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Nearly two months after Hurricane Ian, Naples attraction inches toward full reopening

Tin City’s manager and tenants look to reopen the tourist attraction and shopping destination in mid-December after massive overhaul was brought on by flooding from Hurricane Ian.


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More than two months after catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Ian nearly destroyed Tin City in Naples, the tourist and shopping destination is about ready to fully reopen.

Several shops are already doing business and dozens of others are in the process of restocking and finishing build-outs after much of the three-building complex saw three feet of water and mud. Work is progressing so well, in fact, that property manager Craig Ekonomos is expecting — hoping? — for everything to be up and running by Dec. 15.

“When you give everybody a date, when I say December 15 it kind of lights a fire,” says Ekonomos. “Now we all have a common goal. So, like I said, four businesses are already open and we’re not even out (of) November. That’s pretty that's impressive. That’s pretty good.”

Tin City is a collection about 30 independent shops and restaurants that cater to visitor looking for everything from waterside dining and drinking to buying fine jewelry, soaps and T-shirts. 

Tin City has been mostly shut down since after Hurricane Ian dumped brought three feet of water and mud into the property. (courtesy photo)
Tin City has been mostly shut down since after Hurricane Ian dumped brought three feet of water and mud into the property. (courtesy photo)

The nearly 50-year-old, tin-roofed attraction is on the Gordon River, about a half mile from the beginning of Naples’ famed 5th Avenue South shopping district. Tin City, though, has none of the trappings of its glitzier neighbor, though. While 5th Avenue looks, and feels like Rodeo Drive, Tin City looks and feels like an old Florida fishing village.

And that look is not affected. The three-building complex, Ekonomos says, was first built over 100 years ago as an oyster processing plant and later became a marina that, for a time, was known as The Old Marine Marketplace.

It became Tin City in the 1970s.

Ekonomos, who started his career as a chef and worked in advertising sales and in property management for east Manatee County-based Benderson Development for several years, has been the property’s manager at Tin City since January. In that role, he’s been spearheading the renovation.

 

The storm

And it’s quite an undertaking.

When Hurricane Ian moved through Southwest Florida in late September, it created a major storm surge that brought epic flooding and damage along the coast. Because Tin City sits on the river, not only did tremendous amounts of water flood the property, but mud came up as well.

Nearly two months after the storm, you can still see how it discolored and dirtied the brick inside the buildings. The parking lot alone had two inches of mud.

The mud, and the bacteria it likely brought with it, meant that the clean-up effort was more complicated and took a little longer.

Tin City in Naples is a collection about 30 independent shops and restaurants that cater to visitor looking for everything from waterside dining and drinking to buying fine jewelry, soaps and T-shirts. (Stefania Pifferi )
Tin City in Naples is a collection about 30 independent shops and restaurants that cater to visitor looking for everything from waterside dining and drinking to buying fine jewelry, soaps and T-shirts. (Stefania Pifferi )

Along with damage to the building, the flooding and mud meant all the shops would have to get rid of their materials, toss out inventory and rebuild.

“You’ve got to remediate everything,” Ekonomos says.

“What we had to do is we had to clean all the common areas to make it safe. Then we opened up all the stores and we cleaned all the stores out. And then we started going into remediation mode. We cut all the drywall out everywhere. We’ve replaced every electrical outlet. A/Cs.”

While he’s still waiting on the final cost, he estimates that bringing everything back will be “every bit of a million dollars.”

Despite the damage and the monumental amount of work underway at Tin City, it’s difficult not to notice Ekonomos’ optimism is infectious. Climbing over construction equipment, looking at toilets sitting in the middle of common areas, surveying the remnants of gutted shops doesn’t dissuade someone dropping by a for a tour from believing the self-imposed deadline will be met.

More importantly, tenants believe him.

 

The clean up

“I’m going to reopen by December 15. That’s the goal,” says Matthew Moen, owner of M&M’s Café in Tin City. “Tile guys are here today. All my appliances arrive on the seventh — seven pieces of refrigerant refrigeration equipment. From there, I’m ready to open.”

Moen, who’s spent $87,000 to get the cafe he’s owned for 15 years back up and running, credits Ekonomos for shepherding the project and making sure what needs to get done is done and getting tenants the support they needed when they needed it. Other tenants seconded that sentiment.

And that Tin City and its tenants would get to this point given where they were in early October wasn’t a given.

Moen remembers coming down to the shop just a couple of hours after the storm surge receded.

“My manager cried as soon as we entered the back door and I was just trying to calm her down,” he says. “I always say it could be worse. And you know what? We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.”

Craig Ekonomos, property manager at Tin City in Naples.  (Stefania Pifferi )
Craig Ekonomos, property manager at Tin City in Naples. (Stefania Pifferi )

As Ekonomos and Moen chatted in the parking lot, a couple parked and made their way toward one of the buildings. They’d driven down from Fort Myers to celebrate the woman’s birthday.

“You’re kidding?” she said when told about the closure.

“I wish we were,” Ekonomos said. “We’re rapidly getting closer, so hang in there with us. And have him buy you a margarita at Pincher’s bar, man. Two for one.”

“This was a huge undertaking and the speed in which you’ve accomplished that is unbelievable,” Moen says as the couple walked away.

Notwithstanding the optimism and congratulatory backslapping, there remains a lot of work to be done in coming weeks. Crews will need to come in and clean the floors, a majority of the stores are still being worked on and new bathrooms are being put in.

But Ekonomos believes it can be all be done as long there are no surprises.

 

If Hurricane Ian hadn't caused enough damage, a car crashed into the building in the early hours after Thanksgiving. (Stefania Pifferi )
If Hurricane Ian hadn't caused enough damage, a car crashed into the building in the early hours after Thanksgiving. (Stefania Pifferi )

The flying car

Well, no more surprises that is, given the last one was quite a doozy.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 25, nearly two months after Hurricane Ian damaged and closed Tin City, a car flew into the building. Yes. That is correct. Flew.

According to Ekonomos and news reports, at just before 2 a.m. a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed missed the turn where Goodlette Frank Road South meets Fifth Avenue South, hit the curb, went airborne across the parking lot and smashed into The Naples Winery. The vehicle then continued through the store before emerging on the other side where it proceeded to burst into flames.

No one, not even the driver, was hurt. The wine store’s owners had just finished installing the new floor and there was no inventory in the space.

Ekonomos just shook his head when he told the story. What else could he do?

“It’s been one thing after another, man.”

 

author

Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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