Despite heavy construction underway just steps outside its doors, Artesano Boutique recently relocated to a new storefront in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach.
- Owner Nikki Via moved her curated gift shop specializing in local Panhandle artists to 184 Brooks St. SE Bldg 1 after 13 years at its former location on Highway 98. The relocation places the shop in the midst of the downtown district, nestled between popular establishments like Taste Tapas Bar and Dragonfly Yoga.
“I was actively looking for a new location. When this became available, I was very excited,” Via said. “I love the Brooks Street side of downtown and I just think this is a better fit for me and my business.”
The boutique offers a wide range of locally made items from over 40 different artists and artisans in mediums like pottery, painting, jewelry and more. Prices start around $15.
- “You can come in and find something for anybody, on any budget,” Via said, noting they have “great gifts starting at $15 and on up.”
The shop provides a consistent retail space for creators to sell their wares without having to handle their own sales platforms.
“It’s not feasible for everyone to have open studio space or build a website,” Via said. “And a lot of people want to focus on making their craft, so for them to be able to make their product and drop it off, they don’t have to worry about packaging, sales tax, or anything else. I’ll take care of all of it.”
To transform the new 1,000-square-foot space, Via said they “really wanted to focus on opening this space up, making it feel more open, and take advantage of the big windows and the natural light.”
- They updated the flooring, gave the walls a fresh coat of paint from floor to ceiling, and even took out a wall to make the shop completely open. The former location spanned about 1,800 square feet.
“Now that I’m in this space, I realize how dark our old location was with not having the windows and that shotgun-style layout,” Via said. “It really was a one-way-in-one-way-out kind of thing whereas this new space is more intimate but it’s well spaced and it has natural light. So we’ve just really been enjoying this different space and layout design.”
The boutique also gains access to a shared courtyard with the neighboring Dragonfly Yoga. Via said Artesano plans to host live music there during a reopening celebration on Feb. 17 from 4-7pm.
- There will be food and drinks available as she welcomes the entire community to check out her new location.
The relocation comes amid significant investment in the downtown district, most visibly in the form of heavy construction. The downtown Landing Park is undergoing large-scale renovations that will add an amphitheater, splash pad, renovated dock and more.
- Work is also underway on the Brooks Bridge replacement project spanning Santa Rosa Sound to connect downtown with Okaloosa Island. Sections of Brooks Street running through downtown are closed, with traffic diverted to other routes.
“It’s going to be well worth it. I have been downtown for a long time prior to actually owning my business. I have worked downtown for over 20 years. So I’ve seen the ebb and flow of businesses and it’s exciting,” Via said. “This is the first time in 20 years that I’ve been down here, where I feel like it’s being invested in. I feel like for so many years there was a lot of perception that it was only certain types of shops. It’s exciting to see that this is actually going to be a thriving walkable downtown with the amphitheater, new bars and restaurants and stores. I’m excited for that to be completed.”
Via said she has already seen an uptick in pedestrian traffic from the nearby restaurants and the yoga studio. She said the boutique’s hours will remain the same for now: Tuesday through Sunday during the winter offseason, expanding to seven days a week in the summer.
The business owner and 20-year downtown worker said she wants to be nowhere else but the emerging downtown district.
- “This is where I shop. This is where I eat. This is where I bring my kids. This is the only walkable area. It’s our only downtown, aside from Pensacola,” Via said. “When I visit a town I like to go to their downtown area. I like a coffee shop, parks and walking around. This is where I want to be in downtown Fort Walton Beach.”