In August 1992, Keith Howard acquired an abandoned little strip mall in Miramar Beach named Silver Sands.

Howard kept the name, but 25 years later, the center is unrecognizable compared to its humble beginnings.

The original L-shape is in the section where Nautica is today.

"That was phase one," said Katie Johnson, director of marketing and business development for the Simon Group.

There have now five phases to what is today called Silver Sands Premium Outlets.

"It had been an eyesore for the community for five years before the Howard Group bought it," said Johnson.

The original strip had 25 stores in 84,000 square feet. There are now 110 stores in 451,000 square feet featuring designer and brand-name stores.

Phase 2 of expanding the complex came in 1994. It is the section where the Reebok store rests.

"We've come a long way and brought shoppers something unique," said Johnson.

Myra Williams went to work for The Howard Group in October 1995 as marketing director. She is now vice president of marketing and has witnessed the evolution of the shopping complex, which at one time was the largest in the nation.

The first outlet store to sign on was Nautica. It was the first Nautica outlet in Florida and it is still in the same location.

Donna Karan was another of the firsts.

 

There were 63 stores when Williams came on board. She saw the opening of the Morgan's entertainment area in 1996. Off Saks occupies that spot now.

"I look at Silver Sands as a forerunner in bringing retail and designer names to this area," said Williams. "It was the catalyst and it was very exciting every time we brought in a new name. I moved here in June 1986 and there weren’t many places to shop. The center will continue to evolve. We try to provide the most expansive shopping in the area. Our customer base is more visitor than local and it has been very rewarding the way we get to interact with the public."

The biggest change Williams has seen is in the depth of stores offered, and aesthetics such as landscape and the addition of towers.

"Now you have other means of shopping, such as online," said Williams. "People have different ways they like to shop. There's room for both. Some people prefer and like the brick and mortar and being able to go into a store. But these days people are looking for an experience, not just shopping. They expect more."

Silver Sands Premium Outlets tries to offer the public more.

In addition to welcoming several new stores, there are several things coming up on the calendar, said Johnson.

Over the summer there were several remodels and pop-up shops.

There are plans to enhance the courtyard with seating, and digital savings are being offered.

A photo booth has been added in front of Ciao Bella, and there are family-fun events scheduled throughout October. One event is make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and receive discounts at various stores.

On Oct. 21, the Pink Pumpkin event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with sweet treats, face painting and other activities.

Oct. 31 will be trick or treat. Just stop by the information center and pick up a bag.

"And the holiday season is always exciting with Santa's arrival," said Johnson.