Behind The Chic

The People of Sanibel

Our most recent summer collection was inspired by Florida’s breathtaking Sanibel Island—the place where it all began for Chico’s, more than 35 years ago. Several noteworthy spots there served as the site of the photos shoots that yielded the images included in our latest print mailer.

During our time there, we were honored to meet three amazing individuals who live and/or work on Sanibel and its surrounding islands and love it as much as we do. They generously assisted us in securing locations and helping to make our shoot a great success. We’re pleased to introduce you to them, and to share their stories.

Rob Wells Jr., Co-Owner with his wife, Phyllis, of Cabbage Key & Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant

A beloved Florida destination owned by the Wells family for more than 40 years, Cabbage Key is a 100-acre island paradise located 8 miles north of Sanibel and Captiva islands and across from marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway in Pine Island Sound. Consisting of an historic six-room inn, seven charming guest cottages, and a picturesque open-air restaurant, Cabbage Key draws visitors from around the world to enjoy the “Old Florida” ambiance of this stunning property.

Chico’s: What motivated your and Phyllis’s decision to move here and purchase Cabbage Key?

RW: “I had always dreamed of owning my own company, and if my love of the outdoors (fishing, boating, etc.) could be incorporated into a business on the water, buying the ‘old lodge’ and marina made sense. Fortunately, the former owners, Bob and Joanna Beck, wanted to sell and were willing to work with Phyllis and me—two fairly naïve educators from North Carolina with big dreams.”

Chico’s: What pastimes do guests enjoy on Cabbage Key?

RW: “Both day visitors and overnight guests are enamored with the special feel of our island. If they have their own boat, they can visit neighboring islands and beaches, as well as fish and participate in other water sports. We also rent out a few small boats and kayaks. And there are walking trails and native wildlife to observe. Many of our guests just enjoy the peace and quiet and the opportunity to read, paint, or simply relax.”

Chico’s: Why do you think that Cabbage Key has become such a popular destination?

Cabbage Key presents a personal experience, internalized in many different ways. There is a mystical aspect of the island that is hard to explain. —Rob Wells Jr.

RW: “Many people come here for the fun of a busy, happy spot where they can bring their friends and family for a good time. We have enjoyed seeing generations of families who feel that this is their special place.”

Chico’s: I know that your and Phyllis’s two sons, Rob Wells III and Ken Wells, are also involved in the family business. What future plans do you have for it?

RW: “Phyllis and I are retired now and living on Cabbage Key in the hopes that our continued support will help our family preserve one of the few special places left on Earth.”

To learn more about Cabbage Key, click here.

To learn more about Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant, click here.

Captain Brian and Barbara Garcia, Producer, Chico’s FAS, Inc., headed to the photo shoot for our latest print mailer.

Captain Brian Holaway, owner of Captain Brian On the Water boat tours

Visitors to Sanibel who want to get a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent natural beauty of the surrounding area won’t want to miss booking one of Captain Brian Holaway’s extensive boat tours, which are tailored to such specific interests as nature and shelling, photography, and local history and also offer sunrise or sunset cruises. Launching off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida, the tours include Cayo Costa State Park, North Captiva Island, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, and Pine Island.

Chico’s: When did you launch your business?

BH: “I first started doing private charters in 1999. The name of my boat is MUSPA—after the last group of Native American Calusa people of Southwest Florida, who moved to Cuba in the mid-1700s.”

Chico’s: What do your boat tours encompass, and how long do they last?

BH: “My goal is to provide an overall experience and appreciation for the waters, islands, shells, plants, marine life and wildlife, history, and people of this unique area. I offer small, private boat charters—usually four hours in length. I am a certified Florida Master Naturalist, a licensed United States Coast Guard Captain, an avocational photographer, and a seashell enthusiast. I’m passionate about the history, people, and culture of Southwest Florida.”

Chico’s: What is your favorite spot on Sanibel?

BH: “It’s hard to pick just one! I enjoy the area just west of Bowman’s Beach at sunset, dinner at the Lazy Flamingo restaurant, exploring the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and visiting the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.”

To learn more about Captain Brian On the Water boat tours, click here.

Crystal Mansell, SHRM-CP, FCLRP, Human Resources Generalist, Administrative Services, City of Sanibel

Having worked for the City of Sanibel for nearly 19 years, Human Resources Generalist Crystal Mansell is the City’s special events expert and an excellent source on the scenic island’s statistics and most captivating attractions.

Chico’s: How many people visit Sanibel annually?

CM: “Although our annual permanent resident population is approximately 6,700, the tourist season population swells to approximately 36,000.”

Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island

Chico’s: Why do you think the island resonates with so many people?

CM: “Sanibel Island is a world-class vacation destination renowned for pristine, shell-strewn beaches with gentle lapping waves from the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It provides an unforgettable backdrop for a romantic getaway, family vacation, destination wedding, or a relaxing day at the beach. Sanibel is also home to the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the iconic and historic Sanibel Lighthouse. As a 17-square-mile sanctuary island with 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, more than 8,200 acres of protected and environmentally sensitive lands, and an average temperature of 74 degrees, Sanibel is the perfect place for vacationers and eco-tourists of all ages.”

Chico’s: In your opinion, what are some of the must-do/must-see activities and sites on Sanibel?


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