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Beach long-timers bid farewell for former icon

April 17, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

With the Topps Supermarket structure slowly coming down, many residents are remembering what the 22-year-old store meant to them.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda said Topps Supermarket is still in the process of being razed. The out parcel has been removed, which used to contain a liquor store and real estate office.

"Bit by bit, they are taking down the big box that is Topps," she said.

Article Photos

Topps Supermarket slowly coming down.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY TRACEY GORE

Cereceda said she really does not have any insight as to what might take the place of Topps. She said a gentleman stood up during a Town Council meeting and suggested that it be a parking garage for the town, which she said has not been the first suggestion of that kind.

"People are having a difficult time getting a price out of the property owner," Cereceda said. "It really is kind of in limbo."

Greg Stuart, who works with the owner, said he will sell the property because he is not a developer. He said they submitted a zoning application on April 1 to amend the master concept plan and are waiting to hear back from staff.

"We want to see the master concept plan. We are going forward in getting that done," Stuart said.

Cereceda said she has good memories of Topps and Winn Dixie, one of which was a connection made with her now best friend in the parking lot of Winn Dixie.

"It used to be the only grocery store on the island," Cereceda said of Winn Dixie, and then Topps. "Over the years I made some great friendships with the family that owned the store and some of the managers. You saw them all the time because you popped in and out," she said, adding that when it's a family-owned and operated store you get to know people personally.

A lot of people on the island were really sad to see Topps go, herself included.

One of those long-time residents is Fran Santini. She hopes another grocery store goes onto the site.

"I always liked it and it was convenient," she said of Topps.

The supermarket was popular because people did not have to go off island to get food and sundries. It was in a great location for those who vacationed on the island because they just had to walk to the store to get what they needed, Santini added.

"I miss it. I did most of my shopping there. When you run out of something it is always nice to have something close around instead of having to get in the traffic for an hour and a half in season.

Tracey Gore, another long-time resident and past mayor, said she remembers that Winn-Dixie occupied the space that later became Topps Supermarket.

She worked at the Winn-Dixie as a teenager and her memories take her back to that time period.

"I'm 47 now. I was 16, 17 when I worked there. I was an assistant head cashier. I thought it was so cool when I was 17. I got to count the money and close the shop," she said.

Gore also recalls the smaller building to the side of the supermarket was the First Federal Bank on Fort Myers Beach.

"Local resident Patty Tardiff worked there and opened up my first bank account," she said.

With Topps slowly being demolished, Gore said it's strange to see it go, but it's probably for the best because individuals who are homeless have started hanging out there.

"It's better than sitting there empty," she said.

Judy Haataja, who has lived on Fort Myers Beach since the '60s, said Topps was a really great place to buy meat because you could buy fresh cuts.

They used to have their real estate office, Century 21 TriPower Realty and TriPower Vacation Rentals, in the side building up front.

"The first occupant of that little building up front was First Federal. When they left we went in," she said of occupying the space from 1991/92 to 2008. "I was always amazed of how much business we did do out of there because it was a little old place and not so pretty."

Haataja said she tried to buy the land, but was unsuccessful. She said in her doing so it triggered a clause in the agreement for the individual who owned the structure to buy the land.

"We just bought a different piece of property," she said.

When asked what Haataja's thoughts were about the building being demolished she said "It's gone."

"When I went by it didn't bother me at all. It was gone. You knew it was going to change. It had to be upgraded. It's part of what is going on, on the island," she said. "It's a great piece of property, and it's a great location."

 
 

 

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