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Owner of Bubba's Roadhouse in Cape Coral shares his storm story: Moore About Business

The Matlacha area in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Homeowners and business owners continue to struggle after Hurricane Ian.

I spoke with Jay Johnson, a third generation restaurateur. His father owns the iconic Bert's Bar in Matlacha, while Jay is the owner of Bubba's Roadhouse in Cape Coral; I asked him how he was impacted by Hurricane Ian.

"So, immediately after the storm I started working my way out to Bubba's then to Bert's, and it took me about four hours and a bunch of detours to finally get there, he began. "I got to Bubba's first and we had roof damage, and we had some damage in our kitchen. We had a wall go down."

He continued: "You know, kind of funny story. I'm doing a damage assessment and I get a call from Tallahassee. This is Carol Dover, who's the president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association checking on us. Give her an update and she goes, 'Hold on a minute.' She puts Dane Eagle on the phone who was the director of (what is) now called the Commerce Department. At that time, the Division of Economic Opportunity. And he's from Matlacha and he's asking me if I can get over to his mom's house. He hasn't been able to get a hold of her. (I) tell him, 'No problem.' I get my way into Matlacha, get to his mom and she offers to take me on a boat ride to get to Pine Island. She had her boat in the water already. We went out to Matlacha, and every turn it was just amazing seeing from the water the damage. My heart broke. I went by the Micelli's and part of their tiki was down. Then we came by Hooked Restaurant in Matlacha and that you could see straight through. And we went about another 100 feet and all of a sudden you can see through what used to be Matlacha and see where Bert's is just no longer standing. That was a little rough."

He then talked About the outpouring of local support for the beloved Bert's bar.

"It's tough to walk down the street anywhere in Southwest Florida and not have people stop me and my dad and say, 'Hey, what's going on with Bert's? That's my favorite place.' Generically, there's a Memories of Bert's page that got started off on Facebook. Pictures and memories are up there almost on a daily basis from around the world."

As a longtime Southwest Florida resident who has been through several Hurricanes, Johnson shared his views on the response after the catastrophe.

"The biggest things that we learned from Hurricane Ian, especially on the island was the strength and spirit of the people of Pine Island. I mean Pine Island, with Bokeelia, Saint James City, Matlacha is a strong part of this community. And and those people that live out there full time, we all know that we're going to be the forgotten one and we do things ourselves. And I think that was great to see during the storm. The the road was cleared by the residents of Pine Island. Residents weren't able to to fix the break in the road. But all the big things were moved off by the people that live on the island and it's really the spirit of Pine Island I think really shown right through all of this, and continues to this day."

So the rebuild of Southwest Florida continues as local businesses find their footing and begin moving forward again.

Karen Moore is a contributing partner for WGCU and the publisher of SWFL Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today