LARGO – In large metropolitan areas today, the quintessential Main Street, commonly considered the heart of a downtown, often is lost in city sprawl and devoured by mega-business and shopping centers.
And for small business owners like Debbie Jetter of Country Porch, a consignment store that offers a mix of vintage and modern home furnishings in Largo, competing with big-box stores for shoppers is challenging.
Her shop is located along heavily traveled Walsingham Road, which bears no resemblance to an old-fashioned Main Street. Knowing potential customers likely pass by hourly, she ponders, “Just how do I get them to stop?”
“I had to think out of the ‘big’ box, literally,” she said.
She called on like-minded shop owners in her immediate vicinity, the northwest area of Largo, and pitched her idea to organize as an alliance. The effort resulted in a group of 14 shop owners coming together to form a network dubbed Cottage Shoppes Along the Shore. The group of boutiques and other businesses support and promote each other.
“I contacted shops (with products) that complement each other but still yet offered some unique bits and pieces,” Jetter said. “I focused mostly on retail shops. But I also knew I needed to incorporate some businesses that offer a shopper a stop for a coffee break, lunch, snack or a scoop of yogurt.”
This mix, she said, allows avid shoppers a potentially full-day excursion with recommendations for shopping and dining, she said.
Because the shops are not located along a single-stretch corridor like “Main Street, nor are we all under one roof like a shopping mall, we have to think differently,” Jetter said.
The shops can be reached within a four-square-mile area that borders Walsingham Road to the south, Indian Rocks Road to the west, Antique Alley in Belleair Bluffs to the north and Missouri Avenue to the east. All the participating business owners offer maps to get from one shop to another.
Jetter also hopes that the beach communities embrace their concept.
“We’re less than a mile away,” she said. “So, for tourists who want a diversion from sunning on the beach and are interested in an outing to shop, it’s very close and a unique shopping experience with one-of-a-kind shops, offering one-of-a-kind items.”
The diverse selection of merchandise in the shops ranges from vintage, shabby chic and country home furnishings and décor to fine consignments, art, floral and garden décor and furnishings.
“I like to make homes warm, comforting and inviting,” said Jetter, who grew up near an Amish town in Indiana where her love for country décor took root.
“Some people don’t always think that country fits so close to the beach, but it works,” she said, pointing to a doll made out of a quilt holding a sign adorned with sea shells and the word “beach.”
The former owner of a home furnishings store in Ocala, Jetter moved to Largo with her husband, who works for the city, about three years ago.
For more information about Cottage Shoppes Along the Shore, pick up a brochure at any of the 14 participating businesses:
- Provence Art & Antiques at 2620 Jewell Road in Belleair Bluffs (727) 581-5754;
- Country Porch Antiques & Country Décor at 13862 Walsingham Road in Largo (727) 595-2500;
- Ready Set Yo at 13819 Walsingham Road in Largo (727) 614-9763;
- Quaint Essentials at 11890 Walsingham Road in Largo (727) 398-2228;
- The Coffee Mill at 12199 Indian Rocks Road in Largo (727) 595-6717;
- Julie’s Cottage at Provence at 13128 Indian Rocks Road in Largo: 517-8102;
- Deja~New Boutique at 1495 Indian Rocks Road in Largo (727) 216-3321;
- Petal & Vine Garden Shop and Market at 596 Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs (727) 614-8770;
- Shabby 2 Chic at 596 Indian Rocks Road #A2 in Belleair Bluffs (727) 424-2309;
- Roadside Attraction 596 Indian Rocks Road #A1 in Belleair Bluffs (727) 793-8826;
- Jewel Café at 2601 Jewell Road in Belleair Bluffs (727) 518-7901;
- Surcee Market at 101 Clearwater Largo Road in Largo (727) 216-3612;
- The Emporium at 904 Clearwater-Largo Road N. in Largo (727) 588-0121;
- Largo Eclectic Mall at 211 N. Missouri Avenue in Largo (727) 584-4174.