‘Man with a plan’ to rebuild The Cottage on Fort Myers Beach

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Who doesn’t envision having a cottage on the beach? We’re not talking about a home; we’re talking about a landmark. One popular Fort Myers Beach bar and restaurant, lost after Ian, will be coming back. Because as WINK News investigative reporter Céline McArthur found out, a cottage on the beach is exactly what ‘a man with a plan” has in mind.

It’s hard for Roxanne Jakartis to walk through what’s left of The Cottage. It had been there for decades.

“I just want to cry,” said Roxanne. “This place was so special to so many people. Every day, when I see people, all they do is ask about the cottage.”

They ask because, in many ways, Roxanne WAS The Cottage. She worked at the beach bar for 20 years, right up until Hurricane Ian hit.

“It’s been, it’s the best job I ever had. It was so fun,” said Roxanne. “Everybody felt like they were home when they were here.”

That home is gone, but thanks to Roxanne, hundreds of souvenirs remain to tell its story.
Pictures and videos of people enjoying sunsets, celebrating holidays and helping friends in need.

“A lot of people have a lot of memories like that. We want to make more,” said Roxanne.

She also kept every single work shirt she’s ever worn.

“I bet I probably got 100 different shirts over the last 20 years and I still have them all,” said Roxanne. “I’m super proud that I was a part of something so awesome.”

With The Cottage damaged beyond repair, the owners put this property up for sale. They had buyers twice, but both pulled out before their deals were done. In comes beach builder Joe Orlandini—a man with a plan and a story behind it that began almost two decades ago.

“The first day, I came to Southwest Florida was 20 years ago,” said Joe. “When I was coming here, the person I was meeting said, when you get in the cab at the airport, tell him to go to The Cottage. They’ll know where to go. So, I showed up here. Actually, the first Floridian I met outside of the cabbie was Roxanne. She was working at the bar.”

They became friends, and as a regular at The Cottage, Joe found himself part of a new community. This was home.

“It had this just unique vibe, and it really brought a lot of people together in the evening that socialized, and you got to know who all your neighbors were,” said Joe.

Some of those neighbors are gone now. Some were taken by the storm. Some have left because of the storm. But Joe believes bringing back one of the barrier island’s anchors will help build a new sense of community for those still here and those yet to come, just like he did some two decades ago.

So he’s gathered a team to rebuild The Cottage.

“I freaked out. He actually had to ask me if I was sitting down because he knew I was going to freak,” said Roxanne. “He knows what the island wants and what it needs. Like you said, he’s the man with the plan. He’s going to get it done.”

The name will remain, but the building will look a little different. Originally, there were two distinctive sections to the property: a beach bar and a restaurant. Let me explain how the new construction will look. The restaurant, Shucker’s at the Gulfshore, was closer to the water on these pilings. Now, due to new building codes, this section is beyond what’s called the coastal construction control line. You can no longer build beyond this point, so the Cottage will ultimately be a little smaller.

“I think when the new building goes in, you’re not going to notice when you’re standing on the sand, and the umbrellas are out, and people are here.”

Here’s a preview of what the outside could look like.

“We’ve got the bar downstairs with a main floor being above flood, and then essentially a roof deck on top, which will have a partially roofed enclosed area, so that we can enclose the elevator and close down the bar and lock it in. But it’ll have an open deck,” said Joe.

And while things may be different, there will be some touches that will remind everyone of home.
He’s collecting all the original clay bricks— literally digging in the sand and rubble—to create a special wall inside the new Cottage.

“We are going to etch people’s names in these bricks that are iconic people from the island,” said Joe. “And I think this is just one of those ways that we can save a piece of our history. And they were left for us here. So, it was just perfect. Let’s save them.”

Hurricane Ian also left a post.

“I was shocked,” said Joe. “It’s amazing because, you know what was around this, was actually the dumpster. So, it took everything out around it, but it left this one post that had the address on it. So, we’ve obviously got to save it. And we’ll reuse it.”

As the post is pulled from its current foundation and work begins on the plans for the new cottage, Roxanne is happily and patiently waiting to get back to work.

“Ever since the storm we learned really quick to take one day at a time,” said Roxanne. “We’ll get everybody back together. Customers, employees. It’s going to be awesome.”

While the owners don’t want to reveal the exact selling price, the land will go for less than $10 million, and plan to close the deal April 24th. Orlandini hopes to have the new Cottage complete in 2024.

You can reach Céline via email: celine.mcarthur@winknews.com.

You can watch the entire series here:

The future of Fort Myers Beach: The man with a plan

The future of Fort Myers Beach: The personal side of progress

Fort Myers Beach clock lost during Hurricane Ian will be replaced by beach builder and partners

Fort Myers Beach man to build $350k home for Hurricane Ian victims

‘Outpouring of love’: Owners of Fort Myers Beach restaurant destroyed by Ian donate $100K

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