The Collection at Olde Marco: Offbeat shopping area seeking unified image

Michel Gilbert and Aline Halle of Quebec have been coming to these shops for years, they said.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Michel Gilbert and Aline Halle of Quebec have been coming to these shops for years, they said.

Patrons and merchants mingle in the courtyard.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Patrons and merchants mingle in the courtyard.

Angelica Victorero, 6, chooses a cupcake from Sweet Dreams.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Angelica Victorero, 6, chooses a cupcake from Sweet Dreams.

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (4)
Angelica Victorero, 6, anticipates digging into her cupcake from Sweet Dreams. The commercial area at the northern the island of is now being promoted collectively as the Collection at Olde Marco.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (4) Angelica Victorero, 6, anticipates digging into her cupcake from Sweet Dreams. The commercial area at the northern the island of is now being promoted collectively as the Collection at Olde Marco.

There is a stubborn independent streak in many of the business people who have set up shop in the Collection, formerly known as the Shops of Olde Marco. The offbeat commercial and dining center near the northern tip of Marco Island has a laidback, low key, islandy vibe, reminiscent of Key West, or maybe Goodland.

The group of stores, restaurants, and at least one artist's studio is now unified under new ownership, and trying to raise their profile a little bit. It is a collection of castaways, square pegs, and free spirits, who take an idiosyncratic approach to things like marketing and hours of operation.

John Allard, whose family trust, Allard Ventures, bought the real estate of the retail operations, to add to the Olde Marco Inn and Bistro Soleil properties, and the Café de Marco, in April. The family originally purchased the Olde Marco Inn five years ago, and Allard's father, since deceased, maintained his residence in the penthouse. John Allard is the managing partner for Allard Ventures, which also includes his sister and two brothers.

"We have a real vision for unifying the properties as a destination," said Allard on the phone from his summer home in New Hampshire, "not only for visitors but also for Marco residents." He was attracted to the shops for the same reasons as everyone else, he said.

"They tend to draw you in, with the color, the ambience, the island atmosphere. We expect to build a nice upside for the area. We think there's great potential, and we are starting a multi-year program to improve it."

The shops are quite literally colorful, painted in a cheerful palette of bright pastel pinks, blues, greens and yellows. In the central courtyard, antique bricks and market umbrellas, together with a canopy of trees, help create the "we're not in Kansas anymore" feel that is such a part of the Collection's charm.

"Even on Marco, a lot of people don't know about this," said Allard. The family trust has retained Dreamfly Marketing to try to change that, and will be undertaking shared promotion for the shops and restaurants.

The first event they are undertaking is the Music Unplugged Series. On Wednesday, a Halloween Celebration will bring live music, costume and zombie dance contests, and "Goulish Shopping" from 6 to 10 p.m. Food and drink will include witch's brew, creepy bites, mummy dogs, fried fingers, lizard legs, zombie punch, skin of toad and tongue of bat.

Bistro Soleil, located within the Olde Marco Inn, is opening a related retail outlet on the courtyard, said Bistro Soleil co-owner Lisa Meurgue.

"We don't have a final name yet, but this will be a great place to get food and drink, to eat on the spot, or for people to get gourmet take home meals," she said.

Along with Bistro and Café de Marco, additional businesses in the Collection include hair salon A Styling Edge, Lee Be Fish seafood market, Sweet Dreams of Marco Island for the cupcake lover in you, Island Meridian Health, Summer Sea Salt and Fresh Market, and gift shops Island Style Collections and Gabby Abbey's.

Upstairs, artist Malenda Trick has her studio, offering a wide range of fine art paintings and art-related merchadise, and A Nice Box offers whimsical and slightly scandalous mailboxes.

"This is just our little hidden piece of paradise," said A Nice Box owner Larry Clark, but he and the other merchants are eager for it to become a little less hidden.

Hours are irregular for the present at the stores, although the restaurants maintain their regular schedules. The shops won't be up and running full blast until around Christmas or the first of the year, said Allard.

If you want to find the Shops of Olde Marco, head all the way north on Bald Eagle, go left on Palm Drive, and turn into the Café de Marco. For more information, call 239-642-0101, or go to collectiononmarco.com.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

marco97 writes:

Great cupcakes, got some last week for a birthday party.

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