Prior to publishing what would become Naples Illustrated, potential readers were polled. From this a discovery was made: Readers wanted “a lifestyle-oriented magazine showcasing fashion, in-home features, behind-the- scenes looks at people and events in the area, as well as articles on a wide array of subjects,” all within a high-quality and well-designed graphic format.
Our first cover epitomizes the brand that was to continue over the next 25 years. Strikingly simple, it showcased a beautiful brunette model, Jennifer Bini, who was “toasting new beginnings,” likely with a glass of buttery Chardonnay. Decked out in a strapless Martha Phillips sundress, a large-brimmed yellow hat, and oversize gold and pearl earrings, Bini was photographed by Maggie Seider. Her kohl-rimmed eyes and sleek bob were courtesy of Franchesa Loy.
Our twenty-fifth anniversary cover, shot on location at Campiello, re-creates the original for modern gazers. Model Monique Isringhausen, a Neapolitan and Miss Florida USA 2022, wears a Marchesa Notte sleeveless floral dress and gold and diamond David Webb earrings, both courtesy of Marissa Collections. While Isringhausen’s brimmed hat nods to the premiere cover, it does so in a contemporary manner, acknowledging the 2023 Pantone color of the year—Viva Magenta. Pink is extended elsewhere in the shot in the more au courant rosé she holds.
In his introductory letter on page 8, Naples Illustrated’s late founder and publisher, Ronald J. Woods, notes that “Florida’s Gulf Coast was attracting many of the country’s leading industrialists and chief executives for second homes or as their first choice for a utopian retirement.” Woods was one himself, having moved to Florida in 1989 after selling a plastics company in Detroit, Michigan. The magazine’s first editor, Lynne Groth, writes that quality of life is what enticed her to Naples in 1991 from Minnesota. While our city and community have witnessed immense change, what attracts individuals to Naples seems to be the same: wonderful weather, prime real estate, and a way of life that’s difficult to replicate elsewhere.
And, ultimately, Naples Illustrated has not strayed too far from what readers first requested either. There have been supplements and changes along the way. On the cosmetic side, glossier paper, technology for higher resolution photos, and about half an inch in width separate the magazine from then and now. As for staff, there have been additions and departures, but one thing remains: an enduring commitment to bring readers an exceptional luxury-lifestyle publication that evolves with the times, with a goal that each issue be better than the one preceding it.
Savvy People, Cool Things, and Great Places
One of the first editorial sections of the magazine focused on savvy individuals, places, and things. The same holds true for the Insider section of today’s magazine.
We learn, in 1998, that Southwest Florida was about to enter the ice age with a new sports arena being built midway between Naples and Fort Myers. A brief article relates that the arena is “just a slap shot off Interstate 75 at exit 19” (known today as exit 123). Today, the arena is swathed in blocks of bright yellow paint, and the Hertz Corporation has naming rights. Still the same size, it is now home to the professional minor league ice hockey team The Florida Everblades and hosts a bevy of musicians every year, from Reba McEntire to Marc Anthony.
In 1998, the City of Naples celebrated its diamond jubilee (75 years of existence). On display at the Collier County Museum that year were 118 stuffed creatures, known as Ty Beanie Babies. They came to market in 1994 and sold for around $5 each. Currently, there are five Collier County Museums with displays that focus on the area’s rich and salient history. Among these five is the Marco Island Historical Museum, which displays the world-famous Key Marco Cat, a pre-Columbian Native American art piece discovered on Marco Island in the late 1800s.
In other news, an 800-square-foot Chanel boutique, exclusive to Florida’s Gulf Coast, opened inside the Saks Fifth Avenue at Waterside Shops. Although the boutique has been remodeled and moved to a more prominent location within the popular Saks Fifth Avenue store, it is still the sole Chanel boutique on the West Coast—proving that Neapolitans have always been lovers—and consumers—of luxury fashions.
