FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — As communities and businesses across Florida pick up the pieces of Hurricane Ian, a Hoosier restaurant was also caught in the catastrophic storm.
Hoosiers in Paradise on Fort Myers Beach was damaged by the high winds and flooding. Owners Jacquie Louden and Captain Mark Tavis opened the popular spot almost 10 years ago after moving to the area from Indiana.
Even though the building still stands, they say the inside of the business is a mess.
“Hopefully we can salvage tables and barstools and memorabilia,” Louden said. “It was on the second story and the water level was three feet up in there. That’s how high the surge was.”
So far, the couple hasn’t been allowed on the beach, but received photos of the damage from a friend.
“I cried. That has been our life for 10 years. Those people are our family. That’s what people don’t understand about Fort Myers Beach. It’s a super tight-knit group of people and we are family,” Louden said.
Their home was also damaged, along with their cars and belongings. Thankfully, the couple is safe along with their five cats.
Louden said they rode out the storm on their bed as their house began to flood and part of their roof came off.
“We are up on the bed, and I can’t even describe the sounds of the wind,” Louden said. “It was about one in the morning, and we opened the front door and the water just started gushing. The current going out of our house was unbelievable.”
Louden’s daughter, who lives in Indiana, is looking to help ease the burden by starting a GoFundMe account. She is asking for some “Hoosier hospitality” that her parents shared with so many throughout the years. As of Monday, she raised more than $10,000.
“I am just shocked and blown away by the generosity. You can’t even imagine what this means to us,” Louden said.
The couple doesn’t own the building and isn’t sure what the landlord will want to do, but they hope to reopen it in some form.
“Even if we buy a food truck and go down there and feed the workers for awhile, I will be happy,” Louden said.