Two Marco Island business partners have bought the Shops of Olde Marco, a 1.2-acre, four-building parcel they hope to transform into a viable venture after an up-and-down recent history.
It was formerly part of the Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites property, owned since 1999 by Pat and Marcy Kruchten.
Steve Hackman and Ed Cleland's vision is to concentrate on business offices at the complex instead of retail as before.
The trouble with retail at the complex, Hackman said, was that it suffered from little passing traffic, and down the years saw the demise of boutiques, a gourmet store and a furniture accessory store, among other businesses.
Instead, Hackman said, the idea is to woo real estate agents, financial advisers and similar professionals to take up office space at the complex, which he and Cleland are considering renaming The Business Shops of Olde Marco.
At the moment, the complex has a variety of tenants, including a mortgage company, a golf club maker, a deli/restaurant, a sailmaker, a beauty salon, a massage therapist and a manufacturer of scale models.
Also occupying offices are the Marco Island Historical Society and New Life Community Church.
An island favorite, the stand-alone Café de Marco, is also part of the purchase.
When the Kruchtens bought the property, they erected two residential wings containing 51 suites and seven penthouses.
It was originally planned as a hotel, but today operates as a "condotel," Marcy Kruchten said.
This allows owners to rent out their units, which are serviced like hotel rooms.
"We had to buy the shops parcel as part of the entire property," said Kruchten, who agreed with Hackman that its checkered commercial history makes it logical to concentrate on business offices and destination businesses such as the golf store, the sailmaker, the deli and others.
She said she and her husband made renovations, but without great success.
"We couldn't attract enough retail to make it a hub," she said.
In the past, Hackman said, it was a different story.
After the island's development in the mid-1960s, the Shops of Olde Marco was the prime shopping center on the island for many years. But as others developed, the competition became overwhelming, Hackman said.
He said the takeover occurred a few weeks before Hurricane Wilma ripped across the island Oct. 24, creating more than just routine apprehension.
"We went through the purchase without being able to get hurricane insurance," he said.
"We just couldn't get it that quickly."
Wilma left roof and landscape damage, but Hackman and Cleland quickly plowed money into repairs and further renovations.
They included tenting for termites, exterior door replacement, painting and the restoration of a waterfall in the courtyard of the complex.
Four units are now left for rental, Hackman said.
Hackman is a real estate agent formerly from the Midwest. He and his wife, Shirlean, have considered themselves locals for eight years.
The couple also have interests in rental properties they own.
Cleland has a background in insurance, and is also a property developer.
Hackman and Cleland call their company Landman LLC, a combination of their last names.