Restaurant news: Immokalee distillery opens, Wisteria Tea Room turns 10 in Fort Myers

Everglades Distillers opened in Immokalee, and the Wisteria Tea Room in Fort Myers turned 10 this month.

Andrew Atkins
Naples Daily News

A distillery recently opened in Immokalee, and a Fort Myers tea house is celebrating a milestone this month.

Read more in this week’s restaurant news. 

Everglades Distillers opens in Immokalee

Jose Calderon, owner of Everglades Distillers in Immokalee talks about his brewing process during a tour of his facility in Immokalee, Thursday, July 8, 2021.

Immokalee has a new distillery. 

Jose Calderon, a 55-year-old Immokalee native and Army veteran, opened Everglades Distillers June 18 with his wife and co-owner Adriana Rojas. Calderon said it’s the first distillery in Collier County. 

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“The product is very much oriented to a Florida and Everglades product,” Calderon said. “Everything we did took that into consideration, so we could not only tap into an existing tourist industry but to also help promote it.” 

Everglades Distillers opened its tasting room at 160 Airpark Blvd., Immokalee, near the Immokalee Regional Airport.

Everglades Distillers' Jalapeño Vodka is displayed inside the distillery's tasting room on Thursday, July 9, 2021, in Immokalee.

The company, which currently produces a line of vodkas with plans to branch out to whiskey this winter, sources ingredients such as sugar cane, honey and flavorings locally. Its vodka lineup comprises a base, unflavored vodka in addition to jalapeno, orange passionfruit, watermelon-pineapple and cucumber-lemon flavors. 

After two decades in the military, Calderon said he did contract work and business development overseas before he decided it was time to develop a business for himself. 

Calderon returned to his hometown. He was intrigued by the idea of making his own alcohol and having his own brand, so he and his wife looked into it and began studying distilling, bartending and flavor blending. 

The licensing process took roughly two-and-a-half years. The distillery’s tasting room is, so far, the only place folks can snag a bottle, but Calderon is working to secure a distributor for local stores in the next few months. 

Now that the years of planning and preparation are behind him, Calderon feels a mix of emotions about his business. After so much time, he hopes it succeeds. 

“It’s a little bit of relief, a little bit of pride and a little bit of fear,” he said.

But so far, customer feedback has been positive.

“They’re really happy something like this exists,” Calderon said. 

Wisteria Tea Room turns 10

The Wisteria Tea Room turned 10 in July 2021.

Bobbie Schwartz never thought she’d be here. 

She and her husband, Philip, didn’t have any restaurant experience when they opened the Wisteria Tea Room at 2512 Second St., Fort Myers in July 2011. 

Ten years later, the couple must be doing something right: Schwartz said the shop, which offers a robust selection of teas and food to match, has had a record summer.

“We want it to be about people connecting with each other,” she said. “It has turned out to be all plus more of what I hoped it to be.”

The Wisteria Tea Room turned 10 in July 2021.

The Wisteria Tea Room operates under a specific motto: “English tea with a Southern flair.” 

It’s why you’ll find more than sandwiches and scones and little cakes. You’ll find mini mac and cheese, quiche wedges, miniature reubens and their own take on charcuterie: “jarcuterie,” in which the assortment is reimagined in small glass jars thanks to the mind of Chef Matt DeVisme.

Ten years, Schwartz said, has meant being part of numerous special events and milestones, employing amazing people that became friends, and helping others be successful. All it took to get there was some encouragement for something she never really intended to do. 

A friend had suggested to Schwartz that she should open a tea room, and Schwartz said she “looked at her like she was crazy.” 

“My husband, who is very entrepreneurial-minded — and he has never been afraid to do anything — he really pushed me,” she said. “He really was the one who made it happen, because I’m a scaredy-cat. I don’t like doing things I don’t know how to do.” 

But she stepped outside her comfort zone.

“I never, ever expected the tea room to be as successful as it is,” Schwartz said. “We’re happy we made it.” 

Andrew Atkins writes about food and features for the Naples Daily News. Contact him via email at andrew.atkins@naplesnews.com. To support work like Andrew's, please consider subscribing: https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/