Historical village features general store from four generations ago
“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” That was the motto Sam Bailey gave to his family’s general store, and a humorous one for a general store located on a still pretty isolated island. The store carried everything from ladies’ garters to pigs’ feet in gravy to all manner of tools.
Frank Bailey, one of the island’s early pioneers, came to farm in 1895. He soon purchased the buildings on Mathews Wharf and set up a packing house for shipping out produce. It became the island’s only general store, but the primary business was buying and shipping produce grown on Sanibel, and the corporate name was – and still is, four generations later – Sanibel Packing Co.
In the 1926 hurricane the entire wharf was swept away and, within a year, Bailey rebuilt, this time on the shore. The second store is the one now located at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. The only thing that remains of the first store was the steel safe (now sitting in the corner), which was dragged out of the water and has never been opened.
The store was the social center of the island. It had telegraph and telephone service, a freight dock, and after 1926, a ferry landing. People voted there, socialized, and shopped for everything essential. The gas pumps, previously on the wharf, were moved to the new store, now safely on land. Just before the 1926 hurricane, Bailey was building a gas station, on land, the frame of which survived the hurricane and became Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, which is also now at the historical village.
After the Sanibel Causeway was built in 1963, the store was no longer at the geographical heart of the island and the Baileys moved it to its present location, at the intersection of Periwinkle Road and Tarpon Bay Road, where it is still run by the Bailey family.
The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is at 950 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. The facility is currently closed at this time until further notice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information or updates, visit www.sanibelmuseum.org.