provided to The Santiva Chronicle
As Sanibel Island continues its hurricane recovery journey, the SanCap Chamber cut the ribbon this week to celebrate the progress of two Periwinkle Way establishments. Sanibel Sole reopened at 1981 Periwinkle Way on Tuesday, Nov. 14, and FISH of SANCAP opened a new facility at 2422 Periwinkle Way on Thursday, Nov. 16.
Sanibel Sole first opened in Tahitian Gardens in 2010 and is the second to reopen in that shopping center following Hurricane Ian. It carries a wide variety of footwear, clothing, and accessories for women and men, along with a limited selection of kids wear. Its top footwear brands include Birkenstock, Vionic, Taos, Teva, Reef, and Keen, along with clothing from Columbia, Patagonia, and others.
“When we first were able to access the store last October, we had to make a decision to move our merchandise into a storage unit or relocate the business,” said Sanibel Sole vice president Mike Tateosian. “We decided to move to Bell Tower last November in a combined space with Synergy.”
The Fort Myers store remains open, and Tateosian called Bell Tower a good fit “as it’s become a satellite Sanibel in a way.”
“It’s been inspiring to be part of this group of Sanibel businesses that are really trying to do our part to keep the Sanibel business community alive,” he said. “The city and chamber have really helped draw attention to us and our fellow Sanibel businesses through various events held at Bell Tower.”
“It’s always a happy occasion when we can welcome more retail back to the island business landscape,” said John Lai, SanCap Chamber president and CEO. “We expect to see more businesses at Tahitian Gardens and around the island open soon in time for holiday shopping and season.”
Despite severe damage to the original FISH center at 2430 Periwinkle Way, the island support non-profit has been assisting residents with survival and recovery since Ian’s landfall, working out of a Fort Myers office, homes, and parking lots and in community partner offices such as The Gathering Place at St. Michael & All Angels Church on Sanibel Island, where staff and therapists assist with the psychological effects of hurricane recovery.
“Since landfall we have, and will continue, to maintain a presence on the islands as we work through ongoing challenges,” said Maria Espinoza, executive director. “The needs of every member of our community are plenty. Island employment has diminished significantly, and our workforce continues to seek jobs, a safe and secure place to live, and means to take care of their families.”
FISH answered cries for help from residents for access to rebuilding supplies and furnishings by forming partnerships to distribute needed materials. From drywall to mattresses, furnishings, and grills for cooking, the organization has stepped up. It continues to provide emergency financial assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities, and medical purposes. FISH will distribute food and supplies from its new ancillary building. It occupies the former Gene Books store near the original FISH facility, which continues its rebuilding.
“As we approach the holidays, we are resuming our traditional holiday food basket for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well a community Thanksgiving celebration and gift assistance for Christmas,” said Espinoza. She thanks the local and global community for financial support, volunteering, and donations of food, furnishings, household tools, and other needed supplies.
“Our islanders could not have made it through this past year without FISH, which is always there to answer any needs in its quiet but steadfast way,” said Lai. “We rejoice in this grand step towards the organization’s own recovery, because it means even stronger support for those who may never had to ask for assistance before and look to FISH for a helping hand. A huge thanks for all FISH does for the islands.”
“The chamber has been the lifeline of our business community,” said Espinoza. “Our community was devastated after the storm and continues to face many hardships. The chamber has helped the island stay connected and has advocated for the long-term recovery of our islands from the very beginning. Without economic recovery there is no recovery at all.”