarasota County's past.
PUBLIC EDUCATION: Programs or individual efforts to inform the public about Sarasota County's history and its significance.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONSERVANCY: Work to preserve and document prehistoric sites and/or effective advocacy of archaeological conservation.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Efforts to preserve historical sites and/or effective advocacy of historical preservation efforts in the county.

John Nolen planned Venice in 1926. Staying true to that plan has helped Venice maintain its charm and livability. Erin Silk, Executive Director of Venice MainStreet said, “Venice MainStreet is proud to partner with Venice Heritage Inc on this project. The sign toppers have been a nice addition to our community, showing the pride we have for the John Nolen Plan, which sets us apart from other communities.”

Venice MainStreet Seeks Administrative Assistant


Assists Executive Director, Venice MainStreet, by performing administrative and office support activities. Duties may include fielding telephone calls, receiving and directing visitors, word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations, and filing. Basic software skills, internet research abilities and strong communication skills are required. This position reports directly to the Executive Director.

At least three years in an administrative assistant role required. Experience with the following is a priority: Graphic design, proof reading, Microsoft Office software: Word, Excel, Outlook etc.


• Answer phone and email requests
• Alongside the Executive Director and Events Coordinator, support events and fundraisers
• Writing press releases and newspaper articles
• Develop flyers and event materials
• Schedule meetings
• Take clear notes
• Coordinate volunteers
• Works to build goodwill between downtown merchants and VMS
• Other duties to be determined by the Executive Director

• Actively solicits new partners
• Finds and develops new premium level, yearly sponsors

• Communication skills - written and verbal
• Planning and organizing
• Attention to detail
• Customer service orientated

• 25 hours per week
• Starting right away

Please email a cover letter and resume to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SRQ Mural Image Cropped

Venice MainStreet, Inc. is a community and volunteer driven 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to the mission of promoting economic vitality, historic preservation and beautification, and enhancement of the character of our Historic Downtown Venice community.

In support of that mission, Venice MainStreet, along with the help of supporting grants from Visit Florida, the Ehrhart Family Foundation and our advertising partners, has installed a mural entitled “Venice Is” at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) sharing all the various amenities Venice has to offer visitors and the community.

At the dimension of seven (7) feet in height and eighty-five (85) feet in length, the “Venice Is” mural is displayed prominently in the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport Baggage Claim area, number 2.

Sarasota International Airport reports serving more than 1.3 Million air travelers yearly. Enticing those travelers to visit our historic downtown Venice will have great economic impact on the community at large. Venice MainStreet is proud to have the opportunity to present “Venice Is” to such a diverse and enthusiastic group of regional travelers.

If you would like more information about our project, please contact Erin Silk, Executive Director
at Venice MainStreet, Inc. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


CaptureVenice MainStreet is proud to announce and welcome Nick Sperry as Events & Partnership Coordinator for the organization. Sperry will be responsible for organizing and conducting not only Venice MainStreet’s scheduled yearly events, such as, Eggstravaganza, Christmas in July, Children’s Halloween Parade and the Venice Blues Festival, as well as seek to expand Venice MainStreet community partnerships. 

Sperry brings with him six years of experience in music production and management from his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, where he studied jazz performance at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield and Western Illinois University. He was talent and stage manager with Downtown Springfield and worked with both regional and national acts. He plans to bring national talent to Venice, not only in the capacity of organizing and booking artists for Venice MainStreet’s annual Venice Blues Festival, but by offering professional acts for other occasions. Nick is a prominent musician in Southwest Florida, as well as a touring musician.

Along with Production Management skills, Nick spent the last year with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce honing his organizational skills for that local community. “We are excited to have Nick join our team,” says Executive Director, Erin Silk. “He is knowledgeable in creating new and exciting event ideas that bring people, music and joy together. We also look forward to his expertise in increasing relationships with merchants, benefactors and the community at large. We are excited to have him on-staff.”

