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Ker’s WingHouse closes downtown

About a year ago the Largo-based Ker’s WingHouse Bar & Grill announced the opening of a new restaurant in Ellenton, the chain’s 25th location at the time.

The Ellenton restaurant remains and so does the longer-standing one in Bradenton.

But the WingHouse at 1991 Main St. in downtown Sarasota is no longer open for business.

“Sorry, we’ve closed,” reads the sign on the entrance. “WingHouse thanks you for your patronage over the years.”

People wanting to watch a ballgame while eating bar food and drinking beer served by young women in skimpy, Hooters-style outfits are directed to the Ellenton and Bradenton locations.

A WingHouse employee reached by phone at the Bradenton restaurant said she and other employees were instructed to direct calls to the corporate office, which did not answer calls or immediately respond to an email sent to its marketing manager.

In November of 2013, WingHouse signed a lease to open in the Sarasota space that had most recently held the Half Shell Oyster House. Half Shell later moved to University Parkway.

“We have a restaurant in Bradenton, and a big presence in Tampa, we have always been looking at Sarasota,” founder Crawford Ker, a former National Football League player with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, told the Herald-Tribune at the time.

“I like downtown,” Ker added. “There are a lot of business people for lunch, and with the movie theater, our location is situated well because it gives people the option for a good meal in the $6 to $8 range.”

The 6,296-square-foot Sarasota restaurant was part of the Main Plaza/Hollywood 20, renamed BBC Main Street after changing owners in November of 2015.

Jesse Biter and fellow Sarasota investors David Chessler, along with famed golfer Greg Norman and Eric Baird, purchased the property consisting of approximately 8 acres in the downtown corridor from Paragon Management Group LLC.

“They were a great tenant,” Biter said of WingHouse. “We don’t have solid plans yet. It’s just a matter of finding the best use for that property.

“We don’t want to just to piece it together. We want to make a master plan for the property to make it the keystone of downtown,” he said.

Wade Tatangelo is the editor of Ticket. He can be reached by email or call 941-361-4955. Follow him on Twitter at @wtatangelo or Facebook.com/wade.tatangelo

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New movie theater headed for Ellenton

(NYT3) NEW YORK — March 22, 2008 — MULTIPLEX-NONMOVIES — The ticket booth at Sunshine Cinema in the East Village in March 2008. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer played in New York, on screen at the Sunshine Cinema and in person three miles away. Movie theaters are not just for movies anymore. Coming soon will be live baseball games, rock concerts, classic television shows and an array of other offerings not typically associated with the big screen. From nickelodeons to drive-ins to multiplexes, American movie theaters have always evolved with the times. But the latest evolution, set off by stagnating attendance and advances in digital technology, marks the first time movie theaters have reinvented themselves without motion pictures as the centerpiece. (Kelly Shimoda/The New York Times)

A new movie theater is heading for a palm tree nursery site to the east of Ellenton Premium Outlets.

The project, known as “Ellenton Theater,” is slated to go before the Manatee County Planning Commission on Thursday and would give Southwest Florida its first movie theater north of the Manatee River.

The project site is roughly 9 miles from the closest movie theater competitor, Bradenton’s Royal Palm 20.

Om Cinemas is listed as the contract buyer for the 34,000-square-foot theater. The Sarasota-based company also is connected to the second-run Parkway 8 Cinema at Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway, according to records filed with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations.

I.M.G. Enterprises Inc., which owns the 7.3-acre palm tree nursery, also has plans for an additional 22,800-square-feet of commercial space on the property, according to the documents.

Officials with I.M.G. Enterprises and Om Cinemas could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Site plans filed with the county don’t specify a use for the commercial retail space, but show a 9,983-square-foot box and a 3,278-square-foot box on the east side of the development. The theater neighbors the east parking lot of Ellenton Premium Outlets, according to the plans.

