Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association
To be a member, is to be a true city builder! We advocate economic growth that fosters the district’s full potentials as a premier and vibrant destination.
Join the Sarasota downtown merchant association!
We are an organization of downtown business owners who care about preserving and improving the Heart & Soul of our Community.
Zoning. Permits. Special Events. Special Improvements.
We strive to create a clean, safe, and vibrant Downtown through services provided to property owners, businesses, residents and employees. The Sarasota downtown merchant association works in collaboration with the Downtown Improvement District (DID) and is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.
The team is dedicated to enhancing the overall appeal of Downtown Sarasota. Initiatives include hospitality, cleaning, lighting, security outreach, street scape, employee parking, alley improvements, urban planning and engagements that benefit downtown patrons, visitors and stakeholders.
Experience the unique vibe of our city while browsing local shops and boutiques.
With more than 95% of our downtown dining options owned and operated locally, it’s easy to support local and eat where the locals eat!
Here’s what we coordinate for members
Our members work together to make downtown Sarasota an unparalleled place to shop, dine and enjoy the many cultural amenities that our city has to offer. Volunteers collaborate to fund downtown initiatives, projects, petition local agencies and recruit promotional partners to deliver iconic festivals and events. We seek matching funds for advertising such as commercials and ads in Visit Sarasota.
We organize destination events
Sarasota Pineapple Drop NYE Block Party, Saturday December 31, 2022
Organizer: Ron Soto
The big New Year’s Eve party in Sarasota is the annual Pineapple Drop Block Party! The dropping of the big glowing pineapple comes at midnight and takes place at the intersection of Lemon Avenue and Main Street in downtown.
The actual pineapple drop is the highlight of a party that includes a wide range of entertainment and attractions throughout the day, starting from 1:0.0 p.m. and running right through until 1:00 a.m. on new years day morning.
A Shout-Out to The Gator Club and Mattison’s City Grille for sponsoring stages over the years. Thank you for your partnership. With media support donated by iHeart Radio, SNN and ABC News the event is the largest NYE celebration in south Florida.
Become a Sponsor
There are many sponsorship opportunities available. Swing by Soto’s Optical located at 1383 Main Street to learn more.
Le Marche Bohemien
City Christmas Tree
Organizer: Ron Soto
The tree stands approximately 40 feet tall and requires 2 workers and several days to assemble.
The merchant association pays for storage, coordinates set-up and organize an annual tree lighting event.
The Sarasota Christmas Tree Lighting event is where neighbors come together. Magical memories are captured in front of the charming Christmas Tree while children visit with Santa Claus. The sounds of the season take over Five Points park as Carolers entertain crowds.
First Friday Sip & Shop
A grass roots effort was launched in the fall of 2021 to build a monthly First Friday Sip & Shop event. The event took place from 5-8 pm and urged travelers and locals to shop destinations downtown.
Organizers coordinate entertainment, live music and distribute red balloons to showcase participating merchants.
Organizers: Laura Kresl & Darci Jacob
Donte’s Den is a long-term care center for dogs, safe haven for pets whose owners can no longer care for them. They also provide short term boarding.
Dogs don the Halloween garb for the annual Sarasota Dog-A-Ween Costume Contest. Organizers plan logistics, assemble prizes and media.
Sarasota ROCKtoberfest, October 14-16, 2022
Sarasota Fine Art Festival
The Sarasota Fall Fine Art Festival returns November 19-20, 2022 for its ninth season. Whether you are an art collector of wish to find origintal, creative handmade arts and fine crafts for home or office, comsee the palette of art the event will lay for you.
Marketing downtown as a destination
We’ve collected over 15,000 social followers!
In 2017 members recruited Pro It Out Marketing to build brand platforms. Considering the competing shopping centers that surround the core district, the brand ‘Destination Downtown Sarasota’ was born.
For six years, the associations $12,000 annual investment into advertising and marketing has resulted in the following growth. Connecting & Growing! The district’s brand “Destination Downtown Sarasota” now serves as a voice for the district.
Just a few ways downtown business owners give back to the community.
Business owners in a self-taxing district
Every voice counts! Get involved.
