As New Amelia Island Businesses Open, Others Close Elsewhere

New small businesses have opened in Fernandina Beach despite the pandemic, including microbreweries and restaurants. Plus new hotels are to open soon.

— Steve’s Marketplace —

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

Something unusual is happening around Nassau County, FL and it’s as hard to figure out as a John Grisham novel.            

Small businesses are opening here with the zest of azaleas blooming in springtime. Two first-class microbreweries have recently opened in Fernandina Beach, as well as several new hotels and numerous restaurants. 

Yet in other places, small businesses are closing in droves – amid a global pandemic, mind you. Especially leisurely bars and hotels and restaurants. Go figure.    

On top of it all, people are moving to our area at a faster pace than the incoming tide on Egans Creek. Property prices are zooming here, as demand overwhelms the supply — like losses exceed wins for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

And, meanwhile, our normally robust tourism industry has absorbed a full-frontal hit from the virus. Still, our tourism-related businesses have at worst treaded water, despite some leaks of layoffs.  

Most towns would be thrilled to have new restaurants or hotels or shops opening there. The latest addition here is probably the most impressive – Mocama Brewing Company, which took two years to complete. 

Just down South Eighth Street, in the old Fred’s store building, First Love Brewery is off to lovely start, with delicious pizza and tantalizing brews. Scattered around downtown, located in the sites of former businesses, are new restaurants the Boat House, Area 51 Grill, Garden Street Bistro and Akari Sushi.  

Nearby, there is a new miniature golf course, Gregor MacGregor Mini Links, which serves food and cocktails on a two-story wooden deck. A popular new downtown shop is the Amelia Island Soapery, which offers handmade soaps and scrubs and lotions. 

The new hotels on Amelia Island include a Holiday Inn Express, a Courtyard by Marriott/Springhill Suites (that are adjoined), and the quaint Sea Cottages of Amelia. 

Other areas are not so fortunate. According to statistics from the World Economic Forum, cities depending on tourism have been the hardest hit (this excludes most of Florida, fortunately). The cities with the biggest losses of small businesses are: New Orleans, down 45 percent; San Francisco Bay Area, down between 33 to 49 percent; Boston, down 33 percent; Austin/San Antonio/Houston with a 30 percent loss. Within Florida, Jacksonville has suffered an 18 percent decline in small businesses, with Tampa and Miami both at around 22 percent. 

In the New Jersey/New York area, job losses have been as heavy as the accents. Nearly one-third of small businesses in New Jersey have closed in 2020, according to a newspaper report.

“It’s really bad,” says Eileen Kean with the National Federation of Independent Business. “And without the federal dollars coming into New Jersey, the Main Street stores and other establishments are not going to make it through the winter.” 

According to Yelp, the restaurants in New Jersey listed as temporarily closed on the business-review website are in peril. Of these restaurants, 61 percent are closed permanently. And nearly half of the retail/nightlife businesses in Jersey marked as “closed” are permanently shut down, according to Yelp. 

In other words, small businesses need help in a lot of places. We are not seeing it here, but we are very, very unusual. Let’s be grateful for being unusual. 


Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas

Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. He has published a book of his favorite columns, “All About Money,” which is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. His columns also appear in newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, as well as on his website at He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected]