Gulfshore Business Daily: December 22

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Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels



After defeating proposals twice before, Naples City Council voted 4-3 Monday to mandate the wearing of masks in the city as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mandate basically mirrors the order for unincorporated Collier County that expires April 13. City Council members Ted Blankenship, Ray Christman, Paul Perry and Gary Price favored the mask mandate, while Mayor Teresa Heitmann, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison and Councilman Mike McCabe voted no during the special meeting.


The majority of Southwest Floridians do not plan to travel outside of the region during the holiday this week, according to the results of a recent survey by Gulfshore Business. Nearly 78% of respondents will not be traveling, while 22% said they plan to travel outside of the area during the holiday. Of those planning to travel, the majority (about 53%) plan to travel via car, while most of the remaining respondents (44%) will be flying to their destinations, results show. Gulfshore Business published the survey on Friday, Dec. 18, compiling results through Monday, Dec. 21.


The Naples real estate market continues to see an upward trend in both showings and closed sales, according to the November 2020 market report released by the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR), which tracks home listings and sales within Collier County, excluding Marco Island. In November 2020, there were 36,508 showings, which represents a 43% increase over the same period in 2019. Closed sales for the overall market increased by 58.8% to 1,126 closed sales in November 2020, up from 709 closed sales in November 2019. The sustained market demand is placing pressure on real estate pricing, with notable increases in median and average closed prices of homes when comparing month-over-month statistics. At $669,409, the year-to-date average closed sales price in November 2020 reflects a more accurate and modest growth with a 12.7% increase over November 2019 year-to-date average closed sales price of $594,065. For the full November 2020 Market Report, go to


LeeTran is now offering an innovative, contactless fare payment option. The new LeeFare app is available for Apple and Android mobile devices. Lee County commissioners in August approved an agreement that now allows riders to use LeeFare to plan their trip, pay fares and manage their accounts using the app on their mobile device. LeeTran passengers can download the app from the Apple store for iOS devices or the Google Play store for Android devices. Search “LeeFare” or “Lee County Transit Mobile App.” Once the app is installed on a device, passengers can create accounts to load fares and manage fare balances. Fares loaded through the app are available for use immediately. When a passenger is ready to pay a fare while boarding a bus, the app generates a QR code for a quick tap and go, contact-free boarding experience. To learn more about LeeTran, visit


Bellini Italian Restaurant & Bar reopened Saturday night in its new location — the former space of Chardonnay Restaurant, a popular French dining spot that closed more than a decade ago next to Best Western Naples Inn & Suites on U.S. 41. Because of a pending redevelopment project, Bellini closed its longtime location on Fifth Avenue South at the end of July ahead of the demolition of a downtown Naples strip that also included Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub and Citrus Seafood Restaurant. Although tweaked a bit, the menu is basically the same, as is the kitchen staff and many of the other employees, all of whom wear face masks as part of the restaurant’s safety protocol, said Mike Melucci, who co-owns the local restaurant with Eric Tomasko. Lunch service is expected to be launched next month after the holidays. Bellini, 2331 Tamiami Trail N., is open 5 to 10 p.m. daily for dinner. For more information call 239-261-1117 or go to


O’mei China Bistro permanently closed its location on Naples Boulevard, but expect the Chinese restaurant to resurface in early 2021 at its original North Naples location off U.S. 41. Co-owned by Executive Chef Mark Cheng and his wife, Mary, O’mei will reopen in the large corner space in Tamiami Square that has remained vacant since they moved out five years ago. In October, O’mei China Cuisine leased the 4,029-square-foot restaurant space at 14700 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 6, in Tamiami Square, the retail center near the Collier-Lee county line. O’mei, especially known for its Peking duck, originally launched in Tamiami Square in 2010. The concept’s second location then opened in Naples Boulevard in late 2014, but its first location soon closed in 2015. Returning to its original location gives O’mei more room for social distancing with a space that’s at least a third larger and includes an 850-square-foot patio. 


Flaharty Asset Management, a Florida-based wealth management firm serving clients throughout the U.S., has expanded to Southwest Florida by merging with AWA Investment Advisors in Punta Gorda in November. AWA Investment Advisors, which had an investment portfolio of approximately $250 million with six team members, merged into Flaharty Asset Management, which had an investment portfolio of approximately $580 million and 13 team members. Combined, the two firms will move forward under the Flaharty Asset Management brand and are now approaching the milestone of $1 billion in assets under management, according to Flaharty Asset Management. By adding the Punta Gorda location, Flaharty Asset Management now has more than 19 team members operating in more than 10,000 square feet of office throughout the west coast of Florida. Both offices will continue to serve clients in their existing respective locations, as well as their clients across the country. 



