FEATURED COMMUNITY: Historic Cocoa Village
Culture, Dining and Shopping at Heart of Revitalization
by Josh Field
Notwithstanding all the recent commercial and residential development in Brevard County, “new” doesn’t always imply “improved” or “better.” In fact, one of the oldest communities in the area is experiencing an exciting resurgence of culture and business, which only adds to the 125-plus-year-old Southern hospitality and charm uniquely experienced in Historic Cocoa Village.
With close to 200 merchants, Cocoa Village has something to offer for everyone. Looking for a day of shopping away from the malls and chain stores? The Village is full of art galleries, antique shops, craft stores, clothing and accessory boutiques, and gift shops. Hungry? From riverfront dining to outdoor cafés, and from casual to elegant, every palate can be satisfied. Or just enjoy a relaxing stroll down the narrow streets lined by majestic oaks and take in the history of this turn-of-the-century town on the banks of the Indian River.
From Where Did the Name “Cocoa Village” Come? According to historical records, in the late 1880s, sailors on the Indian River received a little Southern hospitality from a local woman who lived on the riverbank and welcomed them with a cup of hot cocoa.
Spearheading much of the growth and activity in the Village is a triad of organizations – Cocoa Main Street, Historic Cocoa Village Association and the City of Cocoa – working cooperatively with local businesses and residents to attract visitors to the area.
Established in 1995 as part of the Main Street America movement, Cocoa Main Street is a national and state-accredited organization and has been a key facilitator in the economic sustainability and growth of Cocoa Village. Led by Executive Director Ken Wilshire, its mission is to enhance community identity and heritage, foster a center of activity and ensure economic stability for the heart of Cocoa through concentrated efforts of design, promotion, organization and economic vitality. These four key areas of focus serve as the foundation for the Village’s developmental initiatives, which include its cultural and architectural heritage, community spirit and business infrastructure.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Cocoa Main Street is funded in part by the City of Cocoa, memberships/sponsorships and events that attract residents and visitors to the area. The organization works closely with the Historic Cocoa Village Association, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association (like a mini chamber of commerce), which assists in the advancement of local businesses. Not qualified for grants or charitable donations, HCVA relies on local merchant membership dues and events for its operating income.
Recent projects to enhance the area’s cultural appeal and heritage include the Cocoa Village Artworks Project, which kicked off with a bench painting project featuring local artists; the Great Cocoa Village Landscaping Project; the Derby Street Chapel renovation; and Bank of America mural restoration.
An exciting redevelopment effort in the area is Parkside Place, which opened in 2015 on Harrison Street between Delannoy Avenue and Riveredge Boulevard across from Riverfront Park. Created by Centennial Development Group, Parkside Place is home to Village Cycle Shoppe, Bobbi’s at Parkside, Village Idiot Pub, East Coast Shades, Ryan’s Village Pizza & Pub, Parkside General Store, and more to come.
Efforts like Parkside Place continue to widen the breadth of offerings to attract a younger demographic to the area, which traditionally has been a draw to an older target audience. Cocoa Village is a popular shore excursion destination for ports of call cruise ships coming into Port Canaveral as well as for buses of seniors on day trips from locales like The Villages (just outside Ocala) and Fort Lauderdale.
Who Let the Dogs Out? The Village is one of Brevard’s most “dog hip” areas with pet-friendly parks, doggie stations (supplying water and bags for picking up after your dog) throughout the community, and approximately 80% of (non-food serving) retailers allowing dogs on leashes inside their establishments.
Talk about open air malls! Cocoa Village is a shoppers’ paradise filled with unique shops and boutiques specializing in fashion, home décor, gifts and eclectic items – in fact, you can find all these items and more at Parrot’s Cove Mall, a collective of vendors with items from shabby chic to vintage glam.
One don’t-miss stop is S.F. Travis Hardware, a staple in the area since the late 1800’s, and whose family ownership is now on its fourth generation. It’s said, “Whatever you can’t find at a big box hardware chain can be found at Travis Hardware!”
Another unique retailer is Caroline’s House of Records, which always proves to be a nostalgic trip back to the days of flipping through racks of albums looking for old favorites and admiring the artwork and liner notes lost in today’s digital music scene.
Friendly local merchants share Southern charm and hospitality with a smile and a story. Most stores are open until 5 p.m., Monday through Sunday with plenty of free parking available on the street and scattered lots around the Village.
