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Frame The Importance of

Commercial Truck Insurance in Sarasota, FL

  • Let's face it - truckers in America have always been the backbone of our great country. They still are in modern times. On any given day, thousands of trucks traverse our highways and local roads, delivering goods and products on time so that businesses and consumers have what they need to live life. And while commercial trucking can be an incredibly lucrative way to make a living and put food on the table, it can also be risky and expensive.
  • Whether you're the owner of a fleet, an independent trucker, or have a business that uses big rigs to transport goods, you need commercial trucking insurance to protect you and your client's investments, shield you from liability, and more.
  • That's where working with a reliable truck insurance agency comes into play. Unfortunately, for many commercial truck insurance providers, serving the needs of truckers is low on the proverbial totem pole. At Independence Insurance Agency, nothing could be further from the truth.

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percent The Commercial Truck

Insurance Agency in Sarasota, FL You Can Trust

Much like you pride yourself on running a successful trucking business, Independence Insurance Agency prides itself on its years of experience providing truck insurance for hardworking men and women across the country. And in our experience, insurance rates for truckers are just too high - so high, in fact, that they eat away at their bottom line, making it more difficult to run a business and make a profit. Fortunately, at Independence Insurance Agency, we provide truckers the freedom they need from astronomically high insurance rates so they can stay on the road and keep driving America forward.

As one of the most trusted commercial trucking insurance agencies in the U.S., we understand the challenges that you face daily as a trucker. We also know how important it is to protect your business. That's why we go above and beyond to find you the best-priced coverage available, whether you're an operator, own a small fleet, a large fleet, or something in between.

Commercial Truck Insurance Sarasota, FL

We Put Truckers First Because Others Don't

 Truck Insurance Sarasota, FL

Truckers across the country choose to work with Independence Insurance Agency because we put their needs first before anything else. As experts in transportation insurance, we proudly offer a range of quality insurance products that are both practical and affordable for them. Our industry-leading carriers provide coverage that caters to the unique challenges faced by the trucking industry, ensuring that your business is protected at all times.

At our core, we are committed to finding the best possible price for your coverage without compromising the quality of service you deserve. The truth is, we understand how essential truckers are to the United States and take pride in making their insurance experience more streamlined and affordable.

One way we do so is by simplifying the insurance process. Our transportation specialists take the time to understand your specific needs and budget to tailor a comprehensive plan that works for you. You won't ever have to worry about cookie-cutter plans or uninterested agents when you work with our commercial trucking insurance agency. We take an educational approach to ensure that the entire big rig insurance process is quick, painless, and easy to understand. If there's something you don't understand, we're happy to take the time to explain. After all, the success and safety of your business are on the line.

Looking to the future, we are committed to providing innovative new products that cater to the ever-changing needs of truck drivers. As your one-stop shop for commercial trucking insurance, we are dedicated to your success, one policy at a time.

If you're a commercial trucker looking to ensure your rig, you can rest easy knowing that Independence Insurance Agency provides:

  • Affordable Trucking Insurance Plans for Any Budget
  • Exemplary Customer Service
  • Seasoned Transportation Specialists Who Customize Plans to Your Needs
  • A+ Carriers Across the Country
  • Simple, Easy Quote and Bind Process
  • Multiple Insurance Carriers Quoted to Find You the Best Rates
  • Truck Insurance for New Ventures

Call us or send us a message today to learn more about the best 18-wheeler insurance options for your trucking business.

chart The Commercial Truck

Common Types of Big Rig Truck Insurance in Sarasota, FL

At Independence Insurance Agency, we offer several types of insurance coverage for local, intermediate, and long-haul trucking needs. Here are just a few categories of trucking insurance coverage that our agency offers.

As the foundation of your insurance policy, liability coverage is required by law in most states in the U.S. It provides coverage for damage or injuries caused to properties or other people if your 18-wheeler is responsible for the crash. Without liability coverage, it's almost impossible to drive a truck or run a trucking business without major legal consequences.

