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The same maple syrup, breakfast menu and even some of the same servers and vintage lighthouse pictures are returning at 7 a.m. April 25 on Sanibel Island. But the resurrected Lighthouse Cafe, in business since 1968, will have one major change: a new location. 

The Lighthouse Cafe, shut down since Hurricane Ian flooded it Sept. 28, 2022, is reopening almost 19 months later. It will about double in size when it opens at 1020 Periwinkle Way, just east of the entrance to the island from the Sanibel Causeway and a mile east of the previous location. 

“I’m so ready to let it rip and get going,” Lighthouse Cafe owner Dan Billheimer said. “This place, it’s just amazing.” 

Billheimer hired Stevens Construction and said he spent about $500,000 on remodeling the interior of what had been Sanibel Fresh and prior to that a Bennett’s Fresh Roast donuts and coffee shop before Hurricane Ian hit. 

“I was able to save about 150 lighthouse pictures that survived the high-water mark,” of about 6 feet, Billheimer said. “The rest are all donations. They’re all from customers who either shipped them here or dropped them off.” 

Billheimer is leaving some white space on the walls to accommodate future lighthouse photo donations. One wall is devoted to displaying photographs of the Sanibel Lighthouse, which has been restored after losing a leg during the hurricane. 

“There’s value in having blank spaces, because you know people will continue their generosity,” he said. 

The previous location, west of the causeway entrance, already reopened as Wickies Lighthouse Restaurant, which is owned by a different ownership group. 

Billheimer said relocating made better business sense for him, because he always had wanted more space. The new Lighthouse Cafe seats up to 80 people inside instead of the previous 60. It seats 16 outside compared to the previous 12. 

The square footage inside climbs from 1,600 to 3,200 square feet. The kitchen area doubled in size, as well. One quirk of the new location: Billheimer placed the walk-in cooler outside the building, which allowed him to have more kitchen space. 

The Lighthouse Cafe serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. When tourist season arrives in the late fall, Billheimer said he planned on expanding hours and adding a dinner menu. Most menu items were in the $10 to $15 range. 

When Billheimer first began planning, he realized the new location would be a change. 

“It was bittersweet,” Billheimer said. “The whole goal for this new spot is for customers who have been here before and get that old familiar feeling. 

“There’s just no way around the newness of this spot. You have to embrace it. And I was wondering, how do I distress it. How do I reclaim it? How do I get that old vibe back? And I just came to the conclusion that you can’t. You have to own it. And the more I thought about it, really embrace it. There’s a new opportunity here.” 

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