Downtown property owners created a self-taxing association in 2008, the Downtown Improvement District (DID). Five downtown commercial property owners are on the board.
At the same time, the Sarasota Downtown Merchants association was formed to represent merchants within the DID district. While special taxing districts are all the rage. They often operate out of sight and out of mind for most voters and tax payers. The associations board members actively attend city meetings and request:
- Supplemental services to keep the streets and sidewalks clean.
- Fresh flowers, shade trees & transforming our alleys
- We advocate investments upgrade the aesthetic appearance of the district and make people feel welcome and safe.
- We advocated against using the districts self-taxing funds for the trolley
- We advocate for safe parks and well light streets
- We serve as a voice for the district
“Multiple studies have shown that special districts provide services at a higher cost, and their services are no better or sometimes worse than those provided by municipal governments or the private sector.”
‘Out of Site: How Special Taxing Districts Circumvent Spending Limits and Decrease Accountability in Government by Goldwater Institute, the nation’s preeminent liberty organization.
We are passionate about accountablity
- Commercials offer merchants a 50/50 slit investment, coordinated by the Sarasota Downtown Merchant & still used today
- According to DID Commissioner Chris Voelker “Anyone can create a directory.” That’s true, but in 5 years the DID spent over $30,000 towards the effort. 2017, 2020 & again in 2021. Here’s what happens when changing domain names.
- In 2021 the DID spent $100,000 from the 3% self-tax budget to pay Jeffery Kin, the longtime producing artistic director of the Players Centre for Performing Arts, to coordinate a National Annual ‘Art Festival’ downtown.
- Then on Sept. 6, 2022 the DID voted 3 to 2 not to support additional fund request since the promoter moved the event location to the Ringling which falls outside the DID’s self-tax zone.
- City commissioners voted unanimously to remove six benches from the park April 2012. Today we have a downtown trolley but no bench to rest & wait
- Downtown Condo Boost of 2013 implemented & coordinated by the city government & DID
- 2018 completion date for a recreational pier, a renewed historic district, a large adventure play area, enhanced waterfront access
- Downtown Sarasota Roundabouts & the FDOT
- More tall buildings projects to transform downtown
- Downtown Sarasota Parking Meters
- In 2016, the DID invested $6,500 for a new district logo “We Love Downtown Sarasota.” The funds also paid for logos in surrounding districts.
DID news! Be in the know
FY2022-23 Budget expenditures Sarasota Downtown Improvement District Commissioners choose to fund totaling $1,050,913.
Operating Expenses $25,510
Fresh Friday $90,000
Flower Baskets $230,000
Sidewalk & Alley Cleaning $60,000
Landscape Maintenance $80,000
Tree Lights $236.934
Advertising & Marketing $56,500
CIP Program $136,828
Grant-Comprehensive Treatment Court $15,000
Fresh Friday Events $10,000 8pm-11pm
Lakewood Ranch 1st Friday: 6pm-9pm
St Pete 1st Friday: 6pm-11pm
As a result to the commissioners decision not to include merchants in this investment, the DSEA launched our own First Friday event that runs from 5pm-8pm and includes live music, carriage rides, caricatures and circus performers.
$56,000 in Marketing Services
Website Management & Hosting.
As of September 2022, using the below site audit tool we identified that the DID’s new website collected less than 20 monthly visitors in 2021 & has since grown to 71 visit in September 2022. The site contains 163 keywords. This is the 3rd new domain and website the D.I.D. funded since the DSEA launched this website in 2015.
Our members website DestinationDowntownSarasota.com collected 1,100 site visits in September 2022 & includes over 900 keywords.
Social Media Marketing.
The DID paid a firm $60,000 for their 2021/2022 fiscal year to marketing downtown. The Facebook page the firm created has a total of 150 followers after 12 months of $5,000 monthly payments. We were unable to find an Instagram account for the DID using a simple search.
Comparatively, our members Facebook page collects over 220 followers per month on a $100 ad spend budget.
The DID Newsletter. Email marketing is a great way to build followers. Unfortunately the DID has not received reports therefore we cannot report on how many people are receiving the newsletter nor whether it’s a worthy investment.