For the businesses that are back, the business itself is booming on Fort Myers Beach.
Dozens of people visit the beach every single day, grabbing lunch at the popular spots that have made a comeback, but balancing recovery efforts and business ventures hasn’t been easy.
One woman is helping to spearhead it all.
Fort Myers Beach is a train that fell off the tracks and got right back on, and Jacki Liszack is helping to conduct the train.
“Jacki is a bad— gal. And we are so lucky to have her as a leader on Fort Myers Beach,” said Barry Frank, a volunteer at the FMB Chamber of Commerce.
Liszak said she is so impressed with the resiliency she sees from beach residents every day. Some people say it doesn’t happen at all without her. She is the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Forty businesses are back open in some capacity on Fort Myers Beach as of Feb. 1, but getting there has been the opposite of easy.
“It’s been difficult for all of us, obviously, lots of changes happening all around us. And we’re having to put away the old and kind of look forward to the new spot,” Liszak said.
Creativity has taken control. Some, like La Ola and Rude Shrimp Company, brought in giant shipping containers.
What are the long-term implications of these shipping containers placed in spots that will become active construction zones?
“I know these business owners,” Liszak said.
Liszak is confident it won’t be a problem at all.
“They’re willing to do whatever it’s going to take to make sure that those containers can stay in an appropriate manner,” she said. “And then if we do have an emergency coming up, that they’ll be able to get those out of there pretty quickly. And some of them are saying 24 hours’ notice, and some of them even are willing to do contracts with contractors that would come in and remove that within a 24-hour period.”
To be very frank, Barry Frank would not be here if it were not for Liszak.
“For me personally, I would be up where I came from four or five years ago. And she’s influential with a lot of people who care, and no one cares any more than her,” said Frank, a volunteer with the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Frank wasn’t always a Floridian. He came down years ago from Chicago, trading the wind for sunshine. That trade sometimes has a nasty tradeoff.
“The waterline was about six inches from the ceiling,” said Frank.
Hurricane Ian destroyed his home on the beach. He had nothing left, and he was about to leave town.
“I don’t have my place. I don’t have power or water. And she did. And she said, bring it on. So that’s where we’ve been ever since,” said Frank.
That was until Liszak said there is room for you at my place. “And that’s where we live right now in the RV. In Jackie and Scott’s driveway,” Frank said.
The Chamber of Commerce lost its entire headquarters in the storm. All that remains a tiny mobile camper named “Roxie.”
Frank mans the little trailer. He’s technically one of Liszak’s employees, but at this point, he feels more like family.
“She’s wonderful. I really can’t even explain how good she is. And Jackie, thank you,” said Frank.