NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla.- The 76-year old Shell Factory celebrated Labor day with events for families, as it moves ahead after a financial scare a few months ago. The iconic attraction hopes it's found a niche with locals and visitors.
"I am ecstatic. I mean, we have new things all the times here, new exhibits and things for our customers," says general manager Anne Sheridan.
The place on U-S 41 opened in 1938, and offers free admittance to the grounds. It has thousands of shells, plus museums and a nature park. The new zip-line has given rides to more than 7000 people in recent months, at a cost of $8.50 each.
In many ways, it's a throw-back to the 'roadside attractions' that were so popular in this country in the 1950's and 60's.
Charlie Sharp says he loves the place. "I remember these sorts of places when I was chilld and we travelled. There were a lot of these places. Now it's all Disney and the big money places. I am glad this place is here, it is part of Americana," he tells WINK News.
The place faced foreclosure a few months ago, but local investors kicked in 2 and a half million dollars to pay off a bank note, and give the attraction some extra cash cushion. The Shell Factory says visitation is not a problem -- it claims it had 500-thousand visitors in the past year, up 20 percent over the year before.
Mary Jane Wagner of Punta Gorda summed up the attractiveness of the place: "It's convenient, affordable, it is friendly, and there are no big crowds of waiting in line!"
The Shell Factory says it is pushing for locals to visit, to supplement the many seasonal people, the 'snow-birds', who come in the winter months.
"We are one of a kind. There isn't that much that is like us, going on around here," says manager Sheridan.