During winter months in paradise, I do my best to stay off U.S. 41, a.k.a. the Tamiami Trail. It’s crowded, and it can be downright dangerous as some folks try to accomplish the impossible driving from one place to another. I often have better luck on the side streets, getting to destinations faster. However, my curiosity gets the best of me every once in a while, and I find I must brave the masses to check out what is new and different along the Trail.
Once again, I must begin with Mercato, since it’s close to home and has been a hub of action. The huge “STORE CLOSING” sign hanging out in front of Books-a-Million is tough to miss. I was totally shocked when I learned that Nordstrom Rack will be moving into that space. Wow—the last time I was in a Nordstrom Rack, the off-price division of the department store chain, was when we lived in Eugene, Oregon, a zillion years ago. (Well, 28 years is a bit more precise.) At the time, this particular outlet of the Nordstrom chain opened when the city was not big enough—or affluent enough—to warrant a full-fledged Nordstrom store.
When we lived in the Washington, D.C., area, there were at least three regular Nordstrom stores and zero Nordstrom Racks. That tells you quite a bit about the area around our nation’s capital, doesn’t it? Now Naples will be a two-Nordstrom town. I will be anxious to get in the new venue and poke around. The company’s website says the new shop is slated to open in the fall.
That isn’t all the news from Mercato. At the new Wine Loft, business is booming, and soon it will have a little competition. Taps Restaurant, Bar & Lounge is slated to open in the not-too-distant future offering 350 bottled and 30 draft beers in addition to more than 50 Enomatic wine dispensers. Designer cocktails will be offered as well.
Traveling south on U.S. 41, on the east side, resides the former location of the Tropical Reef Seafood Restaurant—which used to be a favorite stop of ours. Chef Bryan “Bubba” Sutton’s Hot & Crunchy Grouper brought rave reviews from so many. We so missed the restaurant when it closed, and now it has been leveled by bulldozers to make way for a surprising addition to North Naples: Tide Dry Cleaners, which uses reportedly eco-friendly “GreenEarth” technology. Yes, the franchise is created by the same folks who make the detergent we buy at the grocery store. The shop will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and have a 24/7 clothes drop-off window.
Farther south on Tamiami Trail just north of Park Shore Drive and directly across from Northern Trust Bank, more bulldozers have been leveling two rather tired-looking buildings. In their places will rise the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which began at the University of Miami and has been rated either the No. 1 or No. 2 eye surgery facility in the country. Bascom Palmer has been most recently associated with North Collier Hospital and will now have its own building.
One of the largest and most dramatic new buildings in Naples is the sparkling new Robb & Stucky International furniture store. If you’ve missed it—and it is VERY hard to miss—it is on the east side of U.S. 41 (a.k.a. here as Ninth Street North), just north of Fifth Avenue South. The building has two stories of beautiful room displays offering something for every taste. It is definitely worth a visit.
More news, beyond U.S. 41 on Fifth Avenue South: Phil McCabe’s recently completed addition to the Inn on Fifth is open for business—and is really pretty gorgeous. The new facility offers 32 Club Level Suites and offers amenities that include continental breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails and appetizers. Guests will also enjoy a private rooftop sundeck and whirlpool—AND complimentary transportation to and from the airport … or just around town in a full-sized Cadillac Escalade SUV. Pretty nice. Plus, Phil has enticed new retailers to open on the ground floor of the new venue, one of them being Boston Proper, which happens to be a favorite of mine.
And lastly, my search for chef Bubba Sutton and his legendary Hot & Crunchy Grouper is over. He is now head chef at Yabba Island Grill on Fifth Avenue South and the famous grouper dish appears on the menu regularly. Hooray!!