FORT MYERS BEACH
Two more popular spots on Fort Myers Beach are in the process of finalizing deals to sell out. On Friday, WINK News learned that The Cottage was selling for $16 million.
Prices on the island keep skyrocketing, with some into the tens of millions of dollars. Many people on the island worry they won’t recognize their neighborhood once it’s rebuilt.
The owner of Pete’s Time Out was 61 days from retirement when Hurricane Ian hit. He’d owned the business for two decades and was ready to sell it to his daughter, who would continue the family tradition as the third generation of the family to run the restaurant.
The hurricane had other plans, destroying the restaurant and a family’s dream. Unfortunately, their story is not unique. For nearly everyone on the island, rebuild is a word that is much easier to say than it is to do.
No matter what you do on the beach, people are trying to prepare themselves for the change in the charm.
“I’ve been coming to the beach since middle school, high school. Since we were kids,” said Keny Charles, who ran a business on Fort Myers Beach.
Wave of Vitality. (Credit: Wave of Vitality)
Charles’ business, Wave of Vitality, went underwater during the storm.
“To see this like this, it kinda feels unreal,” Charles said.
Instead of treading water, Charles believes a new wave will come to Fort Myers Beach.
“I don’t think that Fort Myers Beach is going to be that small-town Fort Myers Beach anymore, man. I feel like it’s going to be more of that corporate route. You’re going to get a lot of luxury coming to the beach,” Charles said. “You’re 60, 70, 80 years old. You don’t really want to go through a rebuilding process of five years again. You know what I mean?
John Lallo, the owner of Pete’s Time Out, isn’t 70 or 80 years old, he is 59, but he understands what Charles is saying.
“It’s just getting old. It’s getting old. I looked at what our possibilities are. We basically said Pete’s Time Out will never ever be the same,” said Lallo.
Destroyed Fort Myers Beach building. (Credit: WINK News)
Lallo was only a couple of months away from selling the business to his daughter, who would have been the third generation to run it.
“It’s gonna cost anywhere from one to two million dollars to rebuild it. And we’d do it with no income. So we made a decision. Our quality of life is more important than making money. So we decided it’s just not for us right now,” Lallo said. “Everyone’s got their own boat they’re rolling in in this storm, you know? And our boat just said ‘you’re done.’ so, we’re done.”
Lallo won’t wallow in any sadness, though. “Once I sell it, I really don’t care. It’s a business. Yeah, it’s our livelihood, and it’s emotional at first, but when it comes down to it, it’s just dollars and cents. And it makes no sense to spend those cents. You know what I’m saying??”
The one thing that will never change about Fort Myers Beach is the people. They don’t have restaurants to go to, they don’t have ice cream to buy, they don’t have bathrooms and showers, and they don’t care.
No matter what is built or not built on the island, the people on the beach say they are still going to show up.