Two SanCap Chamber ribbon-cuttings mark return of historic Sanibel businesses

The SanCap Chamber and islands community cheered this week as two iconic Sanibel businesses celebrated reopening their doors following hurricane recovery. They include Sanibel Siesta on the Beach at 1246 Fulgur Street on April 8 and the Bait Box at 1041 Periwinkle Way on April 9.

The SanCap Chamber and islanders cheered the reopening of Sanibel Siesta.

“I guess you could say our official re-opening was April 1, which is when we officially opened up to new bookings,” said Brooke Keneford, vice president of  Sanibel Siesta Condominium Corporation. “But we have had guests with existing reservations staying with us since January, and the development is buzzing with almost pre-hurricane activity.”

Fifty-four of the condo complex’s 62 units are open, 60 of which are on Sanibel Siesta’s rental program. The eight remaining units were ground level and most-damaged by hurricane flooding, along with the office, which required total demolition. Most amenities have been restored, including an essentially new swimming pool. Elevator repairs and a new office are on their way.

Sanibel Siesta has upgraded its internet and television service and restored destroyed landscaping. It launched the Sanibel Siesta Family Bricks Fundraiser to help with the latter.

“One casualty was our ‘big blue chair,’ which was swept away by the flood,” said Keneford. “It was found some distance away and returned to us and is back in its former location. It has become symbolic of our determination to restore the Siesta to its former glory.”

“Originally a motel and cottages in the 1960s, Sanibel Siesta became the condo complex it is today in 1974 – the same year Sanibel incorporated as a city,” said Lai. “So, we congratulate them on their rebound and, at the same time, wish them a happy 50th anniversary, right along with the city.”

“We consider the chamber vital not only to us but to the business community as a whole,” Keneford said. “We know that the public looks to the chamber for information and advice on what businesses are open. We have an excellent working relationship with the chamber, which, for example, accesses our beach cam on its website.”

The SanCap Chamber and islanders cheered the reopening of the Bait Box.

An essential part of the Sanibel business community since island pioneer Ralph Woodring started it with his mother Esperanza in 1971, the Bait Box began as a trailer selling bait and other fishing supplies. Later, Woodring moved the old Sanibel-Captiva firehouse to the location.

“My family is a long line of Chicago firemen,” said Matt Joyce, current owner since August 2022. “My grandfather, father, uncles, and many cousins. One cousin was the Chicago Fire Department Commissioner years ago. I love that tie in.”

The historic building survived the hurricane, but flood waters pushed it off its foundation of palm tree stumps. The owners raised the cottage-style, historic building by crane to put new concrete footings in place.

“I, along with every person who has driven by the Bait Box since Ian, have watched curiously and hopefully as the building was happily rescued,” said Lai. “It represents our history, our fishing heritage, our resilience, and we welcome its comforting presence.”