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This Legendary Strip of Island Sand
“A Century of Warm Hospitality”
Fort Myers Beach has a long and storied history and nowhere is that more pronounced than Shuckers, the Cottage, and our gulf-front Beach Bar consortium. For almost a Century, these establishments have defined hospitality on the Island.
It all began in May of 1921 when an intrepid entrepreneur named Tom H. Phillips built 100 bathhouses right on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico. The Fort Myers Beach Casino – as it was christened- provided towels and swimsuits to our first visitors. Tom also fed them, serving hot dogs and hamburgers to his clientele, who were allowed to park their “jalopies” right on the shore.
When a hurricane hit the island in November, most of the bathhouses and a good deal of the foundation of the Casino were swept away but the idea that this strip of beach sand was special had already taken firm hold, and it wasn’t long before the first of many renovations and restorations commenced.
In 1924, another adventurous impresario – Pete Nelson – bought the site and rebuilt it as the famous “Crescent Beach Casino. The name was chosen as a tip-of-the-hat to the Island’s name -Crescent Beach – as it was called until 1925 when it became what is presently known as Estero Island.
Pete put in a gambling casino complete with a dance floor and had plans for a 100-foot boardwalk. Plans that were interrupted by yet another hurricane in 1926. The devastating power of that storm demolished the entire downstairs of the casino. But like before, the magic of this location continued to lure investors, and the property changed hands several times until 1930 when it was renamed the Gulf Shore Inn. Gambling was discontinued, rental rooms and a few beach cottages were added, and they attracted thousands of visitors for a decade until the US military started quartering its officers on the property during WWII. The Gulf Shore also survived another hurricane in 1944, powerful Hurricane Donna in 1960, as well as several strong “no-name” tropical storms until the fateful year of 1972.
It was then that Dan “The Man” Reinfried appeared on the scene. Affectionately known as “The Man Who Built the Beach,” Reinfried was a visionary developer who, along with his best childhood friend, Malcolm Young and partner Wakyn Ferris, rebuilt the property as the Gulf Shore Inn. As it still remains today, it was a family business all the way. Malcolm’s son, Cory, a high schooler, was the first grill man, and Dan’s daughters Stacey, Greta, and Dana had a hand in most of the food served in the iconic restaurant. Stacey made Key Lime pies while working as a hostess and waitress; Greta handled the dishes, and baby sister Dana prepared the relishes and salads. You could say that Dan’s daughters grew up in the business, and so did a lot of their friends as the Gulf Shore was a warm and inviting place – just as it is today.
Being the indefatigable man that he was, Dan decided in the late ’70s to add to the then renamed Gulf Shore Grill. So he renovated one of the rental duplexes next to the Inn by gutting it and remaking it into the legendary Cottage Bar, a favored place well known by locals and visitors alike. Great food, a view of the Gulf to die for, dance floor, and fantastic live music keep the Cottage hopping almost continuously.
Over the years, many other changes have been made, but the same family care, warm welcome, and quality endure. Stacey met her husband, Bob Ferreira, at the Cottage in 1989 and now have two grown children. Keeping it in the family means a lot, so Bob currently manages the complex. Co-owner and younger sister Dana has been quite busy as of late. In 2016, she hired a General Contractor and created Shuckers inside the main dining room. The entire roof was raised which led to the discovery in the rafters of an old sign that read – The Gulf Shore Inn! That sign, along with a photo of Dan Reinfried, who, after a lifetime of achievement, both here and in many other places on Fort Myers Beach, sadly passed away on January 6th, 2017, evidences the storied history and family commitment to this fine beach establishment.
So eat some great food in Shuckers, sip a cold drink at the Beach Bar while watching our unrivaled sunsets. Then dance the night away at the fabled Cottage Bar. Enjoy with us like a member of our big family and be part of our proud history.
History by Carl Conley, J.D. – Founder and Publisher of The Island Sand Paper (2000-2010); The Sun Bay Paper (2015-2017) and noted Island Writer and Historian.