Shrine Club getting new look
Former Fort Myers Beach bingo parlor, social hall purchased by former Hammerheads owner
Local businesswoman Tiffany Kersten, the former owner of Hammerhead Gym on Fort Myers Beach, has acquired the former social hall and Bingo parlor of the Araba Shrines on San Carlos Boulevard.
The building is located adjacent to the Sunoco gas station where traffic hustles and bustles up to and down from the Matanzas Pass Bridge in the busy season.
Kersten is floating a number of business possibilities for the property, with some form of combination restaurant and pool hall with other recreational games such as shuffleboard and video games. There are plenty of options for Kersten and her partners Dan Williams, Glenn and Laurel Fuller.
The location of the 7,500 square-foot building, the 1.24 acre property and its large parking lot in the back with 135 spaces was too good for Kersten and her partners to pass up. The parking could potentially be opened up to the public as a park and ride though that would require more permitting, Kersten said. Kersten sees a demand for the parking for workers on the island.
“We would definitely like to open it up, it’s just a lot of red tape but that was our first thought that we wanted to make this a park and ride or a stop for the trolley and they wouldn’t even have to go back into the traffic they can just go up Buttonworth at the light (to the back of the property). There is such a shortage of parking on Fort Myers Beach,” Kersten said.
The property was acquired in May for a reported $970,000. Kersten hopes the burgeoning Margaritaville project will be a boost to local business traffic which will translate into making her purchase a profitable one. “With Margaritaville coming, I think it’s going to take off on this island. It might take a while but I think it’s a good location,” she said.
According to property records, the building dates back to 1967. The side of the building still has the remnants of paint describing a former music school. For now, the owners have left the old paint up on the side though they have redone the front facade and have been doing painting and detailing work.
“We’re working on getting the outside prettier,” Kersten said. “It shouldn’t really need a whole lot of work.”
The Bingo board is still hung on the wall inside and chairs are lined up that appear to be decades old. Wallpaper inside also has the appearance of dating back to the 1960’s. Bingo is one of a number of games that could still be in the offering for the hall. Kersten sees the potential for weddings and music.
They are also open to gaming options, which could expand depending on how the gaming compact signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is interpreted in the courts. Some believe the compact could open up sports betting around the state.
The owners are keeping an open mind.
Depending on the route they choose, Kersten said the permitting process through Lee County Government will likely be a time-consuming one though they are willing to be patient for the right fit.
A native of Wisconsin, Kersten has a background in the hospitality industry as a former manager at Fort Myers Beach hotels like the Edgewater Inn, Days Inn, Eventide Resort, Ramada Inn and Howard Johnson – which eventually became the Pierview Hotel on Fort Myers Beach. She ran Hammerhead Gym for approximately 25 years before selling the business. The gym now operates 24 hours a day.
Kersten said “the time was right” to sell the gym which she and others informally called “Friends” after having operated it during the pandemic and through a more demanding routine of screening gym-goers for fevers while taking on other added precautions. She is toying with calling the new spot “Locals.”
Asked what she likes about Fort Myers Beach, a town that she has been working in for more than 30 years, Kersten said she likes the “friendliness” of the area and “our beautiful white powdery, sandy beaches.”
Kersten hopes to have some type of business operating inside in time for the fall.