The Shops of Olde Marco: Much more than just the spirit of shopping

When modern Marco was young and the Mackle Brothers were developing “The Last Paradise,” the Shops of Olde Marco Village were created in 1972 and became an instantly popular. Everyone from television and film stars, such as Kate Jackson and James Garner, explored the little cobbled cove of shops and restaurants, and whenever the Marco Beach Hotel was filled with political dignitaries or sports icons for the Tony Lema golf tournament, all the visiting celebrities found their way down to Olde Marco for the essence of what an island paradise was all about.

At the Shops of Olde Marco today there is not only a fresh produce market, a gourmet restaurant, eclectic and unique gifts from “Sweet Pea,” art by Melinda Trick and shining inspiration by In the Light, but something else might be afoot after the Olde Marco shopping village settles in for the night.

“We even have a ghost,” explained Kathleen Douglas, of the art gallery Amantea. “Once, when Bronwyn, the Australian sail maker was working late into the evening, when everyone else was closed and away, the seamstress saw a dark and unnatural shadow pass by her door and then, a few moments later, she felt an invisible arm grip her around the shoulders. After that night, she never worked late again.

“Most of us have had strange things happen,” Douglas continued. “I remember leaving for the evening and locking the door. When I came back the next day, the door was open! Nothing was missing or disturbed, and that in itself was strange. I believe most everyone has had the same experience with doors opening after being locked. On several occasions, lights have been turned on, fans found running after they have been turned off and everyone has heard the stories about Old Marco being the ancient Indian village of the Calusa Indians.”

Douglas is the owner of Amantea, or mistress, in Italian. An art gallery featuring local artists, Amantea hosts the artwork of Yvonne Feavearyear and the “Women with an attitude” series, a collection of critically acclaimed, brightly colored works of oil on canvas. The beautiful and popular work of Marco Island artist Karen Darragh is also hosted at Amantea and features incredible, multi-colored melted glass creations with the theme, “The Countless Moods of an Island.”

“We really believe in supporting our local talent,” Douglas continued, “We always play local musician J. Robert’s island music in Amantea and sell his CDs as soon as visitors come in and hear the tropical sound.”

Suzanne and Don Richardson are frequent visitors to the Shops of Olde Marco. “I really think this is a charming area,” Suzanne commented, “I have always wanted ... to tell my story about the Shops of Olde Marco. Last year, I was ill with pneumonia, and really wasn’t eating. Suddenly, I began to crave the chicken soup at Chef’s Express and had my husband Don call and see if there was any of the best chicken soup in the world that he could bring home. When Annie, at Chef’s Express, heard that I was sick and wanted her soup, she instantly made some, even though it was not on the menu that day. I never will forget that chicken soup was just what the doctor ordered. Now that we hear there might be ghosts around, I think we will come back even more often — that makes the Shops of Olde Marco a real draw!”

There has always been a special spirit about the Olde Marco shopping village and the island feel and the Key West appeal that beckons from 15 shops that are a family today. The old cobblestone bricks bridge the era when Marco was young and echo clearly the distinctive and unique personality that outshines any commercial T-shirt store or generic souvenir shop. The Shops of Olde Marco are a vibrant, living community, hosting everything real, local and unique.

Douglas expounded on her philosophy of the Olde Marco Village. “I came here in the 1970s, working for Deltona, and remember when the Olde Marco Shopping Village was hot. If you came to Marco, you could not miss the Shops of Olde Marco. This was the place to be. Now, I have watched with patience the resurgence of this village. Old Marco was always my favorite part of the Island, and now we seem to be back on track to the top. After all, isn’t real and local what everyone wants today? And what about supporting each other? My mission is to help develop an art center, a place where people can come down and have food and meet artists. We always have artists around, so why not come down for a visit, have a meal and meet one of our creative local artists?”

“We always come down here,” offered Dick Berghammer with his wife, Suzy and dog, Maddie. “We love the good food and have known the owners for years. Chef’s Express really has good down-home food.”

“And, the Shops of Olde Marco allows pets,” Suzy added. “We always bring Maddie.”

When asked why they come to the shops of Olde Marco, Than Tolley, Brain Dae and Don Wahl responded together, “The food!”

“The shops here are such a great little community,” Douglas continued. “All the shop owners come in every morning and visit. Next door to me is Larry, the custom mailbox maker. Larry is great! Just like everyone else that has a shop here. This truly is a special place. We all have been reaching out to embrace Marco and bring the shops back and now, Marco is returning the embrace.”

Lee Be Fish is a local fish market just opposite Larry the mailbox maker and is an entirely locally operated fresh fish market. “I go out on overnight trips,” Lee Tinter, owner of Lee Be Fish, explained. “Up to 100 miles offshore for the best fish around. Then, we come back and it’s Lee Be Fish! We also have scallops and live lobsters.”

Into the Light alone is worth the visit to the Shops of Olde Marco. Anyone who ventures “into the light” will be illuminated, impressed and delighted by the local artists and unique colors schemes offered from the talent found in Goodland and the Everglades.

The quaint little village that is nestled in Olde Marco really is a haven for artists to create, an art gallery to showcase local talent, a gourmet restaurant to delight loyal locals and offers more diversity and eclectic essence in 15 unique shopping venues than anywhere imaginable. A visit down to Palm Street, in Old Marco, is sure to delight and prove that Marco Island has just what appeals to everyone who wants something special, maybe even spiritual, and truly unique.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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