There's something wonderful on 4th Avenue, downtown. Nope, it's not a new shade tree. But it's still exciting!
Blue Sky Blue Water, a store inspired by the Florida lifestyle, opened between The Lost Parrot and Cupcake Delights. The remodeled location offers men's & women's apparel and accessories, as well as a few familiar faces. The new shop is owned by Roy & Jacqui Gress, the shopkeepers of Walk in the Woods on 5th Avenue.
The store is currently having a soft opening, with a grand opening to follow as inventory increases after the summer off-season.
In recent history the word 'expansion' was all but removed from an entrepreneur's vocabulary. Times have changed and some Mount Dora favorites are not only thriving, but expanding.
Crissy Stiles, owner of Barrel of Books & Games is doubling-down in downtown with plans to open a new comic book store in the coming weeks. Alleyway Comics will open in the adjacent space to the bookstore on Dora Drawdy alley in September.
Similarly, the owners of Walk in the Woods store, Roy & Jacqui Gress, are retail veterans and believe in the viability of downtown for a new business. The couple just opened Blue Sky Blue Water, a store catering to the Florida lifestyle, on 4th Avenue next to The Lost Parrot.
"We felt the time was right to expand in the downtown area based on the niches that were not being filled in town," said Jacqui Gress. "Also the perfect space and opportunity to do so all came together at the same time!"
Retail isn't the only business category with growing locations in Mount Dora. The continued high demand for their services is the impetus for the expansion of Wallace Fitness, according to co-owner Sine Wallace. The facility's larger Donnelly Street digs will be completed by September 10 to accommodate more clients and new equipment.
"We wanted to have more room to conduct educational and fitness classes, as well as keeping up with the demand for our specialized skill set", said Wallace regarding the reasons for the expansion.
Three other downtown businesses have decided to expand by testing other waters with their decisions to open new stores on Florida's west coast.
"Looking closely at Sarasota, I found it is growing and the downtown is going through a renovation much like Mount Dora," said Clara Schneider, who purchased Emz on 5th boutique in 2006.
Schneider will be opening a new women's apparel store in Sarasota in partnership with a former colleague.
A Mount Dora favorite for the last eight years, Cupcake Delights, is also expanding to the west.
"We have visited Anna Maria for the past 12 years and it's where my husband and I want to retire," said owner, Judy Owens of her decision to open a new location on the Island this fall. "It's a huge tourist and wedding destination."
Meanwhile, Doug Thompson, owner of Mount Dora Olive Oil Company is busy with the construction of his new Tarpon Springs Olive Oil Company to open this fall on the Sponge Docks.
Escaping the brutal winters of New England is routine to many. Retiring to Florida isn't novel either. Coming out of retirement in Florida to open a new restaurant, well, that's a little more unconventional.
Tim and Gail Lyons are doing just that as they prepare to open their new restaurant in downtown Mount Dora after retiring to Davenport eight years ago from New Hampshire.
The couple plans to open a new cafe, Let's Do Lunch, in September with a fresh, affordable menu in the space formerly occupied by Sterling Treasures. The house specialty is their traditional New England lobster roll including a side for $9.95. The sandwich boasts a quarter pound of fresh lobster with no fillers, said Lyons.
"I did my homework for thirty years," Tim Lyons said of his preparedness for opening the quaint, lunch cafe on Donnelly Street that will feature a garden decor. The Lyons had a successful lunch restaurant in North Conway, New Hampshire for twenty-five years and the new venture will be modeled after that proven success.
Daily menu selections will include a choice of six traditional sandwiches like BLTs, turkey, ham and egg salad, as well as three daily soup offerings. The daily special is a cup of soup, half sandwich and a choice of side salad for $6.95. Whole sandwiches with a choice of side are $5.95. Many beverages including coffee are $1.35.
"We would come to Mount Dora for day trips because it looked so much like New England", said Lyons of the couple's visits to the area after their move to Florida.
Let's Do Lunch is planning to be open from 10:30 am-3:30 pm beginning in mid September at 426 N. Donnelly Street next to Gold In Art. Stay tuned to Mount Dora Buzz for an opening date.
The cheerful, pastel stucco hints of what awaits. Once lured inside, the senses are certainly in for a treat....or two...or three.
Rows of freshly baked cupcakes fill the bakery case and quickly alert calorie-counters to surrender upon entering Cupcake Delights. Key Lime Delight, Espresso-dipped Mousse, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Carrot Cake and Cookies and Cream are among 80 different flavors rotated among their 14 daily varieties baked from scratch on the premises.
Cupcake Delights started as one teen's hobby years ago, and grew into a downtown cupcake emporium celebrating its eighth anniversary this month. The specialty bakery started in a tiny location on 5th Avenue before expanding into its current larger location on 4th Avenue. To the delight of customers, its offerings have also expanded to include specialty cakes, handcrafted coffee drinks, and homemade popsicles this summer.
" I love the small town feel and knowing so many of the customers by name. I've seen lots of kids grow up", said owner Judy Owens of the enjoyment she receives from her downtown store,
Now with her daughter graduating from high school, Owens found the time right to expand again. This time she will be opening a second location on Anna Maria Island where her family has been vacationing for years.
Cupcake Delights, located at 122 E. 4th Avenue, downtown Mount Dora. For more local news and events for Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, subscribe to here. For breaking news, 'Like' Mount Dora Buzz on Facebook
There is no place like home. However, local wine lovers seem to have cozied up to a very close second in a narrow courtyard downtown.
In their quest to bring patrons their favorite wines and craft beers in a comfortable setting, the owners of one local wine bar created a cozy home away from home at Maggie's Attic.
"Maggie's provides the opportunity for people of like mind or palates to meet up, share some great wine and beer, go on to have a great evening out and make long lasting friendships," said Jerome Brouhard, manager and sommelier of Maggie's Attic.
Terry Abbott and Stephanie Eberhart, along with their adult children including Brouhard, opened Maggie's Attic twelve years ago, and soon earned a loyal following. According to Brouhard, customers keep returning due to Maggie's consistency, wine selection and friendly atmosphere.
Maggie's also offers that tasting opportunity," said Brouhard. "If you don't know what you want, try it before you buy it. We can't do that with all wines or beers but those by the glass and by draft are certainly fair game."
The wine bar is also known for its popular wine and beer clubs, plus the twice monthly wine tastings that feature 25 different wines. Tasters stroll downtown to seven or eight downtown shops to taste the wines and receive promotional pricing during the event.
Over the years, as Maggie's following grew so did their need for more space. In October 2014, the wine bar expanded their bar and retail business to almost double in size. The larger space also allows them to accommodate more wine-related accessories, gifts and complimentary gourmet foods.
The wine bar sells a selection of wines by the glass with prices ranging from $5 to $30 , and bottles ranging from $8-$300
Maggies is located at 237 W. 4th Avenue and is open from 11am - 11pm Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 8pm Monday and Sunday.