by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge partnered with The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce to cut the ribbon last week for Nature Store2, now open at 2250 Periwinkle Way. And just in time for the holiday season.
Shoppers will find nature related clothing, jewelry and gifts – most of which are sustainable and made by local artists – similar to its sister store in the Visitors & Education Center at the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the online store ShopDingDarling.com.
However, Store Manager Ann-Marie Wildman said the new location will have more of an emphasis on art, including a “beautiful mini gallery of Clyde Butcher’s work.”
Butcher is a legendary photographer known for his black-and-white photographs capturing the Florida Everglades, coastal islands and other unspoiled areas with stunning majesty. He exhibited his work last year at the refuge to kick off its 75th anniversary celebration and has been a part of the refuge’s lecture series.
“He’s brought us some very special pieces, and we’ll be selling his artwork (at Nature Store2),” Wildman said.
The new space will serve as a much-needed fulfillment center for ShopDingDarling.com, in addition to providing support for the refuge while the Visitor & Education Center is closed by the government mandate and once the center reopens.
Before opening the second location, there was a focus on growing ShopDingDarling.com, according to Assistant Store Manager Carrie Harmon. She said when the refuge closed in March due to the pandemic, they needed another way to make sales.
“The space we were using at the refuge as our fulfillment center for our online store sort of outgrew its space,” Harmon said. “So, we were looking for another space to be able to grow our online store, and we happened to find a place with a retail front also.”
The 1,500 square-foot space will also feature a monitor that will stream images of the wildlife, scenery and available activities at the refuge. While setting up a new store during a health pandemic presented unique challenges, Wildman said they look forward to educating shoppers about the opportunities at the refuge and its important conservation mission.
“We’re looking forward to really reaching out to people who haven’t heard of the refuge and allowing them the opportunity to take the drive through Wildlife Drive and kind of experience a whole new area of Sanibel,” Wildman said.
Nature Store2 will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. DDWS, a non-profit organization, operates both nature stores and the online store as part of its work to support the refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research and public education.