Sarasota retail reporter, columnist says farewell: Thank you, 'What's in Store' readers

After nearly five years of covering retail news in Sarasota and Bradenton, Laura Finaldi departs, recalling notable stories.

Sarasota retail reporter, columnist says farewell: Thank you, 'What's in Store' readers

Healthy holiday shopping season expected despite inflationNational Retail Federation Senior Director for Industry and Consumer Insights Katherine Cullen discusses expectations for the Christmas holiday shopping season.Four and a half years ago, I pulled off Interstate 75 at exit 210 and saw Sarasota for the first time. I didn't know what the Van Wezel was, I'd never been to Publix and the idea of Major League Baseball spring training in a town where I lived was mind-boggling.But I was intrigued by the bright colors, the easy beach access and the gasp fried seafood, and it didn't take long before I felt at home here, even though I am not a native creature of this sweltering climate.I could have never predicted just how much I would learn about Sarasota-Bradenton, the state of Florida and about being a journalist as I did when I first applied for the retail reporter job almost five years ago. But now it's time for me to say goodbye.My last day at the Herald-Tribune will be Friday, Dec.

23.Retail news: Sarasota Square Sears building sells for $10.75 millionI accepted a new job for a real estate company in Virginia, where I'll be writing editorial content for one of their websites. I could not be more excited for this new opportunity and for an adventure in a bigger metropolitan area. But it's bittersweet, because since I started here I've had the pleasure of meeting so many of you, answering your emails about new developments and telling you about so many store openings and closings.Together, we watched Sarasota Square whittle away, we watched Benderson Development Co.

somehow find even more space for buildings at University Town Center, we honored longtime stores like Garden Argosy and The Sea Hagg as they closed their doors after decades in business.Bradenton natives generously shared with me their memories of growing up at DeSoto Square Mall, spending Saturdays eating at the food court and going to the movies. You came with me to Costco when we knew COVID was a thing but before we knew it was a thing.In case you missed it: Costco in early stages of opening a second warehouse store in Sarasota CountyLatest retail news:Miniature golf course gets approved for Englewood site owned by YouTuberMore:New grocery store moving into south Siesta Key spotBut even with a gangbusters real estate market, brand-new "downtown" areas like Wellen Park and Waterside Place and the completion of The Bay, the story of Sarasota is in many ways just beginning. COVID-19 put a real spotlight on the area as one of the few places you could go during the height of the pandemic, and with that, the secret was out.How to deal with the growth that has followed is something the area is currently wrestling with.

Five years from now, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport will have a new terminal, ground transportation center, rental car facility, customs facility, outside restaurants and shops and more. Siesta Key will also look very different, once the planned hotels that have been approved by Sarasota County commissioners start to take shape. And the new Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium structure at University Town Center will be another huge addition to the seemingly unstoppable shopping district.While all of these things might sound good on paper, a lot of issues will have to be addressed.

This area has a serious housing affordability problem that has gotten especially dire over the last two years. It feels like the working class and the service industry professionals are getting pushed out in favor of those who can afford to pay exorbitant amounts for homes or condos.I'm also worried about the future of our most valuable real estate -- our beaches -- and the communities that surround them. Siesta Key has long been known as one of the best beaches in the world, but what happens to its old Florida charm when you put a giant hotel right across the street? How are residents supposed to get on and off the island without sitting in insane levels of traffic, and what if there's an emergency?If Sarasota continues to turn into a playground for the rich, I'm sure that'll be great for those who can afford it, until their favorite restaurants start to close because staff can no longer afford to live within driving distance.These issues will continue to be discussed -- and litigated -- for years to come.

And you can be rest assured the Herald-Tribune will be right there, asking questions and getting the news out there for all of you as soon as they get it.Speaking of the Herald-Tribune, I wish you could all see firsthand how amazing the people I work with are. Journalism is a tough business, but they've all held on because of their passion, love for the craft and genuine desire to do the right thing. Sarasota is lucky to have them (and they are not making me say that).

If you have any tips about business news, you can reach out to News Director Victor Hull at EMAIL, or real estate reporter Derek Gilliam at EMAIL.I've been saying a lot of goodbyes lately,and I've realized that I'm really bad at them. So instead, let me just say thank you again and then leave you with the words of someone a lot more articulate than me, "Hadestown" composer Anais Mitchell:"To the world we dream about, and the one we live in now!"