Businessman Jayme Nabors, who owns several downtown properties, announced he would be purchasing and restoring the historic downtown movie theater, Cinema Plus. The theater, according to Nabors, will be transformed into a 1960s-style venue by the ...
FORT WALTON BEACH — Buccaneer Gift Shop owner Jeff Ring worked in his quiet, cozy antique store surrounded by Coca-Cola memorabilia Tuesday, reminiscing on a time when downtown Fort Walton Beach was in its heyday.
Ring, who opened his shop nearly 50 years ago, said he remembers a time in the '70s when he was the owner of three shops downtown, instead of just one nowadays. He said he also had over 30 employees at the Buccaneer Gift Shop. He now has just three.
“The old Fort Walton was a pretty happening place,” Ring said. “When Destin happened, downtown fizzled out. A lot of businesses relocated and moved on.”
Despite competition with Destin, Sandestin and 30A, however, Ring said downtown Fort Walton Beach is slowly rebuilding itself and becoming more profitable.
This year alone, over five new businesses have popped up along Miracle Strip Parkway. These businesses include restaurants, a hair salon, recording studio and even an axe-throwing attraction.
BOTE, a locally owned paddleboard company, opened its doors at the storefront connected to the Boardroom Pub and Grub at 158 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E. last weekend. CBD American Shaman, a specialty store offering hemp products, will open at 120 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E. later this month.
Businessman Jayme Nabors, who owns several downtown properties, announced he would be purchasing and restoring the historic downtown movie theater, Cinema Plus.
The theater, according to Nabors, will be transformed into a 1960s-style venue by the beginning of 2019. The changes will even include the theater reverting back to its 1960s name — Suds and Cinema.
"We got the opportunity to purchase the theater from the Tringas family and we're looking forward to updating it," Nabors said. "We didn't want to buy the theater and continue in the condition that it's in. We really wanted to work with the current tenant and/or a new tenant to have the opportunity to fix up the theater and bring it back to a condition that fits the master plan and direction we're going in downtown."
The interior and exterior of the cinema will undergo a major overhaul starting in October, according to Nabors. The rotation of movies will change more frequently and a new menu will be offered in the dinner theater. The cinema will likely still have tables and chairs, rather than modern movie-theater-style seats.
Ring said he is excited about the restoration of Cinema Plus because his business often benefits from families visiting his store while waiting for their movie to start.
The Buccaneer owner also said although the new bars and restaurants seem to be thriving in downtown, he hopes to see more retail and specialty shops get added to bring shoppers, not just diners, into the area.
“I know some locals are anti-touristy, but with the amount of people who come through downtown, they want to shop for gifts,” Ring said. "We aren’t getting a lot of people here to stop before they get to the Okaloosa Island area.”
And Ring might just get his wish, according to City Manager Michael Beedie.
Beedie said the city’s master plan, which Nabors referenced, could allow for more development and redevelopment of downtown.
The plan, according to Beedie, will hopefully include re-routing traffic away from Miracle Strip Parkway, which will theoretically tie into the Brooks Bridge replacement project.
Even though the Brooks Bridge project is only in the planning phase and no construction date or funding has been established, Beedie said the city is working ahead to find ways to aid in the growth of downtown.
"It really hinders the development and redevelopment of downtown," Beedie said of the U.S. Highway 98 traffic.
If successful, traffic would instead be rerouted around the north side of the Indian Temple Mound Museum. Beedie said the city would then ask downtown property owners to consider creating a two-story building plan, with the second story of each property reserved for residential living.
"We're hoping that the master plan should be completed by early September or October," Beedie said. "We would then work to revise the land development code and start setting the stage for requiring multi-story mixed use developments so you would have retail or commercial on the bottom and living space at the top."
Ring said although he’s indifferent to the highway project, he wants to make sure his patrons will not have to walk miles to visit his or other stores downtown. He also said he fears re-routing the highway will deter tourists away from the area.
For now, though, Ring said he's looking forward to the completion of the Home2 Suites by Hilton construction across the street, which he hopes will bring more tourists and parking spaces into downtown.
“I’ll ultimately be happy with whatever happens to downtown,” Ring said. “We can adapt. We can be a restaurant. We can be a bar. We can be whatever we need to be. I think as long as the city wants to do the right thing, then it will work out.”
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