Ellenton Theater joins a small string of movie theater projects that have surfaced in Southwest Florida in recent years.

CineBistro, a luxury movie and dining experience, opened at Westfield Southgate earlier this year, and iPic, another luxury theater, is slated to open at Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co.’s upcoming East District at University Town Center. That development is expected to break ground sometime next year.

DeSoto Square Mall also is expected to revitalize its second-run movie theater, which has been closed since this spring.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Burns Court to host holiday sip and shop Friday night

Burns Court is putting a holiday twist on its monthly sip and stroll.

Twelve retailers on the south end of downtown are keeping their doors open until 8 p.m. on Friday. The event will feature holiday snacks, beverages and music. They’re also hosting a scavenger hunt and inviting a few food trucks for the occasion. Prizes will be available for scavenger hunt participants.

Whether you’ve finished up your holiday Christmas shopping or not, it’s a fun chance to take a spin (and a sip) through some neighborhood businesses.

Businesses participating include: Rustic Rooster, Blank Slate Gallery, Ally Cat Gift Shoppe, L Boutique & L Spa, Clever Rose, Sarasota Trading Company, Treat Boutique, Pineapple Bay Trading Company, Farmhouse Frocks, Artisan Jewelers, Starflower Organic Spathecary and PHbotanical.

Never been to one of Burns Court’s sip and strolls before? Read more about it here. 

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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New York Jewelers headed for the Mall at University Town Center

Herald-Tribune staff photo/Maggie Menderski

New York Jewelers has left Westfield Sarasota Square for the Mall at University Town Center.

A business permit filed with Sarasota County indicates that New York Jewelers, which operated out of the south Sarasota County mall until earlier this year, is moving to Southwest Florida’s newest indoor shopping hub. The jeweler is the latest in a long string of retailers, including Banana Republic, Gap, American Eagle, Saks Fifth Avenue and William Sonoma, to leave one of Sarasota’s two Westfield properties for the 2-year-old mall near the intersection of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

The retailer will sell precious stones, silver, gold and platinum bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, pendants and watches, according to the permit.

Officials with the Mall at University Town Center and New York Jewelers could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear when the store would open at the mall, but signs for the jewelry company have been installed at the empty former Edward Beiner eyeglass store on the second floor of the mall, between Ann Taylor Loft and Capital Teas.

Edward Beiner closed its store at the $315 million mall last winter, one of seven retailers that have closed there it opened in October 2014. The Florida-based eyewear company’s parent company, Coco Lunette Holding LLC, is in the middle of a lawsuit with TB Mall at UTC LLC, an affiliate of the mall’s parent company, Taubman Centers Inc.

Court documents filed in May show that Taubman is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 as well as a judgment for all future rent due as well as compensatory, incidental, late fees and other expenses.

A letter included in the documents shows that Coco Lunette owed more than $63,800 as of mid-March. The company had a 10-year lease with the mall.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

 

Column | Featured | Holiday | Home | Sip and shop 

COLUMN: Southgate Village Shops to celebrate the holidays Thursday

Maggie Menderski, business writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

The Southgate Village Shops isn’t normally thought of as a Christmas shopping destination.

But its merchants are turning it into one on Thursday.

The neighborhood shopping center across the street from Westfield Southgate doesn’t have thousands of twinkling lights like University Town Center or the name recognition of St. Armands Circle.

But on Thursday more than 20 local businesses there will deck their halls and keep their doors open later than usual to celebrate the holiday season. From 5 to 8 p.m., the stores at the northeast corner of U.S. 41 and Siesta Drive will offer a variety of promotions, deals, snacks, beverages, samples and holiday cheer.

The shopping center has several busy stores. Consumers pop into Sally’s Beauty Supply, Fanzy Nails or Siesta Family Dentistry, but it’s never been a place where people migrate from one business to another, said Lorrie Amodio, who’s owned Cupcakes a Go-Go in the center for nearly a decade.