Since 1987, Venice MainStreet has been a volunteer driven, nonprofit organization working to enhance the quality of life in our community by preserving, protecting and promoting historic downtown Venice. It is part of Main Street AmericaTM, which is made up of people who are passionate advocates, dedicated volunteers, influential stakeholders and community organizers who work every day to turn the tide in their communities - catalyzing reinvestment, creating jobs, and fostering pride of place in our small town communities.

2016 Children's Art Show Winners


Each year the November Art Festival hosts a Children's Art Show. Chaired by the very dedicated and hardworking Sister Maureen of Stillpoint Studios (, area students display their artwork for a chance to win the show. We are proud to announce the winners here. Congratulations to all our talented local students.

November 5-6, 2016

BEST OF SHOW MacKenzie Reiss, Venice High School
PEOPLES CHOICE MacKenzie Reiss, Venice High School

1st PLACE Rylee McEachin, North Port High School
Zachary Kralik, North Port High School
Paola Angeles Lopez, Venice High School
2nd PLACE Madison Miller, Pine View High School
Giavanna Bassi, Venice High School
Evianna Gianopoulas, Pine View High School

1st PLACE McKayla Cantrell, Epiphany Catholic Middle School
2nd PLACE Jacob Hyer, Student Leadership Academy

1st PLACE Austin Maksimowicz, Venice Elementary School
Xkye Cordero, Venice Elementary School
2nd PLACE Lily Fessenden, Venice Elementary School
Olivia Whittaker, Venice Elementary School

Hnat Ho, Venice High School
Davidson Jean, Baptiste North Port High School
Elena Jones, Laurel-Nokomis Middle School
Samantha Lippencoff, Laurel-Nokomis Middle School

The Peoples’ Choice award is new and was made possible by a sponsor from out of state,
Jim Morog. 242 people voted.

Venice Elementary
Venice High
Laurel-Nokomis Middle
Taylor Ranch
Epiphany Cathedral
North Port High
Heron Creek Middle
Pine View High
Student Leadership Academy

4th Annual Venice Blues Festival

Blues Fest 2015From its very beginning in 2013, it was the goal of Venice MainStreet’s to create one of the most premier Blues Festivals in SW Florida attracting quality, internationally renowned musicians. Bringing audiences of thousands, the Venice Blues Festival has become just what we imaged.

The event benefits Venice MainStreet and the Venice High School Band. It is the intention of Venice MainStreet to highlight and support the Venice business community while bringing international talent to our little slice of paradise. Café Venice, Sharky’s, Sonny’s, and Brew Burgers will be selling food that day while our sponsors include Tervis Tumbler, Fifth Third Bank, Venice Regional Bayfront Health, James Griffith Salon, and Applebees.

We are excited to announce that the multi-talented Grammy Award- winning blues artist, producer, composer and actor Chris Thomas King will be performing on stage at the festival along with a list of other great Blues musicians. King was chosen by the Coen brothers to play the role of itinerant bluesman Tommy Johnson alongside George Clooney in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).” Larger than life on the silver screen, Chris Thomas King, acoustic guitar in hand, captivates audiences the world over with his authenticity as a folk blues artist and promises to deliver the same to our Venice audience.

Also on the bill is Robert Sampson, from Jacksonville IL, a The Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge finalist and, the legendary blues artist Lazy Lester. Lester is the last of the true Louisiana born blues masters who has made a significant impact on the Blues and Rock and Roll that we listen to today. Back when blues was king and South Louisiana was the breeding ground for a blast of some of the most memorable American music ever recorded, Lazy Lester was at the heart of it all.

