Lakewood Ranch Herald

Golden Apple is sold but not slumbering; may move to Lakewood Ranch

Roberta MacDonald appeared in several Broadway productions including the original run of “South Pacific” before she and husband Robert Turoff opened the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre on Dec. 11, 1971.

The downtown Sarasota landmark has remained in business ever since.

“We’re the longest running, continuously operating, professional dinner theatre in the country,” MacDonald said.

But a deed dated Feb. 15 reveals the property sold for $1.746 million to Golden Coast of Sarasota LLC, which has a postal address in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

“That was probably one of the saddest days of my life,” MacDonald said Thursday, a couple hours before opening night of the company’s adventurous new production “Avenue Q.”

The affidavit lists the contact name for the buyer as William G. James.

“He’s a doctor from Canada who owns lots of land on St. Armands,” she said. “He’s a very nice man.”

Although not a patron of the Golden Apple, James will allow the dinner theater to keep its doors open and retain that record for longevity.

Golden Coast will lease the building to Golden Apple for five years.

“They assured us if we want to stay longer, we can,” MacDonald said. “But we hope by then we can open our theater in Lakewood Ranch.”

She added, “We had a meeting with SMR (Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.) this morning at 10:30 to discuss opening our nearly dead theater in Lakewood Ranch and not burying it, but letting it rise like a phoenix.”

Approached by San Marco Plaza developers in 2004, MacDonald and Turoff were given a deal to open a dinner theater that would be the anchor property in the commercial center.

Turoff paid about $80 per square foot, or $750,000, in 2007, for a shell with a dirt floor.

The purchase came right about the same time the economy tanked.

SMR, which developed and maintains the master-planned East Manatee community, only agreed to sell the property to San Marco Plaza developers if the Golden Apple would be there to anchor it.

The deal required Turoff to sign an affidavit from the developers stating a theater would be operated there for at least two years.

SMR released Turoff from the deed restriction, allowing him to sell, in 2009.

“At the moment, it’s still on the market,” Turoff said of the San Marco building Thursday. “But unless some guys comes with lots of money, we’re gonna pull it off the market and go ahead and finish it.”

He added, “We’re meeting with some construction people next week and would like to have it open by December.”

SMR spokesperson Candice McElyea confirmed Turoff met with someone in the company’s construction department Thursday.

“But at this point we’re really not involved,” she said. “But like the rest of the residents we’d like to see this move forward.”

-- Herald staff writer Duane Marsteller and Herald archives were used in this report.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at