For many, this weekend means fun in the sun, but for Fort Myers Beach, this weekend means progress.
On Friday, the island celebrated the reopening of the Octopool at the Pink Shell resort and the Yucatan restaurant’s building almost eight months after Ian. It’s right on time for the Memorial Day weekend, which means big crowds and hungry beachgoers.
Right over the Matanzas Bridge, on the right, sits the Yucatan Bar and Grill. After the storm, the eatery quickly opened an outdoor bar.
“We’ve been selling food and drinks for the last, what, five, six months? It has not been normal at all,” said General Manager Robert Reilley.
But now, the building is open.
“We’ve officially moved into cooking in our kitchen with a full menu back to about 80% of what it was before the storm. The first day we’re allowing people to come inside the restaurant, you know, interior restrooms, air conditioning,” Reilley said. “It’s pretty big day.”
The restaurant’s reopening led Cape Coral resident Janet Stout to the beach on Friday.
“We thought we’d stop on down and check it out to see what the progress is of the Fort Myers Beach,” Stout said.
It was Bobbie Cornick’s first visit to Fort Myers Beach.
“Our family moved down here in November after the hurricane. So, you know, gives me chills, but I’m happy to see everything’s, you know, building up,” Cornick said.
Even though there was a lot of damage to the Yucatan, there was still a silver lining.
“We got an opportunity to make the place a lot better over the last couple of months,” Reilley said.
Over on the northside of the island, it was a special day for Megan Karcher, the first person in the Octopool at the Pink Shell resort.
“I’ve been coming to Fort Myers, Florida, my entire life,” Karcher said. “This is our home away from home.”
Karcher and her family traveled from Pasadena, Maryland, to be there.
“My husband and I got up and said, what better way to celebrate your birthday than to come into our home away from home, the Pink Shell,” Karcher said. “We packed the kids up within an hour. We took a 16-hour drive to be here for the grand opening, and we wouldn’t miss it.”
The Pink Shell has come a long way since September of last year when Ian ravaged it with a storm surge that reached the second floor of the main building, and the high winds damaged the roof.
Everyone has worked to get it reopened and just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
“That’s been the biggest request we’ve had– for come stay here,” said Pink Shell Manager Bill Waichulis. “It’s like, let me know when the pool is ready and we’ll come stay with you. And obviously, they were true to their word, because we’re sold out this weekend.”
For the Karcher family, the return of the pool means more than just having a place to splash and swim. It’s a sign things are progressing.
“This is strong,” she said. “This is proof that Fort Myers will come back better than ever.”