by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Bailey’s General Store has been an icon of Sanibel for more than a century, first sitting near the San Carlos Bay, as the Sanibel Packing Company, ready to serve those exiting the ferry. Today it sits along Tarpon Bay Road and has become the anchor of Bailey’s Shopping Center.
The yellow and brown building with its flat roof is recognizable, but big changes are coming to the Bailey’s Shopping Center and its beloved grocery store. That made it the most-read story of the year.
SC Reporter Reese Holiday interviewed Owner Richard Johnson in June, and he said “local grocery stores have changed dramatically over the past few decades” and the changes will make Bailey’s “more relevant in what today’s customer is looking for in a grocery store.”
The yellow and brown will replaced with more prominent blue facades and the store will expand to the south side of the shopping center, adding 6,000 square feet of retail space. However, that means the Island Cinema building will be demolished. The cinema, which was owned by the Johnson family, closed last year due to the pandemic.
Increased parking area, including more spaces for bicycles and the addition of electric vehicle charging stations, and more vegetation buffers are also part of the changes. The project will decrease the amount of developed property, bringing the shopping center into conformance with Sanibel design standards.
Even though a shovel has yet to break ground, Johnson said the project is long overdue. There has not been any substantial changes in nearly 40 years.
Although Johnson has introduced renewable energy over the last decade with 480 solar panels on the roof, installed closed-door cold food displays, using waste energy to heat water and lighting the 30,000-square-feet store with 1,000 LED light bulbs.
But many of the popular features at Bailey’s will remain, including The Grog Shop liquor store, hardware store and coffee shop. Johnson said “the things people know us for and love about Bailey’s are not going away. Mainly, that’s the people who are here.”
Johnson, his wife Mead (Bailey), and their children Calli, Bailie and Dane are the fourth generation operating the business founded in 1899 by Frank Bailey.