Maria Litwack moved to Ponte Vedra Beach more than 20 years ago and always dreamed about owning a store of her own. That dream became a reality when she created Coastal Elements in March 2020. Although the timing was not great starting a business in the middle of the pandemic, years later she found her concept of showcasing local artists and their creativity is something the community has gravitated to.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
It is hard to believe, but I have lived in Ponte Vedra Beach for over 20 years. I am originally from the Texas and Oklahoma area.
My degree is in fashion merchandising from Oklahoma State University. I have a background as a luxury resort retail buyer for many exceptional resorts and clubs in Florida and in the Bahamas.
I originally moved to the Ponte Vedra Beach area when I accepted a position as the retail director for the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club.
I feel extremely fortunate over the course of my career to have been given many incredible opportunities with some spectacular properties.
What led to the creation of Coastal Elements?
My dream has always been one day to open my own store. Over the course of my extensive buying career, I have been extremely fortunate to have discovered a collection of incredibly talented, local artists.
I always thought opening a store that highlighted the talent in the Ponte Vedra Beach area would be an amazing concept.
During my travel experiences I have enjoyed exploring local boutiques. It is fun to discover unique gifts and art that are exclusive just to that area. I felt that a concept like this was missing in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Coastal Elements originally started as a pop-up in the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center. We initially opened during TPC week of March 2020 with a select group of artists, authors and designers.
We wanted to take the opportunity to test the response of the concept during a busy time period. Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t the best with COVID closing TPC that same week.
We were still ecstatic though with the positive support we received and encouragement to keep the pop-up open.
Originally the pop-up was to be only open for a few months but with the challenges of COVID we remained a pop-up for a little over a year.
We moved into our permanent location in the Tournament Plaza Shopping Center in November of 2022.
What are your goals and objectives for the business?
Our goal is to create an eclectic and unique shopping atmosphere that creates the best of the local art scene and complements the coastal lifestyle of the Ponte Vedra Beach and the surrounding area.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have a career I love. There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy.
I am very blessed to be able to partner with so many local artists and companies. The creativity and vision of these artists consistently amazes me. I am extremely fortunate to have their support and to have them as part of our Coastal Elements Collection. I love being able to feature these artists for our beach community to enjoy.
It is extremely rewarding to assist a customer with finding a special gift for a friend or loved one as well as assisting a customer in discovering an amazing piece of art for their home. The relationships we have created with our incredible customers is truly a gift.
What are some of the aspects of the industry that are more challenging that you must account for?
One of our biggest challenges was opening Coastal Elements during COVID. Buying and sourcing merchandise, staffing and the ups and down of the retail world post COVID has been something that was quite unexpected. It has forced us to be more creative in our planning.
What kind of products do you specialize in at Coastal Elements?
We specialize in a wide collection of coastal gifts and art from local artists, designers and authors. Our collection is unique to the Ponte Vedra Beach area.
Some of our exceptionally talented artists include a beautiful coastal art collection from Lindsey Wood and Jasmine Wisz; wildlife photography from the extraordinarily talented Eloy Castroverde; beautiful hand-painted porcelain pieces from Mona H; a purse collection from Milly Kate Designs; a colorful collection of golf and tennis towels by Millie Rose Designs; jewelry designed by Sister Knots, Beyou, Coast and Cove and Gigi Bead; and lovely local candle companies include AO Fragrances, Grumpshine Candles and Sophie Kate Candles.
Local food fare is from Topsy Toffee, Makenu Chocolates, Minoracan Salsa and Hot Sauce.
We also carry a broad selection of ZIP code gifts, including mugs, hats, t-shirts, tumblers, stationery blankets, roadies and napkins.
A couple of services that Coastal Elements provides that are unique, include custom baskets and gift personalization and customization.
Many of our items, including art, can be customized by location, name, date and color. This makes a unique gift for the closing, arrival of a baby, wedding or a special gift for a loved one.
What do you enjoy most about living in the North Florida area?
North Florida is such a beautiful area to live in. I love the change in seasons and temperature. You cannot find this in South Florida. I also love our beautiful beaches and friendly supportive community.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy spending my free time with my family, traveling, walks on the beach with my daughter and our pup Miles as well as exploring new restaurants.
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