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MATLACHA | Businesses struggle as slow season takes a toll

Community and non-profit support offer glimmer of hope to Matlacha's ailing businesses
Posted at 10:39 PM, Nov 06, 2023

MATLACHA, Fla. — Business owners in Matlacha are facing a crisis as they report receiving only a mere 10% of the business they need to stay afloat.

The situation is dire, with many describing it as a slow start to the season that has taken a significant toll on their operations.

Pine Island Road is a hub of concern for business owners like Michael Dillevig, who operates the Hook'd Up Bait Company and Art Gallery.

Dillevig shared his perspective on the ongoing challenges,

"Right now, I think we would be lucky to see 20-30 people come through the doors a day. I think an ideal number would probably be around 200-300 people."

With the absence of customers, one group has stepped in to offer a helping hand. The Matlacha Hookers, a non-profit organization, have been providing $2000 checks to local businesses and $3000 checks to non-profits to alleviate the financial burden.

Julia Gaylor, Vice Madame of Matlacha Hookers, explained their efforts,

"We were able to raise over $350,000 dollars from hurricane relief, and we utilized $112,000 of that for our small business grants program that we made for locals here on the island."

The Matlacha Hookers have already assisted more than 50 Pine Island businesses, with a second round of payments scheduled for November 13th.

Although these financial injections provide temporary relief, local businesses have also taken a creative approach to attracting more customers.

Brittney Bransfield, another owner of Hooked Up Bait Company and Art Gallery, shared their innovative strategy,

"We've added art and fishing together, that way your wife can get in trouble in the front, and you can get in trouble in the back, you know, the husband."

Other business owners have joined forces with local artists to bring visitors to explore Matlacha and its vibrant offerings.

Larry Solinger, the owner of Matlacha Menagerie, emphasized the importance adapting to the changing island, stating,

"What we did is we diversified, and we brought in several different local artists, photographers, metal artists."

As they grapple with the challenges posed by the slow start to the season, the urgency felt by these business operators touches upon the very way of life that has defined Matlacha for so long.