As the world bid welcome to the new millennium, Sarasota residents and business owners rolled into 2000 with cautious optimism. The hidden jewel of Florida’s Suncoast had been discovered. Most notably, the town’s rich cultural sophistication and natural beauty had caught the eye of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The construction of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel would announce to the world that the former sleepy ‘Circus City’ had achieved top-drawer status. The ensuing land boom and downtown resurgence would draw even more attention to the area’s opportunities and local restaurant owners soon found themselves competing with big brand chains.
Michael Klauber (Owner, Sarasota’s Michaels on East restaurant; est 1987) remembers. “We realized that Sarasota was changing, and we were starting to see the big guys coming in. None of us had the budgets to battle these highly subsidized corporations.” Klauber discovered that dozens of other local restaurateurs were lying awake at night with similar worries. D’Arcy Arpke (Co-owner, Longboat Key’s Euphemia Haye restaurant, est 1980) helped Klauber to “circle the wagons,” encouraging other independently-owned restaurateurs to join forces and work cooperatively to develop and launch a neighborhood initiative called the “Sarasota-Manatee Originals.”
The Sarasota-Manatee Originals was established in September 2003 based on a shared passion to celebrate and preserve the community’s culinary sense of place. A group of 24 independent restaurant owners and chefs from Sarasota and Manatee counties had learned to see their neighbor restaurants as collaborators, not competition and came together to become Florida's first chapter of a group of its kind.
Today the “Originals” are over 60 restaurants strong, spanning 40 miles of Florida’s central Gulf coast and providing guests with unique local flavor from the north shore of Anna Maria Island down to the southern beaches of Venice and every neighborhood in between.
When members of the community pull together for a united cause, we give way beyond our individual means. Together as a community, the power becomes unlimited.
Standing stronger together, the Originals organization works to preserve, elevate and celebrate the culinary heritage its Members represent - defined not so much by a particular flavor or cuisine, but by the passionate personality, dedication to the highest quality, and love of community that mark the independent restaurant professional. We support our Member restaurants who help define our Suncoast, give it character and make it a memorable town to visit and live. We do this through creative advertising, unique marketing events and opportunities, and forging strategic partnerships. We urge the community to support our local independent restaurants here and across the country and encourage the general public to always “Eat Like A Local.”