provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Calli Johnson, fourth generation co-owner of Bailey’s General Store, assumed the position as board of directors chair for the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce on April 2 at the chamber’s annual meeting and 60th anniversary celebration. At age 30, she is the youngest chair in the chamber’s 60 years of history.
“It’s appropriate that we hit a new milestone on our 60th anniversary,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer. “We welcome Calli’s energy, poise, retail knowledge, sense of humor, and genuine caring for people to the chamber trajectory for 2022-2023.”
“What can I offer you?” Johnson told the nearly 150 chamber members gathered at the annual meeting. “A fresh perspective. I want to make 2022 the best year yet. Support each other, appreciate one another…. Let’s connect. Involve yourself in greater Southwest Florida.”
Johnson comes from a long tradition of family involvement with the SanCap Chamber. Her grandfather, Francis P. Bailey, Jr., leaves a legacy that resulted in the naming of the Visitor Center in his honor.
“He was just granddad to me, but he always had a sharp wit,” remembers Johnson, who grew up in Jacksonville, but visited her Sanibel family often. “We always knew to find him in his office at Bailey’s World Headquarters.”
Francis’ brother Sam started the annual Islands Night baseball celebration at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers in 1993. After he passed away, that event was named for him, and this year, the Bailey family has passed the torch of managing and promoting Islands Night to the chamber. It will take place on June 1, when the Mighty Mussels meet the Tampa Tarpon following the traditional islands parade and celebration.
Richard Johnson, Calli’s father, served as board chair in 2010-2011. She remembers coming to visit from the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville and being impressed with his dedication to the position. She moved to Sanibel Island, after earning her master’s degree in mental health counseling from UF in 2016, to join the family business, then under ownership by her parents Richard and Mead, Francis’ daughter. The Bailey family has owned and operated Bailey’s General Store since 1899.
“My parents offered me a job when I graduated, and I told myself I would try it for a year and find something in my career path if I didn’t enjoy myself,” said Calli. “First, I spent some time in each department and pitched in when needed in specific departments so I could understand how the business works. I love learning, so when the wine steward opportunity presented itself, it was a good fit because the wine industry is always evolving. I always enjoyed trying wines and it was a good fit for me because there is always something new to learn or educate yourself about in the wine field.”
In January this year, Gulfshore Life magazine featured Johnson, writing that she “is responsible for the exciting selection of bottles at the shop.” It goes on to say: “She honed her palate through extensive training, and now, more than six years later, she’s loving what she does.’
Outgoing chamber chair Mark Blust described Johnson as a “no tomfoolery type of person – exactly the type of person needed to take care of the chamber’s mission. She is someone embedded with the wisdom of Francis and her father. I admire her open-mindedness about what we can do to protect the past and future.”
Johnson jokingly admitted she only stood for tomfoolery when she is involved in it. “I like to take action,” she said at the podium. She added that her grandfather and father inform how she want the islands to stay for future generations.
“It’s important to our family to stay involved in the community,” said Johnson. “The SanCap Chamber is incredibly important to our business and our community. Most importantly, its team advocates for our community as a whole. I know John and his team have our back when it comes to politics that affect our islands.”