Stone mason for new Starbucks recalls early development of Marco

Scott H. Shook

Work continues on the much-anticipated stand-alone Starbucks under construction at the corner of Collier Boulevard and Elkcam Circle.

David Nelson, owner of David Nelson Masonry, a long-time local brick and stone mason, is the brick contractor for the new enterprise that's expected to open this summer.

You could say Nelson is the Naples area's mason to the stars, with much of his handiwork adorning Naples' beachfront mansions and the finer homes in the exclusive neighborhoods in Port Royal.

His work on the new Marco Starbucks is sort of like stepping back in time. Nelson's first work on the island was back in 1974 when he helped his father install keystone on what was then the island's new library. The building is now the Collier County tax collector's office on Winterberry Drive. He was a 14-year-old student at the new Lely High School at the time.

"I remember helping my dad work on it," Nelson said. "We put the stone on the new library. That's my first memory of working on Marco Island."

It was the island's second library, replacing the original tiny library that was located on Bald Eagle Drive, just south of the Snook Inn.

Nelson recalls how barren the south end of the island was at the time.

"There weren't any houses," he said. "No houses at all. That was no-man's land out there. I remember one day the sand was blowing across the road. It looked like a snow drift. Having only been down here from Michigan for a year at the time, it reminded me of how snow blows across the road -- only it was sand," Nelson recalled with a laugh.

As a 14-year-old, Nelson couldn't understand why the Mackle Brothers, the original developers of the island, would choose to construct a library in such a remote location.

"Man that was out in the middle of nowhere," Nelson said. "I'm 14 years old and I'm thinking to myself, 'What are they doing building this out in the middle of nowhere?'"

When father Barney Nelson's masonry work brought him to the Marco/Isles of Capri area, Nelson would hop a bus to get to his father's side.

"I used to take the school bus and help him after school," Nelson said. "I asked around and said, 'What bus number will get me out there?' I got on the bus after school and got dropped out here then rode home with dad after work."

Nelson later worked on the island, laying block during the boom of the late 1970s and early 80s.

"I laid block on The Charter Club of Marco Beach, Shipp's Landing -- pretty much all of the condos along the beach. I worked on the four towers at South Seas when the union was still on the island."

As Nelson's career and reputation blossomed, his work on Marco Island lessened.

"It seems like we hit it early," Nelson said of his work on the island. "But if you look around, you can see there's not a lot of stone work on the island."