Having physical damage coverage is an essential component that shouldn't be overlooked. This insurance is responsible for covering the expenses related to repairing or replacing your truck in situations such as accidents, theft, vandalism, and other damaging events. By having this coverage, you can rest assured that your business won't be affected significantly by unexpected incidents, and you can continue running your operations smoothly even in challenging times.

For trucking companies, the goods they transport are crucial to their operations. To protect these goods from damage, loss, or theft while in transit, cargo insurance is essential. This coverage provides much-needed peace of mind for both you and your clients, allowing you to reimburse clients for any losses sustained while protecting your reputation and brand identity.

Non-Trucking Liability Insurance is designed to cover property damage or bodily injury that may occur during personal time when the driver/truck is not under dispatch. This coverage can be applied with or without a trailer and is added to a commercial policy as an endorsement.

While Independence Insurance Agency has built a reputation of excellence in serving the needs of truckers, we also offer general liability. Also known as Truckers General Liability, this coverage insures for bodily injuries or property damage that happen due to business activities that are NOT the cause of operating a truck. It covers accidents that occur in parking lots, rest stops, also while loading or unloading. General liability can also cover losses related to theft and vandalism. Most brokers and shippers will require this coverage to work with you.

Bobtail insurance is a type of coverage that is comparable to non-trucking liability, which is designed to offer protection when driving a truck without a trailer attached. This is commonly referred to as "bobtailing." With bobtail insurance, the tractor is covered at all times, even when it is not attached to a trailer, regardless of whether or not the truck is under dispatch.

Trailer interchange insurance is a must-have if you're involved in a trailer interchange agreement. This essential coverage offers protection for trailers owned by other parties that you're using under a contractual agreement. It covers damages caused by collisions, fire, theft, and vandalism, providing assurance to all parties involved.

Curious whether our commercial truck insurance agency in cityname, state offers additional coverage? The following options can be bound in your insurance policy:

  • Business Interruption Insurance
  • Reefer Breakdown Insurance
  • Occupational Accident with Contract Liability Insurance
  • Rental Reimbursement Insurance
  • Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Insurance
  • Towing Insurance
  • Electronics Insurance
  • Much More

Three plus 3 Safe Driving Tips to

Lower the Cost of Truck Insurance in Sarasota, FL

Keeping your drivers safe on the road is crucial not only for their own well-being but also for the safety of other motorists and the financial stability of your business. The Department of Labor has identified the trucking industry as one of the most hazardous sectors in the U.S. In fact, trucking and logistics fleets are known for their high injury and fatality rates. By improving how safely your truckers drive, you can help reduce expenses related to claim payouts, accidents, and insurance premium hikes.

Whether you own a large fleet or you're the owner and operator of a single rig, keep these safe driving tips in mind to help lower your insurance costs.

Implement Preventative Maintenance Plans

Ensuring the safety of your drivers begins with the safety of their vehicles. Trucks and tractor-trailers that do not receive regular maintenance, such as oil and brake pad changes, are more likely to experience breakdowns while on the road. Telematics devices provide real-time insight into engine and odometer data, including fault codes.

This information enables your mechanics to create comprehensive preventative maintenance schedules based on mileage, history of previous breakdowns, days, and more. Additionally, they can receive immediate notifications for critical fault codes. By implementing routine maintenance and proactive repair schedules, you can ensure that your vehicles are in top condition, minimizing the likelihood of breakdowns, which can help reduce the cost of trucker insurance.

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 Trucking Insurance Sarasota, FL

Practice Defensive Driving

This approach aims to mitigate the risk of fatal crashes and injuries by proactively identifying and responding to potentially dangerous situations and making informed decisions while driving. By adopting defensive driving techniques, drivers can reduce their likelihood of accidents, thereby minimizing the need for expensive repairs, claim payouts, and increased insurance premiums.

