Fish-Tale Marina has new owner
Over the last 35 years, Al Durrett grew the Fish-Tale Marina from a 12-person operation with 30 docks to a company with more than 100 employees and 100 wet slips for boats.
Now, it’s time for Durrett to enjoy the fruits of his labor, having sold the property on the south end of Fort Myers Beach to Southern Marinas for an undisclosed amount.
The deal allows Durrett to continue managing the business. “They hired my wife Kathy and me.” he said. By doing so, Durrett said the new owner will be able to retain its staff, the majority of which are full-time.
Durrett said Southern Marinas approached him about a year ago with interest in buying the property. They eventually reached terms that are acceptable. Durrett will keep ownership of Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining, the restaurant he opened up on site in 2017.
“I was mainly worried about my employees, some of whom have been here 31 years,” Durrett said. “We pay for all of their medical. I wanted to make sure the new company that came in here was going to do the same thing.
“With me staying here and running the place, I could make sure the employees were taken care of.”
Prior to arriving in Fort Myers Beach, Durrett owned a used car dealership in Columbus, Ohio. “I moved to Fort Myers Beach because I wanted to get a 40-hour a week job and I wanted to play golf,” Durrett said. “I was a single parent raising my kids. We all came down to Florida.”
He tried his hand selling boats and cars down here before getting into the marina ownership business.
Fish-Tale Marina was the second marina on the beach that Durrett bought in 1985 with a group of investors. Their first purchase was the Fort Myers Beach Marina near the U.S. Coast Guard station. They also built the Naples Boat Mart which was eventually sold.
Durrett didn’t have any expertise in boats when he came to Florida but said “I knew how to run a business.” Durrett has shepherded the business through three economic downturns. “Two of the three almost forced me out of business,” he said. Among the keys to the marina’s growth were the construction of three new boat storage barns and a concrete floating dock system. “The best thing that made this place work were the people who work here,” Durrett said.
In addition to managing Fish-Tale Marina, Durrett also manages Santini Plaza next door which he says is doing well. “The south end of Fort Myers Beach has gotten better every year,” he said, citing the residential growth. “Fort Myers Beach has become a very notable place to move to.”
In addition to boat storage, the marina has boat rentals, a retail shop with supplies and accessories for boating and fishing, eco tours and sunset tours through Estero Bay Express. Walker Marine Boat Sales and Service leases space at the marina.
When Durrett bought the property on Estero Boulevard, the largest boat on storage was 25 feet. Now, he said, the largest is an 85-foot Viking yacht.
Durrett is proud of the marina’s designation as a Clean and Resilient Marina, which it achieved through a program with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set practices that go beyond regulatory requirements for environmental standards. The Resilient Marina certification is relation to its ability to withstand a disaster. Through a filtration system, Durrett ensures that Estero Bay isn’t polluted from any of the work done on site. The ship store uses buildegradable bags. Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining has a certification from the Surfwriter Foundation as an Ocean Friendly Restaurant.
In addition to his business achievements, Durrett has been noted for his philanthropic efforts as well. He was named Humanitarian of the Year for 2011 at the Fort Myers Beach Observer/Beach Bulletin Best of the Beach ceremony.