Here’s your Blues Festival lineup…
11-12pm Mike Imbasciani
12:15-1:15pm Lisa Ridings
1:30-2:30pm Doug Deming
2:45-4pm Chris Thomas King
4:15-5:45pm Lazy Lester

The evening before the Blues Festival, Friday, November 18th, downtown and along Miami Avenue, we will host the Blues Crawl and Block Party as a free pre-party to the Venice Blues Festival. There you will find local Blues musicians at the Centennial Park Gazebo, in bars and eateries. The 200 block of Miami Ave will also be closed down for a block party with a stage and a beer and wine vendor from 5:00 pm to 10:00pm. If you can’t get enough Blues we will end the festivities with a Venice Blues Festival After Party Jam at the Venice Community Center, November 19th 7-11pm, where internationally known Harmonica Player Hurricane Hawk and The Invaders will perform. Entrance is $5 at the door.

We're Hiring! Events & Membership Coordinator


Assists Executive Director, Venice MainStreet, its Board, staff and volunteers in producing special events, fundraisers, and other activities. Coordinate, assist and staff special events and fundraisers sponsored by VMS. Actively solicits new members and yearly sponsorships. This position reports directly to the Executive Director.

At least three years coordinating special events is required. Experience with the following is a priority: Social Media, graphic design, Microsoft Office software: Word, Excel, Outlook etc.

• Coordinates with the Executive Director and plans a number of events throughout the year, including downtown promotions, special events, and fundraisers already on VMS yearly calendar. These include: Three Craft Festivals and two Art Festivals, Eggstravaganza Easter Egg Hunt, Two Sidewalk Sales, Christmas in July, Christmas Walk, themed Thursdays Downtown, Fashion Show, Venice Blues Crawl and Blues Festival.
• Alongside the Executive Director, develop new events and fundraisers.
• Creates, attends and participates in VMS committee meetings as necessary.
• Secures necessary permits from City, County, or any other appropriate governing entity.
• Determine event advertising needs and budget
• Oversees volunteer staff scheduling, training and appreciation
• Acquire event sponsors and marketing partners
• Develops and maintains an appropriate data system for record keeping; develops and monitors event budgets; acquires bids for event equipment rental and/or purchasing needs; prepares post event reports and event books; prepares sponsor post event report, tracks volunteer hours, etc.
• Tracks and follows through on VMS obligations to marketing partners and event sponsors
• Works to build goodwill between downtown merchants and VMS

• Actively solicits new members
• Finds and develops new premium level, yearly sponsors
• Other duties and activities as determined by the Executive Director

• Full time
• Start date is January 2, 2017
• Available evenings and weekends
• Must be able to lift over 25lbs and stand for long periods of time in all weather conditions

Please email a cover letter and resume to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A Home for History

A little more than a decade ago, Venice was at risk of losing a valuable piece of its history. A two-story Queen Anne Victorian-style house, constructed in 1896, was in disrepair and on the verge of being demolished. A small band of volunteers stepped forward and began restoring the house. And the City of Venice agreed to acquire the house and have it moved to public property behind City Hall.Lord Higel

Over the years, those volunteers have raised about $400,000 and donated thousands of hours of labor to completely restoring the building’s exterior. Work is currently underway to complete restoration of the building’s interior as well as construct an outside ADA-approved restroom and access ramp. The goal is to complete restoration of the house in time for Venice’s 90th anniversary on May 9, 2017.

The two-story house is the second oldest residence in Sarasota County. What sets it apart in addition to its architectural significance, however, is the unique role it played in our city’s history. The house was constructed by Joseph Lord in the midst of his 90-acre orange grove, which was located on the south bank of Roberts Bay. Lord played a major role in the development of the area. He eventually owned more than 50,000 acres of what would become South Sarasota County. Perhaps his most significant contribution to the local economy, however, occurred when he took out a small advertisement in a Chicago newspaper, touting the opportunities for investment in the area. His ad caught the attention of a wealthy widow named Bertha Palmer, who sailed into Sarasota Bay in 1910 for a closer look. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1910, George and Abigail Higel moved their family into the house. In addition to managing Lord’s orange grove, George also wrote a regular column for a Sarasota newspaper, which today provides us much of what we know about life in the Venice area during those formative years.
Once restored, the first floor of the Lord-Higel House will serve as an early settler museum and welcome center. Visitors will be able to relax on rocking chairs lining the wrap-around porch while school children can experience first-hand what it was like to live in the area at the turn of the 20th Century. As part of the City’s Venice Museum & Archives, the historic house will be operated by volunteer docents as the Triangle Inn is today.

