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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 1 year ago

Business area perseveres amid pandemic, with potential changes in store

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The next step for the Limelight District is to work with the city to encourage zoning restriction changes.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

There’s more in the works for Sarasota’s Limelight District.

The area near downtown, with Lime Avenue at its core, is home to dozens of businesses. In December 2019, the City of Sarasota officially recognized the spot — Lime Avenue from Fruitville Road to 12th Street — as “The Limelight District.”

The designation was the work of a group of several business and property owners in the area, including Kim Livengood, now board president of the Limelight District and co-owner of indoor market The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime. The goal of the Limelight District is to make the area more attractive to businesses and promote it through a coordinated branding initiative.

Livengood says the next step for the Limelight District is to work with the city to encourage zoning restriction changes. If approved, they could give more flexibility to businesses and potential businesses in the district in terms of the types of establishments they can run.

In addition to The Bazaar, other businesses in the district include Brant’s Used Books, the Humane Society, Jon F. Swift Construction, SpeedPro Imaging, JDub’s Brewing Co., Music Compound, Burgess Signs and Ed Smith Stadium.

The district has a website that includes information about existing businesses, and Livengood hopes more people will want to invest in the neighborhood by opening businesses in the coming year. “There’s so much potential here,” she says. “We need people who have vision and passion to want to be part of it.”

Within The Bazaar indoor market, which has over 25 businesses, the pandemic has meant facing some challenges, including a couple of vendors permanently leaving. Vendors sell a range of items, including handmade art, clothing, orchids and jewelry.

Courtesy. The Limelight District designation was the work of a group of business and property owners, including Kim Livengood, board president of the Limelight District and co-owner of indoor market The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime.

To address vendors’ health concerns amid the pandemic, The Bazaar made some changes to operations. “In the past, a vendor had to work their own booth space,” says Livengood. “We had some vendors who didn’t want to leave The Bazaar, but they weren’t comfortable being here all the time, so we set up a checkout area at the front so we could ring up sales for our Bazaar family members if they’re not here.”

During the shutdown, The Bazaar had to make some additional shifts, too, including adding an e-commerce portion of its website so customers could shop online. “The silver lining of all this is we got way more savvy with the technical side,” she says.

‘There’s so much potential here. We need people who have vision and passion to want to be part of it.’ — Kim Livengood, Limelight District and The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime

Livengood also took the shutdown as an opportunity to expand digital marketing efforts. For a period of time, she did a Facebook Live broadcast every day and offered curbside pickup and delivery. That led to coverage from ABC national news, which in turn led to interest from people far beyond Sarasota. “We got all these people from all over the U.S. who were wanting to support us and interested in vendors,” she says.

Courtesy. The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime is one of several businesses in the Limelight District, an area on Lime Avenue from Fruitville Road to 12th Street that’s officially recognized by the City of Sarasota.

Even though The Bazaar is open for in-person shoppers again, Livengood still hosts a Bazaar Shopping Network video once a week. BSN gives her the chance to talk about different vendors and products for sale at the market.

Today, The Bazaar is at capacity, and there’s a waiting list of vendors who want to set up shop there. Also, as of July, The Bazaar has a new addition — a food truck with a literary theme dubbed Hamlet’s Eatery. “We’re getting new people who are coming to the truck that go to The Bazaar and stay longer because of the food,” says Livengood.

She’s also driving more business by bringing entertainment to the courtyard at the market in the form of jazz musicians and actors putting on shows. Livengood says, “We’re always doing something new and different and bringing new vendors in — creating a reason for people to come.”

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