Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
The Renaissance began in Italy and spread through Europe some 600 years ago. This period of enlightenment and revival delivered us from the Middle Ages.
Most people know this. It is concretely documented in the history of civilization.
Something of this nature (albeit on a lesser scale in size or significance) is occurring here, but few realize it. It is a renaissance of economic revival along forgotten, written-off-for-dead South Eighth Street in Fernandina Beach.
“The Sunrise of a New Day”
South Eighth Street is being delivered from an industrial corridor into one with arts, cuisine and flair. Its metamorphosis is far from complete, but following a rip-roaring path.
While Fernandina Beach does not have much Italian persuasion (except for a few restaurants), we have a rich history of being ruled under the flags of eight different countries. We are like bubbles in a melting pot.
So, we’ll have to leave off the country persuasion in this example. However, there have been plenty of smart, visionary, entrepreneurial people working to redefine South Eighth Street into a proud passageway entering downtown Fernandina Beach.
The changes are as noticeable as the sunshine.
Most recently, a microbrewery is being planned for the old Trawick Tile & Stone building on the corner of Gum Street. A new brewery will fit in there like a tailored glove.
Microbreweries have keyed the economic resuscitation of many blighted areas – like King Street in Jacksonville, or downtown Asheville, NC.
Other new businesses have sprung up like the yellow flowers adorning the medians on South Eighth Street. There are superb health-related businesses like Therapeutic Solutions of Amelia, or Holistic Wellness Center; there are top-shelf restaurants like Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen or The 801 Kitchen and Bar; and let’s not overlook the trendy BuyGO gourmet grocery store or the delicious Aloha Bagel & Deli location.
Other downtrodden sites have been cleaned up and dressed up, like the new Eight Flags Autosports revving up the economic engine at the old H&H Tire Center, and the cutting-edge office complex, Amelia Suites, has been wildly successful.
Longstanding, successful businesses like T-Rays Burger Station or Cormier Hair Studio or Amelia Auto Mart or Halftime Sports Bar have survived the tests of time. Meanwhile, a new Verizon store along with the Palm III Realty office are dramatic improvements to what preceded them.
Just to think, South Eighth Street was avoided by the resorts on the south end, as they drove guests to the enchanted historic district in Fernandina Beach. Not anymore.
The street’s revival is reviving interest. More good things are out on the horizon, like the sunrise of a new day.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a chartered retirement planning counselor for a regional U.S. firm who lives on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His business columns also appear in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his personal website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book of his favorite columns from the last 20 years, “All About Money.” The book is available in local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].