Please join us in restoring this historic treasure. A special Lord-Higel House Restoration Fund has been established by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and can be accessed at: Or, you can mail your tax-free donation to Venice Heritage at P.O. Box 1190, Venice, Florida, 34284-1190. Together, we can make this vision for Venice’s future a reality.

29th Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest Call To Artist

November 5 & 6, 2016

Official Poster Design Contest

Venice MainStreet, Inc. is holding a contest for the 29th Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest official poster design. The artist selected by the Design Committee will be awarded $500 for their design, along with a booth at the festival ($500 value, for a prize package worth $1,000). The winning design will be featured as the official poster, which will be showcased on merchandise* and in advertising**. The winner must be available for an unveiling event on the evening of Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

• Original (unframed) artwork must be delivered to Collector’s Gallery and Framery (114 South Nokomis Avenue) by 5pm on Saturday, September 17, 2016 (Framery will be closed 8/29-9/10).
• The winner must also submit a high-resolution editable, working digital file (for poster and merchandise production).
• Finished poster size will be 22” x 28” (original does not need to be the same size).
• Image must include at least one of “flora imagery typical of Venice.” (Copy that will be incorporated into the poster/merchandise will include “29th Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest”).

*the design will be showcased on other merchandise, along with the t-shirts.
**the design will be utilized in advertising done by Venice MainStreet, Inc. Any advertising done by Howard Alan Events may not include the design.

About the Downtown Venice Art Fest
The Downtown Venice Art Fest is one of the area’s largest and finest art shows. Thousands of visitors kick-off season with this Howard Alan event that takes place along Venice Avenue in beautiful, historic downtown Venice. For more information, please call Venice MainStreet at 941.484.6722. Find out more about Howard Alan Events at

Please include the following information with your submission:
City, State, Zip
Entry Title

Release: If the design I have submitted to the 2016 (29th Annual) Downtown Venice Art Fest Poster Design Contest is selected as the winning entry, Venice MainStreet and Howard Alan Events have the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, and distribute copies of the work. The original can be sold by me (the artist). In exchange for reproduction rights and preparation of high-resolution digital file, I will receive $500 and a booth at the festival.

Venice MainStreet Receives Business of The Year: Nonprofit

Venice MainStreet is pleased to have been chosen as a "Gem of Venice" in the 37th annual Venice Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year awards. The recognition of Venice MainStreet's efforts in economic vitlaity and historic preservation is greatly apprieciated. BOTY

New to Venice: Living Canvas - Not your typical “tattoo shop”

By Rob Hamilton, Owner / Professional PiercerLiving Canvas 2

When I decided the time had come to open my own tattoo studio, I couldn’t think of a better location than the art rich atmosphere on the Island of Venice. I wanted to be located in the heart of the community I had come to know and love. After months of speaking and meeting with zoning officials, we were finally able to find a great location just a few blocks away from W Venice Ave. I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming joy that came with knowing we would be the first and only tattoo studio on the Island. Nonetheless, I knew this came with great responsibility.

Our studio needed to be more than your basic “tattoo shop”. It became very important to me to be able to overcome the stigma that surrounds the industry. We developed and implemented a business plan that created a true family friendly Art, Tattoo, and Piercing Studio. We created a warm, clean, and inviting studio so that we can serve people from all walks of life in the City of Venice, whether they are 6 or 96.