To be honest, that’s how I’ve always viewed this shopping center, too.

So I took a pre-stroll last week to get an idea of how I could spend a whole evening there.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Shoppers of all ages will have quite a bit to check out while sipping and snacking.

From the sounds of it, Cupcakes a Go-Go, Popcraft and Tropical Shores Popcorn plan to put the Sugar Plum Fairy to shame. All three will be offering samples, and Cupcakes a Go-Go will have hot cider and carolers for the occasion. Tropical Shores will be giving customers 50 percent off its bulk candy and Candytime!, the new candy shop on the strip, will be passing out candy sticks with 20 percent off coupons.

If you’re more into things savory than sweet, Siesta Pizzeria Co. plans to put out a table of appetizers such as chicken wings, garlic knots and small samples of its pizza.

Retailers Spider Lily Finery and Encore Home Entertainment Systems will be offering some adult beverages and small light bites. North Bridge Tavern will be serving half-off craft beers. Restaurants Baker & Wife, Rick’s Restaurant and Andrea’s also will welcome holiday shoppers but haven’t specified how yet.

Fanzy Nails, which recently remodeled its salon, will be painting nails for children under 12 and they’ll have a sale on their organic nail polish. Bark and Bath, a holistic pet foods store and groomer, will be offering free nail trimmings for dogs and mini cheesecakes for their humans. Goodbyes Consignment and Sally’s Beauty Supply plan sidewalk sales. Even Siesta Family Dentistry will have its doors open and will be passing out toothbrushes and tooth-care products to passersby.

And, really, after those Tropical Shores Popcorn and Cupcake’s A Go-Go samples, I imagine we’ll all be in need of a new toothbrush.

It all adds up to a hodge-podge of offerings. And I’m sure this column didn’t list even half of what they have in store.

It will be an interesting way to get to know some of the neighborhood’s businesses.

I got to meet about half the shops’ owners on my pre-stroll. Even I didn’t realize there were that many places to shop in that strip mall.

And even though they won’t have the big trees and dramatic light displays to greet you Thursday, I can tell you these business people are just as eager to spread some of their own holiday cheer.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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SOLD: DeSoto Square Mall

Nearly vacant corridor in DeSoto Square Mall. Staff Photo/Maggie Menderski

DeSoto Square Mall has changed hands again, and the shopping center’s new owner is planning to invest millions in bringing the struggling retail hub back to life.

Mall manager Don Burrow confirmed on Monday that the Bradenton mall had been sold.

Burrow said he could not disclose the terms of the deal or the name of the buyer, but he said the new owner is expected to take possession of DeSoto Square on Dec. 22.

Officials with Great Neck, New York-based Mason Asset Management, the property’s previous owner, could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.

The mall had been on the market since this summer.

The new owner has plans to invest millions of dollars into turning the shopping center into a family-focused retail center and has developed an aggressive eight- to 10-month revitalization plan, Burrow said.

DeSoto Square’s movie theater, which had operated as a second-run venue until it closed earlier this spring, will be renovated and will reopen as a first-run theater by mid-2017. The vacant Macy’s anchor space will get an overhaul and will be reopened as a new wing of the mall, Burrow said.

Burrow said mall management is in talks with several prospective tenants, but he couldn’t identify the companies until deals are finalized.

DeSoto Square Mall has traditionally been the weakest shopping mall player in the Sarasota-Bradenton market. Mason Asset Management bought the property in 2012 from Simon Property Group for a bargain at $24.6 million after Simon let a $62 million loan on the mall fall into arrears.

Mason could have pocketed about $9 million in gross profit had it taken the high bid of $33.75 million during in a three-day online auction in August 2014.

The four-decade-old mall was 71 percent occupied when Mason put it on the market. Sears, which occupies 100,000 separately owned square feet of the mall, and JC Penney are longtime anchors.

