North Central Florida – SHOPPING
The cities have popular shopping malls, anchored by familiar national chain stores, but the area’s most offbeat shopping is in communities where former main-street mercantiles have evolved into boutiques selling antiques, handmade items of all kinds, specialty foods and baked goods. Within a stroll of two or three blocks you can have lunch and shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Micanopy (Mick-can-OH-pea) is a tiny hideaway on the site of a pre-Colombian settlement that was platted by a New York developer in the early 1800s.
Mansions, homes and merchants took root, only to see a fickle public move on to other settlements. Seemingly frozen in the 1950s, the hamlet has restaurants, bookstores and antiques.
Alachua’s old town center, home of quaint galleries and restaurants, is complemented by the new Alachua Gateway Center just outside the historic district. Shop and dine your way through both. At Dowling Park, crafters at Advent Christian Village retirement community create handmade quilts and baby gifts for sale in the Rustic Shop.
The region has six wineries including the Dakotah Vineyards and Winery in Chiefland. It offers tastings, tours and discounts on case lots.
Ethnic food stores are abundant in the two college towns. At the Equal Ease Plaza on Southwest 34th Street in Gainesville, large stores specialize in Indian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Philippino and Asian foods rarely found elsewhere.
Bradley’s Country Store, reached from Tallahassee via one of the region’s oak- cloaked “canopy roads,” retains the old-time charm of the 1927 original. Sausages are still made and smoked on-site. Stop to buy souvenirs and stock up on smoked meats, local honey, coarse-ground grits, mayhaw jelly, cracklings and such.