I am truly overwhelmed by the support we had at our ribbon cutting ceremony. We had over 70 clients, business owners, community leaders, friends, and family that came out to welcome us to the Island. Their positive words and feedback about our studio were more than we could have ever hoped for. This was affirmation that we had made the right decision by opening on the Island and creating a different kind of environment than most tattoo shops.
However, opening on the Island was about more than that. We joined, and became very active in, the Chamber of Commerce, the Venice Area Young Professionals, Venice MainStreet, and a local BNI chapter (Money in the Morning), and jumped on every opportunity we could to get involved. Our mission is not only to provide a unique experience in the studio, but also, to give back to the community that has already shown us so much support.

One of the most important ways we give back is by giving local artists a place to display and sell their works of art without the high consignment fees (usually 40-50%) that most galleries charge. We proudly display art from eight different local artists with plans to incorporate work from many more in the years to come. This also allows us the opportunity to host charity art events benefitting small, local nonprofits through Beauty and the Beards Charities, Inc. The first of which raised over $1200 for Face-Autism, Inc. More information about Beauty and the Beards, and the event, can be found at

I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such an amazing, eclectic community. Being located on the Island provides an amazing opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to give support to other great local businesses and organizations. We would love for you to come in and experience the difference for yourself, 241 S Tamiami Trail.



Venice MainStreet has been designated as an accredited Main Street America™ program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its Coordinating Program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®.

“Once again, we are thrilled to recognize this year’s nationally accredited Main Street America communities for their outstanding work,” says Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “We are experiencing an exciting era for America’s cities and towns, with a growing recognition of the importance of strong local enterprise, distinctive character, engaged residents, and sense of place. These are things that Main Street America programs have been working to protect and advance for years, strengthening the economic, social, and cultural fabric of communities across the country.”

The organization’s performance is annually evaluated by Florida Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,000 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Since 1980, communities participating in the program have leveraged more than $65.6 billion in new public and private investment, generated 556,960 net new jobs and 126,476 net new businesses, and rehabilitated more than 260,000 buildings. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Young Professionals Week

Venice Area Young Professionals was initiated by a small group of members active in the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce who shared a vision that Venice would benefit from a Young Professionals group. In 2006, the VAYP was formed as a committee of the Chamber and since then has become a large and vital organization in the community.

Today, the Venice Area Young Professionals, provides professional development opportunities for members, volunteer activities that make an impact on our community, and social activities for individuals and families to share in. VAYP’s mission is to unite, lead and encourage involvement to create a vibrant and prosperous community.

As VAYP celebrates its 10 years anniversary, they invite all to participate in a weeklong Young Professionals Week celebration in Venice. Yearly Young Professional weeks have become community staples across the nation. Please join us as we celebrate the successes of the Venice Area Young Professionals and continue our mission in the prosperity of our community. The week events follow, check out VAYP Facebook page for more details:

June 11th- Beach Bash at Venice North Jetty Pavilion from 4 pm - 8 pm (Family Friendly event) BBQ provided by Backwoods BBQ and Catering

June 12th- Stone Crab Picnic and a Game at Port Charlotte Stone Crabs $20/person includes food and ticket. Pre-registration required at Venice Chamber of Commerce website. 12:35 pm Game

June 15th- Wake up Venice with Venice Area Chamber of Commerce at HarborChase of Venice 7:30-9:00 am

June 16th- Leverage with LinkedIn Lunch and Learn with Gretchen Miscik at Venice Area Chamber of Commerce 11:30-1:00 pm.

June 17th- VAYP Rise N Grind Networking at Venice Wine & Coffee 7:30-9:00 am.

For more information contacted the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce: (941) 488-2236

A Sweet Taste of Italy


By Maria Baskin

If you have eaten at one of our fine downtown Venice restaurants, you have probably found your way to Ciao Gelato for one of their heavenly gelatos, Italy’s version of ice cream. I recently interviewed one of the owners of Ciao Gelato and a power house of a woman, Daria Nafziger. I asked her how she and her husband/business partner, RJ, made their way from their former life in print/tech sales to owning this cozy little gelato shop on West Venice Avenue.

