Calcedonio and Genevieve Bruno’s appreciation for classic architecture and older buildings runs deep, dating back to the 100-year-old Brooklyn, New York, buildings in which they were raised.
Their visits to Rome only solidified their belief that they don’t build them like they used to, which is why it should be no surprise the Fort Myers restaurateurs seized the opportunity to own one of McGregor Boulevard’s oldest gems.
The owners of Bruno’s of Brooklyn Italian Eatery, less than a mile east in downtown Fort Myers, closed Oct. 13 on the property at 2300 McGregor Blvd., paying just shy of $1.2 million for the home built in 1926 and formerly owned by Fort Myers residents Peter and Alice Tonnelier. The two adjacent lots also were included in the sale.
“Fort Myers is our home,” Genevieve Bruno said following the closing of the deal brokered by Fischler Property Co. and Marc Joseph Realty for the seller. “It is truly an honor to be able to preserve something so near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts.”
Peter Tonnelier, who owned a chain of drug stores in Michigan, made a major impact on Fort Myers, building hotels and donating land for Main Street. In 1913, he built many of the buildings that now surround the courtyard at Patio de Leon downtown.
After Tonnelier died in 1932, Alice Tonnelier, who managed her husband’s downtown business properties she inherited, lived at 2300 McGregor until her death at 91 in 1963. Her estate was worth more than $1.5 million at the time. Since, the Tonnelier home has served as a commercial office building.
Cal Bruno, who said McGregor had always been a desired location for his interests over the last decade, has a similar vision for the 16-room space. Originally having trained as an architect before his love of cuisine lured him away, Bruno plans to lease to professionals in fields such as accounting, law and financial advising.
Bruno will start remediation of the building immediately to restore the nearly century-old home. He said painting over the pink exterior and returning it to its original white color will begin Monday, while adding period-correct dark gray asphalt shingles to the roof and sealcoating the 16-space commercial parking lot will start not long after.
“We’re going to throw a bunch of money at her, clean her up, give her a little love,” Bruno said, guaranteeing the building lines will stay the same. He said he never considered tearing down the home nestled between the Edison & Ford Winter Estates and the brand-new West End at City Walk condominium and apartment building.
The interior will be subdivided into suites, and modern amenities such as biometric locks and access control will be added. He expects the Tonnelier home to be ready for tenants by Jan. 1.
Prospective tenants are asked to contact Fischler Property Co. at 239-895-1060. Those with questions can contact Bruno at Calcedonio@brunosofbrooklyn.com.