provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Ahead of schedule, Bailey’s General Store publicized their 2023 Christmas Ornament, to the delight of the island community of residents and visitors near and far. This cherished tradition is just a small way for the 3rd and 4th generations of owner operators at Bailey’s to maintain a personal connection with customers while the 4th building iteration of Bailey’s General Store and Bailey’s Center is planned. Until plans can be revealed, the 2023 Bailey’s Christmas Ornament must suffice.
The tradition began in 2009, with an idea driven by one of Bailey’s longtime and dear staff members, Pat Kiely, of the ever-ominous accounting team. Pat’s unfailing dedication to the Bailey’s brand led to her creation of the first ornament, custom-made and gold-plated by the Charleston Mint, featuring the Bailey’s logo. While this limited edition ornament has since sold out forever, the 2023 ornament is ready to help island lovers celebrate the holidays.
2023’s ornament reflects the enduring spirit of islanders and visitors near and far. First lit on August 20th, 1884, the Sanibel Light, also known as the Point Ybel Light, marks the entrance to San Carlos Bay and the historic port of Punta Rassa. This location was strategically located for Florida’s booming cattle industry and trade with locales further south. Florida Crackers driving their cattle to the port began the enduring pilgrimage across San Carlos Bay and beyond first made by cattle, then later by visitors and residents of the islands when tourism became the reigning industry in the Florida.
After the United States forcibly removed native peoples from the area in the 1800s, the Lighthouse Board requested funds from Congress to establish a light first in 1881. Approval and land disputes delayed construction to 1884, when the foundation of the light was constructed. Tragedy first struck the Sanibel Light when the schooner carrying the original iron skeleton from New Jersey sank merely 2 miles from the intended home. All but two pieces of the skeleton were salvaged by hard hat divers, which was nothing short of a miracle in the late 1800s.
As one of the first lights on the coast of the west side of Florida north of Key West, she is uniquely designed for her namesake as a “Sanibel Class” light and sistered by 13 remaining lights, with 3 sister lights residing on the west coast and panhandle of Florida. The Sanibel Light is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now under USCG operation. Original flashes were modified around 1933 to the current 10 second grouped flash. The light went unused during World War II, when even dimming the light would have still blinded lookouts at the tower just south of the light watching for enemy vessels. In 1949 the lighthouse was unmanned and the keepers quarters became the headquarters for J N Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Electrified in 1963, the original lens was replaced with a smaller 500mm glass lens. The light has continuously operated as a beacon of our islands since relighting after WW2.
Rumors after Hurricane Ian quickly spread that the enduring island symbol was toppled by the Category 4.9 storm. Alas, she was actually missing a leg. Islanders returned to find all of the surrounding historic buildings washed away by the 14 foot storm surge, only leaving a few bricks as a sign of what endured for over a century before Hurricane Ian. The light was extinguished when the storm blew through, and relit by the USCG on February 28th, 2023, exactly 6 months after the islands were ravaged. Now a symbol of resilience with her “broken” leg, she represents the island community with a battered yet unbroken spirit.
When asked how the lighthouse was chosen for the 2023 ornament, Bailie Johnson, finance manager and 4th generation owner operator at Bailey’s and their family of companies, answered, “Our store and the lighthouse have much in common, including their history, their founding principles, and their symbol of resilience. Just like the Point Ybel Light, we will continue to weather future storms for our community. The lighthouse has been on our “list” for years but it holds even more of a special place in our hearts as we recover from the hurricane. It reminds us that we’re still standing strong. The sanibel light is a sign of resilience as we rebuild our treasured island business.”
While the Bailey family would love to greet beloved shoppers for the holidays at their flagship location, 2023 good tithings will only be possible online or at The Island Store on Captiva, also operated by family and staff. Customers can enjoy their very own special signal of resilience during the holiday calendar by visiting their online store at https://baileysofsanibel.myshopify.com/ or their retail location on Captiva at the corner of Andy Rosse Ln and Captiva Drive. Bailey’s hopes to reveal shopping center plans on Sanibel during the holidays.