A Shoppers Paradise
(Browsing highly encouraged)
- Annie’s Toy Chest
- Antique Emporium of Brevard
- Antiques and Collectibles Too
- Bobbi’s at Parkside
- Caroline’s House of Records
- Contemporary Concepts
- East Coast Shades
- Elements of Paradise
- From Olives and Grapes
- Handwerk Haus
- Jon’s Fine Jewelry
- Knit & Stitch
- Mango’s Fashion Boutique
- Miss Bailey’s Curiosity Shoppe
- New Look Boutique
- Nighten Day
- Parrot’s Cove Mall
- Rare Essentials
- Rocket City Retro
- Rose’s Rose Creative Floral & Gifting
- S.F. Travis Hardware (is more than 125 years old)
- Sand & Sea Gifts and Gallery
- Shoetique Shoes & Accessories
- Sibby’s Gifts & Spices
- Stone Street Antiques
- Tails at the Barkery
- The Bath Cottage
- The Flop Shop
- The Mint Mermaid
- The Pear Tree
- The Toy Box
- The Treasure Hunters Mall
- The Village Spiceman
- Twisted Lily
- Ventana al Mundo
- Village Beach House
- Village Cycle Shoppe
- What You Love To Do
DINING & DRINKING
Even if you’re not in the mood to shop, Cocoa Village has long been a dining destination for Brevard locals and visitors. With numerous cafés and outdoor venues, it’s also the perfect place for meeting friends for drinks and entertainment before or after a sumptuous meal or a performance at the playhouse.
Old standards like Café Margaux – considered one of the state’s finest restaurants and a local favorite for special occasions – mix with newer dining experiences like Crush Eleven and trendy watering holes such as Dog ‘n’ Bone British Pub to create a culinary scene that is second to none on the Space Coast.
- Whet Your Appetite
- (Sample some of the Village’s finest flavors)
- Brasas Grill Brazilian Steakhouse
- Café Margaux
- Café Unique Catering
- Crush Eleven
- Dog ‘n’ Bone British Pub
- Grimaldi Candy Company
- Korean American Fusion
- Lazy Bean Coffee Company
- Murdock’s Bistro & Char Bar
- Norman’s Raw Bar & Grill
- Oasis Bar & Grill
- Oleander Bakery
- Ossorio Bakery & Café
- Paisley’s Vegan Kitchen
- Pub Americana
- Ryan’s Village Pizza and Pub
- Sugar Shack Donuts
- Thai Thai
- The Tulip
- Ulysses Prime Steakhouse
- Village Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop
- Village Idiot Pub
ARTS & CULTURE
The area’s cultural scene is buoyed by the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, which hosted its first performance in 1924, and produces Broadway favorites throughout its season. But performing arts is just the tip of the iceberg, with almost 150 local artists calling Cocoa Village “home.” On many evenings, live music can be heard from the Myrt Tharp Square gazebo or numerous bars and restaurants, while art galleries boast everything from contemporary artwork to handmade crafts.
Arts on Parade
(Immerse yourself in sight and sound)
- Carolyn Seiler Studios
- Cocoa Village Playhouse
- Elements of Paradise
- Florida Historical Society
- Green Circle Art
- Jan’s You Frame It
- Lorene Prell Studio
- Loys Anne Locklear Studio
- Seaside Garden Studio & Gallery
- Space Coast Crafters Co-op
- Sundancer Gallery
BUSINESSES & SERVICES
Like any bustling commerce center, Cocoa Village has its share of commercial businesses offering professional services from financial to legal and from design to beauty. Cruise ship visitors, happily mixing with the locals, appreciate the downhome feel (and value) of the area’s hair, nail and massage salons which indulge and pamper their customers.
Taking Care of Business
(Professional services from retirement to real estate to relaxation)
- A Lifetime of Fitness
- AB Creative
- Arnold Financial
- Bank of America
- Blue Sky Insurance Agency
- Brevard Appliance Repair
- Clay Stephens Lifestyles
- CoCo Marie’s Lacquer Lounge & Beautique
- Genesis Optical Boutique
- Marlene’s Que Bella Salon
- Maxi-O and Cocoa Village Massage and Healing Center
- Rall Capital Management
- Reliance Trust Realty and Investments
- Robin’s Nest Embroidery
- Saracco Law
- Salon On Brevard
- Space Coast Office of Tourism
- Studio 2 Twenty 4 Hair, Nail & Skin Salon
- Trafford Realty
- Travel by Ginny
- Village Cycle Shoppe
- Village Hair & Nails
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
Cocoa Village utilizes its locale as a river town to not only offer storybook vistas of sailboats and other watercraft cruising along the Indian River, but to reinforce its heritage and historical significance. The Riverfront Park bandstand is a popular outdoor venue for musical performances and picnics under the stars throughout the year, while the historic Porcher House (built in 1916) is a favorite for weddings and other special events.
