Many properties on Fort Myers Beach have been selling in the wake of Hurricane Ian, but the owners of one classic spot, The Whale, are refusing to sell and have focused on rebuilding instead.
The Whale is the first restaurant Dawn and Mike Miller ever owned, and they were excited to have it.
“It’s been a hell of a year,” Dawn said. “We bought this property on June 15 of 2022.”
“Then we had a whopping 3 1/2 months, and Ian decided he wanted it more than us,” Mike said.
After Ian, the Millers didn’t know what they would return to. When Mike finally went back himself, there was not much left of The Whale.
“The building was still standing, but it was literally destroyed,” Mike said. “It just buckled in the center.”
“We were both really devastated,” Dawn said. “When we bought The Whale, we wasn’t sure, you know, how it was gonna play out. And then somehow we just fell in love. And our staff is like family.”
Like many families on the islands who saw their memories swept away, the Millers and their employees shed tears, then rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
“We’ve already got architects in place, a builder in place, where we’ve got rendering drawings already done,” Mike said.
For the first time, Dawn and Mike Miller are sharing those new designs, a visual validation that the charm of Fort Myers Beach is still alive and strong. That’s why they had a sign made depicting a whale with tools in its flippers. They have a message for their neighbors on Fort Myers Beach: “We’ll be back!”
The Millers say that once construction starts, it will take 14 months to complete the project.
Although that might be the longest 14 months of their lives, getting back to Fort Myers Beach and serving the community will make it worthwhile.