© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The CNC produces journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties for about a dozen media partners including newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines.

Antique shops put Arcadia on the map

Storefront with nutcrackers on either side
Sarah Owens
Community News Collaborative
Glass Antique or Not’s exterior got a facelift after being damaged by Hurricane Ian thanks to a grant from T-Mobile.

Alongside the treasures of the past on Main Street are some new ideas.

At first glance, Arcadia could seem like just another rural town in Florida’s vast farming belt.

But for those looking to score a clock, or a davenport or a piece of jewelry from another era, Arcadia’s historic downtown district can be worth the hour or more drive from the gulf coast.

With just under 8,000 residents, Arcadia is the hub of DeSoto County. The town was incorporated in 1887 and is famous for its antique shops.

The dozen or so shops are strong contributors to the county’s economy, bringing in over half a million dollars in sales tax revenue from January 2022 to October 2023. DeSoto County Economic Development director Sondra Guffey says the shops are also a great marketing tool for the downtown area.

Looking down the street in downtown Arcadia
Sarah Owens
Community News Collaborative
Arcadia's antique district has been drawing visitors from all over the state for decades.

“One of the most important or valuable things about our antique district is that they have, in some ways, put Arcadia on the map,” Guffey said. “People have come from around the state to antique.”

The majority of Arcadia’s antique shops are on Oak Street, the focus of the Arcadia Main Street Program. Numbers have dwindled of late, in some cases because of Hurricane Ian, but those once-empty shops have fueled something of a resurgence in diversity.

“There’s so much new growth,” said Toni Badovinac, manager of Glass Antique or Not. “It’s as if downtown has gotten a new breath of fresh air.”

Sign says a coffee house is coming soon
Sarah Owens
Community News Collaborative
A new coffee shop featuring locally roasted blends is set to open soon in downtown Arcadia.

A new coffee shop featuring locally roasted beans is soon to open, a few boutiques have popped up and an arts and craft studio offers private parties and classes. A few new antique stores as well as a book store and a Friday farmers market have also landed on the street.

“We have a lot of younger generations eager to come in, who have fantastic ideas,” said Badovinac. “Everybody is open to ways to bring tourists back to Arcadia, and we’re expanding our hours, we’re making more events downtown.”

Glass Antiques or Not recently reopened and celebrated its 20th anniversary after having to close due to damage from Hurricane Ian. The shop returned to business after a grant from T-Mobile allowed Arcadia Main Street to offer downtown business owners partial reimbursements for repair expenses.

Badovinac’s mother and step-father, Algie and Wolf Didlaukies, opened the store after visiting Arcadia and falling in love with its small-town charm. They made the move from Miami once Algie retired, and she asked Badovinac to make the journey from Colorado to join her.

Another longtime staple in downtown Arcadia is Biggar & Biggar Antique Mall on the corner of South Monroe Avenue and West Oak Street. James Lee has owned the store for almost 12 years, and just opened a second.

“It’ a lot of fun, and something we really enjoy,” Lee said. “If I don’t have it in either one of my stores, then I know somebody else does. I'd rather you spend your dollar here than go to another town.”

Lee and his wife, Star Mclaughlin, love the thrill of the hunt, sourcing a majority of their items from the Carolinas, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and sometimes online or from estate sales. They also have several vendors who rent space in their stores, bringing items from all over Southwest Florida.

Lee says he’s enjoyed watching the downtown atmosphere change over the years, and the recent growth and incoming diversity is exciting. Despite struggles during the pandemic and Hurricane Ian, he notes they’ve come back better and stronger.

Arcadia Main Street’s Wine Walk is among the new attractions. Selling out at 500 tickets, an increase from the previous two years, visitors gathered recently to meander through the downtown shops while sipping and snacking.

“It’s nice to see all the shops and what they have to offer,” said Alicia Shields, a Punta Gorda resident who attended the event. “This way you can go into each one and kind of see what they have.”

Shields said this was her first time in Arcadia in several years, tagging along with a group of friends who attended the event last year. Cheyenne Orcutt, one of those friends, travels from Punta Gorda regularly.

“It’s not the Arcadia 10 years ago,” Guffey said. “So, if you think you’ve seen Arcadia, you need to come back.”

Sarah Owens is a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. Connect with her at slowens@cncfl.org

Interior of an antique store
Sarah Owens
Community News Collaborative
Biggar & Biggar Antique Mall features a variety of items brought in by the owners and at least six vendors.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.