Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel being demolished for rebuild

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The famous Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel is saying goodbye to its original building, which is being demolished in order to be rebuilt on the same spot.

The process of tearing down Bailey’s General Store started at 7 a.m. Friday.

The historic service station reminded visitors that the building used to be an old gas station. Next to it was a 1926 Ford Model T, which will drive another day.

Bailey’s has been a Sanibel island staple since 1899. The familiar building was built in 1965, and it’s filled with memories, but after almost 60 years, it’s in need of a remodel. Hurricane Ian slammed the building, and the storm surge filled it with water.

“There was a real concern about, ‘Wait a minute: What’s going to happen to Bailey’s? What’s going to happen?'” said Bailey’s General Store owner Richard Johnson. “Well, we’re going to build a new building, but the building’s just a building. That’s not what Bailey’s is. What Bailey’s is are the people — the 110 people — that work here at the store with us, right alongside the family.”

Baileys General Store demolition, July 21, 2023. Credit: WINK News

The store remained closed after Ian, but Friday is the first step to getting locals their precious general store back open. Johnson said once Bailey’s is demolished, it will be rebuilt even better than before.

“We want to build a more resilient Bailey’s,” Johnson said in April. “We’ve got the history behind us, we’ve got the customer service, we’ve got our loyal customers… we need to add the resiliency in there. We are going to change the orientation of the building: We’re going to face the corner of Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay roads. That’s always been a challenge: ‘Are you on Tarpon Bay or are you on Periwinkle?’ Well, we are on both.”

The demolition process is expected to take a week.

“It’s going to be hard for a lot of people because they identify with Bally’s as being such a cornerstone of our island, and they just need to understand that this is part of the process of us rebuilding our island to an amazing tomorrow,” Councilwoman Holley Smith said.

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