Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Chickee And The Empty Suits: A Story About Development

Once upon a time there was a place called Chickee On The Beach. People came from near far to linger there. But that was a long time ago. The Chickee is no more.
The Chickee was a down-to-earth eatery couched amid fancy condos to the North, the ocean to the South and surrounded by trees with big leaves, which made the Chickee a cool, shady cove on white sand. It was located in financially well-heeled Naples, Florida. But the people who lived around the Chickee were friendly retirees and welcomed one and all for chitchats around the bar or the next table over.

Once upon a time coming to The Chickee was a tradition. Floridians would bring family here. Children would build castles with the help of mommy and daddy and go rest in the shade at The Chickee and have their favorite soda. And often these families would bring family visitors from out of town to The Chickee; so that you could easily see a family eating lunch that covered two or more generations.

Retired and transplanted Floridians would walk the white sands to get in their exercise then take a break and have a couple of cold ones under shady trees there.

Some tourists from countries far away made it a tradition to come to The Chickee each year: They came from colder countries like Germany and Switzerland and eastern block countries. They would come in January, staying for a week or so next door at The Vanderbilt Hotel. They would eat breakfast there and, in the early afternoon, walk just a few feet to The Chickee to dine and drink and make merry by the ocean, talking loudly and singing patriotic songs and familiar songs in the language of their country, waving glasses of beer in unison as they did so.
Like the others, the daddy would take long walks by the ocean and rest at The Chickee, chomping down a grouper sandwich and gulping down a cold one. Now, the daddy has a crazy habit of writing in small cafes and on counter stools in bars. So the daddy met many of the tourists from the cold countries, the ones who sang songs at the bar in their native tongue. And here's what would happen:

After the group finished their songs with the glass-waving ritual, they would order another round for everyone at the bar, and the daddy would thank them. Then, before he knew it, they would be singing again and the daddy would be back at his writing. Before it was over, the daddy would have 3 0r 4 beers by his notepad. Sometimes, when he would get up to leave, these happy strangers would hug him for seemingly no reason and, according to the bartender, collect the 3 or 4 beers that were in my area after he was gone.

A good time was had by all. But that was before the empty suits came.

The empty suits came and saw that The
Chickee was doing a brisk business and was respected in Naples. But it saw something else: that The Chickee was sitting in a prime location for a building of-- guess what? condos.

The empty suits reasoned that, by tearing down The Chickee and The Vanderbilt Hotel, they could erect a huge building with large units of condos. They thought, "Who wouldn't want to buy a condo on the ocean in rich Naples, Florida?" So the empty suits bought the property, and they tore down The Vanderbilt and The Chickee. The daddy was there when The Chickee closed and sent the story to a local newspaper (The Naples Daily News). And the daddy wrote a poem about the closing.

The daddy came back to the site of The Chickee a few days ago. He saw a huge, shiny building with condos that went up at least eight floors. He saw workers busying themselves at the front entrance, leveling the ground to get it ready to lay grass over it. But, as poetic justice would have it, the economy turned sour and Floridians were no longer buying condos at 3 to 4 millions a unit, even if it was by the ocean.

The empty suits asked, "Who wouldn't buy a condo on the beach in rich Naples, Florida?"

The answer? "Anyone negatively affected by a big downturn in the economy, which was just about everyone."

So the daddy saw condos in a prime location sitting empty, like the displeased empty suits that erected them.

The daddy stood on the site of what was The Chickee, a prosperous business that facilitated positive, engaging experiences and loving memories for so many for so long, a place whose memories evoke white sand, cool beers, warm conversation among family and friends, new and old.

He stood silent for a few minutes...Then he heard a distant wind come closer. It seemed to circle the condos before hovering in the sky just above the place where the Chickee's bench tables and bar used to be.

He closed his eyes; and, for a few seconds, he could hear the families talking at bench tables, groups of women laughing loudly and singing gregariously at the bar in their native tongue. He could smell that unique mixture of people, grouper sandwiches and Miller Lite Beer. Then the sounds ceased, the smell went away with the wind hovering just above the bench tables and the bar. The wind left as quickly as it came.

Once upon a time there was a place called Chickee On The Beach. People came from near and far to linger there. But that was a long time ago. The Chickee is no more.


Nate said...

Great story MacDaddy,

I love how you said everyone came together at the Chickee, you never know what can happen with so many people around can you.

At least a good time was had by all at the chickee!

That's just to bad the empty suits had to come and ruin it for everyone.

But I'm sure there will be another spot everuone can meet in the near future, folks always seem to figure out where the new hot spots are going to be.

The Empty suits can't break our spirit, right MacDaddy!

Anonymous said...

Yeah we had some wonderful times at the the seagulls chasing after you and your french fries! Good memories. Maybe you should write a follow-up story for the Naples News and find out where all the patrons go now.

rainywalker said...

Each of us could likely tell a Chickee story if we enjoy simple things and places. Places you could smell family in the air and Hemingway could see a book. They can still be found in out of the way places the suits have not been. But like the sands in the hour glass they are fleeting.

