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Business blossoms on Main Street

An arts and crafts renaissance that began several years ago in downtown Brooksville continues to blossom and has led to new cooperation among Main Street businesses. A group of eight antique, craft, gift and clothing shops joined with a downtown restaurant last year to produce a full-color brochure featuring a map of Brooksville's Main Street and profiles of each of the participating shops.

The brochures recently were delivered to several shops outside Brooksville and to some area chambers of commerce in the hope that they will be circulated among tourists and lure visitors and money from the Tampa Bay area and Orlando.

"It already works," said Dick Lantz, who owns Mountaineer Antiques at 201 S Main St. "Now we want to let people outside the area know about us."

The merchants have been working together for about a year now to increase each other's customer traffic and create a friendly, down-home atmosphere for Brooksville. They hope their work eventually will translate into increased profits and large crowds.

"I'm already seeing some effect of this," said Linda Fuller, owner of Dogwood Station at 140 S Main. "I refer customers up the street and they refer them down the street. Everyone benefits."

In addition to Lantz and Ms. Fuller, other participants in the creation of the brochure were the owners of the Olive Leaf, Mainline Designs, the Main Street Eatery, Lewis' Office Supplies and Gifts, the Old Town Flower Shop, Old World Antiques, and Country Sunshine.

The stores offer a broad range of gifts, from flowers and gourmet coffees to stained glass artwork.

Each of the businesses followed a similar pattern before opening.

They each located an older home or building and made renovations before moving in.

They each sell more than just the products lining the shelves. Each of the stores also is trying to sell tourists on a time when Brooksville was a smaller, quieter place.

Lantz, who operates his business from a home that originally was ordered from a Sears and Roebuck catalog in 1925, said that he may have something of a location advantage over the other merchants, but that his good fortune pays off for everyone.

"I've been in this house for about a year and I keep a guest book that shows that people come from all over the country just to see the house," Lantz said. "But then we (the merchants) work among ourselves and refer people to each other so everyone benefits."