"Run around Sue" is one stride closer to Fort Myers Beach.
Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera announced the "Buy a Bambi" fundraising campaign reached a high point recently when a large contribution was made to allow chamber officials to purchase their first used classic Airstream travel trailer (which was dubbed "Run Around Sue" when it was built many years ago) to convert into a mobile visitor information center.
The $12,000 "gift" from Dan Baggot from Southwest Florida Distributing & Publishing in Fort Myers (who has pledged $12,000 a year for five years) coupled with more than $3,000 in local donations allowed Nocera to buy the future kiosk-style service structure located in Charlotte, N.C. He now seeks extra funds to outfit it. The endeavor to get visitor information back on the Beach began in mid-June during a presentation at new Beach Chamber president's first monthly luncheon.
This is a photo of the Caravel Airstream trailer that the Chamber purchased on EBay with donations from area businesses. It will be converted into a mobile visitor information center.
"My idea was to get two of these smallest Airstreams, gut them by taking the camper parts out of the interior, put in some kind of flooring and then get them to Austin, Texas, where this guy turns them into food vendor wagons," said Nocera. He stated the conversion process involves the trailer's side windows being taken out and a clamshell opening installed with a slide-out counter.
Bill Barrier, a friend of the chamber president and former Lee VCB cohort who now lives in North Carolina, has volunteered to pick up the trailer, gut it and drive it to Texas for traveling expenses only. Nocera will help Barrier in the interior removal process.
Locally, the next step for the Beach Chamber is to collect $5,000 through fundraisers to pay for the clamshell work, expenses and set up the interior with 120-volt wiring, desks, stools, cell phones, monitors and computers. Nocera is also hoping to remove the back window and turn it into a large television monitor to advertise events and happenings.
"There is a way to (show people information via monitors) through ChamberMaster where we are promoting events that are about to happen or a business that is doing a special or happy hour that evening on a rotation basis," he said.
A challenge has been made to the local chamber board of directors to come up with ideas to raise the extra money needed. FMB Chamber Director of Operations GleeAnn Agius offered the idea of having member restaurants feature a "Bambi Night" between now and Thanksgiving to drive more customers to them on a slow night and benefit the chamber by possibly collecting 10 percent of food and beverage sales.
"That is one of the idea we are looking at. If we can do that for four or five weeks and maybe do a 50/50 drawing each night, we can raise some money," he said.
Nocera contacted officials at Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (where he served as executive director nearly two decades ago) and officials there have agreed to allow prospective trailer workers go through their volunteer training program. Local artist Leoma Lovegrove has also volunteered her services to do a "bus wrap" design depicting Beach icons on the trailer's exterior.
The visitor information will depend on demand but is expected to highlight places to stay, dine and enjoy attractions and relative information.
"The idea is to ask customers questions. For example, do you want a condo, full resort, bed & breakfast or a cottage, or steak, seafood or Italian food for dinner tonight? From there, the computer will come back to provide a list of what is available in their choices, price range and/or stay length," said Nocera. "From there, we can actually give them a call and book them from the center. That's really the purpose of this -to promote businesses through the centers and give businesses what they need as well. If we can do this, it's a win-win."
The two "bambis" will be located on the north and south end of Estero Island. Beach resident John Richard voluntarily offered a parking space for "Run Around Sue" in Cheap Beach Stuff's lot on Old San Carlos Boulevard.
"He told me 'it's yours.' I thought that was really great," said Nocera. The second "bambi" is expected to follow in the near future.
"The Bambi is real now. It's going to happen. It'll happen faster if a few people would step forward and help us get that clamshell in."
"Bambi" is the name of a classic Airstream travel trailer, a streamline aluminum and rivets design from the classic 1930's design. For more information about the Chamber or the "Buy a Bambi" fundraiser, call 454-7500 or visit website www.buyabambi.com to contribute financially to the cause.
Chamber features new social media website
Go to www.fortmyersbeach.org and see what Beach Chamber members are offering. Titled "The Catch" with a catch phrase of "Visitor Information Caught Daily and Served Fresh by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber," the website features randomly selected YouTube videos of member officials giving 30-second accounts of their businesses that ends with a referral to another business.
Nocera stated the actual purpose of the website is to give potential visitors information that they need to plan a vacation and to give visitors access to its members as quickly as possible. One can click on "Stay," "Play," "Dine," "Shop," Deals & Coupons," "Info" and "Beach Blogs."
"Every chamber member will have their 30 seconds of fame. We would like members to recommend another chamber member's business at the end," said Nocera. "The site is all about businesses."
The website has other social media functions such as FaceBook, Pinterest, "Beach Tweets" and quick links for accommodations, attractions, activities, entertainment and more. There is a button to "Search Businesses" and another to "Book Now." The current weather and business deals are also featured.
"The whole concept was to try to get the visitor to where they want to be in three or less clicks," said Nocera. "Under 'Deals' it's up to each chamber member to populate that area with their own information."
The chamber president wants to promote the arts on Fort Myers Beach.
"If it's a Beach event, I want to know so I can write a blurb about it," he said.
Back in June, Nocera pointed out the chamber needed to do a better job in promoting its members and businesses. He visited old friend Roger Miles of Miles Media Group and asked for help.
"He has arguably the largest destination development company in the United States," said Nocera. "I went to him and told him I need a website that'll kick butt but I have no money. He said he'd do it pro bono if he could design it and select someone in the Fort Myers market (Paradise Advertising's Katrina Solatar) to write the code, help populate it and sell advertising for it."
Although the website is still a work in progress, it is an attractive site to check out. The bugs should be worked out in the next couple of weeks.