The newest shopping arena in Naples, Fla., Mercato had a slow start a few years back just as the economy was souring. But it has steadily expanded into a New Urban sort of community, where residential accommodations assure a spring well of prospective customers for the complex's wealth of stores, restaurants, clubs and luxury 11-screen movie theater.
Mercato shopping and entertainment center appeals to a contemporary, upscale clientele — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
Located in North Naples, Mercato keeps busy year-round and every day of the week, but especially in the winter and spring seasons and during weekends. But even on a summer weekday, it's difficult to find a street parking spot outside. Fortunately, Mercato also provides free lots and parking ramps. For those who can't be bothered, valet parking service is available complimentary with validation from certain restaurants, or $8 otherwise.
The first retail tenant, Whole Foods Market, was the first of the chain's locations to open south of Sarasota, Fla., so it immediately made Mercato popular. One of the most recent additions - Nordstrom Rack - injected another large dose of popularity with its after-market, discounted Nordstrom inventory.
Most of the shopping and entertainment center's stores and restaurants are high-end franchises, including Sur La Table fine kitchen supplies, Pandora jewelers, Z Gallerie, The Capital Grille steakhouse, Seasons 52 restaurant and McCormick & Schmick's seafood house. Its Silverspot Cinema was the prototype for a deluxe, dine-in movie theater chain that now counts two other locations.
Some of the franchises - such as Simply Natural clothing, Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar and Grace and Shelly's Cupcakes - are local. Plus, there are a few originals, such as MASA - a gourmet Mexican restaurant and tequila bar - and Stilista Salon.
The party scene at Mercato has grown a reputation for being lively. You will usually find an older crowd dining and enjoying cocktails and entertainment before 10 p.m., and a younger crowd into the wee hours. Monthly events including Mercato Nights Music Series (on the first Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and Movies on the Lawn (the third Tuesday at dusk) have a popular following that adds to the air of vibrancy.
The newest restaurant opened in summer 2014. Rusty Bucket, another chain, serves all-American food, craft beers and sports television from every angle. Yoga Loft is another newcomer, and 345 Caffe Italiano restaurant and Paper Source shop are expected to open soon.
Visit the Mercato website to find new openings, specials, discounts, coupons, tips and a map of the shopping center and its dog-friendly locations.