“Our gelato is such a good product and we feel so passionate about the process. We make our gelato fresh everyday with whole milk not fat, making four ounces of espresso gelato, for example, 160 calories. We also use fresh fruit no purees and we don’t whip it we mix it by hand which makes the gelato richer.” They get their base ingredients, which includes Amaretto (as in Saronno Italian liquor), and their equipment, Carpigiani, from Italy. “We get such satisfaction out of introducing our customers to the authentic experience of our gelato,” she tells me beaming. Whenever possible they make the effort to use local vendors such as Dakin Dairy in Myakka City, Sea Salt Florida out of Bradenton, J and M Herbs from Arcadia and Yummies Donuts in Venice.

“Who creates the different flavors?” I ask. “My husband, RJ, is the genius behind the twenty flavors we carry everyday and more than half change each day.” There are always the eight traditional flavors – Tiramisu`, Pistachio, Peanut Butter, Stracciatella made with Chantilly cream laced with ribbons of chocolate. And then there are the twelve non-traditional flavors – Oreo, mint-chocolate, festive seasonal Peppermint and Candy Cane, Spring Cake, Al Gusto Chocolate, Caramel Sea Salt and Rum Raisin… to mention a few.
As Daria and I talked about Ciao` Gelato, I noticed a group of young women sitting at one of the little café tables in the shop each enjoying a different flavored cone. I walked over, introduced myself and asked, “Why do you come to Ciao Gelato?” “Honestly?” said Emma Szablowski. “It tastes better!” Her friend, Mercedez Weigelt, then added, “Their flavors are so different.” By the time I wrote down their responses, their gelatos were gone but they had that boy-was-that-good look on their faces.
As I turned back to Daria I asked, “How was business this season?”
“Great!” calls out one of her associates, Alessandro, a young man from Italy whom they met at one of the culinary classes RJ attended on the art of making gelato.
“What do the tourists/visitors say about Venice?”
“They love downtown Venice and would love to shop all day!”
“Where are your customers coming from?”
“There is a younger population starting to come and not just tourists from Washington, Colorado, France, Germany, Canada and England. The locals who live, work and shop in Venice are a big part of the growth of downtown. We make sure not to forget them.” During the off season, Ciao Gelato offers a one-dollar-off coupon twice a week in the Gondolier Sun.

I visit Ciao Gelato often and I am never disappointed. If you haven’t stopped in for one of their rich luscious gelatos, you’re denying your taste buds a bit of the divine!

Vote for Venice MainStreet!

By Emilio Carlesimo

It may be confusing, as many people think of Venice MainStreet as a merchant organization. However, VMS is not solely an organization of downtown business owners and its mission is far broader than helping businesses thrive. It is an organization created 28 years ago by a group of forward thinking business leaders, downtown merchants and city fathers who knew that to preserve our downtown we needed to do more.

In the mid-1980's downtown Venice was at a crossroads. It could have fallen into disrepair, as apathy and new retail options entered the market. Or it could flourish and become the town we celebrate today.
In 1988 Venice Main Street was accepted into the National Main Street organization. No small feat, as the application process took over two years and required that the applicant (Venice) showed a full community partnership between the city, chamber of commerce, business people, merchants, property owners, service organizations and citizens. It was an incredible task to bring all of these diverse groups together to support a plan to revitalize and stabilize downtown Venice. Can you envision Venice without its welcoming downtown avenues and gateway to the beaches?

The Main Street designation has allowed VMS to do more than could be accomplished by just a downtown business association. Its non-profit (501C3) designation gives it many advantages and allows all contributions to be tax deductible.

