Touch de L'Afrique Opens On St. Armands, Sarasota

A Sarasota designer has completed the conversion of a former jewelry store on fashionable St. Armands Circle into a three-stores-in-one space featuring a touch of Africa.

Touch de L'Afrique opened May 10 to visitors of St. Armands and is adjacent to the Blue Dolphin Cafe. Designed by Jesse Balaity of Sarasota's Balaity Property Enhancement, the 75-feet-by-16-feet space features a museum-like retail store, a cafe and lounge and a travel marketing presentation room.

"The building used to house an independent jewelry store," explains Balaity. "The idea (behind Tour de L'Afrique) is that customers come into the store to browse hand-crafted items, but the other side is tourism to safari tours. The idea is to lure them to the travel side and educate them about the culture and tour offerings. Videos are shown in conference room in the back."

Balaity says the constricted space allowed only minimal buildout.

"It's a very small area. And we needed to work with the existing floor. We only moved one wall to the back to accommodate the coffee bar and lounge area."

The retail space at 464 John Ringling Blvd. boasts furniture, artwork, artifacts, textiles and jewelry made from artisans in South Africa in a gallery-like setting. On the travel side, guests can enjoy refreshments in the cafe and lounge area and investigate African travel tours offered by Go Touch Down Travel and Tours.

"This was a little dream project," Balaity says. "My impression of the merchandise was that it will just skyrocket. The product is so cool -- contemporary patterns with handmade quality."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Jesse Balaity, Balaity Property Enhancement
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