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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 truly 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 of that year, 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 Inn 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, purchased the property as the Gulf Shore Inn. They later brought in a third investor Wakyn Ferris. 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 while son Dick was away at college. 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 Inn 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 Gulf Shore Inn. 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 caring, warm welcome, and quality endures. In 2016, Dan’s daughter Dana, collaborated with Gary Ferris, Waykn’s son, and hired local General Contractor, Jay Urseleo, (who was born and raised right here on the island), to renovate and update Shucker’s main dining and bar area. Work started in the Summer of 2017, right around the same time that Hurricane Irma came through, making landfall near Naples, while bruising the Fort Myers Beach area. While the storm surge played a part in some extended cleanup, most of our properties sustained minimal damage, allowing us to resume the renovation process and get back on track. We were able to open with our newly designed restaurant in October 2017 – just a few weeks past our expected reopening date. Interestingly, as part of the renovation, 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 several photos 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 1st, 2017, evidences the storied history and family commitment to this fine beach establishment.
In 2019 we gave Shucker’s and Beach Bar a Caribbean-style refresh, including the creation of a custom Cabana area, which is currently available for private parties and events. Our friends and guests have enjoyed the bright colors and energy the new look provides!
So we sincerely thank you for coming along on this journey with us – please experience any one or all of our establishments. Dine on some of the freshest seafood, creative cocktails and classic entrees at Shucker’s, or sip a cold drink at the Beach Bar while watching one of our unrivaled Gulf coast sunsets. Afterwards, dance the night away at the fabled Cottage Bar listening to some energetic local bands. We want you to enjoy your time with us like you are a member of our extended family – come be a part of our proud history.
Excerpts from: 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.