While the majority of their neighbors are enjoying retirement, a handful of Villagers are heading to work at businesses they own and operate in the surrounding community.
Whether they work feeding customers, inspiring guests or teaching visitors, the business owners have the same goal: pleasing their customers. Whether Villagers are looking for new home decor or a night out, they can seek out locally owned businesses run by their neighbors in Wildwood and Fruitland Park.
Sandy Sweeny, of the Village of Largo, took ownership of Gilded Matilda’s in Wildwood just over a year ago. Sweeny started by working in the store as an artist. Now, she teaches classes as well as runs the store’s daily operations.
“I wanted to offer something unique to the community,” Sweeny said. “And I liked the idea of helping to improve the community.”
Sweeny bought the store from its original owner, and took her time to put her own personal touch on it. What once was an ordinary art shop is now a colorful studio, with murals on the walls.
The bathroom is even considered a destination, Sweeny said.
The narrow powder room is painted blue, with beautiful mermaids with flowing hair. Lightbulbs hang from the ceiling to imitate bubbles rising to the surface of the ocean.
She said business is booming since the renovations were completed.
“We’ve since tripled the amount of art classes that we offer,” Sweeny said. “We have all different types of art that you can learn.”
If you don’t feel inspired enough to take a class, Sweeny hopes that visitors will still feel encouraged to decorate their homes with the local artwork she stocks.
“Everything in the store is made by local artists,” Sweeny said. “We get new shipments in practically every day.”
Sweeny has given talks in The Villages to groups like the Decorating Divas that help teach people how to use local art elements to decorate their homes.
Sweeny isn’t the only Villager who helps people decorate homes.
Karen Crispin, of the Village of Hadley, owns a reclaimed furniture store in Fruitland Park.
“My store is different from most furniture stores,” Crispin said. “I sell reclaimed furniture, pieces that have been given a second life.”
Crispin said she’s always been an artist, and likes that her store provides a new way for her to exercise her creativity.
Simply Rustic only opened in Fruitland Park in February, but Crispin said she sees a steady growth of new and repeat customers.
“We have a lot of success from word-of-mouth, and we’re a little destination for this area of the town,” she said.
Crispin also loves the store’s location, which is within walking distance of two other stores that customers visit after they shop with her.
Simply Rustic is hard to miss; the store is painted bright green and looks like someone’s fashionably decorated home.
To further liven up your home decor, there’s another Villager-owned option in Fruitland Park.
Rosemarie Re, of the Village of Pine Ridge, is the owner of Villages Silks. She makes all of her custom silk floral arrangements by hand.
“I’ve gone to craft fairs for 11 years now,” she said. “They were one of the reasons that I moved to The Villages.”
Re said the push to open her store two years ago came from a need she recognized in the community.
“People needed someone to help them with their interior decor needs,” she said. “I have a natural gift from God that allows me to make beautiful arrangements and I want to share it.”
Re’s most popular item is her Birds of Paradise, but she said that everything in the store is unique, and no one needs to worry about seeing the same thing in all of their friends houses.
“I custom-make things if people bring in a photo (of what they want). And I offer a 100 percent guarantee — if they don’t like it, they can return it,” she said. “I also can be booked for appointments to go to people’s homes.”
Re enjoys getting to provide a piece of beauty to the neighborhood.
Paula Luvs 2 Stamp
Paula Rosenberg, of the Village of Pinellas, owns Paula Luvs 2 Stamp, a handmade card, stamping and scrapbooking business.
“I’ve been in the card making and scrapbooking business for 25 years,” Rosenberg said. “When I moved to The Villages I moved the store and opened it up here in Wildwood.”
Rosenberg’s store is open to all, whether you are a scrapbooking master or get a paper cut just thinking of it.
“I have all the supplies here, and I have classes on card making,” she said. “That way even a beginner doesn’t have to worry about buying a ton of new stuff or bringing it all to the studio.”
Rosenberg enjoys knowing her store provides a place for people to learn and improve the community.
“I don’t know a single person who would get a handmade card in the mail and say, ‘Oh no, throw it away!’” she said. “They just make you feel good.”
Mystic Ice Cream
When you want to go out for a good time with your friends, hit up Mystic Ice Cream.
Jeff Markow, of the Village La Zamora, is the owner of the ice cream cafe.
Markow opened Mystic Ice Cream eight years ago because he wanted to provide a hang out spot for Villagers.
“I can guarantee there is not another place like this on Earth,” Markow said. “It is totally unique, an unusual spot.”
One of the draws of the ice cream shop is the adult ice cream flavors on the menu.
Half of the ice cream flavors Mystic sells are infused with alcohol.
“We can seat 150 people, we have a stage area for dancing and singing,” he said. “We also have live music.”
Maddie Cutler is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5386, or [email protected]