The Box Social, Main Street Sarasota

Sarasota is many things to many people: a retirement community, an arts town, home to some of the best beaches anywhere. But a local movement is afoot that might just put Sarasota on the map as, of all things, a college town. New College of Florida is regularly ranked one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Ringling College of Art + Design has renowned animation and graphic design programs. East-West College trains students to become doctors of Eastern medicine. State College of Florida, formerly Manatee Community College, offers a vast array of affordable courses and programs that round out the local educational menu. Oh, and the Asolo Performing Arts Center is also home to Florida State University’s graduate theater arts program. This extraordinary post-secondary diversity has been gradually coalescing, and while I’m not sure any studies have been done to verify this, one gets the sense that more and more high school and college students and recent grads are deciding to stay in sunny Sarasota and put their stamp on the place.

Case in point: twentysomethings Rachel Withers and Ryan Baucom opened The Box Social on Main Street this winter, and have proven “the voice” from Field of Dreams prescient. They built a place for the young, the hip, and the socially inclined to call their own, and indeed they have come. Here’s an excerpt from an article on

Anyone who has ever said, “There’s nothing going on in this town tonight,” has probably never been to The Box Social, a new gourmet pub and café conveniently located right in the heart of downtown Sarasota.

The Box, as it’s called by local patrons, hosts a variety of attractions that consistently draw large crowds, making it one of the most interesting and entertaining hot spots in Sarasota Mondays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Part coffee shop, part bar, part music venue, part art gallery, The Box stands as a beacon in the city, offering a cozy, yet bustling locale for members of the city’s unique creative community to gather, interact and exchange ideas and inspiration on a nightly basis.

But more than that, The Box is just one of Sarasota’s cool, independent establishments on a mission to unite, catalyze, reinvigorate and transform  a downtown core once best known for shuffleboard and bingo into a burgeoning urban landscape full of energy and diversity.

What’s really exciting is that The Box isn’t an isolated effort, nor the only local success story of its kind. Back in February, the Cock & Bull Pub hosted the Noise Ordinance CD Release Party. Here’s what the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had to say:

It was billed as the “Woodstock” of Sarasota. And it delivered.

If you missed Saturday’s “Noise Ordinance CD Release Party” then you missed an opportunity to catch the area’s hottest bands, and mingle with Sarasota’s glitterati.

Spanning more than 12 hours and featuring nearly 40 bands, the concert not only shined a bright light on area bands but was a rallying cry for the local music lovers.

The thing is, there’s no reason Sarasota can’t cater to retirees and youths alike, as well as everyone in between. Laurel Park Management is proud to support all facets of local culture, and we encourage college students and other young adults to come live downtown. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. And there really is an awful lot going on around here, most of which can be reached on foot or by bike from any of Laurel Park Management’s apartments. There’s music in the air and perhaps a bit of magic as well…come be a part of it!