Nearly five years after it was closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the Gulfside IGA has been sold to the investors who own the Gibson Inn, the Best Western Apalach Inn and other hospitality-related properties.
The deal closed June 13, with the property at 425 Highway 98 in Apalachicola being sold by Gibbs & Dooley Inc, to White Sands Investment Partners, LLC, for $1.1 million.
The deal was brokered by real estate agent Josh Dooley, the son of store owner Wayne Dooley. He had worked closely with White Sands for the past year to arrange for the deal, which helped keep the 22,000 square foot property from entering into foreclosure.
Steven Etchen, a principal with White Sands, said the new owners have ruled out re-opening the site as a grocery store, and have as their first priority to shore up the property.
“It closed after Hurricane Michael, after they lost power and lost inventory, and it never got back open,” he said. “We didn’t want it to end up at the bank or condemned. We believe it can be useful for the town and for the business. It was a good deal for the sellers, helped them avoid going through a nasty thing with the bank.
“It needs a lot of work, there’s been no power for five years,” Etchen said, citing mold removal and other remediation needed, as well as repairs to the roof and the electrical system. “There’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed.”
Etchen said the new owners have ruled out tearing down the building but what happens next is still on the drawing board.
“We have a burgeoning hospitality business,” he said. “We believe we can use that space for something. We absolutely don’t want to tear it down; we want to save the building.”
Etchen said White Sands is contemplating “a commercial application that is in keeping with hospitality and tourism, our area’s leading economic driver and source of employment.”
Among the ideas under consideration are transforming the space into a site for logistics and preparation for weddings and events that are held at other locations.
“Basically to use it as a logistic hub for special events, for preparation and storage, including for food and beverage,” he said.
This could entail transforming the existing kitchen as a site for commercial food prep for banquets.
He said storage of furniture and other items for the many short-term rentals and hotel rooms that White Sands has also could be part of the mix. This could mean there may be a retail outlet component to the eventual use, since greater discounts on wholesale costs are available to retailers.
“So we could also open the door to the public,” Etchen said. “It wouldn’t be a primary driver but it’s not impossible.”