Flagler/St. Johns County Line – Stepping out of your car and onto the 7-acre property that houses the Shantytown Village at the border of Flagler and St. Johns counties on US 1, you may not know what to expect. In fact, you may ask yourself if you’re at the right place.

But traveling up the path of the clearly marked entrance and passing the camp-style picnic area filled with warm and welcoming colors, you notice it’s kind of neat. By the time you reach the front porch of the main shop’s entrance, the place has the look and feel of an old country general store.

Shady trees offer a nice picnic spot for shoppers and visitors to Shantytown Village.

When you walk through the door, it’s entirely something else.

Greeted by fresh baked pies, cupcakes and cookies on display, you’ll likely forget your manners and breeze past the friendly face of Melissa Daganhardt, the store manager who happily greets new customers, on your way to check out the dainty table of K&B’s Fresh Baked Goods.

It’s all downhill from there, in the best possible way.

Featuring 40 distinct vendors between three old timey buildings currently open on the property, anyone is hard pressed to get out the door without finding something that reminds you of a place you’ve been, a cherished memory or that thing you didn’t even know you wanted.

Holiday decor is part of the charm in the retail shops of Shantytown Village.

Handcrafted wood furniture, Americana crafts and quilts, meticulously made pirate hats and accessories, locally made jams and jellies, upscale soaps and lotions, the list goes on and on. Furniture for antiquing or antiques from days gone by. It’s all there. But there’s plenty of the Florida lifestyle too – quirky signs perfect for the beach house touting the “weekend forecast”, happy hour or that “great minds clink alike” (nope, that’s not a typo).

Serving as just the beginning of the vision created by Joseph Doyle, the national hospitality, restaurant and venue consultant said that after moving to Florida seven years ago with his family and still working in the fast-paced hospitality industry, he wanted a project closer to home that allowed him to tap into an authentic part of the local community.

“Shantytown Village concept is derived from when the immigrants came over to this country with their crafts and their wares, they would set up shops in the local neighborhoods and it was called little shantytown markets, and that’s exactly what this place is,” he shared.

Discovering the location on US 1 near the I-95 exchange, Doyle learned the property as it was had a long and interesting history – one that has played a role in preserving the look and feel of the early 1940’s and 50’s, when a booming oyster business called the spot home. The main shop was once a seafood restaurant/bait and tackle shop with the oyster harvesting business taking up several other buildings on the property according to Doyle.

“There’s a lot of historic value here,” he said. “We’ve been finding out the history over the past year as we’ve been fixing the place up.”

After pitching the idea to the Merritt family, property owners for the past 30 years, the Shantytown Village opened their doors in mid-January 2021 as a showcase for true local artisans, crafters and purveyors of old treasures.

“Everybody who is in here is a local vendor and a lot of the people in this facility were affected by COVID, they were furloughed from their jobs, lost their jobs, so we wanted to find a little place for them to sell their wares and make a little extra money,” said Doyle.

Cutting the ribbon with Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen on March 17, 2021. Photo courtesy George Hanns.

Adhering to the Merritt family’s caveat not to change the topography of the land, Doyle’s vision for the property is a mix of retail, entertainment venue, and more – the creation of a days gone by Florida roadside attraction.

“We have future plans for a petting zoo that’s coming next week. We have entertainment that’s on the stage over there, and we have local vendors that are participating with our program as well,” said Doyle.

Hundreds have discovered the Shantytown Village since opening the doors a month and a half ago, and artisans are busy restocking items every Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the weekend’s shoppers.

Getting a first peek at the new inventory is a perk for manager Melissa Daganhart, who loves to see what entrepreneurs from across the region are bringing to the village.

“It’s different every time I come in, it’s constantly changing,” she said. “That’s what I love, that there’s always something new to look at.”

The spacious grounds offer a place for people to come and shop, relax or enjoy the upcoming events which have already included a car show by the Palm Coast Cruisers. Doyle is in the process of scheduling a wine and cheese event, a food truck battle, a Christmas tree farm and a Halloween Haunted House in the 4,000 sq. ft. old oyster factory on the property.

“The unusual look of the buildings are what catches the attention, and that’s the beauty of it. If you look at the customers who walk in, they really don’t know what it is, and when they come in, they’re shocked when they see all the crafts and things we have here,” said Doyle, who says these types of local shops are popular in the north.

For now, it’s a walk through the past at this Old Florida location that with TLC will continue to add to Florida’s history along the Heritage Crossroad: Miles of History on US 1.

Shantytown Village Upcoming Events:  

First Responder Appreciation Day: April 10th from 10 am to 5 pm. Discounts on all retail items, special promotions and refreshments.

Make & Take Sign Class: Saturday, April 17th at 1 pm. Registration $20

Shantytown Village

10270 Highway US 1, St. Augustine, FL

For more information call: 386-449-9149

*Half a mile north of the Florida Agricultural Museum on US 1

Hours: Wed – Sun: 10 am – 5 pm

Featured Photo: Stopping in to explore, Randy Stapleford (left) and wife Rhonda chat with Shantytown Village founder Joe Doyle about the concept and history of the unique location.

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