provided to The Santiva Chronicle
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce was busy on Friday, Dec. 9, celebrating the reopening of two Captiva Island businesses following post-hurricane recovery efforts. Representatives first held an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting for Kingfisher Vacation Rentals and Real Estate’s office, 11528 Andy Rosse Lane, followed by one for ‘Tween Waters Beach Resort at noon on Captiva Drive.
“What a banner day it was for business on the islands to welcome these two iconic members back to livelihood,” said John Lai, chamber president and CEO, who has been at the forefront of island recovery efforts. “With the Sanibel mayor’s recent announcement that the causeway will open to non-passholders Jan. 2, it was a week to celebrate the islands’ comeback in real time.”
Kingfisher Vacation Rentals and Real Estate’s second location on Captiva opened in the summer of 2021. Its original Sanibel Island location on Palm Ridge Road has been operating since 2017. The team hopes to reopen it by the end of January 2023.
Fortunately, the majority of the Captiva office space is located on the second floor and was spared. Kingfisher Gallery and Gifts and the office’s garage sustained damage on the building’s first floor, which saw several feet of surge water. About 20 percent of the gift shop’s inventory plus golf carts and rental supplies were lost. The gift shop remains closed for now.
“We have a dedicated staff that hit the islands by boat just days after the storm,” said Phaidra McDermott, co-owner with her husband, Jeff. “Our staff was able to clean out the affected areas of our office. We are happy to now serve Captiva owners and workers with free WiFi, printing, and cold water at our Captiva office.”
The office reopening marks an important moment in the islands’ recovery and redevelopment, she adds. “Real estate agents on Sanibel and Captiva have always played and will continue to play a much larger role than just facilitating the transactions of real property,” said McDermott. “We are community leaders and will stand as pillars of support for our clients, colleagues, friends, and families alike. Every day we experience the growing pains that recovering from such destruction will undoubtedly bring, but we also experience incredible progress.”
“Kudos to Kingfisher for its quick recovery time due to teamwork, long hours, and determined effort,” said Lai.
“The Chamber is a central voice in providing current information about the rebuilding of our islands,” said McDermott. “It is more important than ever to continue to help market and assist the local businesses with getting their companies up and running so the islands can come back even stronger.”
On Dec. 17, ‘Tween Waters officially reopens – the islands’ first full-service resort to open complete with dining at Old Captiva House, pools, groomed beach, and marina. The resort hosted its disaster recovery company on property for two months prior to opening to the public.
“Almost all of our property base here is concrete, and the storm surge seemed to more roll over the property into the bay and channel, being on a narrow strip of land,” said Doug Babcock, CEO of Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, which operates the resort. “Opening as quickly as we did was obviously a massive effort between power, water, and other utilities, as well as our amazing Sanibel Captiva Beach Resort team. The disaster recovery company was contracted for two months.”
Old Captiva House opened Nov. 28 and serves a limited menu breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The kitchen served a Thanksgiving Day buffet for first responders and restoration workers as its way of saying thanks. The following day, its long-running, traditional Tree Lighting Celebration went on as usual. The resort even was able to replace the palm tree at the entrance that is decorated each year with a life-sized Santa climbing a ladder to its top.
“These free events and occasions are the ways we can say thanks and hopefully move forward, united as a community with purpose,” said Babcock. “They were ways to bring our islands together and help in the healing process.”
“’Tween Waters’ progress and momentum have been inspiration to us all on both islands,” said Lai. “Seeing that Santa on his ladder brought more than smiles to people around the country, it renewed the islands’ comeback commitment.”
“The SanCap chamber has always been a key player in the awareness, promotion, and protection of our islands. That role hasn’t changed, if anything it’s become more vital now,” said Babcock. “There’s a long road ahead of us — for all who live here and have businesses here — and it won’t be easy. But having dedicated, quality individuals representing our islands, such as the chamber, puts us in a much better position to win short term and long term.”