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Shell Factory begins reopening process

By Staff | May 26, 2020

With businesses across the state now allowed to reopen, many are taking it slow.

North Fort Myers’ most famous attraction, the Shell Factory & Nature Park is among those back open for business, albeit at a slightly more pedestrian pace as it’s used to.

The Shell Factory opened two weeks ago, with the flea market there open three days a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and the store open for its regular hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Pam Cronin, owner of the Shell Factory, said the reopening has been very quiet, so following state guidelines has not been much of a problem.

“It’s going very well. People have been really good at following the guidelines, being careful and doing the social distancing so that we don’t have to govern that,” Cronin said.

Also open is the nature park, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., where Cronin said it is very easy to social distance since everything is seen from the confines of a narrow and meandering path.

Occasionally, they may have to hold people back if another customer has just arrived, but again, because it hasn’t been too busy, that has not been an issue, Cronin said.

With no customers and more than 400 animas to feed, Cronin had to pay out-of-pocket for staff care.

Supplemental sources of revenue also has been impacted, with events postponed.

“Handbag Happy Hour was the big fundraiser we had scheduled. We have a wait-and-see approach to when we can have events and people feel safe to have groups again,” Cronin said.

The Southern Grill, the newly rebranded restaurant, is slowly ending its metamorphosis and is allowing guests, at 50 percent capacity, inside while keeping the tables six feet apart.

Cronin said there was one night where it was really busy, but since the tables are so far apart and there is seating outside, it wasn’t a problem.

“We have new staff and new uniforms and we’re answering the phone as The Southern Grill,” Cronin said. “We’re slowly transitioning the menu because during the shutdown, we had items on the previous menu we thought we would run through season. We’ve added some items and we’ll be transitioned over in the next month”

Tommy’s Tiki Bar has yet to open. Cronin is working with the building department, making some changes in their application for things they still need to do. Delays due to the pandemic also didn’t help.

As for the fun park, the zip line and carousel have just reopened, both of which are easy to keep clean between rides, Cronin said. The carousel riders are distanced, as are the mini golfers, who also are easily distanced.

The climbing walls and trampoline are still closed, since they are more difficult to clean and safety remains at the forefront of what they are doing.

Cronin said she hopes people start coming out after two months of having to stay in.

“We hope people will come out and visit us and feel comfortable. The animals miss the people terribly. They love the attention they get from us,” Cronin said. “And I hope they will and we’re trying to make sure we keep staff and customers safe.”

Shell Factory & Nature Park is at 2141 N. Tamiami Trail.