Rachel Pierce’s new Sanibel Island art gallery off Periwinkle Way had been open for less than a year in 2022 when Hurricane Ian destroyed everything inside it.
Pierce had to piece not just her store back together, she had to recreate the art pieces as well. Almost all of her originals were destroyed from the storm surge.
Her store, located at 1571 Periwinkle Way, recently reopened. She had been doing a pop-up store outside while waiting for the inside to be completed. She’s also planning to open a coffee shop next door in 2024.
“I am painting like a madwoman,” Pierce said, “but thankfully, I love it. My job is something I love doing, so it’s a win.
“It feels so good. It has been a long and challenging road, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s been amazing. So, it’s all good.”
While planning the coffee shop, she’s also focusing on selling her art to a client base that shrank with the destruction of most island hotel rooms.
“We see people rooting for us and not letting us fail and coming out and supporting us,” Pierce said. “That’s the reason why we made it through, is the community. Not just Sanibel. I’m talking about Southwest Florida. We could not have made it without the people of Southwest Florida.”
The store, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, has gifts for less than $20, prints for less than $100 and originals that are in the hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Immediately after the storm, Pierce painted an original of the Sanibel Lighthouse, which remained standing despite losing one of its four legs. The lighthouse has since been restored, and Pierce continues to paint various depictions of it.
“The lighthouse became the representation for all of us,” Pierce said. “That was what I wanted to paint, too. It was kind of what was flowing out of me. It kind of became a symbol, but it also became a big selling point for me. The lighthouse has just been carrying me through, emotionally and financially.”