New Grocer on South Siesta Key
by John Morton | Siesta Sand
On paper, Sean and Tana Anderson of Michigan deliver the ideal one-two punch as far as starting their first grocery store is concerned. He spent 16 years within the industry as a Midwest sales manager, and she had a career in industrial design and marketing.
“I know what the numbers should be, she knows what it should look like,” Sean said of their roles and skill sets.
Off paper, they are arguably even more qualified. They have been frequent visitors to Siesta Key and the former Crescent Beach Grocery at 1211 Old Stickney Point Rd. was their place.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 5, visiting my uncle. Every summer, my sister and I would spend several weeks here,” Sean said. “Since then, my family (he and Tana have two daughters) have made this our spot for vacations and Christmases. It’s always been like home. This is where are hearts are.”
And now the rest of them. The family has moved here on a full-time basis.
“We sold everything. We moved the kids. We have both feet in,” Sean said of the endeavor.
Before that, they most recently stayed across the street at the Anchorage condos. It was shortly after former owner Nancy Connelly in April retired and sold the building. The Andersons missed the convenience of what the store offered, just like everyone else. And it got them thinking.
“We too felt the void, so we know what the neighborhood was going through,” Tana said of the store sitting vacant. “Some nights, you just need that quick, easy bottle of wine. That’s what we were used to having.”
Meanwhile, when word spread up to them in Michigan about the store’s availability, the Andersons became even more intrigued.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Tana said of operating a boutique, upscale market. “This was our chance.”
Sean, who was almost too close to the rigors of such an undertaking considering his job, needed a bit of convincing. “I joked for years that I’d never buy a grocery store. Then again, I never thought I’d eat Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or blueberries. But Tana convinced me to try them and now I eat them all the time,” he said with a laugh.
If Sean was going to bend on the idea, it would be for something small and independent.
“I’ve always kind of rooted for the mom-and-pop operations. The little guy,” he said. “Those were the clients I enjoyed the most.”
The work begins
There’s nothing small about the task ahead, of course. The business has been gutted and the Andersons are working around the clock to give it a fresh, modern look.
“Everything is getting touched,” Tana said of the remodel.
The cumbersome columns that broke up the store’s space will be removed, new tile flooring will go in, lighting will be updated, the bathrooms will receive a major upgrade, and an employee break room will be constructed.
As they toil away, seldom does a minute go where some curious customers-in-waiting don’t peer on in.
“I feel so bad – I want to invite them in and talk,” Tana said, “but we have a lot do and we want to get everything just right. You can tell a lot of people are anxious for us to open.”
As for the building itself, it’s structurally solid. “The bones are good,” Sean said. “It just needs a fresh look.”
The overhaul will no doubt be appreciated by all. The store originated in the early 1950s and was certainly dated.
“We want the new design to not only impact our customers, but our employees,” Tana said. “We’re excited to start our team and invest in their lives.”
Landlord Chris Brown, who bought the complex in April, plans to improve the exterior in the coming months as well. One casualty of the recent hurricane was the business’ sign in back of it that overlooked the approach to the island coming over the south bridge, so that will need attention.
As for customer offerings, the deli will remain but with a new twist centering on prepackaged “grab and go” items alongside the traditional offerings. Made-to-order coffee, smoothies and juices will also be a focal point.
Shortly after opening, which the Andersons project will be before 2022 ends, online orders and deliveries will also be in play.
Much of that strategy is vacationer-friendly, but the Andersons emphasize that the store will carry traditional every-day staples and brands that may better suit the island’s full-time residents.
“You still need to stock Cheerios,” Sean said.
Added Tana, “Between the tourists and locals, we’ll find the right mix. That will be a key to our success.”
Meanwhile, they can’t say enough about the state-of-the-art walk-in beer cave, that they are having designed by Sarasota-based Styleline. The company specializes in glass door systems.
“(Up in Michigan) we saw some amazing beer caves at some gas stations and I did some research. I couldn’t believe it – they were made by a company right here in Sarasota,” Tana said. “Needless to say, we called them.”
An emphasis will also be on products from local growers, suppliers and vendors, the couple said, and healthy, gluten-free options will also be plentiful. One of the couple’s daughters has celiac disease, so they know and appreciate the challenges connected with that.
“I like the fact I can provide options for people and guide them on what they need,” Tana said of those searching for specialty items. “Most stores don’t do that.”
Sean looks forward to guiding customers in other ways as well, much like Connelly used to do, given his history with the island.
“Sharing suggestions with people on where to go for the best steak, the best oysters, the best this or that,” he said. “That’s what is great about a neighborhood store.”
In fact, Sean said the neighboring businesses are offering support and he hopes to partner with them in a variety of ways. For example, a boating business could sell customized beach baskets for outings, he said as an example, while he promotes that business in return.
“I’ve noticed that in this business community, everyone seems to support one another,” he said. “That’s part of what makes Siesta Key tight-knit and special.”
In fact, Connelly is helping with the transition, the Andersons said. Her father started the business, sold it in the 1980s, and then the daughter bought it back in 2003 and ran it the final 19 years.
During that middle stretch of ownership, it was called Crescent Market. And, in part with a nod to both history and familiarity, the Andersons will be going with a combination of the Crescent Beach Grocery and Crescent Market names — Crescent Beach Market.
Very similar, but different.
“It represents a restart from a marketing standpoint, which is almost required these days because of internet searches and things like that,” Sean said. “More so, we like the vibe of the word ‘market.’ Market means a gathering place. A friendly place. It is more upscale. ‘Grocery’ sounds like more of a place where you get what you need and check-out.
“That’s not what we plan to be.”
And now that fate seems to be on their side, the Andersons are certain they made the right choice — despite the pursuit being a daunting one.
“Every time a door closed during this process, another one opened,” Sean said. “It was meant to be. Then came the hurricane. And we were like, ‘This is what is going to keep this from us?’ Are you kidding?’ At that point, we just said ‘All right God, it’s in your hands.’
“And here we are.”