Some of the easiest ways for you or your drivers to practice safe driving include:

  • Be Wary of Blind Spots: Operating a reefer or tractor-trailer means driving high off of the ground, which can make visibility limited, especially in blind spots. To check your blind spot, look over your shoulder and out of your windows while changing lanes.
  • Be Ready for Emergencies on the Road: It's important for drivers to be ready for unexpected situations when driving, especially during long trips. They should be equipped to handle emergencies such as poor driving conditions or big rig breakdowns.
  • Use the Three-Second Rule: Truck drivers should try to maintain a three-second gap between their vehicle and the car in front of them. This means that the truck driver should reach a certain point on the road three seconds after the car in front of them has passed that same point.
  • Always Use Right and Left Turn Indicators: It's important for drivers to always use their turn signals when changing lanes or exiting highways, even if they don't see any other cars around. This is not only required by law, but it also reduces the chances of accidents occurring on the road.
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 Commercial Liability Insurance For Truckers Sarasota, FL

Find Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving is the primary reason behind truck driver accidents. Any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road or the steering wheel is considered distracted driving. Distractions can come in various forms, such as eating while driving or gazing at a billboard outside the window. However, the most frequent form of distracted driving is the use of cellphones, specifically texting while driving.

Assuming you or your driver's rigs are equipped with dual-facing cameras, try reviewing footage of an unsafe driving incident. Coach your drivers on ways to correct their unsafe behaviors or look up ways to do so yourself if you're the one operating the big rig. The bottom line is that when your drivers aren't distracted, they drive safer. And when they drive safer, the cost of 18-wheeler insurance in cityname, state can be reduced.

phone Call Now
 Commercial Truck Insurance Quote Sarasota, FL

Ensuring the safety of your drivers begins with the safety of their vehicles. Trucks and tractor-trailers that do not receive regular maintenance, such as oil and brake pad changes, are more likely to experience breakdowns while on the road. Telematics devices provide real-time insight into engine and odometer data, including fault codes.

This information enables your mechanics to create comprehensive preventative maintenance schedules based on mileage, history of previous breakdowns, days, and more. Additionally, they can receive immediate notifications for critical fault codes. By implementing routine maintenance and proactive repair schedules, you can ensure that your vehicles are in top condition, minimizing the likelihood of breakdowns, which can help reduce the cost of trucker insurance.

 Low Priced Commercial Truck Insurance Sarasota, FL phone Call Now

This approach aims to mitigate the risk of fatal crashes and injuries by proactively identifying and responding to potentially dangerous situations and making informed decisions while driving. By adopting defensive driving techniques, drivers can reduce their likelihood of accidents, thereby minimizing the need for expensive repairs, claim payouts, and increased insurance premiums.

Some of the easiest ways for you or your drivers to practice safe driving include:

  • Be Wary of Blind Spots: Operating a reefer or tractor-trailer means driving high off of the ground, which can make visibility limited, especially in blind spots. To check your blind spot, look over your shoulder and out of your windows while changing lanes.
  • Be Ready for Emergencies on the Road: It's important for drivers to be ready for unexpected situations when driving, especially during long trips. They should be equipped to handle emergencies such as poor driving conditions or big rig breakdowns.
  • Use the Three-Second Rule: Truck drivers should try to maintain a three-second gap between their vehicle and the car in front of them. This means that the truck driver should reach a certain point on the road three seconds after the car in front of them has passed that same point.
  • Always Use Right and Left Turn Indicators: It's important for drivers to always use their turn signals when changing lanes or exiting highways, even if they don't see any other cars around. This is not only required by law, but it also reduces the chances of accidents occurring on the road.
Commercial Truck Insurance Sarasota, FL phone Call Now

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving is the primary reason behind truck driver accidents. Any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road or the steering wheel is considered distracted driving. Distractions can come in various forms, such as eating while driving or gazing at a billboard outside the window. However, the most frequent form of distracted driving is the use of cellphones, specifically texting while driving.

Assuming you or your driver's rigs are equipped with dual-facing cameras, try reviewing footage of an unsafe driving incident. Coach your drivers on ways to correct their unsafe behaviors or look up ways to do so yourself if you're the one operating the big rig. The bottom line is that when your drivers aren't distracted, they drive safer. And when they drive safer, the cost of 18-wheeler insurance in cityname, state can be reduced.