Hudson’s Furniture moved into the once-vacant Dillard’s site in 2014, but the former Macy’s space has been empty since the department store left the mall in 2014.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Gemstone-infusing skin care company to join Westfield Southgate

L’Core Paris, a beauty company known for infusing creams with gemstone and gold particles, is slated to join Westfield Southgate in 2017.

The high-end skincare company, based in Paris, has locations in New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii and Las Vegas, but the new store at Westfield Southgate will be L’Core’s first move into Florida, according to the retailer’s website.

L’Core will be on the south end of the mall near the entrance to CineBistro and Macy’s, according to Christa Kremer, the marketing director for Southgate and its sister mall Westfield Sarasota Square. The company is anticipating a late spring opening, Kremer said.

L’Core’s skin care lines range from the low hundreds and into the thousands based on the collection. A set of 12 24K gold facial and neck masks retails at $10,000 and just less than an ounce of pearl brightening serum is priced at $450. The retailer also uses sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and rubies in their products.

The past two years have been a period of rebuilding for Westfield Southgate, which has struggled since the Mall at University Town Center opened in October 2014.

The skincare company is among a number of storefronts expected to join the mall in 2017.

Connors Steak & Seafood, BRAVO! Cucina Italiana, Naples Flatbread and Wine Bar and a fourth unnamed restaurant are currently under construction in the northwest corner of the shopping center. An LA Fitness and as many as two other retailers are slated to move into the vacant Dillard’s anchor.

Mall officials expect to make more new arrival announcements in the coming months, Kremer said.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Der Dutchman hotel breaks ground

Rendering courtesy Dutchman Hospitality

Noah likely built the ark in less time than it took to get the Der Dutchman hotel project off the ground.

Or at least that’s what Jeff Miller, the restaurant’s general manager, told a small crowd at hotel’s groundbreaking on Wednesday.

Der Dutchman’s parent company, Ohio-based Dutchman Hospitality, has long planned to bring a hotel to the Amish-Mennonite neighborhood near the intersection of Bahia Vista Street and Beneva Road, and with the first turns of soil this week that vision is finally becoming a reality.

Construction should take about 13 months, said Miller, adding that he is hopeful the hotel will be serving guests by New Year’s Day 2018.

“We’re here, and we’re glad to be here,” Miller said.

The company has a long history in the Sarasota region. The Dutch Corp. opened Der Dutchman restaurant in 1985 in the Amish-Mennonite community, and then a much larger restaurant, with banquet facilities, debuted in 1999.

The family that owned Dutch Corp. divided their assets in 2001, breaking into Dutchman Hospitality and the Troyer Corp., which retained the Sarasota restaurant and renamed it Dutch Heritage. The hotel project already was in the works when Dutchman Hospitality reacquired the 12.5 acre property in 2012, but it was placed on hold as the company worked to reduce its debt to more manageable levels, said Mike Palmer, Dutchman Hospitality’s president.

But the project gained momentum again in 2014.

“Little did we know it was going to be two and a half or almost three years later that we’d be here getting to this milestone of actual ground breaking,” Palmer said.

The 85,000-square-foot hotel, known as the Carlisle Inn of Sarasota, will feature 100 rooms, 4,000-square-feet of meeting space and a large common area so that guests are encouraged to congregate outside of their sleeping quarters. About 30 percent of the rooms are suites and several will have built-in community space, so that large families and groups can have a more private place to gather.

Jana Martin, who moved to Sarasota from Missouri about 30 years ago, lives down the street from the site. She has been eating at Der Dutchman since it was just a small house, and she’s excited for what the hotel will add to the neighborhood. She expects her friends and family members will use it when they come to visit. Today, they have to stay away from the neighborhood at hotels on Fruitville or Bee Ridge roads.

“It’ll be clean, and you can have great food at the restaurant,” Martin said. “It will have so many amenities right here in the community, and we love this community. This community is such a big part of Sarasota. It’s a hidden gem, and I think that the blessing that comes with this hotel will be huge.”

