On Thursday, Dec. 1, the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce celebrated the post-hurricane reopening of the Ashton Kirchner Group of Keller Williams Realty at the office’s original location, 2440 Palm Ridge Rd. #5, which first opened in September 2020.
Several inches of water had flooded the slightly raised office, but fortunately Chris Kirchner, real estate agent and co-owner along with partner Sarah Ashton, was able to mitigate the damage days after Hurricane Ian hit on Sept. 28.
“As a result, we never had any mold, and we just have some rust spots on the floor from where the metal got wet,” said Ashton. “Chris was also instrumental in working with our landlord to get an electrician out to the building to certify the safety of the wiring, so electric came back a week or so ago. “We do not have air conditioning at this point as the compressor was flooded. We are fortunate we are going into winter so having the doors open is sufficient to keep the office comfortable.”
“What a pleasure welcoming Sarah and Chris to the growing number of recovered, reopened businesses,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer, who has been at the forefront of island recovery efforts. “Our goal right now is to celebrate everything positive that points toward a return to normalcy.”
Since its pandemic-time opening, Sanibel’s Keller Williams Realty office has grown from the two principals to include an administrative staffer and three additional agents. Real estate services are in demand since the hurricane, says Ashton.
“Property owners are looking for guidance as to what are the options for them going forward,” she added. “We are getting a number of clients asking about the benefit of remodeling their property and then selling or just selling now. It is a very personal decision, and each situation is unique. This is going to take a long time to sort out and to put the pieces back together again, and we want to be able to help.”
The office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. “Folks can stop in for a water or some snacks, or to use the WiFi, or just to chat,” Ashton said. “Sure, we can talk real estate too, but for right now we all need to know we are not alone in this journey, and if we can help in some way, all the better.”
“How to rebuild their homes, offices, and storefronts is the most difficult quandary facing both residents and businesses these days,” said Lai. “It’s comforting to see experts like the Keller Williams team resurface to help untangle all the red tape and uncertainty.”
“The chamber is critical right now,” said Ashton. “They have done an especially good job in trying to communicate resources and processes to help get our island businesses up and running. The chamber is, as they always do under John Lai’s leadership, partnering with agencies and organizations to keep this situation at the front of folks’ minds so the help doesn’t stop. Our business community is one of the reasons people love living here, and we need the businesses back so people will want to come back.”
ABOUT SANIBEL & CAPTIVA ISLANDS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. With more than 460 active Chamber members from both islands and businesses from Lee and Collier counties, the Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. The Francis P. Bailey, Jr., Chamber Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Sanibel Island and welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers in the state. It is open 365 days a year and provides comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, and where to stay, shop, and dine. The chamber website sanibel-captiva.org receives more than 1.3 million website visits per year.