In welcoming Venice into the National Main Street program, the judges recognized Venice’s great sense of history and its desire to see the downtown remain a viable part of the community. They also added that Venice still maintains a belief in the "hometown" concept and concluded, "It is a special place, with a special heritage and most of all, special people." That is still true thanks to the efforts of Venice Mainstreet.
Venice MainStreet deserves your support always, but needs your help just a little extra this month. Venice MainSreet joins 24 other Main Streets across the country in the final stages of America’s Main Street Contest. Online voting takes place May 2nd - May 29th and Venice MainStreet could win a grant of $25,000! If VMS receives these much, needed funds it will help tremendously in its work of keeping the magic of Venice alive.
Vote for Venice MainStreet:

Venice MainStreet Named Quarterfinalist for “America’s Main Streets” Contest

The national small business movement, Independent We Stand, announces the quarterfinalists, including Venice MainStreet, of the 2016 Independent We Stand “America’s Main Streets” contest. As the lifeblood of our cities and towns, Main Streets play an important role in the long-term success of communities and help build a sense of place. Venice Main Street is calling on the public to vote for help move VMS one step closer to the grand prize of $25,000.

Venice MainStreet was founded in 1987. During this time businesses and downtown were struggling. Today downtown prospers due to the ongoing economic vitality and support that Venice MainStreet brings to it. The drive of Venice MainStreet is historic preservation through the context of economic vitality. “To protect what we have, we as a community must work together keep it viable.” says Erin Silk VMS Executive Director, “We are excited to be considered for the $25,000 grant from Independent We Stand. We hope you will help us by voting every day until May 29th.”

“The goal of this inaugural Independent We Stand ‘America’s Main Streets’ contest is to promote the importance and strong economic benefits of Main Streets and the small businesses that help them thrive,” says Independent We Stand co-founder Bill Brunelle. “We are so pleased to see how passionate people are about their Main Streets. It’s evident by the broad range of nominations we saw representing 44 states in the first round. Now, it’s time to rally and vote again for these terrific quarterfinalists.”

More than 150,000 votes were cast for 253 nominees during the nominations phase. The quarterfinalists in alphabetical order are:
• Ames Main Street Cultural District, Ames, Iowa
• Cedar Lee Business District Ohio, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
• Corning's Gaffer District, Corning, N.Y.
• Dover-Foxcroft Downtown, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine
• Downtown Brookings, Brookings, S.D.
• Downtown Development Authority of the City of Tifton, Tifton, Ga.
• Downtown Laurel, MS, Laurel, Miss.
• Downtown Lynden, Lynden, Wash.
• Doylestown, PA, Doylestown, Pa.
• Gateway to the Great North Woods, Millinocket, Maine
• Grapevine Historic Main Street, Grapevine, Texas
• Historic Downtown Franklin TN, Franklin, Tenn.
• Jacksonville Main Street, Jacksonville, Ill.
• Main Street Greenville, Greenville, Ohio
• Main Street Libertyville, Libertyville, Ill.
• Main Street Madison Indiana, Madison, Ind.
• McKinney Main Street, McKinney, Texas
• Moultrie Main Street, Moultrie, Ga.
• Sterling Main Street, Sterling, Ill.
• Stuart Main Street, Stuart, Fla.
• Third Street, Beaver, Pa.
• Venice Main Street, Venice, Fla.
• Water Street, Gardiner, Maine
• Wellsboro Main Street Pennsylvania, Wellsboro, Pa.
• Woodstock, Georgia, Woodstock, Ga.

Semifinalist voting began May 2 at and runs through May 29. Voting can be done daily.

The winner of the 2016 “America’s Main Streets” contest will be announced June 3.


Downtown is “Lovin’ Our Locals”

by Bill Willson

Bill WillsonI am Bill Willson, President of Roberts Insurance Group, located on the island of Venice. It is my pleasure to serve as this year’s Vice President of the Venice MainStreet organization. Hopefully you are aware of this volunteer-driven, non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the historic character, beauty, community, and economic vitality of Historic downtown Venice.

