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Shell Factory officials reflect on big year, promise bigger things to come in 2014

December 30, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

With double-digit growth across the board in 2013, Shell Factory officials look forward to an even bigger year upcoming.

With a total renovation of the property and many new features, the Shell Factory has continued to make the transition from a tourist to family destination where there's always something happening or about to happen.

Rick Tupper, marketing director at the Shell Factory, said they have held onto their 15 percent increase in revenue.

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The Shell Factory is located on U.S. 41 in North Fort Myers.

Among the new attractions this winter season are camel and pony rides and the butterfly garden at the Nature Park, which began late in 2013 and has added another dimension to the facility.

The renue also added a Sunday Country Day which features a live band and line dancing, and the Del Prados, a local doo-wop band, has played there quite a bit and has gained a following.

Tupper said the biggest accomplishment was completing the improvements around the property.

"We made improvements to the store. We added the kite store (and the proving ground nearby). Our jewelry department has been upgraded with a gemstone and pearl area," Tupper said. "We even expanded the Holiday House to include more ornaments."

Tupper said they also completely redid Dogbones Cafe, a dog-friendly cafe, which has done really well, where improvements were made to the front park, with the mini golf course reworked and new bumper boats, to bring everything up to date.

The biggest success story was the Nature Park, which saw 31 percent growth last year. The park brought in some new species of animals, as well as continued its long-standing practice of using its foundation to bring in school children on field trips on buses paid for by the foundation.

"We brought a eurasian snow owl, several new pakas, we have the butterfly garden and started a rain forest exhibit," Tupper said. "We also brought in lemurs and had a contest to name them."

Tupper said the park will look for new animals in 2014 on top of the 360 it has now and plans on developing new habitats for them.

The Shell Factory was a busy place, starting in January with Gumbo Fest, which brought in 3,000 people, continued with the Taste of North Fort Myers, and concluded with Goldenfest and Weinerfest, a tribute to dogs big and small.

"We also did some smaller events that were more cost effective. We had a Mother's Day event, St. Patrick's Day, smaller things that worked for us," Tupper said.

The plan is to increase the number of events in 2014, including a kite-flying day and a dock-dog qualifying event that will take place in late January, making for one of the best seasons in the Shell Factory's history.

Tupper said the marketing strategy is working as now people locally are getting the word that the Shell Factory is open for them.

"We love tourists and snowbirds, but we're marketing to those who are in the community and come throughout the year," Tupper said. "When people who haven't been here for a while come back and see you can bring the family, have a beer here, the wife can shop, the kids can play in the park and everyone can enjoy the Nature Park, it's more cost effective to come here than the bigger parks."



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