South Florida is home to a variety of small businesses, many that offer products and services you can’t find anywhere else.
Some establishments attract shoppers from across the tri-county area and beyond for their unique offerings or a surge in demand for their products. South Florida residents have been flocking to Naples for day trips to Florida’s only Trader Joe’s grocer location since the store opened in February. Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, attracts shoppers from all across the state since it is one of three locations in Florida,
Sawgrass Mills outlet mall has been an international shopping attraction for years.
“Destination shopping is the holy grail of retail,” said Rick McAllister, CEO and president of the Florida Retail Federation. “If you’re the only place in an area that offers a particular product, then it’s all about letting people know you’re out there.”
Candy that’s out of this world
To the Moon Marketplace is a candy and gifts store on Wilton Drive in Fort Lauderdale. The store’s expansive selection of vintage candy, dating back to 1806, is what attracts South Florida residents.
Brett Horowitz, of Lake Worth, said he visits To The Moon regularly since he first found it four years ago.
“I haven’t found a store like this anywhere else,” he said. “It isn’t like going into a CVS. The owner and cashiers remember you.”
To The Moon opened in 2005, said owner Ralph Antonio Dumas. The store carries more than 70 types of chocolate, 100 types of black licorice, marzipan bars, 100 different kinds of greeting cards and gag gifts for special occasions.
Customers come regularly to his store from all over, even as far as Fort Pierce, he said.
Carlos Ortega, of Hallandale Beach, makes a point to stock up on his favorite candy every three weeks.
“The drive is worth it for the items To the Moon carries,” Ortega said. “They have nostalgic candy that I remember from growing up and items that make great and unique gifts for friends.”
For that perfect fit
When Ilona Shoichet was looking for the perfect dress for her daughter’s bat mitzvah, she drove to Coral Gables from her Wellington home. Shoichet found the perfect dress at Rene Ruiz’s flagship store in Coral Gables.
“I live an hour and 20 minutes away, but the trip was worth it to find the right dress for my daughter,” she said.
Rene Ruiz is a fashion designer whose men and women’s apparel, including bridal collections and evening gowns, is sold in boutiques across the U.S. and internationally. Ruiz’s only full line store is in Coral Gables.
“I’ve never met anyone who designs like Rene,” said loyal shopper Deborah DelPrete, of Delray Beach. She said she’s purchased several custom-made dresses from his store. “I would drive even farther for his designs. No one makes anything quite like him.”
Saddle up in South Florida
It’s hard to miss McLelland’s Saddlery Inc. on U.S. 1 in downtown Lake Worth. It’s the building with a horse on the roof. Family-owned McLelland’s Saddlery has been making saddles and other leather equestrian gear from the store since 1958, said one of the owners, Perry McLelland.
The saddles are made from scratch and are often customized to fit a specific horse. This is the fourth generation of the family running the enterprise, which started in 1892 in Virginia. The saddles are sold all over the country and shipped to Europe and South America, McLelland said.
“They may be the only handmade saddlery in the state,” said Susie Blackmon, a longtime show competitor from Ocala. “Riders everywhere know their saddles as a high-end, quality brand.”