Beacon Council, chamber lure wide-ranging hub for Tuscany
By Ashley D. Torres
Through a collaboration between The Beacon Council and the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, the first Wine&FashionFlorence Café is to open in Coral Gables this fall.
The Wine&FashionFlorence Café will sell only Tuscan-made products such as leather bags, jewelry, clothing and home décor items. The concept store will also include a café where patrons can sample wine, coffee, olive oil and other food products from the region. Arrangements to visit Florence, the capital of the region Tuscany, and other Tuscan cities can also be made at the store.
Wine&FashionFlorence started an annual event that over the past ten years has brought the best of Tuscan cuisine, fashion, accessories and home décor to people in Europe, the US, Russia and Brazil.
Wine&FashionFlorence was created by the Consorzio Terre Del Levante Fiorentino, a consortium that represents over 17 Tuscan municipalities and is comprised of over 70 local companies. A few years ago, the Centopercento Consorzio Italiano, which represents over 150 fashion manufacturers, joined Wine&FashionFlorence to promote the region's goods.
"What Tuscany is doing is uniting itself both on the government level and on the business level," said Aurelia Vasquez, director of communications for The Beacon Council. "[They are] really pushing promotion of their area and conducting foreign investments."
Wine&FashionFlorence first came to Miami as a three-day event after the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce accompanied The Beacon Council on the Fashion & Lifestyle Economic Development Mission to Italy in May 2008. The two organizations met with companies in Florence, Milan and Coral Gables sister city Pisa to promote South Florida as a location for international business.
In December 2008, two representatives from the consortiums visited Miami in search for an event location. Miami Beach and the Design District were both considered but ultimately, the chamber was successful in securing the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for the November 2009 Wine&FashionFlorence trade show.
"The visit gave us a really strong idea of what the event is like, what [Wine&FashionFlorence] goals are like, and what a permanent installation would look like," said Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Trowbridge.
The first Wine&FashionFlorence event in the US was held in Beaver Creek, CO. When organizers decided to create a Wine&FashionFlorence concept store, Beaver Creek, New York, Los Angeles and several Italian cities were considered. Ultimately, Coral Gables won as the location for the first Wine&FashionFlorence Café.
"The reason for Coral Gables [as the location] is because they really wanted to be in an area that was centrally located and also community oriented," said Pamela Fuertes, vice president of international economic development for The Beacon Council. "They wanted to be part of the community."
The Wine&FashionFlorence Café will be at 220 Aragon Ave. across the street from Books & Books. The 4,211-square-foot space includes 639 square feet of storage space and is to be leased for five years. Cindy Birdsill, director of economic sustainability for The City of Coral Gables, said she's waiting to hear from Wine&FashionFlorence representatives about changes to the lease before it is signed.
Antonio Sullo, architect and partner for Openup Consulting and Openup USA Corp., the company that organizes Wine&FashionFlorence events and is to design the Wine&FashionFlorence Café, said work on the café would begin after July 13 when the company receives final approval from the City of Coral Gables.
Since November 2009, Wine&FashionFlorence has provided business for South Florida companies by hiring a local public relations company and event planning company, said Ms. Fuertes. The Wine&FashionFlorence Café is also to hire locally for store positions and has already hired local restaurateur Stefano Cavinato as a partner and café manager.
"The ultimate goal [of the café] is to create an opportunity for companies from Tuscany to better market their products in the US as well as bring tourists to Tuscany by showcasing the best of what Tuscany has to offer," Mr. Cavinato said.
The Beacon Council is hopeful that the Wine&FashionFlorence Café will open doors for other companies to establish stores and businesses in South Florida.
Ms. Fuertes said, "We know based on our experience that other brands will follow."