An iconic piece of Fort Myers Beach lost in Hurricane Ian will be replaced. We’re talking about the big blue clock.
In our special series “A Man With a Plan,” WINK news investigative reporter Céline McArthur sits down with the beach builder behind the project to get the story.
The last thing this man has is time on his hands, but ironically, time is what he’s focused on here.
“This is one of the centerpieces that people came to see and took pictures of,” said Fort Myers Beach Builder Joe Orlandini. “It illuminated at night, and it actually was the backdrop for thousands and thousands of pictures. It is probably the most iconic landmark, potentially, of the island. And for sure, in Times Square.”
Visitors miss it.
“It’s just part of the beach experience. You come down in December, and you just expect to see the tree and like the clock that’s gone. The Time Square clock,” says Monic Mauley.
Joe is on a mission to bring the big blue clock back to times square. He began searching for it the day after Hurricane Ian made landfall.
“I had an excavator dig, move piles around, sift through them, literally move a pile from one side of the street to the other,” said Orlandini. “I was pretty upset when I couldn’t find it because I really was determined to find it.”
Since he couldn’t turn back time, Joe and his partners bought a new one.
“He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ He says, ‘You know where it came from?’ I said yes. So, he said, ‘Well, don’t you think we should get the clock?’ Okay, let’s do it,” said Joe.
He reached out to the Verdin Company in Ohio to see if they could make the exact same one.
“They said, ‘sure. Send us a check, we’ll build you a clock,'” said Joe.
And time is money: $38,000. But to Joe, it’s money well spent.
“We definitely want to keep the character and keep the vibe of the island,” said Joe.
But it’s more than a landmark; it’s a sign of the times. The times moving forward.
“So, the businesses find their way to stay here to rebuild. There’s been a lot of concern of some of them leaving and the new ones that come. Hopefully, they’re embraced. And we love them just as much, and they become part of the community, which is important,” said Joe. “We want them to bring an economy back here. That’s what we need, and we have to value them coming in and helping.”
He added, “It’s vital for our economy. It’s how we survive. We live off this, this land, and this land or these people that bring the money that we live off.”
Joe also replaced the palm tree in Times Square that’s decorated for the holidays and has been searching for other landmark pieces lost in the storm. He found the tiki head that sat outside the Yucatan Beach Stand across Matanzas Pass and brought him home.
“It’s small in the whole scheme of what we have to do, but it was entertaining, it was fun. It put a lot of happiness back,” said Joe.
That happiness sparked a community-wide effort to find and return other pieces, like the big giraffe.
“So, when they told me to get the giraffe, it was like, Well, of course, we got to get the giraffe,” said Joe.
While they’re a little beat up, they survived. A message that resonates in this storm-ravaged beach community.
“We need that. we need that positivity,” said Joe.
It will take a few months before the clock is ready. We will be there when it’s delivered and installed.
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