Whether you have kids in tow or not, be sure to stop at Magic Dove Magic Shop, which is staffed by local magicians who are eager to entertain and teach patrons the art of magic tricks, juggling and much more in this enjoyable novelty shop.
The roots of St. Mark’s Episcopal Academy date back to the late 1800’s, when settlers first formed a congregation and built a church. Over the past century, it has expanded, remodeled and added its day school, which today offers an unsurpassed educational environment for K-6 students while still serving the mission of the church.
Add to Your Itinerary
(Can’t miss destinations for any visit)
- Cocoa Village Marina
- Indian River Queen Paddleboat
- Magic Dove Magic Shop
- Myrt Tharp Square
- Parrish Grove Inn
- Porcher House
- Riverfront Park
- Space Coast Brews Cruise
- St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Academy
- Taylor Park
PEOPLE TO KNOW
They run businesses, raise money, volunteer and act as stewards of the community. There are just certain folks that when you meet them, they exude the pride and enthusiasm that has reinvigorated Cocoa Village and makes you want to keep coming back to see what’s new.
Village Movers & Shakers
(Local leaders giving of their time, talent and treasure)
- Terry Black, president, Cocoa Main Street; local volunteer and ambassador
- Janne Etz, president, Historic Cocoa Village Association
- Allan Chapman, executive director, Historic Cocoa Village Association
- Nancy Elliott, local property owner, volunteer and ambassador
- Dan Ezell, owner, Magic Dove Magic Shop
- Eric Garvey, executive director, Space Coast Office of Tourism
- Anastacia Hawkins-Smith, executive director, Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse
- Alex Litras, owner, Café Margaux and Ulysses Prime Steakhouse
- Shirley Lynn, director, Cocoa Main Street; local volunteer
- Eddie Lebron, partner, Centennial Development Group
- Jon Miller, owner, Jon’s Fine Jewelry
- Mac Osborne, owner, Travis Hardware
- Henry Parrish III, mayor of City of Cocoa and business owner
- Delores Spearman, local philanthropist, volunteer
- Susie & Tom Wasdin, local philanthropists, volunteers and business owners
- Ken Wilshire, executive director, Cocoa Main Street
From the patriotic (e.g. July Fourth’s Symphony Under the Stars) to the irreverent (e.g. Zombie Fun Run, Beer & Burritos One Miler), Cocoa Village’s event calendar has broad appeal for a diverse population of seniors to hipsters, with something going on 47 weekends out of the year. Village officials report 25% of event attendees are out-of-towners, who come in for the day to shop, eat, drink, listen to music, or participate in any of a number of unique happenings.
Mark Your Calendar
(Dates subject to change)
- Fall Central Florida Car Show, Sep. 17
- Under the Harvest Moon Sip & Stroll, Sep. 24
- Main Street Vintage Market, Oct. 7-9
- Zombie Fun Run, Oct. 28
- Halloween in the Village, Oct. 29
- 6th Annual Chili Cook-off, Oct, 15
- 35th Fall Art & Craft Fair, Oct. 15-16
- Shop Small Sip & Stroll, Nov. 26
- 33rd Art and Craft Holiday Bazaar, Dec. 3-4
- Cocoa Holiday Parade & Festival, Dec. 10
- February Sip & Stroll, Feb. 11
- Spring Art & Craft Show, Mar. 4-5
- Main Street Vintage Market, Mar. 4-5
- 26th Summer Art & Craft Show and Sportsman Show, May 13-14
- Memorial Day Tribute, May 29
- 7th annual BBQ & Blues, Jun. 2-3
- Fourth of July Celebration, Jul. 4
- Christmas in July Sip & Stroll, Jul. 29
- Beer & Burritos One Miler, Date TBD
Cocoa Village is about 50 miles east of Orlando. From I-95, take exit 201 for Florida State Route 520 East toward Cocoa Beach. Continue heading east for about four and a half miles. Turn right at Brevard Avenue.