Our History

THE EXCHANGE was founded in 1962 by three philanthropic women as a means of fund raising for the Florida West Coast Symphony. They were looking for a sustainable way of supporting the arts, from a business perspective.

Founders:

  • Elizabeth Lindsay
  • Eileen Gray
  • Dolores Smulders
  • Emmy Astheimer

In 1966, the Symphony Women’s Exchange separated from the Symphony Wom­en’s Association, broadening its scope to include a variety of cultural groups and activities. That same year, a gift of $10,000 was awarded to the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra by the newly named Woman’s Exchange. At the time, it was the largest single gift ever given the Symphony. 

First Street Location

After five separate moves, the growth of the Exchange made permanent workable quarters necessary, so the board of directors with the help of several supportive, far-sighted bankers, arranged to buy the former Sarasota Herald-Tribune building, our current site of business. After necessary structural changes, the organization moved into its new home on Nov. 18, 1969.

 

You must realize that women did not go into business ventures back then without the backing of their husbands and banks. I remember when we took out our first loan to buy our building. The banker asked if our husbands would guarantee it. I told them we wouldn’t do that, an you can accept this on the worth of the business. We’ve operated that way ever since.                                  Elizabeth Lindsay – founder

In 2018, after the organization’s most recent expansion and the addition of a men’s clothing department, the Woman’s Exchange changed its name to The Exchange.

Over the past 10 years alone, roughly $25 million was paid to consignors, further supporting the local economy. 

Since its humble beginnings in 1962, The Exchange has grown to be Sarasota’s largest and oldest consignment shop, a shopping destination for people from around the world. The Exchange has awarded more than $9 million in arts-related grants and scholarships.

1963: Based on the organization’s ever-growing need for more space, The Exchange moved six times in seven years.

1962: Palm Avenue and McAnsh

1963: 1277 First St.

1964: 1519 Main St.

1967: 120 S. Orange Ave.

1968: Third Street and Lemon Avenue

1969: 539 S. Orange Ave.

1978: Realizing the potential of area students, The Exchange includes scholarships in its grants program. They support talented high school and college students who aspire to be the world’s next generation of cultural influence.

1984: The city surveyed its historic properties and selected 24 buildings that it felt exemplified Sarasota’s history. The Exchange building (formerly Sarasota Herald-Tribune) was chosen and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2017: After purchasing two additional parcels of property, The Exchange underwent a major expansion and renovation project, giving the organization 15,000 square feet of prime retail space. The Exchange sells an average of 12,000 items monthly ranging from the ordinary to the sublime.

2018: Of the more than $8 million awarded, The Exchange has had and continues to have an impact on the local art community. Asolo Repertory Theater, $775,000; The Players, $540,000; Sarasota Orchestra, $520,000; Sarasota Opera, $433,000; Florida Studio Theatre, $365,000; WBTT, $150,700. 

2022:  The Exchange is debt free after paying off the 2017 expansion and renovation project that included the purchase of two additional parcels of property. More than $9 million in arts related grants and scholarships awarded to-date.