Lizzie Thrasher falls in love with the Island
PHOTO PROVIDED BY LIZZIE THRASHER
Lizzie Thrasher takes a shift at Pine Avenue General Store.
For Lizzie and Mike Thrasher, coming across the Causeway onto the Island was like coming home.
They’d been coming to Fort Myers for years from Great Britain.
“When we saw Anna Maria, we realized what a gem it is, and we wanted to be here, to be a part of life here,” Lizzie says.
Lizzie makes her remarks in a bright shirt and a green apron from behind the counter at Pine Avenue General Store where she likes to wait on customers at least one shift a week.
“Four dollars, 61, please,” she tells a customer, ringing up a sale, giving change and talking to this reporter and a line of customers who want sandwiches.
Dashing from sandwich press to cash register, Thrasher is getting a bit giddy – probably from the Reese’s peanut butter cup she consumed moments before.
“Two million, forty-one,” she says as she hands a man a pack of cigarettes. The crowd in the store starts to laugh.
This is not your average convenience store.
Lizzie, the high-energy dynamo is interacting with the customers in a warm and funny way. Everyone’s having a wonderful time at the general store getting their sandwiches, their cartons of milk. Some one’s going to bake cookies and needs sugar.
The shop has been spiffed up with a whole new kind of merchandise.
“We have wonderful fresh foods and wines,” Thrasher said. “Not great, expensive wines, but good wines, a good value for the money.”
The General Store is the second Thrasher shop on Pine Avenue.
Closer to the city pier is Beach Bum’s where you can rent a bicycle, a kayak, a sailboat, a golf cart or whatever you want to make your vacation more fun. And there are great T-shirts and good souvenirs inside.
Lauren Sato runs the shop.
“Lizzie is wonderful,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have her for my mentor. This is such an opportunity. It’s almost like a one-on-one college degree in business.”
For Sato, this is the chance of a lifetime.
“I’m so thankful,” she said. “I’m learning about branding and marketing. Lizzie’s just so generous with her time.”
Back at the Pine Avenue General Store, Lizzie says she gets to learn a lot about her community.
“You are really at the center of things here,” she said as she chatted with each customer.
And across the street from the store sits a dilapidated old house. Faded paint, broken windows and overgrown plantings crowd each other for space.
“Look at that,” Thrasher gestures across the street. Isn’t it magnificent?”
Where others see a house not only past its prime, but one ready to gently sink into the ground, Thrasher sees a piece of history.
“That house is almost certainly from a 1930s Sears Catalog,” she said.
Lizzie admired the house, which was bought recently by Pine Avenue Restoration.
“I asked Ed Chiles if I could have the cottage if I could move it off the lot,” Thrasher said. “He said sure.”
So Thrasher plans to move the house, at 308 Pine Ave., just down the street to 503 Pine, where Rosedale Cottage, built in 1913, sits.
The Thrashers were in business with Pine Avenue Restoration for a brief time. They all remain cordial, but they’ve gone their separate business ways, with the Thrashers ultimately owning the land at 503 where they envision a park.
“Think of it,” she challenges. “We could have a little historic park right here. This is a chance to preserve our Island history.”
Janet and Gene Aubry are helping Thrasher with the dream of the historic park.
“I found an old Sears Catalog in the library,” Aubry said. “You could get the whole house from the catalog, right down to the door knobs and drawer pulls. It was amazing.”
Aubry said he saw a cottage kit in the catalog for a structure that looks amazingly similar to the little house at 308, but the group continues to search for final confirmation that the house is, in fact, a Sears house.
Builder Dan Gagne has already put in the paperwork for the permit to move the old cottage onto the site of what everyone hopes will be the historic park.
Thrasher said she was a bit of a rebel in her youth.
“I was always concerned about the environment and I threw my energy into environmental causes,” she said.
“I’ve always been concerned about the world around us and what’s inside of us, and that’s one reason I started my organic baby food company.”
Thrasher said she educated herself about business, and the baby food company grew bigger and bigger. The product was sold all over Europe.
Ultimately, she sold the company to a larger company for a great deal of money.
Now she and Mike plan to spend six months of the year on the Island and six months in Great Britain.