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red brick place storefront

One of my Favorite Nature Coast Small Business Stories: The Red Brick Place

By Diane Bedard Posted on November 24, 2021

With Thanksgiving upon us and Shop Small Saturday this week, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to one of my favorite local shops.

At the northeast corner of US 41 and Orange Avenue (CR 48), there is a beautiful red brick building that was built in the late 1800s with a large awning over double doors and two large display windows. Above the awning reads “Red Brick Place: Gallery & Unique Gifts.”

The west side of the building displays a mural welcoming all to Floral City and the Avenue of the Oaks. On the open corner lot are metal flowers in pots and a fountain installed to beautify the area and help welcome people to a place that values a slower pace and neighborly interactions.

“I first saw this building in the 1980s. I was managing concessions at the Homosassa State Wildlife Park. I moved to Floral City in 1995 and was able to buy it in 2013.” Laura Hennings explains, “It was built to house Floral City’s first bank.  After the bank closed during hard times in 1914, it became the Floral City post office.”

First bank of Floral City
The building at 8350 E. Orange Avenue was first utilized as the first bank of Floral City. Image by Diane Bedard.

The Red Brick Place is a Great Place to Shop Small

Laura and her former business partner, Deedra Richards Harris, created a destination shop at 8350 E. Orange Avenue, with eclectic merchandise crafted locally and from as far away as Africa. This is a great place to shop!

Laura Sloop Hennings and Deedra Roberts Harris
Laura Sloop Hennings (L) and Deedra Richards Harris (R), partners in creating the Red Brick Place in Floral City (2013). Image courtesy of the Red Brick Place.

Today, Laura is the sole owner, and her variety of merchandise and price points allow for great gift shopping as well as self-indulgences. For example, there is wall art, sculptures, Corinthian bell wind chimes, women’s fashion, purses, jewelry, as well as tea towels and mosquito-repelling incense… and much more!

When Laura and Deedra purchased the building, it was in dire need of extensive repairs, including having the bricks repointed and the mortar replaced. They hired a friend, who is a general contractor to completely restore the building.

An Artist’s Heart with a Businessperson’s Acumen

laura hennings red brick place
Laura Hennings is the owner of the Red Brick Place, a great place to Shop Small on Florida’s Nature Coast. Image by Diane Bedard.

Laura is an artist, whose specialty is Gyotaku, or fish rubbings. She was partners in several jewelry stores in Sarasota, Florida, and has some of the most creative jewelry I have seen for sale in a retail store on display here at many price points.

The easiest way to get to the Red Brick Place is to turn east one block north, and then go right into the parking lot. This lot is adjacent to the Withlacoochee State Trail and serves the Red Brick Place and the Veterinarian next door.

There is a lovely path to the rear entrance of the store, with decorated stones welcoming visitors to take another step toward their shopping destination! A sign says, “Back door guests are the best,” and with a quick turn of the handle, one is enveloped into its welcoming environment.

back door red brick place
The Walkway to the back door of the Red Brick Place is filled with good energy. Image by Diane Bedard.

There is a lot of merchandise in this store, but plenty of space to move around. I enjoy the creative way things are displayed, which seems to allow me to be exposed to products in layers… seeing something that catches my eye, then looking behind, to the right or left, or above it to see more… and so on.

Oftentimes, I have heard the objection to shopping small as, “the prices are too high.” This does not seem to be a problem here. I found goods for as little as $7 to hundreds of dollars for art. And for me, lots of in-between.

The purses are always unique and priced from the $30s and up. For those who like a bag with style that doesn’t sport a designer name, this is a go-to place to shop.

A Love of Historic Preservation, Beauty, and Animals

Laura is deeply involved with the Floral City Heritage Council, having been its chair for the past six years. During her tenure, the mural was put up, historic street signs were added to Floral City’s downtown area, the Welcome to Floral City signs were installed, and the Frazier/Williams Cemetery (or the Floral City Community Cemetery) was restored. It is the oldest African American Cemetery in Florida and part of Florida’s Black History Trail. In 2021, she is handing the baton to Terri Hartman but continuing to serve as Vice-Chair.

Floral City Wall Mural reading Avenue of the Oaks Floral City
A beautiful mural is painted on the US 41 side of the Red Brick Place building, helping to beautify the corner. Image by Diane Bedard.

Over the last 18 months, the Floral City Heritage Council has worked hard to beautify the corner next to the Red Brick Place. The lot was cleared of debris, and gravel was installed. The Heritage Council began selling the metal flowers in pots as a way of allowing residents and businesses to help improve the view. Then the Floral City Water Association donated and helped to install an eight-foot metal decorative water fountain on the site. Bob Rutemiller hooked up the water to the fountain and now the formerly dilapidated corner welcomes all to Floral City’s historic district.

Laura is also passionately involved in animal rescue, being a Citrus Friends of Animal Protection member, owning and training rescues and their owners to make a better world. There is an adorable corner of the store that contains great pet accessories and pet-themed gifts.

pet lover gifts
There is a great selection of pet gifts and pet lover gifts at the Red Brick Place. Image by Diane Bedard.

Be Sure to Make a Shopping Trip to the Red Brick Place in Floral City

Like so many of the small shops in Florida’s Nature Coast, the Red Brick Place’s owner is part of why I like to shop here. When a community’s well-being is part of the reason for the store being created, it seems prudent to support it. Laura’s artist’s heart and her business acumen make for a great place to shop.

Combine the commitment to community with a great selection of merchandise, helpful service, and fair prices, I’m in. You may want to trek over here to join in too.

the red brick place sign
The Red Brick Place got a new sign in November. Image courtesy of the Red Brick Place.

Things to Know about the Red Brick Place:

  • Location is 8350 E. Orange Avenue in Floral City.
  • Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.
  • The parking lot is northeast of the store, right behind it.
  • Prices range from $7 to several hundred.
  • Local merchandise from local artists is featured, as well as from as far away as Africa.
  • Phone: 352.419.7937
  • Website: http://redbrickplace.com/

Comments

Thom Gray says

WOW, this will be a must do this winter, see ya soon

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Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ says

We look forward to your visit. Have a blessed Thanksgiving

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