Shell Factory shutters for the duration; restaurant remains open for takeout
The Shell Factory & Nature Park has made the tough decision similar businesses across Southwest Florida are bring forced to make: It’s temporarily shutting its doors as part of the effort to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
The 80-year-old attraction announced last Monday it would close most operations temporarily until the virus subsides. It’s the first time it has been forced to close to the public since the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The decision, like similar ones being made – voluntarily or not – across the state, did not come easy.
Shell Factory owner Pam Cronin, said it made sense to close now, since the local health situation has reached a point of weighing “caution over compassion.”
“We already closed off high-contact areas and attractions last week such as the Fun Park and events we couldn’t properly protect,” Cronin said, “We stayed open because every day the staff thanked us for allowing them to be there while they organized, made plans, and made a few extra dollars.”
The restaurant will remain open for takeout, with the time off allowing them to continue the necessary work before it rebrands itself as the Southern Grill. The action also allows for work to be finished prior to the opening of Tommy’s Tiki Bar, which should officially open after the Shell Factory itself reopens.
Cronin said they will take advantage of the unscheduled closing to do necessary work on the entire grounds.
“We’re making lemonade. We’re cleaning the place up and getting projects done that we need to move forward on,” Cronin said. “We’re working on the roof and landscaping and have our maintenance and landscaping staff still here.”
The Nature Park animals will remain on-site during the closure and appropriate measures have been taken to ensure their care and safety, which means keeping more people on staff.
“We’re going to try to get things done and keep people separated enough where we don’t have more than three or four people together,” Cronin said.
Cronin said the biggest heartbreak is the closure of the flea market, which local growers have depended on for revenue.
Again, she said it was the right thing to do.
“We don’t know when leadership tells us when everything can slowly open again. We’re just going to take it day by day and do the right thing,” Cronin said. “My heart is broken, but again, we’re making lemonade.”
The Shell Factory is accepting donations for the Nature Park Environmental Education fund, a 501(c)3 that helps support the care needed for the animals.
Those interested in donating can visit ShellFactory.com.