 Truck Insurance Sarasota, FL phone Call Now

check light FAQs About

Independence Insurance Agency

If you're looking for a commercial trucking insurance agency for your business, chances are you have some questions - and we've got answers. Keep reading to learn more about some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from truckers like you.

Why go with a "jack of all trades" when you can work with specialists who focus exclusively on transportation insurance? We have excellent relationships with major trucking insurance carriers and, as such, can provide the best assistance and reasonable rates.

Typically, companies will look at claims that date back three years or less.

We proudly work with more than 20 carriers to provide our clients with the most advantageous options at competitive prices, catering to the needs of owner-operators and big fleets alike.

Permit filings are typically done by insurance companies on the next business day. Federal (FMCSA) filings are completed online and updated immediately, while some states may take up to three weeks to process.

Independence Insurance Agency: Committed to the Trucking Industry

There's no question about it - you've got to protect your staff, your rig, and your trucking business with insurance. But choosing the right insurance partner isn't always easy. Thankfully, with Independence Insurance Agency by your side, you can rest easy knowing you're covered no matter where the road takes you. If you're in need of a commercial truck insurance agency in Sarasota, FL that caters to truckers like you, pick up the phone and contact one of our transportation specialists today. That way, you can get back on the road with confidence tomorrow.

 Trucking Insurance Sarasota, FL

Latest News in Sarasota, FL

Live roaches, rodent droppings temporarily close Sarasota restaurants, other inspections

See which Sarasota and Bradenton area restaurants passed with flying colors, and which didn't pass first inspections due to high-priority violations.Sarasota Herald-Tribune0:000:49ADOur digital database of restaurant health inspections is updated regularly with the latest information on which Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice area restaurants passed or failed.You can use the d...

See which Sarasota and Bradenton area restaurants passed with flying colors, and which didn't pass first inspections due to high-priority violations.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Our digital database of restaurant health inspections is updated regularly with the latest information on which Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice area restaurants passed or failed.

You can use the database to search by Sarasota or Manatee County or by restaurant name. You can see which restaurants were fined and which were forced into temporary closure.

Disclaimer: The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation describes an inspection report as “a ‘snapshot’ of conditions present at the time of the inspection." On any given day, an establishment may have fewer or more violations than noted in their most recent inspection. An inspection conducted on any given day may not be representative of the overall, long-term conditions at the establishment.

Please note that some more recent, follow-up inspections may not be included here.

Restaurant news:Japanese restaurant, sharing same owners as other eateries in Florida, opens in Sarasota

Ticket Editor:One of Sarasota's most celebrated restaurants opening a new location on St. Armands Circle

Ticket Newsletter:Sign up to receive restaurant news and reviews plus info on things to do every Friday

Sarasota-Manatee best restaurant inspections

The following restaurants, food trucks or caterers, listed in alphabetical order, passed their inspections Nov. 26-Dec. 2 with zero violations:

Sarasota County restaurant inspections with high-priority violations:

The following restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, were issued warnings, recommended for administrative complaints or were temporarily closed due to failed inspections Nov. 26-Dec. 2:

Artur's Restaurant

70 N. Indiana Ave., Englewood

Nov. 28

Follow-up needed: Administrative complaint recommended.

Nine total violations, with three high-priority violations:

Big Water Fish Market

6641 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota

Nov. 28

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Nine total violations, with one high-priority violation:

Denny's

3701 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota

Nov. 29

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Eight total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Il Panificio

1703 Main St., Sarasota

Nov. 27

Emergency order recommended: Facility temporarily closed.

Five total violations, with two high-priority violations:

High Priority - Roach activity present as evidenced by live roaches found. Observed four live roaches, one behind soda machine, two behind front counter, and one in front of counter. Operator stated pest control was out earlier this morning. **Warning**High Priority - Time/temperature control for safety food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Observed in glass front reach-in cooler cold holding meatballs 48F, chicken 49F

Il Panificio

1703 Main St., Sarasota

Nov. 28

Emergency order callback complied. Met inspection standards.