Anonymous said...

Mrd. McDaddy, Did all this really happen? It soundslike a short story.

MacDaddy said...

"The Empty suits can't break our spirit, right MacDaddy!"
Nate: You got that right!

Anon: What a time we had! It will never be forgotten.

Rainywalker: Yes, it's a classic tale that the empty suits call progress, which stretches the definition of progress and logic to me.

"Mrd. McDaddy, Did all this really happen? It soundslike a short story."
Anon2: Yes, it all really did happen. Yes, there was a Chickee. Yes, it closed more than 2 years ago. And, yes, there are Floridians and former visitors who still lament its demise. But like Rainywalker says, it's a story that almost anyone could tell. Blessings.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

The microcosm that cannibalized the macrocosm...

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, When we were down over xmas and NYs we saw building after building of empty or 1/2 empty condos and some 1/2 finished with work stopped. All along the ICW between Venice and Port Charlotte Harbor it was the same thing.
Well, at least it puts the brakes on developers moving into our area around Englewood and putting up condos on and around our place.
I'm sorry your watering hole and all around good place is closed. Poke around a little and you'll probably find another. . . I'd bet you already have.
Have a great time down there in warm paradise.

Anonymous said...

I think we all have a "Chickee" in our pasts; my, my-how lives parallel each other! Mine is called "Fort Smith, Arkansas", or more specifically, 901 North 11th Street in that town. Our rather large family of self-employed home and business owners were revered far and wide; during the "other" Great Depression, 901 North 11th Street was known as a place to get a smile, a loan and a good meal any time of the day or night; during the 40's, it was the favorite hang-out for servicemen on leave from the armed services during WWII; during the 50's and 60's it was known as "THE party house", and throughout all of these "eras", that spot on the corner of 11th and (I believe) "I" streets was a hangout for the "who's who" of jazz and black music. Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Cootie Williams, George Hudson, Count Basie, Ellington-you name them-either stayed there or ate/played music/gambled there in the great room/living/dining room. Nowadays, there's only three or four of us that live there; the oldest is the last of her line-she's 98 and still "with it" (as she would say). She goes back two or three months at a time to check on her place and see those who still remember. We all lament what once was: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Lorraine Hansberry and all the others...

901 North 11th Street is just an address now; the grand home that used to occupy that space was razed in 1975, after its last occupant, Mrs. Mildred E. Stewart Scott passed away (my grandmother). A Suzuki dealership sits there now. To look at the site, you would not even think of what a rich history that lot had throughout the whole of the 20th Century, or who lived, loved and passed through there. It's just like your "Chickee" don't miss your water until the water is no more.

Thank you once again, Mac, for bringing me along for the mental ride.

James(happy-sad memories)

MacDaddy said...

What a fascinating, bittersweet story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sagacious: Yes, I found another watering hole. But none can ever replace The Chickee.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

talk about the trail of tears

happy black history month

Verna Monson said...

I like to think that if the world continues another 500 years, that there will be places where one can still go and be utterly alone and at peace. If you want to support the idea of preserving beautiful spaces for future generations, and protect them from development, check out the Nature Conservancy. When I made more money than I make now, I gave to their organization. The URL is

Christopher said...

They say you can't stop progress.

This isn't progress: it's economic elitism. Destruction of a way of life.

When I tell folks I was born and raised in San Francisco, they assume I come from money. Nothing can be further from the truth. There was a time when regular people could afford to live in the City by the Bay, get a job, raise a family and buy a house. That's what my father did and he wasn't rich.

Now, when I go back and I walk the streets South of Market, a one time industrial area of coffee roasters, printing shops and food importers, those businesses are all gone and in their place are odd-looking condos constructed with what looks like scrap metal. BMWs and Mercedes are parked on the streets and the businesses include Starbucks and Trader Joe's.

A tiny, 450sq foot, one bedroom condo lists for $350,000. A larger, 800sq foot, two bedroom lists for $800,000. Are they serious?

Anonymous said...

They paved paradise for a parking lot. TA

MacDaddy said...

TA: It's funny how we tear up paradise-- tear down our history and then go to Europe or some "exotic" country to visit people who hold their history and their ancestors as sacred.

Anonymous said...

This story kind of remindes me of an old "Twilight Zone" episode in which the people at a warehouse were fired to make room for a robot that could do the work in the name of production.

All in the name of production. It's good to know that it backfired on the investors.


Anonymous said...

Friendships were made and we all looked out for eachother. I miss the Chichee Bar and the beach. Too bad they had to pave over paradise and put up a parking lot/ empty nest. Yep I know progress but what about the cute fishing community. We do need a pier at this end of town...wait don't get up in arms... it would be nice to try to bring back the good ol days so the young people and old would be allowed the value of catching a fish and having it for dinner. And actually spending the day at the beach and fishing and thinking. Yep I had to do a little old time deal. Good times were had by all and I am happy to see a few of my buddies from the beach bar and the sunsets to never ever be forgotten.