We are new here. Four years ago my wife and I were in search of a quiet place to begin retirement. We were both born in small-town Michigan but have spent the last 37 years in suburban Baltimore, Maryland. Big city to small town was our goal.
The search led us to Apalachicola. This town checked off our boxes: warmer than the Middle Atlantic area and Michigan, close to but not on beaches, incredible water views and loads of history and no daily traffic or gridlock to fight.
Our original expedition took us to the northern Atlantic Florida and southern Georgia coastlines. We did this for three years and finally gave up when the lack of authenticity of many of the locations became evident. We would be moving to areas where Northerners have colonized!
It was time to look elsewhere and this led us to Apalachicola. Our first 30 minutes in town produced good vibes so we sought out a realtor with the instructions that we were looking for a condo-like property that could be rented out to vacationers when we were not staying there ourselves. This was important because we were still working up north four years ago.
Things started and evolved quickly shortly thereafter. Our first visit was to a condo listing in High Cotton overlooking the river. One look at my wife and I knew we had found our place!
That was four years ago. The experience revealed genuine people with interesting personalities helping and befriending us. I’m not going to name names here but this is what I mean: the real estate office is owned by a married couple. It’s a marriage of a transplanted Michigan girl, and a local but not always present fishing guide. She’s great and puts up with us because her dog likes me. I’m growing on her! Our real estate agent, with deep roots to Apalach is a force of nature. She and her husband have become our dear friends. I would describe her personality as a cross between a true Southern belle and Gen. Patton.
We decided to purchase commercial units and wound up with two units on the ground floor of High Cotton. Our first unit was owned and occupied by a transplanted Michigan lad, now firmly imbedded in the community. We made a deal that kept him as a tenant until he figured out what his new plan would be. He moved on, acquiring another property for his very interesting and vital business. We talk and I consider him to be a go-to buddy for all sorts of questions.
My last Michigan reference is about a couple and their family reinventing themselves as restauranteurs here in Apalach. Originally from Michigan and having spent time in the Southwest Florida area, they now live in Apalach and their family-owned-and-run restaurant is growing!
I am pretty sure there have not been this many people from Michigan in Apalachicola since 1863. We are here for different reasons though! My last mention of refugees to Apalach has to do with those awesome people making chocolate candy, serving coffee, sandwiches and gelato to all. We all know where this establishment is located. The owners are a delightful married couple from the Midwest. The employees are fun and engaging. You know the dude that looks a bit like a pirate? You want a basic sandwich with lots of flavor and goodness? This is your guy.
I would like to say how proud we were sitting up in Maryland watching TV in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. Glued to the Weather Channel, we saw the Apalach restaurant owners and concerned citizens band together, headquartered and set up in front of Tamara’s, feed the town while the power and other essential facilities were a week away from being restored.
Fast forward to now. We sold our commercial properties and bought a home here in Apalachicola. Three years plus the hurricane validated this decision. Ironically another episode helped cement this decision to homestead. Months before the hurricane I was in the grocery store with 20 items out on the checkout belt. I overheard a man behind me complaining about “tourists” to his buddy. It seems he had two items and was in a hurry. I gave him “cuts” in line. I wonder if the gentleman realizes that without tourists and entrepreneurs, established and new, Apalach would struggle more to survive and taxes would likely be even higher.
We moved here to retire and be reborn in the process. Apalachicola is not perfect, but to many outsiders looking in, this is the place. We owe it to this very old historic place to support and encourage “outsiders." Someday we won’t be outsiders. We will be here as long as it takes.
Norm Biondi can be reached at email@example.com.