Knick’s Tavern

1818 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota

Nov. 30

Emergency order recommended: Facility temporarily closed.

Seven total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Knick’s Tavern

1818 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota

Dec. 1

Emergency order callback time extension. Follow-up inspection required.

Myakka Pines Golf Club

2550 S. River Road, Englewood

Nov. 30

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Six total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Paradise Grill

1097 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis

Nov. 30

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Fourteen total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Paradise Grill

1097 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis

Dec. 1

Call back — complied. Met inspection standards.

Rico’s Pizzeria & Pasta House

5131 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

Nov. 30

Follow-up needed: Administrative complaint recommended.

Seven total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Rico’s Pizzeria & Pasta House

5131 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

Dec. 1

Call back — complied. Zero violations.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota

Nov. 28

Emergency order recommended: Facility temporarily closed.

Two violations, with one high-priority violation:

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

3701 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota

Nov. 29

Call back — complied. Zero violations.

Valenti’s Ristorante

1200 E. Venice Ave., Venice

Nov. 29

Follow-up needed: Administrative complaint recommended.

Eighteen total violations, with four high-priority violations:

Valenti’s Ristorante

1200 E. Venice Ave., Venice

Nov. 30

Call back — extension given, pending. Follow-up inspection required.

Manatee County restaurant inspections with high-priority violations:

The following restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, were issued warnings, recommended for administrative complaints or were temporarily closed due to failed inspections Nov. 26-Dec. 2:

Compass Hotel by Margaritaville Anna Maria Sound

12324 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton

Nov. 30

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Five total violations, with two high-priority violations:

IMG Academy Golf Club

4350 El Conquistador Parkway, Bradenton

Nov. 28

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Twelve total violations, with six high-priority violations:

Keke's Breakfast Cafe

1121 Cortez Road W., Bradenton

Dec. 2

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Five total violations, with one high-priority violation:

KFC

6440 E. S.R. 64, Bradenton

Nov. 27

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Six total violations, with one high-priority violation:

KFC

6440 E. S.R. 64, Bradenton

Nov. 28

Call back — complied. Met inspection standards.

Lucky Pelican Bistro

6239 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota

Nov. 29

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Thirteen total violations, with three high-priority violations:

Stone Bowl Pan Asian

5516 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton

Nov. 29

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Sixteen total violations, with four high-priority violations:

Stone Bowl Pan Asian

5516 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton

Nov. 30

Call back — complied. Met inspection standards.

Takos Cantina

5770 Ranch Lake Blvd. #116, Bradenton

Nov. 29

Follow-up needed: Warning issued.

Fourteen total violations, with two high-priority violations:

Dazzling palms to towering Christmas trees: 8 places to look at lights in Sarasota-Manatee

Inflatable Santas, reindeer and twinkling lights are just the tip of the iceberg with Sarasota-Manatee’s Christmas light displays. Here are eight places to see Christmas lights for free.An honorable mention who unfortunately couldn't make it on the list is Enander's Winter Wonderland. Bob Enander announced on Facebook the 2023 light display will be canceled due to medical reasons and being short on help....

Inflatable Santas, reindeer and twinkling lights are just the tip of the iceberg with Sarasota-Manatee’s Christmas light displays. Here are eight places to see Christmas lights for free.

An honorable mention who unfortunately couldn't make it on the list is Enander's Winter Wonderland. Bob Enander announced on Facebook the 2023 light display will be canceled due to medical reasons and being short on help.

University Town Center Mall Lights, Sarasota

Lace up your skates at the Rink at UTC while surrounded by their festival of lights. The light show will be held nightly every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. There'll be plenty of photo opportunities with 160 gingerbread houses and 50 whimsical trees decorated by local charities. Fireworks are every Saturday at 9 p.m.