My devout love for the area likely stems from a very long personal history of living in Sarasota County. After a brief, six-month stint in my birth place of New York City, my family moved to Sarasota County where I grew up, received my education, married, raised two daughters, and had only two employers during my long career here. I am married to another “almost native” Venice girl who grew up here on the island. To us, this is paradise, and fortunately we didn’t have to wait until after our working years to discover that.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be “A Local,” a full-timer who bids farewell to many of my surrounding neighbors who are dear friends ending their annual migration South for the Winter about the end of March. I truly miss golfing and socializing with them, and I’m very appreciative of the many benefits they bring to our community. But, let’s be honest, have you ever said, “it’s too busy to go downtown now, let’s wait until after season?”

Are you in luck! Our friendly downtown shops and eateries want you to know “It’s Time for Lovin’ Our Locals.” Not that they don’t love you all year long, but they know they haven’t seen some of us for awhile. We want you to rediscover your downtown. To kick off welcoming you back, participating Venice MainStreet businesses are hosting a Wine Walk.

This first taste of welcome occurs on Thursday, April 21st between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. where participating stores will offer free wine while you shop and restaurants will have dining specials. To enjoy this free event, simply go to either the Burgundy Square Breezeway on Miami Ave. or the kiosk in Centennial Park to receive your wrist band, and a list of participating businesses.

This is the first of several opportunities presented by Venice MainStreet for “Lovin’ Our Locals” events designed to reacquaint you with Your Downtown. Don’t be a stranger. Our beloved snowbirds may have once again flown the coop, but that makes it a great time for our locals to flock downtown. Come enjoy what you love, quaint downtown Venice. You’re bound to find some sizzling hot deals for summer, and even some parking, too.

Visit these participating shops during the Wine Walk: Ciao Gelato, DanaTyler, Dick's Shoes, Down Island Way Boutique, Eyes on You, La Bella Interiors, Modern Woodmen of America, Shirt Stop, Sirena Island Day Spa, SunBug, Tarpon Bay Trading Co, Tommy's Fine Men's Consignment, Venice, In Vogue, Venice Wine & Coffee, Zak's Clothing Boutique.

Enjoy additional Wine Walk specials when you dine at: Café Venice, Ristorante San Marco, and Trattoria Da Mino.

Meet Tommy's Fine Men's Consignment


Two years ago, what started out as a suggestion over dinner, Tommy’s Fine Men’s Consignment became a reality. Tommy Steckel opened his fine men’s consignment shop at 101 West Venice Avenue, where it remains today.

An entirely men’s consignment shop may be a new concept for the area, but it’s one that is catching on with the support from Venice MainStreet, the Venice Chamber of Commerce and local residents and businesses. Word of mouth, online and print advertising have brought business from as far north as the Tampa Bay area and as far south as Naples.

With over 40 years’ experience in designer and contemporary clothing and accessories, Tommy can help you with your men’s wear needs. Whether you are going to a black tie affair, social engagement, or just hanging out, you don’t have to break the bank to have a great outfit.

Tommy takes great pride in building relationships with both customers and consignors. When you visit this boutique shop, you will see some of the best men’s fashions at consignment prices. You will enjoy a fantastic selection of men’s clothing from some very recognizable names such as Tommy Bahama, Tori Richard, Polo, Robert Graham, Bugatchi and many more. He also has a selection of leather jackets, hats, travel accessories, sport jackets, jewelry and watches along with other men’s items.

Tommy has established partnerships with Agape Flights, Habitat for Humanity, The Bridge Church, Loveland Center and other local charities. His business is about more than helping men dress well; he wants to help spread well-being. Tommy is a firm believer of paying it forward. So, when the consignment period is over, the items go to these organizations to help others.

Discover a gentleman’s store that is a one-of-a-kind consignment establishment at 101 West Venice Avenue in downtown Venice. Their telephone number is 941-786-1850 or you can take a quick tour of the store at their website at

Tommy’s accepts new and gently worn clothing, accessories, and shoes for consignment by appointment. Call 941-786-1850.


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