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A Shopaholic’s Wonderland

By Eric Snider

Whether it’s Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and other luxury-brand storefronts in Waterside Shops, the beachy-chic apparel found in Tin City, or the locally owned boutiques that populate 5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South in downtown Naples, Florida’s Paradise Coast is by any measure a shopping mecca. Very few small cities offer the sheer variety of shop-ibilities that Naples does. Out on Marco Island, the resorts provide extravagant shopping options on site.

And still, the Paradise Coast goes a few steps further — offering unique experiences that separate it from other upscale travel destinations.

Brandscendence

We can’t name-drop the luxury brands at Marilyn’s, because Marilyn’s doesn’t do brands … Huh?

Marilyn Hellman — dressed in one of her private-label white summer blouses draped with a colorful, sheer scarf — stands in her elegantly appointed store explaining that you cannot get Chanel, Versace, Prada or other posh labels at her store. Instead, she takes regular trips to Europe to curate small collections “that our customers would otherwise never be exposed to.”

Marilyn adds, smiling coyly, “You can buy name brands and then five of your friends show up in the same thing.”

Marilyn’s can outfit the discriminating woman head-to-toe in finely made European apparel, from a remarkable array of hats (“they’re big in Naples,” she says) to shoe collections from the south of France and Italy. And, of course, everything in between: dresses, skirts, pants, tops, jackets, scarves (“it tends to be chilly in the restaurants”). 

Marilyn’s does more than just sell clothes. She and her staff treat each customer as a VIP, pampering them with style advice, offering beverages (including a hearty craft ginger ale that’s out of this world) and other comforts. Marilyn’s conducts style seminars, holds intimate, Euro-style fashion shows, occasional trunk shows, and even produces style-themed videos for its website.

The store’s full-service approach, legion of repeat customers and the owner’s frequent overseas trips have enabled Marilyn to craft a signature Naples style for well-heeled women — both visitors and residents. “Dressing for special occasions is getting more casual, and casual is getting dressier,” she says. “The Naples style embraces that concept. And we love color.”

Shopping as Sport

“Consignment shopping has of course been around for a long time,” says Quenby, owner of Audrey’s. “But consignment shopping like we have in Naples has not.”

That’s because the high-end consignment shops in Naples — which sell clothing, furniture, décor, art, estate jewelry, gifts and more — stock nothing but the finest pre-owned merchandise. Concerning apparel, “This area has a lot of well-heeled women who rotate their closets very quickly,” Quenby says in her pert British accent.

A lot of the items at Audrey’s still have the original price tags on them. Quenby pulls out a Chanel suit with a tag that reads $3,000. “We’ll probably sell it for 10 percent of that,” she says.

Audrey’s is playfully cluttered, but that musty thrift store smell is completely absent. The clothes are well organized, and — if not totally new — certainly in mint condition. “Everything we take into or store is carefully curated,” she says. “You don’t have to do a whole lot of digging to find your treasures.”

Audrey’s is part of the Naples Trail of Treasures that includes 20 stores clustered downtown. They sell estate jewelry, furniture and decor, accessories, art and, of course, apparel. “Consignment shopping is a sport,” Quenby says. “Women come down to our district, park one time, walk from one place to the other, and then stop at the lovely restaurants nearby. Our customers are all ages. We love when we get grandmothers, mothers and daughters coming in together. Sometimes the men come, too. We have a cold beer waiting for them.” 

Strike Gold

Tucked in the shopping promenade across from the docks at Naples Bay Resort you’ll find a modest storefront called Anthony Verderamo: Custom Goldsmith. The place is just as advertised: a small shop with a few lightly populated jewelry cases.

The magic happens in the back. That’s where Anthony — a one-man operation — makes his gold creations to customer specifications. “People come in with an idea, or no idea at all, and we sit down and come up with a piece from scratch,” Anthony explains. “When you come and pick it up, you’ll know you can’t find it anywhere else.”

Anthony is not alone in his awe of gold, but his appreciation is more personal. “Gold is alive,” he says, his eyes widening. “You heat it up and it moves, you can stretch a small piece of gold for five miles. I love working with it.”

I ask him about his price range. The New Jersey transplant shrugs and turns his palms upward. “OK, can you get something nice for a grand?” I ask. “Sure,” Anthony replies. “You can get something really nice for a grand. You can get something outrageous for 50 grand.”