Words by Ashton Elder
A quiet breeze rustles through Spanish moss blanketed over the stately live oaks that line the main street of downtown Micanopy.
The buildings that front the street illustrate the town’s age as the oldest inland community in the state yet today many are adorned with eclectic bright colors, customized signs and colorful window displays, giving them a distinctively modern feel. This mixture captures the essence of the town, essentially a meeting of the vintage and the modern.
The town’s unique flair and historic foundations make Micanopy, population 600, a perfect stop-over for visitors traveling down State Route 441 south of Gainesville or even a destination for Floridians.
Even the residents and business owners in Micanopy mirror the town’s style. Shops whose owners have done business here for decades sit adjacent to more-recent shops.
No one represents old Micanopy more than Monica Beth Fowler who has been a business owner there for 35 years. She owns the antique store Delectable Collectables.
Fowler offered to be my guide while visiting, and had gathered the various business owners in the town that day, all close friends of hers, to showcase it for me. Their shops spanned a wide range from antiques to restaurants to art.
Upon entering the two-story brick building that housed Delectable Collectables, Fowler stood up from her seat, smiled and greeted me. Her chubby grey cat, Abigail, lay on the seat beside her. Fowler introduced her too and emphasized Abigail’s importance as a presence in the shop.
“She has a large following of fans,” Fowler said with a grin.
Inside her shop display cases showcased a vast assortment of small items, all of which shone and twinkled together, like treasures inside a pirate’s chest. Two cases were devoted solely to cameos, china and jewelry.
Intricate details of stones sparkled on art deco-style necklaces while hand-painted figures graced porcelain china plates. Each antique piece had a history.
Fowler’s love for the town was evident from the very first minute. She has seen Micanopy evolve and change over decades.
“Micanopy is a one of a kind. It’s truly a treasure. It’s the jewel of Alachua County. It has an amazing historic ambiance. It’s like going back to 1890,” she said. “We have a downtown historic district and most of our buildings are on the national historic register of places.”
Fowler said that visitors should expect to enter the “ambiance of a gentler, quieter time” when they enter Micanopy.
The Herlong Mansion stands elevated on a hill just off the town’s square. A distinct historic building in Micanopy, the mansion’s lengthy white columns, second floor wrap-around veranda and extended windows reflect the grandeur of the old South through its antebellum architecture.
The Herlong Mansion is on the market along with a few other buildings but still operates as a bed-and-breakfast. This is where the old Micanopy and the new Micanopy meet, in the possibilities for the town’s future grounded in the past.
Newer business owners have a vision of how Micanopy could grow while retaining its unique charm.
Mark Richardson is the owner of Somewhere Along the Way, an art gallery and coffee house that opened last year.
“What I would love to see because the building next to me is vacant … I would love to see that turned into a business,” he said. “I think it would make an incredibly nice farm-to-table restaurant.
“We’re kind of in a little transition phase. We have antique stores but we also have as you discovered vintage clothing stores and a lot of art galleries are popping up and personally I would like to see more of an art and music scene here in Micanopy,” he said.
Angel Cox owns Eye on the Sparrow, another more recently opened business. The store sells an array of colorful and modern boutique items of home decor and a small collection of sleekly designed clothing. The shelves also held modern one of a kind art, high-and scented candles and artisan jewelry.
“I love this little town, it’s a small town, an old antique vintage town. We have nice little cafes. The new shops, well we are giving just an older town a new feel, a fresh feel and I am excited about that,” she said.
Dina Michael, another new business owner, owns Winter’s Past, which showcases vintage items.
The inside looked like a room from a movie studio with dresses in styles from every decade. Some clothes were sequined and feathered in the manner of costumes and others were more simply made in colors of all kinds.
“I sell vintage clothing and jewelry from the deco era to the disco era, generally mid-century American pieces mostly when clothing was made in the U.S. and jewelry as well,” she said as she displayed her jewelry for me.
There’s also small eateries in town that can ease visitors’ hunger as they shop and tour.
The Micanopy Café, for example, is a two-story brick building with two white porches, one on each floor. The outdoor seating on the first level also features a porch swing in which customers could sit in the breeze and look upon the town.
Michael said that Micanopy will appeal to most visitors who appreciate its unique flavor. It’s a place to escape the commercial and enter into the one of a kind.
Micanopy is “old Florida, pre-Disney Florida,” she said. “Visitors who champion the support of local businesses will love Micanopy.”