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Ocean’s Reach adds shelling station, helping increase return guests

By Staff | May 27, 2010

Ocean's Reach Beachfront Condominiums new shelling station is a popular draw to the decades-old resort. More guests are putting down deposits for return visits to the resort since the shelling station has been installed.

A local island resort has become a haven for shelling enthusiasts since it recently installed a shelling station.

Ocean’s Reach Beachfront Condominiums are experiencing a 50 percent increase in guests making return reservations in the past few months after they put in a specially-designed shell station that allows shellers to wash and sort their collected shells.

Dru Anne Doyle, the manager of Ocean Reach, said that they worked with the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to get the station and information signs describing several different species of shells and how to care for them.

Kathleen Hoover, Public Relations Manager for the Shell Museum, put the easy-to-read and understand education signs "How To Identify Sanibel Shells" and "How To Find Shells On Sanibel" together and coordinated with her husband, Warren Hoover, an architect, to create a shelling station.

The project, which took more than a year to put together, was installed at the resort for approximately $2,500 in October, Doyle explained. Since the shaded shelling station — complete with a bench and sink — has been added, interest in the resort has surged significantly.

“Guests are returning and reserving further ahead in advance,” Doyle said. “That’s a trend we are seeing.”

The idea to collaborate with the Shell Museum to build a shelling station came about after Ocean’s Reach conducted a survey of guests interests. The results indicating an overwhelming interest in shells prompted Doyle to act. She contacted Hoover and hashed out the shelling station plan.

Serious shellers, like Judy Jenkins, look forward to using the station and socializing on its comfortable, picnic-style bench.

“I wondered why somebody haven’t thought of it before this is really convenient,” Jenkins said.

The Ocean City, N.J. resident has been coming to Ocean’s Reach since the 1970s. An avid shelling enthusiast, Jenkins gets excited when she scouts a great find in the sand.

And the find is all the more better if you have someone to show it to.

The new shelling station serves as a social center as well as a place to identify and clean shells. People gather around the station to compare and share stories about their shells.

“It’s no fun to find a really great shell if you have no one to share it with,” Jenkins added.

Doyle also said that Jenkins’ response to the shelling station is pretty similar among the other guests at the condominium complex. Now, instead of having to encourage guests to come back to the resort, Doyle explained that guests are leaving deposits in advance.

Hoover said the idea to collaborate with Ocean’s Reach is a "win-win" for everyone.

The shelling station helps keep the condos cleaner without guest bringing sandy and often fishy-smelling shells into the units. And it helps the guests by allowing them to travel home with clean and identified shells that can be displayed.

“Personally, it would change my mind of where to stay,” Hoover said. “From the sheller’s perspective, it’s very convenient to be able to just walk off the beach and have a place to clean my shells and not have to walk up to my room.”

Ocean’s Reach tends to be open to trying out novel approaches in its quest to maintain an environmentally-friendly vacation destination. The facility was designated by the State of Florida as a green lodging location in 2008, Doyle noted.

The Shell Museum is pleased to be able to help resorts like Ocean’s Reach. It furthers the mission of the Museum to educate people about the importance of mollusks and brings additional exposure to them as well.

Hoover also said the Shell Museum is now designated as the resort’s go-to expert for shelling. Aside from the shelling station, Hoover has worked on creating videos about shelling for the resort and its website, located at www.oceansreach.com.

In addition, Hoover said the shelling station encourages guests to come back to the resort, creating and nurturing an interest in shelling. And this spurs the island’s economy on a larger scale: it inspires people to move here when they retire. These retirees often remember fond memories of shelling and come back here to enjoy it during their golden years. Hoover explained that’s also how the Museum acquires many of their volunteers which, in turn, help keep the non-profit organization running.

She added that building relationships between non-profits and businesses is vital, especially in a challenged economy.

“We have to find ways to be creative and work together synergistically,” Hoover said.

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum will be working on future projects with Ocean’s Reach, including creating more educational signs and video footage for the resort’s website.

“Our goal is to expand it more,” Doyle said. “It’s just adding to a superior visit for our guests.”