In staying old, the city’s main drag keeps up with the times.
A 30-minute drive north from Orlando, Sanford is one of the oldest incorporated cities in Central Florida. Although downtown Sanford remains true to its historic roots, with red brick streets and storefronts built in the 1920s, it has put some distance between its reputation as the celery capital of the world and its updated image as a center for small businesses and urban dwellers. 1st Street between French and Mellonville avenues is the heart of downtown’s commercial district, and only about a block away is the Sanford RiverWalk, a scenic stretch looking out onto Lake Monroe.
Miss Libby’s Antique Emporium
Collectors will find Victorian-era furniture, antique coins, original Highwaymen paintings, Roseville pottery, Depression glassware and more at this inviting storefront. The real treasure, however, is Miss Libby (above). In her sweet Southern drawl, Libby Ferrell greets customers and makes them feel right at home among her collectibles. The former schoolteacher runs the shop with her husband, Carey. 204 E. 1st St., 407-328-8298.
Two Blondes and a Shrimp
Exposed brick, mood lighting and local art on the walls give this neighborhood restaurant the feel of a New Orleans speakeasy. The menu has a heavy Southern influence; regular favorites include shrimp and grits, tomato pie and she-crab soup. There’s also a sandwich called The Herbie Hancock, named not for the jazz musician, but for the exceedingly well-fed rooster below that makes his home on the outdoor patio. 112 E. 1st St., 407-688-4745.
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café
This is where “Gemüetlichkeit happens,” reads the menu. In other words, when you dine at this German beer hall you are guaranteed to have a good time. Owned by Linda and chef Theo Hollerbach, the Willow Tree dishes up plates of sauerbraten, bratwurst and wiener schnitzel, while its bar serves more than 50 different German beers and wines, as well as a selection of schnapps. On the weekends, accordionist Jimmy Horzen and Eckhard Wachsmuth entertain with yodeling and sing-alongs. 205 E. 1st St., 407-321-2204. willowtreecafe.com
Jeanine Taylor Folk Art/Gallery on First
Jeanine Taylor’s namesake gallery features unique folk art from Florida and the Deep South. As an educational consultant, Taylor traveled the Southeast for years and developed an appreciation for the folk art she saw along the way. She began collecting and opened her doors in Sanford in 2005. Her gallery is flanked by Gallery on First, a collection of eight studio spaces that are leased by local working artists. 211 E. 1st St., 407-323-2774. jtfolkart.com, galleryonfirst.com
The antithesis of the chain booksellers, this eclectic and disorganized used bookstore carries all kinds of books, vinyl records and CDs. A recent visit uncovered the Riverdale Edition of several volumes of Mark Twain’s works, as well as a beautifully illustrated book about the scallop (the marine mollusk) and its influence on humankind. 201 E. 1st St., 407-321-6504.
Bailey’s Upscale Resale
Not your typical resale shop, Bailey’s offers designer duds at bargain prices. Most of the clothing and accessories come from local estate sales. Great finds have included an $80 fringed leather jacket, a $45 BCBG Max Azria cocktail dress and an $18 Nicole Miller blouse. A recent sale offered 50 percent off everything. You could get that Nicole Miller top for $9. 108 E. 1st St., 407-688-2510.
Betty Anne’s Hair Styling
Walking into this beauty parlor is like stepping onto the movie set of Steel Magnolias. It’s a gathering place for women who come to get their hair permed and colored and to exchange a little neighborly chitchat. Miss Betty Anne (above right), as some of her customers call her, is a fifth-generation Sanford native who has been in business here since 1989. Just last year she took the shop high-tech when she started accepting credit cards. 110 E. 1st St., 407-322-4913.
This scenic pedestrian pathway is ideal for a leisurely stroll, jogging or bicycling. The wide paved trail, which runs for more than a mile along the shore of Lake Monroe, is lined with seasonal plantings and features benches and oversized porch swings that face Sanford Marina. Family-friendly Fort Mellon Park lies on the east end of the walkway. The River Walk is only a block or two north of 1st Street, running along Seminole Boulevard between 17-92 and North Mellonville Avenue.
Mayfair Hotel/New Tribes Mission
The sprawling brick and stucco Mayfair Hotel was built in 1925 as part of the beautification plans for Sanford’s waterfront. Years later, the hotel was bought by the then-New York Giants baseball team, which held its spring training camp in Sanford from 1948 to 1962. Through the 1960s and ’70s, the old hotel housed the Sanford Naval Academy. Today, it is the home of the New Tribes Mission, a missionary group. NTM offers free tours of the building upon request. 1000 E. 1st St., 407-323-3430.
Local landmark: The historic clock in Magnolia Square. From there to here: Sanford is the southern terminus for Amtrak’s Auto Train. Internet-friendly: Downtown Sanford along 1st Street has free Wi-Fi.