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2016 was another banner year for the Shell Factory

January 6, 2017
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you ask Shell Factory marketing director/CFO Rick Tupper what one word he would use to describe the Shell Factory's 2016 year, that word would be 'renewal.'

This past year was the culmination of several years of capital improvements made on the historic tourist landmark, expanding the attractions and the nature park and making the place much more attractive for visitors.

Visitors noticed the improvements, and it was money well invested as the Shell Factory once again posted solid increases in attendance and revenues.

Tupper said revenues, which had double digit growth the last several years as the economy began to improve, continued to show robust growth at 8.5 percent in 2016, with attendance up a walloping 28 percent thanks to the addition of many new promotions.

Tupper said the improved aesthetics, including a brand new roof on the store and painting the entire property made the place look nicer, which was paid for by the new financing they got from Bank United, which has put them on very solid financial footing.

One of the huge gets the Shell Factory brought in early in the year was the Monday Night Cruise Night, which brought in as many as 400 classic cars on a day where the Shell Factory used to be closed.

While some of those vehicles have returned to Applebee's, Tupper said they made up for it with daily entertainment from 4 to 7 p.m. that will continue in this upcoming year.

"We have as good an entertainment lineup as anyone. We're trying to grab the local after-work crowd that's trying to have a little fun," Tupper said, adding that about 100 cars still come on Monday night.

Among the many improvements included the new game room with Hunt's Pizza place, as well as the entire store being rejuvenated with new jewelry and exhibits, the expansion of the Holiday House and more.

At the nature park, some new animals came in, such as the sloth, the new bat exhibit and some rare bids in the new aviary. The result was a 20 percent increase in attendance from 2015 and a record number of field trips from Lee County schools, paid for through the Nature Park Foundation.

Tupper also said the major events they hold have grown substantially.

"Gumbofest and St. Patrick's Day were big for the adults, and for the kids, Halloween and Easter were very successful. Those have now been solidified as major events. We almost don't have to do any advertising," Tupper said.

Of course, they do. Tupper said they're going to put less into name recognition and more into targeted event promotion, social media and new demographics, especially Latino and African-American families, that bring a new generation of people coming to the attraction.

Tupper said 2017 will start with a bang with Gumbofest on Jan. 29, which has become a great family event in recent years. Goldenfest and Fossilfest are next in line in February, with St. Patrick's Day in March and the Taste of North Fort Myers expected in April.

Tupper said the reason is how they moved away from promoting themselves as a tourist trap several years ago to being a place for local families to come.

He added that most of the major projects are now complete, which will allow the Shell Factory to just fine-tune what it has.

"Almost every month we have a major event that's well publicized and that people like coming to," Tupper said. "Our tagline as the No. 1 Family Entertainment Destination has helped. It gears our events toward families, not just adults."



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