Looking for seasonal festivities?The best Christmas and winter holiday events in Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Punta Gorda

Holidays at UTC will end on Jan. 2, but make sure to check the website for end dates for the holiday night market, gingerbread festival, and other seasonal activities.

St. Armands Circle

A towering, beautiful Christmas tree will be lit in the middle of St. Armands Circle on Dec. 1. Throughout December there will be family fun days on Dec. 2-3 and Dec. 9-10 with festive and free activities, treats and music.

More Christmas lights:Colonial Gables Neighborhood Holiday Lights

Colonial Gables Neighborhood, Sarasota

Residents in the neighborhood go all out with elaborate Christmas displays. To find the Colonial Gables neighborhood, take Woodmont Drive off Bee Ridge Road, or Brookmeade Drive to the east of Honore Avenue in Sarasota.

Cedar Hallow Neighborhood, Sarasota

Lights will be on every night and are available to view from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The last day to see them is on Dec. 30. Make sure to follow the group’s Facebook page for updates on days when hot chocolate and photos with Santa are available.

Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street

Farmer’s markets, hidden elves, and seasonal shopping await at Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street. Festivities and the lit Christmas tree will remain up until Jan. 1.

Centennial Park, Venice

Rows of palm trees leading to Centennial Park will be lit up with Christmas lights. The city will be hosting movie nights, a Christmas walk, and a winter lantern festival filled with massive handcrafted Chinese lanterns.

Lights of Palmetto

Since 2018 Tom Stallings has decorated his home in celebration of the holidays with a light show that's synched to cheerful Christmas music. There's even a mailbox where kids can drop off their letters to Santa. Stop by at 5220 69th St. E., Palmetto.

Parrish Hometown Christmas and Tree Lighting

Bring a chair and blanket and enjoy Parrish’s Christmas tree lighting event on Dec. 16 from 4-8 p.m. There’ll be plenty of friendly-friendly activities, including a snow slide, Christmas tree contest, and Santa on a fire truck.

Japanese restaurant, sharing same owners as other eateries in Florida, opens in Sarasota

A Japanese restaurant featuring the same owners as other eateries in Florida recently debuted in Sarasota, taking over a prominent space in the Southside Village neighborhood.Samurai Japanese Fusion opened at 1936 Hillview St. last month, with a grand opening planned for Dec. 1...

A Japanese restaurant featuring the same owners as other eateries in Florida recently debuted in Sarasota, taking over a prominent space in the Southside Village neighborhood.

Samurai Japanese Fusion opened at 1936 Hillview St. last month, with a grand opening planned for Dec. 12, said owner Aline Chen. The space was previously occupied by the Italian restaurant Pazzo Southside, whose former owner Michael Calore now oversees the kitchen and back-of-house operations for the nearby Osteria Southside. Chen and her husband also own Fin Sushi in Port Charlotte and Ninja Japanese Steak House in Naples.

Ticket Editor:One of Sarasota's most celebrated restaurants opening a new location on St. Armands Circle

Restaurant news:New restaurant in downtown Sarasota on Main Street replacing Pizza N' Brew

Ticket Newsletter:Sign up to receive restaurant news and reviews plus info on things to do every Friday

"Our first establishment, which is Fin Sushi, it’s been doing great," Chen said. "People recognize our name, we always have a good quality of fish … people recognize our quality, so that location’s doing great. That’s why we were able to expand to Naples, and now to Sarasota.”

The restaurant's menu features a variety of sushi dishes, ranging from traditional rolls to rarer offerings, including a selection of rolls made with purple rice. It also serves teriyaki, yaki udon or soba noodle, tempura, bento box, katsu and hibachi dishes, as well as specialties such as A5 Wagyu beef served ishiyaki style (atop a hot rock) or included in a Top Shelf Fried Rice with truffle, shiitake mushroom, green onion and quail egg.

Samurai Japanese Fusion is also full-liquor, incorporating numerous Japanese alcoholic beverages into its drink menu. For instance, it offers Japanese beers such as Sapporo and Asahi, Japanese whiskys, and signature cocktails such as a smoked old-fashioned made using Suntory.

