By SC Reporter Reese Holiday, photos by Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
For generations, the Bailey’s General Store has remained a staple of Sanibel, providing those that roam the unique island with groceries, hardware and general needs long before any bridges were built.
Now, Owner Richard Johnson said big changes are coming to the beloved store to enhance the shopping experience and provide customers with a look into the modern-day grocer.
“The local grocery stores have changed dramatically over the past few decades,” Johnson said. “What we’re planning for is we’re going to become more relevant in what today’s customer is looking for in a grocery store.”
The plans for this external change will replace the yellow and brown look with the flat roof that has remained for decades with more prominent, blue facades on top of the building, including the largest one right at the entrance of the grocery store.
But the changes don’t stop there as Johnson, who is also Sanibel’s vice mayor, explained that the grocery store will be expanding further towards the south side of the shopping center, adding an additional 6,000 square feet in retail space.
To do so, the Island Cinema, a building located next to the grocery store in which the shopping center owns, will be demolished to make more floor space for the store. Johnson said this decision came about during the COVID-19 pandemic when he and his staff decided to not re-open the theatre.
With these changes to add new areas to the grocery store, many of the popular, older features that visitors loved will still remain, including the liquor store, which will be relocated, and the highly successful coffee bar.
“The things that people know us for and love about Bailey’s are not going away,” Johnson said. “Mainly, that’s the people that are there.”
Other changes include increasing the parking area of the shopping center to include more spaces and parking for bikes, increase the vegetation buffers around that parking area, add electric vehicle charging stations to some parking spaces, decrease the amount of developed property on the parcel, as well as bring the center into conformance with Sanibel’s Architectural Design Standards.
This means that the shopping center’s renovations will be “constructed, maintained and improved in a manner that enhances the environment, visual and physical character of Sanibel consistent with the Sanibel Plan and its vision statement,” the ordinance reads.
It also means that the structure will successfully represent the community aesthetic, not appear monolithic, be visually interesting from the perspective of pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist, as well as not permit noise, light and other impacts on the quiet and private enjoyment of adjacent residential uses.
These proposed changes are coming after the grocery store added more renewable energy to not only save money, but to improve the environment on the island as well.
This included replacing the store’s open retail displays for cold foods with closed doors, the replacement of fluorescent lights with LED ones, and the installation of solar panels along the roof. With these changes, Johnson said the store’s electric bill went from $25,000 to just $7,000 a month.
Outside of these renovations, the gas station adjacent to the Bailey’s Shopping Center, another property in which the center owns, will be converted into a restaurant that is yet to be determined. According to a Community Services Department Staff Report, this restaurant will have a total of 66 indoor seats, as well as an additional 16 outdoor ones.
But before any shovel breaks ground, the overall renovation project of Bailey’s Shopping Center needs to go through a number of approvals, one of which occurred on June 8 during a Sanibel Planning Commission meeting.
This approval moved to have the planning staff prepare a draft ordinance for the plan, which requested to amend the city’s Land Development Code, specifically the development standards for Bailey’s property in its Planned Unit Development, so that the requested changes to the shopping center can be made.
City Planner Craig Chandler explained during the meeting that the PUD consists of two parcels of land, which are Bailey’s Shopping Center and Doc Ford’s, but the request for an amendment to the PUD only relates to Bailey’s.
The staff was requested to return to the Planning Commission on June 22 with their draft ordinance where commissioners will then vote to approve it or not.
If successful, the project will then move to Sanibel City Council where more deliberation will occur, including a first reading in July, and a second reading in August.
With much of the journey still ahead, Johnson emphasized that this project is long overdue, noting that no substantial remodeling to Baileys has occurred in nearly 40 years. He said every five years, a plan for the shopping center is put in place, but this plan has been discussed for about a decade.
This project will become a part of the store that has inhabited Sanibel since 1899, its history, as well as the Bailey family name it carries. As this history continues, architect Ray Fenton noted during the commission meeting that this change will embrace the family name, and the over 100 years of service behind it.
“This plan represents the dreams, the wishes and the growth of the Bailey family going into the future for the next five years,” Fenton said.
Richard Johnson, his wife Mead, and their children Calli, Bailie and Dane, are all a part of the business, and it is owned by his wife and generation 4 of the Johnson family.
Sounds like a great plan. Will miss the theater. Be nice if another location could be found for a theater.
Frances would be proud !!
I will really miss the theater. This means we must travel to Bell Tower to see a movie. That’s a big loss to the community.
I found “paradise” when I was 18 in 1955…my parents took me along for the ride from NY.;
I visited the Island as years went by and finally had enough $ to purchase a small house in 1997. I am now back in NY -to be with my family as age creeps up and no one will visit because of Covid. I can’t express how sad I am not to see the long-awaited changes for Baileys to knock heads with the modern world of 2022!!!
Please save Island Cinema!
Love BAILEYS . I’ve always been completely satisfied with my shopping experience there . Very helpful staff ,always someone there to help . The convenience of the hardware store is a huge plus . I love one stop shopping .Happy to hear the coffee bar will still be included in your renovation. Very excited and looking forward to all the fabulous changes you will making .
We have come to Sanibel/ Captiva twice a year, every year, for more than 30 years. We have loved Bailey’s for decades. Part of that is the charm. On my opinion, the store needs to be relevant to the area. Sanibel/Captiva is not a giant resort and it’s my hope it doesn’t become one. The theater is part of the community and should remain, as well as Bailey’s should retain its local community charm.
I agree! Certain things do not always have to change!
I so agree with you. I hate the thought of the changes to such a charming shopping experience. .
will there be another movie theater?
I definitely will miss the theater.
Changes sound great but really wish movie theater could remain or relocate.
I will also miss the movie theater. It is part of the charm of living here.
Just a thought there are movie theaters that serve dinner than show the movie. No reason not to combine both. Similar to Broadway Palm Theater in Ft Myers. Does not need to be as big but would be a great addition to Sanibel
I hate to see it loose the country store Charm. Please try to retain. Otherwise it’s just another store.
I love shopping at Bailey’s. Living on the island, it is so important to support our local businesses. I look forward to the innovations coming to the store. To Richard Johnson and his family and staff – Thank you for keeping us safe in the store and keeping food and supplies available especially during the past two challenging years.
I love Bailey’s the way it use to be. Sad change is coming. And sad the theater as it was Will no longer be there. What original Bailey’s family are still on the island?