Despite the devastation of Ian in September, businesses all over Southwest Florida have been able to pull it together and reopen.
But some in Matlacha aren’t seeing the same kind of foot traffic they did before in the quaint island community.
The area is filled with charming waterfront shops, vibrant arts and a thriving business district, that have had to close up shop for the summer, 10 months after Ian damaged a lot of the area.
“We’re all trying to do something new to draw the crowd,” said Onofrio Demattia, owner of Onofrio D. Oro Jewelry Boutique. “We, unfortunately–I just, I don’t know what else to do. I need help.”
The storm pushed four feet of water into his store. His business bounced back six months later but not well enough, so he decided to close his doors for the summer.
“The traffic was definitely not there, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It is a ghost town in Matlacha,” Demattia said.
And visitors can’t help but notice.
“We didn’t know what to expect, what would be open and what wouldn’t be,” said Jerry Hickey, a tourist.
Hank Weedim, also an out-of-town visitor, said he can see there was devastation “for sure.”
“Just walking up and down, just seeing some of the businesses all shut it up or not open right now, so it’s kind of feel bad for them,” Weedim said.
The slow recovery has lots of business owners worried.
But Demattia said he feels good things will happen when he reopens in the fall.
“We’re going to have more tourists coming in and hopefully spending the money that we need at Matlacha and Pine Island,” he said. “It’s gonna take a while, but I have a feeling September, it’s going to turn around big time.”