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FT MYERS | Downtown businesses talk recovery after Ian

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Posted at 7:28 PM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 19:28:32-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the water rushed through downtown Fort Myers during Hurricane Ian, it washed through the first floor of many homes and businesses.

Some of those businesses, a year later, still haven't come back.

You may remember seeing businesses like Starbucks and Ford's Garage damaged and shut down after the storm. But business owners knew they would be back.

"I felt blessed," said Joe Honeycutt, owner of Joe's Record Exchange. "That's really how I felt."

Honeycutt reopened less than three weeks after the storm and says today, business is going well.

“I think people wanted a sense of normalcy," he said. "And part of that normalcy is going to your local record store and buying records.”

His was one of the few record stores spared during the storm. He told Fox 4's Briana Brownlee they had minimum damage and four inches of flooding.

Meanwhile, just down the street, Naples Soap Company took on about three to four feet of water. Store manager Toni Walker reflects on the months-long journey to reopening.

"The road to it wasn't easy because the company itself lost the warehouse," Walker said.

A year later, business has been — in Walker's words — lousy.

“We used to get a lot of people coming off of the beach at night, coming to the restaurant and just walking around to shop," she said. "Now it’s just not happening.”

But Walker is keeping her fingers crossed as we approach season. And, with Ian's dark cloud, came a silver lining.

"Everything is new," Walker laughed. "Customers even notice it, they really do."

A majority of downtown businesses are back open, but there are still many new businesses to come. Mayor Kevin Anderson teased five new hotels, a brewery and several restaurants.