The Harmon-Meek Gallery, established in Naples in 1964, relocated in 1998 from Third Street South to Fifth Avenue South to a 4,800-square-foot octagonal-shaped gallery designed by architect Al French. The family-owned gallery has since moved back to Third Street and continues to specialize in American fine art.
In 1998, Norman Love was the pastry chef at The Ritz-Carlton. At the time, there was only one Ritz-Carlton in Naples, so there was no reason to use distinguishing adjectives, like “beach” or “golf.” Now, Love is one of the area’s most well-known and respected confectioners, and his eponymous line of confections can be purchased at locations up and down the Gulf Coast.
Cameos and Dining Out
In the Cameo pages of the magazine, local subjects were featured. Daphne Nikolopoulos was one of the contributing writers. Today, she serves as editorial director for Palm Beach Media Group and also is the editor in chief of our East Coast sister publication—Palm Beach Illustrated. Twenty-five years ago, Nikolopoulos wrote about Tamara Ahwee, describing her as “an ascending actress and on-air talent.” At the time of publication, Ahwee, age 31, was the vivacious blonde hired to pop out of the sunroof of a sporty red Toyota in a national television advertising campaign.
In “Pertly Persian,” Chelle Koster Walton wrote a restaurant review after her dining experience at Bha!Bha! Persian Bistro, then located at the Pavilion Shopping Center on Vanderbilt Beach Road. Walton shares that the traditional fare did not disappoint; she dined on lamb kebabs and duck fesenjune. After eventually finding its way to a coveted Fifth Avenue South location, the restaurant endures and is still a favorite today. And yes, duck fesenjune is still on the menu.
In “Turning Tables,” Walton discusses the constantly changing local restaurant scene and shares that McCabe’s Irish Pub & Grill had just opened in the “stylish new Inn on Fifth.” Proprietor Phil McCabe insisted on Irish authenticity and sent away to Dublin for his very own pub; it arrived in containers and was assembled by Irish journeymen. The pub was open for 16 years. Now in its place is Ocean Prime, the nationally acclaimed, modern American restaurant and bar operated by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
The health of Naples Bay warranted a six-page article; written by Steven R. Biller, “Who Will Save Naples Bay?” delves into the question. Article contributors included David Guggenheim, then president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and Mike Simonik, environmental policy manager for the Conservancy. (Simonik eventually became the long-time and passionate executive director of Humane Society Naples; he is now retired.) The article made a strong statement: “Somebody has to take responsibility for creating a system that revives and nurtures Naples Bay as the population grows around it.”
As Naples continues to experience development, the health of our environment is no doubt discussed even more today, especially when it comes to water-quality and water-quantity matters. Various nonprofit organizations are doing good work in this area, including The Everglades Foundation, Collier County Waterkeeper, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Captains for Clean Water, and of course the almost 60-year-old Conservancy of Southwest Florida, now under the leadership of Rob Moher. These entities and others—along with legions of local volunteers—continue efforts to protect Southwest Florida’s unique natural environment and quality of life.
In an article by Ted Curtis, we read that Bay Colony Golf Club in Pelican Marsh hosted the eleventh annual Senior PGA Tour, which was played in 1998 as the LG Championship. Players included Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, and Lee Trevino; Gil Morgan took home the $180,000 purse. Golf fans continue to flock to Southwest Florida to both play and spectate at annual tournaments, including The Chubb Classic and the QBE Shootout. The last PGA QBE Shootout golf tournament was played at the Tiburón Golf Club in December 2022, attracting such players as Nelly Korda, Jason Day, and Lexi Thompson. (Tom Hoge and Sahith Theegala were the winners.)
In the Spring/Summer 2021 edition of the Southwest Florida Relocation Guide, published by Palm Beach Media Group, Editor Cathy Chestnut remarks on the golf courses of Collier County, saying: “Thanks to the golf course—and real estate—building boom of the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s, Southwest Florida for years has been able to claim No. 1 status in the nation for golf holes per capita.”
