Tag: Business

Sarah Skelly and Gretchen Carter

Navarre Chamber announces new leaders, postpones gala

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has named its chair of the board and chair-elect for 2021. Sarah Skelly, DO, a physician at Dr. Bawa and Associates, is now serving as chair of the board and Gretchen Carter, owner of Organized Occasions and Grocery Concierge, has been named chair-elect.

“The Chamber is honored to have such wonderful business and community volunteers in our leadership succession,” said Monica Meyer, the outgoing 2020 chair of the board.

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Are you hungry, Navarre?

Currently Navarre has four groceries stores within a five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 98.

That’s about one grocery store to every 11,000 residents. And there’s more on the way with construction and renovation plans expanding Navarre’s options for filling the fridge and pantry.

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Grace Arnealt landscape

Gulf Breeze chamber announces new president

The Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce has announced its selection of a new Chamber President and CEO

Grace Arneault, who recently graduated from the University of West Florida with a Master’s degree in Business Administration, has accepted the position and will start this week. She will work closely with outgoing chamber president, Kristen Rhodes, over the next 30 days to ensure a strong and smooth transition.

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Business Year in Review

The Boulevard changes shape

The movie theater is out. Upscale apartments are in, and there will be a new water tower, too.

Navarre’s largest planned development, The Boulevard, morphed in many ways over the last few months from the original concept.

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual roundtable Aug. 18 to get arms around the new project with broker Kenny Nichols of Vallas Realty, Inc.

Nichols said the developer for the project will be Atlanta-based Branch Properties, coming alongside existing project interests Navarre Beach Crossings, LLC and Mergaster Enterprises, also based in Atlanta.

The project is located in the heart of Navarre at the northwest corner of intersection of Highway 98 and 87. Initially made public in February 2018, conceptual site plans for 34-acres of The Boulevard included a movie theater, retail shops and restaurants all situated in a walkable plaza including a pond with a walking trail. The land was purchased in January 2018 for roughly $5.5 million.

Since then a lot has changed.

First, the movie theater was nixed.

“That is a sector that has been just devastated by COVID. Every theater across the country has been shut down,” Nichols said.

Then, multifamily housing was added to the mix. At the time, those involved in the project indicated the housing would allow it to be profitable while providing a live-work-play-style development Navarre lacks.

COVID-19 impacts tourism, vacation rentals

With fears of COVID-19 mounting, the tourism industry worldwide took a hit. And Navarre was no exceptions.

By late March, businesses were opting to close, and come April the beaches and businesses were ordered to shutter. The state issued an executive order stopping all vacation rentals. Business and industry leaders petitioned against the closures, arguing the economic losses and damage to individual’s financial futures could outweigh the health concerns. But the move went forward.

Vacation rentals reopened in Santa Rosa County May 21 following an announcement by Gov. Ron DeSantis that his office would consider reopening plans on a county-by-county basis.

Santa Rosa had their plan submitted within in hours. The initial reopening of rentals focused on limiting visitation to only specific areas with less local spread of COVID-19. Eventually those restrictions were lifted.

Taken together, the closures and lost traffic meant April was a flat line for much of the tourism industry. But the recovery appeared swift by most metrics. Hoteliers and condos reported occupancy rates were up, and tourism tax collections finished out higher than anticipated: $3.5 million compared to $3.9 million the year prior.

Leonardo lands Navy helicopter contract in Santa Rosa

All U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard helicopter pilots train at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, in the heart of Santa Rosa County.

But when it comes time to service the training copters that make that possible, they are loaded up and shipped off out of state. Retired politician and community leader Don Gaetz said that is foolish.

“It’s wrong for the Navy to have to send those helicopters some place far off to have them maintained and repaired and taken care of,” he said.   

It is about to change.

As 130 new TH-73A helicopters are prepped to replace Whiting’s existing training fleet, a one-of-a-kind industrial project will mean those helicopters need only be shipped outside the gate for maintenance and repair. AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation, better known as Leonardo Helicopters, ceremonially broke ground on a new hangar to fulfill that mission Aug. 5. Leonardo representatives joined Santa Rosa County Commissioners, economic development staff and state and regional leaders to celebrate the project becoming reality.

“This day is just a moment in time but is the culmination of quite literally years of work by a lot of the people who are here today,” County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said.

The project is the first tenant planned for Whiting Aviation Park, an industrial park located just outside NAS Whiting with goal of creating commerce focused on aviation and support of the base’s needs. To create the park, county officials partnered with the U.S. Navy.

Santa Rosa also courted the Triumph Gulf Coast to secure $8.5 million of BP Oil Spill settlement dollars to go toward infrastructure at the industrial park. Gaetz is the chair of the Triumph board, and he spoke favorably of the investment.

“We believe it will be transformative, not just for Santa Rosa County but for all of Northwest Florida,” he said.

Helen Back to become Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

In January, the long vacant Helen Back Again property sold, but speculation as to what would become of the empty restaurant building remained.

Then, the owner of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Wendy Williams announced that they planned to open another location in the building. The new Navarre location will be located right next to Dewey Destin’s on the south side of U.S. Highway 98. Dickey’s in Navarre will be 6,000 square feet and will have the option for live music and movie nights.

A new bakery called The Sweet Shoppe will open inside of Dickey’s location in Navarre. This shop will sell baked goods, ice cream, specialty coffee drinks and milkshakes. Williams filed for a business license for The Sweet Shoppe on Sept. 30.

Progress has been made on the structural repairs in the kitchen, but there is still work to be done on other parts of the restaurant before it will be ready for the grand opening in the spring 2021.

Winn Dixie closes for remodel

Navarre’s Winn-Dixie closed Nov. 1 for a six-month remodel, according to an email from management.

In the email, Regional vice president for Winn-Dixie Shawn Sloan said the grocery store at 8674 Navarre Pkwy. will undergo “significant investment” and a complete remodel.

The store operated business as usual until the closure. An exact date of reopening is not set, but it is expected sometime in May 2021.

“Please know that this decision was not made lightly – we understand the impact this can have on our store associates and customers, even if only for a temporary period,” Sloan wrote.

He said employees were given the opportunity to work at other store locations during the closure.

St. Michael’s Brewery opens, finally

It took five years, but St. Michael’s Brewery opened their doors Oct. 9. The soft opening was met with a line out the door the next day. The crowds remained through the end of the weekend.

“It was extremely busy, well-received,” said Michael Bares, who co-owns the brewery with his wife, Paula.

They opened with four house beers on tap, as well as some guest beers from other breweries in Niceville and Destin. A fifth house beer has been brewed and became available a few weeks later.

The brewery will also offer food on the days a food truck isn’t scheduled. With permits as both a restaurant and a brewery, children will be allowed in the taproom. Dogs can hang out with their owners in the beer garden outside, which is open but still a work in progress, Bares said. The brewery is located about a mile north of U.S. Highway 98 on State Road 87.

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