The restaurant seats about 160 people, Chen said. The vast majority of seating is indoors, including a private room that seats around 50-60 people, but there is also outdoor table seating for about 16-20 people.

Samurai Japanese Fusion is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 941-777-7707 or visit samurai-fl.com.

Email entertainment reporter Jimmy Geurts at jimmy.geurts@heraldtribune.com. Support local journalism by subscribing.

Sarasota event planner spotlights arts with local multimedia openings

Indie film fans may recall a 1990s gem starring Parker Posey called "Party Girl." Posey's character, Mary, keeps the lights on by throwing parties in friends' apartments and charging admission. Sometimes things get a little wild, and neighbors call the cops.Now imagine that Mary has grown up, smoothed out her rough edges and moved to Sarasota. The sequel would star the polished party planner Stephanie Grae.Thanks to Grae, many Sarasota art openings consist of more than walking around a gallery with a glass of ho-hum w...

Indie film fans may recall a 1990s gem starring Parker Posey called "Party Girl." Posey's character, Mary, keeps the lights on by throwing parties in friends' apartments and charging admission. Sometimes things get a little wild, and neighbors call the cops.

Now imagine that Mary has grown up, smoothed out her rough edges and moved to Sarasota. The sequel would star the polished party planner Stephanie Grae.

Thanks to Grae, many Sarasota art openings consist of more than walking around a gallery with a glass of ho-hum wine and Spotify playing on the sound system.

Grae's productions, many of which take place on the roof of the Art Ovation hotel downtown, aren't parties; they are spectacles with sexy dancers, dazzling light shows, fire pits and other elements that bring sizzle to an opening.

One recent Friday night found Grae as the guide of a "Gaze & Graze" trolley tour that began at one Creative Liberties studio in the Limelight District and ended at another Creative Liberties outpost.

In between there were stops at galleries like Marianne Chapel Junker's Spaaces on Princeton Street and restaurants including Vino Bistro in the Rosemary District. The "Gaze & Graze" event was the brainchild of Elizabeth Goodwill and Barbara Gerdeman, co-founders of Creative Liberties, who also hired Grae to organize a recent evening of "Magic and Mystery."

According to Grae, hosting arts events is part of her DNA. The Atlanta native's parents run a dance school and a nonprofit ballet company, so she's been surrounded by artists all her life.

Grae began throwing parties for her friends in elementary school and honed her appreciation for the arts by studying at Savannah School of Art and Design. "My gift is connecting people through the arts," she says.

Grae spent her 20s as an interior designer in Atlanta with celebrity clients like rapper Missy Elliott. She expanded from decorating into producing events, including a 2012 fundraiser for a friend who had Lou Gehrig's disease.

Along the way, Grae got married, had a baby and got her real estate license. She moved to Sarasota in 2019 with her ex-husband, who was transferred here. She decided to move into party planning in a big way just as COVID hit in 2020.

It wasn't until the season of 2021-22 that Grae was able to establish herself as a party planner extraordinaire, working with nonprofits, including the Fabulous Arts Foundation, and with DJs from SRQBeats.

Since then she's teamed up with 40 Carrots Family Center to produce its annual Wine, Women & Shoes fundraiser.

During an interview, Grae notes her first show in Atlanta was called Remove the Ego, an event with sponsors that brought together 800 people from different backgrounds.

That ego-free ethos still pervades Grae's approach to her business. Although she exudes glam, Grae doesn't project the attitude that often accompanies style and beauty.

She's a big believer in teamwork and is quick to credit her crew for her success. They include production assistant Sarah Jane Balotti, makeup artist and creative consultant Joshua Hardinger, lighting consultant Brian Craft of Limelight SRQ and designer Michael Murphy for visuals.

Grae's collaborator/client at Art Ovation is Nick Perdue, who could not be reached for comment. Dynasty Dance provides entertainment for some of her art openings, which include performances by ballerinas, ballroom dancers and circus artists.

