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POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Rain or shine, browsing is fine in Cocoa Village

Jim Abbott on Florida Travel

Postcards from Florida

November 13, 2010

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If the wisdom on those ball caps with the fish hooks is to be believed, a bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office.

Well, I want my own cap, telling the world that even a rainy day at Cocoa Village is better than working, too.

That's true even if your plan to catch a space shuttle launch was foiled by rains that chased away less hearty shoppers and made an umbrella essential equipment.

It has been years since I have made the trek to Cocoa Village, the cozy, undeniably cute shopping district off State Road 520, next to the Indian River. The sidewalks, boutiques and art galleries haven't changed much over the years and that's good.

At the same time, locals say that there's encouraging momentum among businesses that now include 18 galleries that are a focus of occasional art strolls and events. There are also plenty of good dining options, including Ossorio Bakery & Café, known for its wood-fired sandwiches, flat-bread pizzas and homemade ice cream.

On my rainy-day stroll, I ducked into Thai Thai on Harrison Street, just around the corner from the main drag on Brevard Avenue, for an early dinner of Pad Thai with pork ($17.50 including tip).

There's no shortage of antique shops, whether it's the vintage clocks and glassware of Stone Street Antiques or the kitschy pop-culture collectibles of Antiques & Collectibles Too, also on Harrison Street.

As anyone who has accompanied me to Renninger's in Mount Dora knows, my threshold for antique browsing is limited. So I was pleased to find Caroline's House of Records, a treasury of vintage vinyl tucked at the end of a climate-controlled hallway in the Threadneedle Street Mall. (Don't let the name fool you, that collection of shops is on Brevard Avenue.)

Also cool is the Magic Dove Magic Shop (magicdove.com), worth walking several blocks on Brevard Avenue. There are felt rabbits to pull out of your hat and real doves, which are probably for serious magicians only. I had my eye on the "Street Magic Set" ($29.99), with its "top secret vanishing kit" and "ultimate levitation system."

Hey, a guy needs a second career to fall back on.