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Business boom: Renaissance under way in South Cape

By Staff | Mar 4, 2016

To see how much the South Cape has grown in the past year, one has to look no further than the list of new businesses compiled by the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce and members of the South Cape Hospitality and Entertainment Association.

The list showed that 69 new businesses came to the area in 2015, with five more expanding and another five on the way this year. There were 58 new businesses in 2014.

Lynn Pippinger, co-owner of Dixie Roadhouse, said the list was made so the South Cape could compare future growth against a benchmark.

Judging by last year’s numbers, future years will have an awfully high bar to jump.

“We are growing. There was a dramatic increase in the number of entertainment and restaurant vendors that opened,” Pippinger said. “Many more of those places opened in 2015 than in 2014.

Among the new openings were a dozen retail stores, 10 new restaurants, as well as a bar lounge and a brew pub, with four of the five expansions being for restaurants.

New businesses planned include a 24-hour Waffle House and a pizzeria that expects to be open late night.

Perhaps the largest of the endeavors is a $1 million renovation project that is in the process of turning an old bingo hall into a combination craft brewery and restaurant.

Bob Elardo, and wife Joann, who runs Wicked Dolphin Rum, have nearly finished the conversation under way at 4721 S.E. 10th Place.

Big Blue Brew, a craft brewery that will feature tours, tastings and have a craft-inspired restaurant attached to it, is expected to open by early spring.

Like Wicked Dolphin, Big Blue Brew was inspired by Florida, with the water, the clear skies and how both give you a good feeling, Elardo said late last year, adding that the brewery will be a separate entity from the distillery.

The Big Blue Brew restaurant will feature all Florida grown and homemade offerings along with a wraparound deck with a firepit, both outdoor and inside seating, the brewery and a “scratch kitchen” with all homemade, local ingredients.

“Everything is going to be homemade from the sauces to the salad dressings,” said Dan Termini, distiller at Wicked Dolphin on Thursday.

Pippinger said the numbers, all told, are a far cry from when she came to town in 2011.

“There’s more cooperation in the South Cape between the businesses. We’ve never seen that in any other market. It’s unique to the area, and I think that’s fantastic,” Pippinger said.

Dana Brunett, city Economic said it means the city has rebounded quickly from the downturn.

“Four years ago nothing was happening. We recovered quickly, the confidence level is rising, vacancies are falling, and it’s a testament to the fact we have created an environment people want to invest in again,” Brunett said. “We’re getting clustering of businesses that are good together, and we’re getting third-party affirmation from people who when they say something is good, it does help.”

Councilmember John Carioscia was thrilled with the numbers as well, crediting the pilot program for extended bar hours as the reason.

However, he added future growth could be limited until a permanent decision is made on the issue.

“I believe 4 a.m. licensing is helping. On the other hand, a one-year extension may preclude businesses from coming because some entrepreneurs have told me that will only come if it’s one way or the other,” Carioscia said.

Brunett said there is some truth in that, as they want surety. That will make for a very difficult final decision when the board has to decide.

“They want to know if they’re investing their money that what they’re investing in will be there,” Brunett said. “But as the policy making board for the city, they have to decide what’s best for everyone in total as opposed to just South Cape. It’s a difficult decision to make.”

Ultimately, it has been groups such as South Cape Hospitality and Entertainment Association and the downtown businesses that have been putting on events to bring people in and draw businesses to the area.

“Those groups are doing a good job of promotion. They do events, they have the trolley, they do their level best to create an area people want to be in,” Brunett said.