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Monday, October 02, 2023

To most of us, Micanopy probably is known as “that exit off Interstate 75 just south of Gainesville with Cafe Risque.”

But don’t be fooled: Although Micanopy is one of the oldest towns in Florida, it also might be one of the neatest.

It’s stuffed to the rafters with trinkets, antiques, musical instruments, old books and history, but it’s still a quiet, friendly, slow-paced Southern town. Give it a few hours on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.

To start your journey, I would recommend lunch. Right on U.S. Highway 441, just a few minutes past Lake Wauberg, you have two excellent choices: Blue Highway and the Pearl Country Store. The former serves pizza that could give Satchel a run for his money.

However, if you’re more in the mood for barbecue like I was, go to the Pearl Country Store. It may look like a gas station, but hidden inside is one heck of a good Southern eatery.

While sinking my teeth into a beef sandwich that must have weighed a pound — and it wasn’t even the “jumbo” size — I felt the hectic college life back in Gainesville begin to melt away. The diners to my right were decked out in hunting gear. On my left, a group of bikers were out for a joyride. Decorating the ceiling above me hung a model airplane made of Beast cans. You won’t find that sort of decor in Midtown.

My first stop in Micanopy proper was the history museum. Housed inside what used to be a warehouse and a general store, the museum dedicates half of its space to the Florida that existed before white settlement and half to the history of the town of Micanopy. Marnelle Cripe, a conservator at the museum since its inception 21 years ago, said the best thing about the museum is its dedication to authenticity.

“Everything here is real. We don’t use any replicas,” Cripe said. “I work a lot with the town archives to make sure everything here is presented correctly, just as it was.”

Next door to the museum is the Mosswood Farm Store. Operating out of a centennial cracker-style house, the farm store sells a plethora of products aimed at natural and sustainable living. Along with clothesline supplies, natural soaps, aromatherapy goods and environment-friendly cleaning products, the store sells delicious artisan breads and pastries. Whether you’re keen on knife-making or totally stoked to build your own brick oven, the farm store has the literature you need, offering a fantastic selection of books on all types of do-it-yourself endeavors.

My next stop in town was Leonardo’s, billed as a purveyor of “Antiques, Junque, and Musical Instruments.” Along with the usual array of knickknacks and bric-a-brac, Leonardo’s sells new, used and refurbished instruments. Some real gems among the strings included a 50th anniversary Les Paul, a Resonator mandolin and a solid mahogany Fender ukulele. On a cool-instruments-per-square-foot basis, Leonardo’s is a musical jackpot.

A little farther down the street, I encountered another Micanopy mainstay, The Shop. The Shop is difficult to describe. In a word: stuff. Room after room of it. You want giant ceramic pears? Check. Have a thing for rooster statues? Got ’em in spades. From decorative birdcages to velvet pumpkins and everything in between, The Shop puts it all under one roof. Even the furniture is for sale — even though you can hardly see it under the thousands of other eclectic items populating the store.

Marlene Oberst has owned and operated this unique shopping destination since 1980, and even she isn’t quite sure how to classify it.

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“It’s all happy things people will enjoy,” Oberst said. “I can’t call it a gift shop or holiday shop, but ever since I opened, it just slowly evolved into — this.”

Along with a slew of antique shops, Micanopy also has two used booksellers, a stained glass store, an art gallery, a gorgeous bed and breakfast, and a fascinating store selling thousands of cameos.

But the town isn’t just about the stores. In truth, you could go online and buy any of the things you find here — plus, you probably don’t need an antique butter churn in the first place. There really is more to Micanopy than its selection of purchase-worthy merchandise.

There’s a feeling about the place that you never would be able to find in Gainesville. It’s the TV town you didn’t grow up in but always wish you did, a place full of friendly folks and where everyone knows everyone.

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