In the not so distant past, Safety Harbor's quaint Main Street justified, if anything, a quick drive-by on Sundays. The only audible activity was the rustling of leaves on its majestic oaks.
More recently, a spunkier, artsier contingent has taken over the downtown district, making way for a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll with indie shopping, convenient and free parking, and eclectic lunch options at eateries like the Whistle Stop Grill and Bar and Southern Fresh.
And if you're looking for a fun way to shop with or for your life's leading lady for Mother's Day (May 8), Safety Harbor is an ideal option on both counts.
Safety Harbor Galleria offers a wide variety of merchandise, much of it for less than $20. Owner and founder April Hayes, a well-traveled artist who's worked with indigenous cultures and on nonprofit children art projects, has gathered 17 artists and entrepreneurs — 15 women, two men — to form a co-op that leases space to vendors with the caveat that the items are affordable for everyone.
"It's in no way a singular effort," says Galleria co-owner Diana Cooper (who just opened another shop in Dunedin, Koastal Kloset).
The Galleria is a converted bungalow with a rack of cool vintage duds and patio furniture outside. Inside, you'll find a fun array of giftables, new clothing that ranges from funky to sophisticated. Strikingly fashionable sunglasses are available for just $8 to $12.
The bizarro-cool mixed media trinkets of Margo Mandichak dominate the center of the shop, and the shop's display windows feature the whimsical accessories and artwork of Tammie Joyner and Melissa Andersen.
For something else that's fun, check out Galleria's Vintage Dictionary prints — mixed media art using pages from old reference books that provide a fun gift option at $21 a print.
Tupelo on 4th is the lovechild of mosaic artist Melissa Haist. Like Galleria, it's also a restored bungalow and features and supports local artisans, as well as other Floridian vendors.
The eye-catching merchandise displays include the playful Natural Life product line, based in Jacksonville. Accessories and decor galore from owl piggy banks that say "Save wisely" at the top ($19), the terminally cute Happy Camper keychains ($11 or $12.99) and head-to-torso-use Boho Bandeaus ($14).
In the spirit of making the shop a gathering place for art, Tupelo on 4th also offers art classes. Abstract aquatic and nature painter Galina Fouks leads a Cork & Canvas painting class the third Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. ($30).
Dazzled Boutique is a more conservative, but equally lovely and whimsical, boutique located right on Main Street. It also has a variety of gifty items, fashion and home decor. Some items in stock this spring include ultra-feminine lace dresses for $89 and The Covered In Prayer blanket collection by Barefoot Dreams, designed with a spiritual message of inspiration. A percentage of each blanket sold is donated to developing a cure for colon cancer ($66-$250).
Meanwhile in St. Pete
Head south to shop for Mother's Day at the Spring Down Central Shop Hop from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The multi-shop event features eight eclectic local boutiques all located on Central Avenue. Specials, refreshments and gift basket drawings will be featured. The cool part: Each retailer will give away a flower with a purchase, so customers can create their own spring bouquet. Participating merchants include Ashe Couture, Florida CraftArt, Milagros, Misred Outfitters, Paper Street Market, Plain Jane, Strands of Sunshine and ZaZood's. For more information, visit facebook.com/plainjanestpete.