Dragon Horse Agency continues to provide complimentary consultations

Dragon Horse Agency has been providing a complimentary, one-hour consultation for business -and marketing-related concerns for all businesses and nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus in 2020. For a consultation, email and include the company name, contact information, industry, and specific areas of concern. The team at Dragon Horse Agency will respond as quickly as possible to arrange your complimentary consultation. For further information, visit


Rick Ruppert

Ruppert appointed to Naples Airport Authority board

The Naples City Council appointed Richard “Rick” Ruppert to the City of Naples Airport Authority board of commissioners. The board comprises five citizen volunteers who are appointed to four-year terms to govern the Airport Authority. Ruppert replaces outgoing commissioner Ted Brousseau. Ruppert retired with more than 40 years of executive experience at several corporations including Jet Aviation, The Walt Disney Co., and most recently at Ulta Beauty as vice president of merchandise and private label products. He is a five-year Naples resident who previously served as the Gulf Shore Association of Condominiums liaison to the NAA. Other commissioners are chair Michael Lenhard, vice chair Kerry C. Dustin, Donna M. Messer and James Rideoutte. Naples Airport Authority meetings are held monthly at Naples City Hall. They are open to the public and available for online viewing through the city’s website. For the meeting schedule, visit

FL Star names Quesada to management position

FL Star, a conglomerate of real estate entities, has added Rolando Quesada to the position of construction manager for the company’s properties in Golden Gate Estates and Sapphire Cove. Quesada most recently served as construction manager for Lennar Homes in Fort Myers, overseeing the construction process of more than 300 homes from ground development through closing. His previous experience includes serving as quality control manager for Elite Electrical Contractors in Fort Myers and as project area supervisor for National Electrical Cuba Enterprise in Havana, Cuba. Quesada received his degree in electrical engineering from ISPJAE University in Havana and graduated from Hodges University’s English as a second language program.

Viktor Tuparov

Village School of Naples appoints communications manager

The Village School of Naples, an independent school serving students in preschool through 12th grade, has appointed Viktor Tuparov as communications coordinator. In this newly created position, Tuparov will assist the school’s leadership with its internal and external marketing and communications needs. Tuparov graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) with a Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in public relations. While attending FGCU, he served as secretary of the student chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. Before joining The Village School of Naples, Tuparov worked for The Inn on Fifth as a sales and marketing intern and reservations manager. Tuparov has been involved as a member of the Southwest Florida Concierge & Guest Services Association and volunteered with the Collier County Public Schools District.

St. Matthew’s House announces new board members

St. Matthew’s House Board Chairman Joe Trachtenberg announces that two board members have been elected to the St. Matthew’s House board of directors. John Svirsky, president of commercial real estate financing firm John D. Svirsky Inc. is a new member of the board. Ronald Gustason, senior partner at Rogers, Wood, Hill, Starman & Gustason is returning to the St. Matthew’s House board after serving from 2010-2019. Board officers for 2021 were also elected. Returning officers include Joe Trachtenberg, chairman; Sam McCullough, vice chairman; and Mimi Scofield, secretary. Richard Grows, executive director, JP Morgan Private Bank, is a new officer and will be serving as treasurer. St. Matthew’s House provides services to the homeless, those struggling with food insecurity, and individuals seeking addiction recovery.  


John Marra

Henderson Franklin welcomes Marra

Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt P.A.  has appointed John Marra as an associate in the tort and insurance litigation department. Marra was a member of Henderson Franklin’s 2019 summer associate program. He received his Bachelor of Science from Florida State University and his Juris Doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law, magna cum laude, in 2020. While in law school, Marra was a member of the Stetson Law Review and served as an intern for U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg and U.S. Magistrate Judge Sean Flynn.



WolfStock 2020 raises $30,000 for Shy Wolf Sanctuary Education and Experience Center

Shy Wolf Sanctuary Education and Experience Center’s signature fundraising concert, WolfStock 2020, raised $30,000. Proceeds from the event will support the sanctuary’s ongoing efforts to rescue and provide emergency care for abused, abandoned, and neglected exotic animals that would otherwise be euthanized. Through its 20-plus year history, Shy Wolf Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,300 wolves, wolfdogs, and other captive-bred exotic animals and is expanding in Southwest Florida. WolfStock 2020 was a hybrid concert live-streamed on Facebook. The event featured lyrical entertainment from Justin Ross, a founding musician of WolfStock, and the work of Henry Gross, founding member of the Fifties revival group “Sha Na Na.” In addition to the concert, supporters were able to bid on more than 100 auction items. A replay of the concert is available free of charge on Shy Wolf Sanctuary’s Facebook page

Hooters donates nearly $20,000 to Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County

Representatives from Hooters of Naples presented a donation of $19,200 and more than 200 stuffed toys and books to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County. Donations were collected at the Hooters location in North Naples. Hooters of Naples Managing Partner Steve Caruso and several Hooters girls presented the donations to Children’s Advocacy Center representatives Bryan Lee and Megan Green in an effort to improve the lives of abused children.  

Windstar on Naples Bay Club Giving Tree program donates to Providence House

Windstar on Naples Bay has donated gifts through its annual Giving Tree program. Members of the club chose a gift tag for each of the Providence House residents and their children. Wrapped gifts are returned to the clubhouse and distributed in time for Christmas. In addition to the dozens of gifts, members also delivered five Christmas trees and decorations to Providence House. Providence House is a transitional housing program for women with young children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.  Another beneficiary was the Collier County Domestic Animal Shelter, which received donations of leashes, food, and bedding.
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