The Carlisle Inn will emphasize Amish and Mennonite values, but the property will have modern amenities not typically used in the culture, such as televisions, internet and the technology needed for business groups to give presentations. The hotel will have a swimming pool. Breakfast will be served on site.

But the backbone of the company comes from service. The hotel will employ 35 to 40 staff members to work the property. The employees will come from a variety of different backgrounds, but Palmer has said they will share the Amish principle of work ethic.

“We are a faith-based people and a faith-based organization, and it is our calling to glorify God and living out hospitality in an everyday practical way, by being kind, considerate and polite.”

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Earth Fare slated for Manatee County

Courtesy image: Earth Fare

Earth Fare, a boutique-style grocery store, may be eyeing a site to the north of Lakewood Ranch for its first Southwest Florida location.

Commercial building permits filed on Monday in Manatee County indicate more than $1.1 million in construction for an Earth Fare at a new retail shopping center to the northeast of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The 385-acre site is primarily used for agriculture and is now home to single dwelling, according to records from the Manatee County Property Appraiser.

Officials with Earth Fare could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The Fletcher, North Carolina-based chain’s stores average about 23,000-square-feet and are comparable to Trader Joe’s. The company is most well-known for a strong focus on healthy, organic food at a reasonable price.

The chain was founded in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1975 and has 37 stores across the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest, according to its website.

Earth Fare’s first Florida store opened in Tallahassee in 2010, and the company has since expanded to Gainesville, Jacksonville and most recently Seminole, in Pinellas County.

The Sarasota-Bradenton region is no stranger to attracting boutique style grocery chains and has welcomed players such as Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market in recent years.

Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market has its first Southwest Florida store under construction in Pelican Plaza across the street from Westfield Sarasota Square. Lucky’s Market is said to be eyeing the vacant Dillard’s store at Westfield Southgate, but the Colorado-based chain hasn’t confirmed it’s moving to Sarasota yet.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Venice woman creates career, and company, in manufacturing

The Artful Canine company located in Venice, Florida was created in 2009 by Joanne Wood-Ellison, the chief executive collar crafter who was a designer, career fashion retailer and dog enthusiast, who was frustrated by the lack of affordable, well-made dog collar designs in the marketplace. Their designer collars and accessories are sold exclusively online through their website, Amazon.com, and their factory store in Venice, Florida. Herald-Tribune staff photo / Thomas Bender

The Great Recession left Joanne Wood-Ellison in need of a new career.

It took collars and leashes to pull her out of that slump.

Wood-Ellison had been laid off three times from marketing jobs, and her skills just weren’t in great demand in the Sarasota area.

So she decided she needed to create a job rather than look for one.

She started The Artful Canine in 2009 with an idea and a sewing machine in her spare bedroom and has since grown it into a small manufacturing business producing dog collars, leashes and accessories. Today she and her four employees sew 50 to 60 products a day in their workshop in Venice, then sell them directly to customers through Amazon.com and Wood-Ellison’s own online shop.

“I started my own website because I was an online marketer, so I knew how to do my own website,” she said. “I knew how to market it and advertise it.”

There are a number of manufactures in the Sarasota region, said Kevin Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. The area has a few big, well-known company names, like Tervis and PGT, that manufacture here, but many smaller operations are thriving in anonymous industrial parks in the area, too. If there’s a gap, it’s the mid-sized companies, he said. But Southwest Florida has the resources for these companies to be successful.

“I think it’s more common than some people would think,” Cooper said.

Technology has given entrepreneurs like Wood-Ellison a way to take their products directly to consumers in national and even global markets.

The beginning

Wood-Ellison began by designing fashionable and highly functional collars. Martingale collars that tighten if a dog pulls during a walk are useful for dogs that can slip their heads out of traditional collars, but six years ago it was tough to find a stylish one, she said. So she began splashing them with patterns, colors and holiday themes, and the company grew steadily.