"I'm good at making friends and finding talent," Grae says. "I enjoy bringing people together. In Sarasota, I've found a group of people that really want to see the growth of the arts."

UTC's Gingerbread Festival gives Girl Scouts chance to express creativity

From the cows in the pasture next to Robert E. Willis Elementary School to the school’s mascot to her friends and teachers, first grader Mackenzie Duff loves everything about her school.She loves Willis Elementary so much, she suggested her Girl Scout Troop 365 recreate their school for the 15th annual Gingerbread Festival at the Mall at University Town Center.Duff couldn’t wait to see her troop’s gingerbread house on display with dozens of others at the Mall at UTC now through Dec. 10.Amanda Duff, Mack...

From the cows in the pasture next to Robert E. Willis Elementary School to the school’s mascot to her friends and teachers, first grader Mackenzie Duff loves everything about her school.

She loves Willis Elementary so much, she suggested her Girl Scout Troop 365 recreate their school for the 15th annual Gingerbread Festival at the Mall at University Town Center.

Duff couldn’t wait to see her troop’s gingerbread house on display with dozens of others at the Mall at UTC now through Dec. 10.

Amanda Duff, Mackenzie Duff’s mother and a Girl Scout Troop 365 leader, said the 14 girls in her troop take pride in their school, and they recreated it complete with a car line and the pasture, cows, and the lake next door.

She said what makes Willis Elementary extra special is school spirit, and even the cows are part of that spirit.

“Willis doesn’t own them, but they call them the ‘Willis cows,’" Amanda Duff said of her daughter and her fellow students.

She said every time she drives by, her daughter says, "Hi, Willis cows.”

Amanda Duff’s troop spent its troop meeting Nov. 29 constructing their gingerbread school. She described the process as organized chaos.

“Sparkles everywhere. Frosting everywhere. Sprinkles on the table. Cardboard pieces everywhere. Candy, gum drops, M&Ms everywhere,” she said. “The girls kept wanting to eat the candy.”

Amanda Duff said it was impressive to see the girls break into groups and work together to make the gingerbread school a reality. The girls’ eyes were “like saucers” in amazement when they saw the completed project, she said.

Mackenzie Duff said she wants other people at the Gingerbread Festival to see how special Willis is, and she’s looking forward to seeing the other gingerbread houses created for the festival.

This year was the first time Girl Scout Troop 365 participated in the Gingerbread Festival. After having fun making the gingerbread house, Amanda Duff said she hopes to make the festival a tradition for her troop.

The festival has been a tradition for Stephanie Klosterman and her four Girl Scout troops for at least seven years.

Klosterman has enjoyed seeing how the themes they choose for the gingerbread houses progress as they age.

This year’s themes range from Spongebob Squarepants to princesses to “Grey’s Anatomy.” They are the most creative Kloseterman said she’s seen her Girl Scouts make over the years.

Klosterman has her Girl Scouts thinking about what themes they want to do around Halloween before deciding all the materials they need. She said it’s fun to see them think outside the box.

“It’s fascinating to watch how their minds grow and how they change and learn,” she said. “Everything they do, they’re learning something.”

Klosterman's older troops gathered at Sarah Schappert’s home in Parrish for a holiday party in which they spent five hours constructing their gingerbread houses.

Emily Schappert, a seventh grader, recreated Spongebob Squarepants’ pineapple home, Patrick Star’s rock and the Krusty Krab from “Spongebob Squarepants.” They’ve grown up watching the cartoon.

She said creating Spongebob’s pineapple wasn’t as easy as she originally thought. It took a few attempts of varying methods to get the pineapple not only look right but also not collapse. They tried using gingerbread as a base with Rice Krispies on it, but it kept falling apart. They tried attaching the Rice Krispies to cardboard, but the cereal kept falling off. Finally, they made the pineapple home only out of Rice Krispies. It worked.

But to keep with the gingerbread theme, the girls decided to make the Krusty Krab, the restaurant in which Spongebob works, out of gingerbread.

They completed their underwater scene with coral made out of candy melts and gummy fish.

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