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Sanibel businesses fighting to recover and find their new normal

SANIBEL

The island that was one of the many places hit the hardest after Hurricane Ian is dealing with the fact that they are recently opened.

Sanibel is still a place where it feels like the hurricane was just days ago in some spots, and in others, it feels like the island is miles ahead of where people may have thought it would be three months later.

Too many businesses on the island were ripped out of the hands of business owners, managers, and employees who loved the place they worked. Some threw in the towel, while others pushed on and will continue to do so until they find a new normal.

Three businesses shut down by Hurricane Ian are now working hard to survive. The Blue Giraffe Cafe, a Sanibel staple, is one of them.

“Our lives have been completely uplifted in ways that the normal mind can’t just comprehend,” said Michael Puente, Manager at the Blue Giraffe Cafe.

Starting from scratch, The Pecking Order, which boasted the best fried chicken on the island, is also fighting its way back.

“I can’t sit and dwell on the devastation at all,” said Bridgit Budd, The Pecking Order’s owner.

A fisherman’s asylum, Whitney’s Bait and Tackle, also pushes through the devastation toward the future.

“All the hard work we put into it to get it to where it was just 24 hours it was ruined,” said Jim Bryan, of Whitney’s Bait and Tackle.

Puente, Budd, and Bryan have something in common. They decided to push forward after the hurricane despite debris, loss, and overwhelming damage.

Giving up was never an option.

“No. As soon as we were able to make landfall here on the island and assess it with ourselves, you know, we did come up with the commitment, you know, for rebuilding and stuff like that. It’s not easy. And, you know, we’ll take those challenges as they come,” Puente said.

A big challenge is the beaches that are closed which means fewer tourists and fewer customers.

“We’re doing a little bit of business. We’re doing what we can. But nowhere near what it was on the island was booming before the hurricane,” said Bryan.

The reality now won’t stop these three from doing what they do best; serving their customers.

“I personally have just been looking forward to the future,” said Budd.

The Blue Giraffe is operating out of a food truck on Periwinkle Way. Whitney’s Bait and Tackle is open and Budd hopes to make fried chicken again by Mother’s Day.

What they all need now is support. Bryan said if you have money to spend, come spend it on Sanibel.

WINK NEWS 

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