She also advertised for people who knew how to sew, which is a difficult skill to find today, she said.

“It’s not complicated, but there is an art to it,” Wood-Ellison said. “I call them collar crafters because there is a certain art to handling the material.”

Her first hire was Cynthia Ginkinger, a North Port resident who needed a job that worked around her son’s schedule. Ginkinger had started sewing years before as a hobbyist, and she made things like children’s Halloween costumes and curtains in her spare time. She’d never sewn professionally but had the basic skills she needed.

The operation was small enough that Ginkinger could pick up a batch of collar materials, sew them at home and return the finished product. But that didn’t last long.

Wood-Ellison refinished and air conditioned her garage in 2010 so they could work there. The duo outgrew that space quickly and moved into a small Port Charlotte retail space with a large back room they used as a workshop. As she added more people, machines and designs, the business needed another new home and it moved into an industrial space in Venice.

Now Wood-Ellison and her four employees have the industrial building well stocked with racks and boxes of the nylon base, narrow decorative fabrics and small metal pieces used to make the collars.

The company has changed dramatically since those first few home-stitched collars that Ginkinger made for The Artful Canine.

“I love watching this evolve and I love being a part of it,” Ginkinger said. “I’m evolving with her. I’m still hanging on and going with her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything grow that fast.”

Made in Venice

The collars are manufactured in Venice, but some of their pieces are produced overseas. The plaid fabrics, for example, come from the United Kingdom. The metal fasteners come from Asia.

There are five steps between when Wood-Ellison receives the materials and when a customer finally gets one of her products in the mail. Her employees cut and pair the fabric with the nylon before the two are attached with an industrial sewing machine. Then those pieces are grouped with fasteners and sent to a tacking machine that secures the hardware.

The company manufactured about 20,000 products on a 1960s Singer tacking machine until Wood-Ellison finally upgraded this July.

The Artful Canine ended its first year with a minute $5,000 in sales. That number grew 400 percent in 2010 and then by about 100 percent a year in the years that followed. Growth slowed to 12 to 15 percent last year after the move to the new Venice workshop. The company’s new space at 752 Commerce Dr., Suite 11, in Venice, has plenty of room for expansion, and The Artful Canine could feasibly quadruple its output there.

A piece of a big industry

Jeremy Ellison, Wood-Ellison’s son, expects the growth to continue. He runs the tacking machine for the company, and he believes his mom has found a strong niche in the canine product’s industry. Even when people are cutting corners elsewhere, they will still pamper their pets.

Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets every year, and the total has more than tripled in the past two decades, according to the American Pet Products Association. The industry is expected to reach a record $62.75 billion this year, which is up from $60.28 billion in 2015.

“They’re like children and actually sometimes people like their pets more than they like their children,” Ellison said. “It’s a smaller, cuter, fuzzier and less difficult.”

Wood-Ellison already has plans to move into the Canadian and United Kingdom markets through Amazon.com, and, eventually, she’d like to sell them wholesale to retailers. She’s avoided that up to this point because she knows the wholesale market would more than double the cost of her final product to consumers.

Today, the collars sell for $13 to $22, based on size and design. She won’t wholesale to retailers, she said, until she can get the overall cost of her materials down.

“That continues to happen each year,” Wood-Ellison said. “Each year we find ourselves with more buying power, so we can eliminate distributors and work directly with the manufacturers.”

And that’s the kind of hands-on, personal approach that has propelled the business thus far. Wood-Ellison, typically, works six days a week. She does all her own books, designs her own new collars and even runs the sewing machine regularly.

It’s a different life than the marketing career that brought her here, but it’s a welcome one.

“It took that struggle and that recession for me to see it,” Wood-Ellison said. “I’ve often said I wish that this had happened to me 30 years ago because I probably would have done it 30 years ago. I just never thought of that, and I like it. I like it.”

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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