The real estate market in 1998 was also rampant; the first line in an article about the state of real estate in 1998 reads: “There’s no doubt about it: Naples and Southwest Florida constitute one of the hottest housing markets in the country. In short, we have been discovered—and we’re not likely to fade from view any time soon.” While prices dipped in Naples following the housing crash in 2008—as they did elsewhere nationally—the real estate industry continues to thrive here. Year after year, Naples is ranked as one of the best places to live in the world. In many cases, real estate prices, spurred by a heavy increase in demand, have doubled within the past two years.
In local business news, we learn that Paul and Suzanne DeBruyne acquired the Naples Art Gallery in 1998 from long-time Naples’ resident Warren C. Nelson and his partner, William B. Spink, who were credited with setting the tone of the Old Naples art community. Today, there are numerous art galleries along both Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South showcasing both world-renowned and local artists.
The Naples Princess Cruise Line operated out of the Old Naples Seaport. In 1998, a second ship—the Naples Royal Princess, a 90-foot yacht that accommodated up to 144 guests was launched. David Norris was one of the original members of the Naples Princess team; he helped design all the boats, including the current Naples Princess, prior to retiring. Jenny Gezella, president of the Naples Princess, currently reports that Norris still “captains with us seasonally two days a week. He has been with the company since 1994. He just couldn’t retire.” In 2018, the Hoffmann Family of Companies purchased Naples Princess Cruises.
Among the assorted bit of news, we learn that Gerri Moll was appointed CEO for Collier/Lee market, Nations Bank Florida. Today the Florida native leads a team of executives representing eight Bank of America business lines and serves as the Southwest Florida president of the bank. Dolph von Arx starred in an ad for Northern Trust, and five area youths were awarded Take Stock in Children scholarships thanks to a program founded by Barnett Bank. The statewide nonprofit program was founded in 1995 to help at-risk and low-income children achieve academic success. The program currently serves approximately 15,000 students each year.
A favorite section to see who went where and why, the social pages reveal that Neapolitans enjoyed attending parties, celebrating causes, and gathering to raise money as much as they do today. In 1998, feng shui was discussed at a luncheon to benefit The Immokalee Foundation; Bob Pearson was recognized as the Collier Building Industry Association Builder of the Year; and 200 local VIPs attended the Naples Illustrated launch party at The Registry Resort (now the Naples Grande Beach Resort), celebrating the “good life” during a reception and luncheon.
Other event photos included the 1997 Angel Ball, also held at The Registry Resort—a description of the event notes that “more than 600 agents joined in an evening of action and romance” to raise money for The Community School of Naples Scholarship Program. On a separate page titled “Seen Around Town,” well-known Neapolitans were photographed at special events and included in the magazine.
Because of their popularity, the social pages (now called “RSVP”) have relocated to the front of the book; each issue showcases 10 to 12 photos from a handful of events. Here, we see friends and local celebrities dressed in gowns, tuxedos, golf wear, or themed attire, attending luncheons, golf tournaments, galas, and auctions to raise both awareness and money for important causes.
The very last page of the book was called “Last Laugh.” Freelancer Rick Compton details his experience with a personal trainer and his punishment for eating a blue M&M (a lecture you might still get from one of the many local personal trainers who watch our waistlines every day.) Over the years, the parting page of the magazine has featured local philanthropists, interviews with local residents, photography created by local artists, and other highlights. New this year is “Tail End,” which features a photo and description of an animal found at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens.
What will Naples Illustrated look like in 2048? Thankfully, to be human is to be curious. Because of this, readers will still want to know about their fellow Neapolitans, see inside each other’s homes, learn about the latest trends, glean what’s going on in the community, discern how much money was raised, and discover where to make their next restaurant reservations. Unless the antiaging doctors overachieve, we can confidently predict that the current staff will be retired—living the good life and toasting a talented new crew at the helm.