provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Last week, the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce celebrated with ribbon-cuttings three more businesses that have recovered and reopened after Hurricane Ian: Sea Palms Estate on Captiva Island and Tutti Pazzi, 1200 Periwinkle Way, and The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel.
“It does my heart good to see recovery in every aspect of island business community,” said John Lai, chamber president and CEO. “Last week we celebrated a return of accommodations, dining, and attraction factions. Just goes to show, you can’t keep a good destination down.”
Sea Palms Estate is part of the Drip Castle Estate Collection owned by Michelle and Greg Barry, along with their neighboring Sea Oats Luxury Estate.
“We decided to concentrate on one property at a time to get our guests in asap,” said Michelle Barry, adding that Sea Oats will open in a couple of months. “Sea Palms is even better than when we first opened across from our Sea Oats Luxury Estate just two years ago.”
Besides renovations to the nine-bedroom, beachfront Sea Palms, Drip Castle took a little extra time to refinish the pool and surroundings. It can accommodate up to 30 guests and is ideal for large family groups, reunions, corporate retreats, wellness retreats, and weddings. Besides its Captiva properties, the Drip Castle Collection includes two estates in Vermont and New Mexico.
The Barrys bring their own luxury travel experiences to the equation to provide complimentary concierge service and high-end details that amount to a five-star vacation specifically tailored to the group’s needs. They do their part in helping the islands’ recovery by booking their guests’ private chefs, restaurant reservations, massages, sunset tours, fishing trips, golf cart rentals, and more with on-island chamber members.
“The Chamber has been an incredible resource not just for us, but to all vendors and island visitors,” said Barry. “They have provided an important platform to look up what is opening and what to do on the islands. We have always used the chamber as a resource for our guests, and now with the recovery it’s great to see the team out there making sure everyone is getting the press they need to successfully reopen and promote the islands.”
Pasquale and Leanna Russo reopened Tutti Pazzi on Jan. 15 after repairing the year-old restaurant’s elevator and roof-mounted equipment and replacing its entire inventory lost when the hurricane flooded the downstairs storage area. Fortunately, the dining room and kitchen survived untouched.
The reopening with a scaled-back menu was a happy occasion, says Pasquale Russo. “We are Sanibel residents and have been affected by the storm just like everyone else,” he said. “We felt obligated to open so residents would have some place to go for normalcy and to start the healing process. The opening day, people were hugging and sharing stories of their personal challenges. It has been extremely rewarding. The community has been spectacular!”
To meet the needs and requests from islanders, Tutti Pazzi will begin catering operations and private events. Going forward, its menu will be expanding, and the kitchen will begin offering daily specials. Currently, it serves a daylong menu from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
The Russos are thankful that their entire staff has returned and was there, like family, to help them prepare for reopening. They’re also grateful to the chamber.
“The chamber has been extremely supportive to businesses coming back,” said Russo. “We look forward to more of that influence. A number of our guests are from off-island, coming to support local businesses. We thank the chamber for its support making that happen.”
Although the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum suffered severe flooding to its new ground-floor aquarium exhibits, it has reopened its original second level on a temporary basis to allow islanders and visitors an opportunity to experience its permanent and special short-term exhibits.
“We’ll remain open until reconstruction begins in earnest, sometime later this spring, so maybe a couple months, but we’re not certain,” said Executive Director Sam Ankerson. “Visitors will be able to access the Great Hall of Shells, our new temporary exhibit ‘In the Wake of the Flood: Community Photographs of Hurricane Ian and Its Aftermath,’ and a ‘’Shell and Tell’ guided tour of local shells offered by collection volunteers.”
During the limited-time opening, hours are shortened to Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission will be free, although the museum suggests a donation to support recovery of $10 per adult and $5 per child under 18 years old. An opening date for the complete museum has not yet been determined, but Ankerson estimates more than six months. He thanks the chamber for its part in guiding the museum on this journey.
“The SanCap chamber has really stepped up these past months in many ways and has been a great friend and partner to the museum,” he said. “From timely information, to responsiveness, to always being at the ready with advice or encouragement, we’re appreciative and proud of our chamber and its staff.”