Shop Talk: Chico's is celebrating; Island Cafe is open for business

Island Cafe owner Bill Baumer with diners. The cafe is open every day until Christmas, with innovative menu items planned. Chris Curle Eagle Correspondent

Island Cafe owner Bill Baumer with diners. The cafe is open every day until Christmas, with innovative menu items planned. Chris Curle Eagle Correspondent

Here’s a suggestion for fine supermarkets on Marco. How about setting up reading rooms somewhere in the stores for shoppers who insist on clogging the aisles while reading every word of the fine print on the label of each item?

We know it’s smart to read the labels, so as not to be duped by the “Only 40 Calories” headline, which when read carefully means 40 per ounce in a five pound bag of chocolate treats.

Sometimes, however people who are not exactly speed readers can make a morning of aisle cruising, with stops every four minutes for a leisurely look at the contents of a loaf of seven-grain bread. Must they identify each grain by name, country of origin and how much longer you’ll live if you eat one?

So a comfy reading lounge off to the side might let the food readers relax, library-style, while other customers can breeze through, assuming without independent research that “two percent” milk has roughly two percent fat content. Just a thought.

Chico’s celebrates new look, 10 years in town

Chico’s on Marco has gotten all dressed up to celebrate its 10th anniversary on the island.

“We will be having specials and events all this month,” says store manager Chris Rusch.

“We hope people will check out our new and improved look. We renovated and updated our store, moved things around and repurposed some display cases. We have new furniture with warmer colors, and new fixtures and lighting.

“Maybe the most important improvement is that we’ve put mirrors in the dressing rooms. Formerly, they were outside the fitting rooms, but now we have mirrors inside and outside. And the fitting rooms now have wallpaper and new lighting.”

Chico’s national recognition and its location across from Marco’s major hotels is important in drawing a varied and loyal clientele.

“We know our local customers well,” Rusch says. “We also have good traffic from the hotels and time-shares. It’s good mix.”

Fort Myers-based Chico’s FAS Inc. operates 1,221 specialty stores in 48 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to a recent Naples Daily News article. The firm also is buying the Boston Proper chain of stores.

Chico’s is at 599 South Collier Blvd. in the Marco Walk plaza. Call (239) 642-4097.

Island Cafe eschews an ‘off-season’ hiatus

While some of Marco’s places to wine and dine close for large chunks of August and September every year, at least one white-tablecloth restaurant is open every day from now until at least Christmas. It’s the Island Cafe at 918 North Collier Blvd.

After a three-week break in June, owners Bill and Susan Baumer are going full speed.

“So many restaurants are closed at this time of year; we try to do the opposite.” Bill says. “We typically stay open while the other restaurants close and not only that, we usually were closed on Sundays and Mondays, but now we’re open every night.

“That just fills a need. We used to get five or six calls, (for Sunday reservations); it’s not much, but it (shows) enough people want to go out on Sundays so we decided to stay open then.

“Also, I have people who want to work. If they want to work, and in this economy, let them work, come in and we’ll put you to work. They don’t care if there are only ten dining here, the servers are happy to come in and do their jobs and the cooks too, everyone wants to work. So we do our part and give them the chance.”

The Baumers and Chef Fred Braun are putting their creativity where their menus are, starting with a September Shrimp Special, seven different entrees using shrimp different way.

The goodies include Shrimp Diablo, with a cream and mustard cause, Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Diane New Orleans style and more.

“These are nice shrimp dishes, for only $16 including a salad,” Bill notes. “ And it’s offered all night long, not an early bird special.”

The Island Cafe brain trust has other plans for special dishes in the coming weeks and months.

“We want to do a wild game theme. With different types of bison and ostrich and rattlesnake appetizers and really good food prepared by an accomplished chef, we’ll surprise people. We’ll have a trio in there so that people can try a taste of three different things.”

If you go and have a chance to say hello to the cafe’s new sous chef, do so. He is Dennis Friedhoff, formerly of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Dennis, who is from Germany, will be helping out in the Island Cafe kitchen several nights a week.

For reservations, call (239) 394-7578.

Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail chris@chriscurle.com.

Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: don@donfarmer.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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