Thursday, January 20, 2022

Treasure in the neighborhood

Chef Annie, Lauren and Jenny create luscious meals at Chef's Express.

Chef Annie, Lauren and Jenny create luscious meals at Chef’s Express.

Just back from southern California; San Diego to be exact. I realize that 3,000 miles might be a bit further than most want to travel in Jeane’s suggested jaunts. However, the saga of the west, including the culture, the color, historic struggles of survival, the passion of obtaining one’s dreams and the freedom of spirit that I was fortunate to be born into isn’t much different than those who pioneered, survived and adapted into life of southwest Florida.

No one can know what all the reasons were in which people chose to explore and settle new land. We can only imagine. However, a common thread we all experience at one time or another is that we all leave what is known and step forward into the unknown. Faith, hope, curiosity, or a vision of a better life, I am sure, are included as components as that first step is taken.

The area of Old Marco is located towards the north western end of Marco Island and was home to Frank Cushing’s famous archeological expedition in 1896. Old Marco was the main area of Marco’s pioneer settlement and seafood industry in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. “Not many realize,” Joe Charde of Exit Charde Realty said “is that the area of Old Marco is one of the several areas that the Mackle Brothers did not buy as part

Great information and displays at the Museum at Olde Marco in the Shops at Olde Marco.

Great information and displays at the Museum at Olde Marco in the Shops at Olde Marco.

of the development of modern day Marco.”

Included in Old Marco are historic buildings, interesting shops and great restaurants running along Bald Eagle. Advertised as “Marco’s secret spot” are the Shops at Olde Marco. The Shops at Olde Marco, like most treasures, are well hidden. At the end of Bald Eagle towards the Snook Inn the road takes a sharp left. Although signage is at a minimum, The Shops are located behind Café de Marco Restaurant. “The Shops of Old Marco were originally built as a hotel,” Charde said.

In the Shops at Olde Marco exists The Museum at Olde Marco, a branch of the Marco Island Historical Society. Located on the second floor of this historic building, the museum is open and free to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. The pictorial displays and artifacts show a colorful and well executed bird’s eye view of Marco Island, going back to the Calusa Indians thousands of years ago. An outdoor stairwell in the front of the building runs right up to the front door of the museum and an elevator at the opposite end of the Shops is accessible as well.

The Shops of Olde Marco have gone through many incarnations throughout the years. Now, mainly because of the vision and hard work of Chef Annie and her staff, as well as Larry Clark (owner

The Shops at Olde Marco.

The Shops at Olde Marco.

of A Nice Box), the colorful buildings with the patio covered by a multitude of festive umbrellas, and a bubbling pond have transformed the ambiance. The Shops are now a relaxing venue where good food and browsing island style is paramount. Chef’s Express, Lee Be’s Fish Market, A Nice Box, Amantea Gallery, In the Light Studio and Gallery, A Style that Makes It hair salon, international artist, Malenda Trick’s workshop and showroom and the offices of Coastal Breeze News have changed this well kept secret into a targeted destination.

Near The Shops is the Old Marco Inn and that establishment, too, is an important part of the formation and history of Marco Island. Captain Bill Collier brought his wife and nine children to Marco in 1870 and in 1896 opened a 20 room hotel which is the current Old Marco Inn. Walking into the restaurant and lounge area of the Inn, all along the hallway’s wall, is a historic pictorial of fisherman’s tales noted on the scales of tarpon dating from the early to mid 1900’s.

The adventurer, the mercenary, the outlaw, the outdoorsman, or the family whose sole desire was to homestead their land of their own, isn’t much different from one part of the country to another; from one era in time to another. I am wishing you safe travels as you venture in your life from one point to another.

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