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Bailey's General Store Sanibel7607

The managing partner and co-owner of Bailey’s General Store, Lee County’s longest-running business since 1899, was supposed to pick up the construction permits to give the 58-year-old building a planned, major facelift on Sept. 30.

Hurricane Ian beat Richard Johnson to the punch on Sept. 28.

The current Bailey’s building, built in 1965, will be demolished within the next few weeks. The store will be rebuilt from scratch on the same site, the corner of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Way, over the ensuing 24 months and won’t be ready until at least the middle of 2025.

Johnson wasn’t sure of the final construction costs, but he figured the price would be more than $15 million and could approach $20 million. The new 65,000-square-foot Bailey’s will face the intersection on which it sits, and will be built up and to current hurricane codes.

Although the building looks fine from the outside, between 8 and 12 feet of the Category 4 storm’s surge flooded the inside, ruining everything. In the following months, the insurance company deemed the main structure a total loss. 

“That was a game changer for us,” Johnson said. “This is going to be a very expensive project for a small, family business.”

The demolition should begin within the next few weeks and will be paid for by the state’s commercial property demolition removal.

Bailey’s had to lay off about 100 employees in the interim. The produce manager at the main store was shifted to managing the Captiva Island Store, 11500 Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva, which will provide the company a limited amount of cash flow until the main store can reopen.

Bailey’s also has an operational online store, selling memorabilia and some goods.

“We’re going to make a fresh start,” Johnson said. “We had the renderings in hand for the remodel, and we’re going to use that as the basis for our architectural design.”

The new Bailey’s, like the old, will continue to have solar power. Of the 480 panels on the roof during Ian, only 30 of them were unsalvageable. The rest of them still work.

A building that used to be a gas station will not be demolished. Instead, it will be repurposed.

The 1926 Ford Model T on-site survived the storm but will need to be restored to drive again.

GMA Architects and Planners are designing the new building, based on the look of the originally intended facelift. Benchmark General Contractors will be the general contractor. 

The toughest part of the endeavor was letting go of its staff for the interim, Johnson said.

Richard Johnson and Mead Johnson, maiden name Bailey, are operating the business from their Sanibel home.

“We had to let all of our staff go,” Richard Johnson said. “The rest of the staff is family. I even had to let some of the family go as well. They’re going to do some other things until we can get this up and running. But we’re in this for the long haul.”

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