The historic Bowery District, bounded by Avenue F, Market Street, and Water Street, is worth seeking out. In its earlier days, it was a bustling area home to the Apalachicola Northern Railroad Depot, and a numerous array of businesses: cafés, a barber shop, a pool room, meat markets, dry goods stores, and even a house of ill repute. During prohibition you could find moonshine illicitly sold in the back of a drug store. With the final departure of the train, the Bowery District fell into decline. Now the area is experiencing a revival, becoming a vibrant district once again.
Starting on the corner of Market Street and Avenue F, The Baltimore Building has a rich and interesting history. It was built at the turn of the 20th century at the dawn of the local oyster industry. Apalachicola was sitting on a “gold mine” of oysters, but the locals had not perfected a fast way of “shucking” or opening the shells. The Chesapeake Bay oyster industry was well-established, and the Northerners had developed the necessary skills. A group of seasoned oyster shuckers from Baltimore, Maryland was hired to help get this industry started. This two-building was constructed to provide lodging for husband and wife teams who stayed in simple, tiny rooms. They left their mark on our oyster industry and in the name of the Baltimore Building. For a hundred years, very little improvements were ever made on this structure. Eventually it was used for storage and then sat empty. After two years of an extensive and impressive restoration, the Baltimore came back to life.
Upstairs, Riverwood Suites is a boutique hotel offering four unique and well-appointed rooms designed to be romantic and private, each with a kitchenette. The property features a peaceful garden and plenty of porch space with comfortable seating. Owner Monica Poloronis goes above and beyond with personal service to make everyone feel at comfortable and at home. She thought of everything someone may need, including wine bottle openers and wine glasses that you won’t find in an average hotel room. The concierge service will coordinate salon and massage appointments, fishing trips, tickets for theatre events, dinner at local restaurants, and more. My favorite thing: their passion for historic preservation.
Downstairs in the Baltimore Building, turn to the Edge Salon for top notch massage, hair, and beauty services. Salon Owner Patti Reynolds has over 35 years of experience as a board certified cosmetologist and stocks all your favorite Aveda products. The renowned Aveda brand formulates makeup and hair, skin, and body care products using freshly distilled plants and flower essences. The brand is also known for being cruelty-free and environmentally responsible. Edge Salon is a favorite among locals who want the perfect cut or a little pampering. My favorite thing: refreshing Rosemary Mint soap.
Continuing down Avenue F, you’ll find Bowery Station, a casual beer and wine “juke joint” founded in 2014 where you can enjoy live music every day of the week. The bar is owned and operated by Lisa and Matt Gardi. The couple grew up in New England, spent several years overseas and in the Florida Keys, and now call Apalachicola home as they feel it is “the best the world has to offer.” Their successful business model is to create the type of bar they would like to hang out in themselves, add some of the best live music on the Forgotten Coast, a welcoming atmosphere, and the result is a casual and fun environment for locals and tourists alike. My favorite thing: the bar often supports local charitable causes.
Next, step through The Green Door into artist Amy Friedman’s world of image, texture, color, and scent. Amy started painting years ago as a hobby while living in Atlanta. When one of her paintings was featured in an HGTV “dream house,” she realized that her hobby could be much more. After visiting the “Forgotten Coast” of Florida for several years, Amy and her husband bought a second home in Apalachicola in 2004 and the gallery soon followed. Amy’s work is impressionistic, using bold strokes and vibrant colors. She continues to draw inspiration from the natural beauty that surrounds her. Her depictions of the marshes and the ubiquitous oyster shells are some of her signature pieces. Set against the backdrop of century old exposed brick, the gorgeous colors of her shop bring the historic space to life. Drop in and visit with Amy while she works in her studio, and browse the gallery and shop full of original paintings, prints, home décor items and other unique artistic treasures. The Green Door is on Avenue F between Commerce and Water Streets. My favorite thing: whimsical throw pillows.
Located in the old Wefings Marine Supply building on the corner of Avenue F and Water Streets, Honey Hole Liquors is one-of-a-kind package store. Anyone who fishes knows that the secret spot where the fish always seem to bite is called a “honey hole,” and anyone who is familiar with Apalachicola knows that the local Tupelo Honey is absolutely wonderful. Owners Richard and Daphne Davis love fishing and the local honey, so the name “Honey Hole Liquors” seemed very fitting. They opened in 2008 and offer a wide selection of liquor, beer (including craft beers), and wine. Known for their customer service, the Honey Hole fills specialty orders, gift wraps your purchase free of charge on request, and provides for weddings and other special events. The setting is an interesting part of the shopping experience. The historic building dates to 1909 when Elgin Wefing opened his marine supply store. Over time the operation spread out into adjacent facilities and at one point sold Ford automobiles. Three generations of the family operated the business until its closure.
Notice the big anchor on the corner which dates to the late 19th to early 20th century. It is one of several abandoned by large ocean going ships that anchored in West Pass between St. George and St. Vincent Islands while awaiting a cargo of lumber. Later, shrimp boats dragging their nets along the bottom of the Gulf would occasionally snag one of these anchors and bring it to the surface.
Heading up Water Street, The Apalachicola Ice Company is a 21-and-up live music bar in an historic setting. It opened its doors last October in the old Wefings machine shop that was once used for repairing marine hardware. You can still see remnants of this history. Although the Ice Company is a new enterprise for owner James Frost, he’s not new to the bar business. He owned the popular Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar on St. George Island for over a decade. What makes the Apalachicola Ice Company unique? It’s a fun place to drink and listen to music with an ambience that recalls the history of maritime industries in our town. The beer garden houses many old artifacts from the old days of Apalachicola that highlight the history of Apalachicola’s waterfront and the people who live and work here. The name of the bar pays tribute to the historic Apalachicola Ice Company, founded in 1885, that was the first manufacturing plant in Apalachicola to use the principles discovered by the inventor of the ice machine, the local Dr. John Gorrie. Watch the boat traffic on the river while enjoying your favorite beer or wine and a cool breeze coming off the water. Two stages provide all different kinds of music 7 days a week. The Apalachicola Ice Company is located at 252 Water Street. My favorite thing: the artifacts.
Next door, you’ll find Muddy Evolution, a professional pottery studio founded in July, 2015. It’s the only wheel thrown pottery studio in Apalachicola, and you can watch as artists transform clay into beautiful and functional pieces. Each piece takes on its own unique personality as it’s being created. Many begin on the potter’s wheel and are then refined by carving, incising and texturizing. Designs are fun and fresh, and although certain elements may be repeated, each piece is truly one of a kind. Handmade stoneware is treated with a lead-free glaze and is dishwasher and microwave safe. Owner Beth Weitz says her work is a personal expression of her surroundings and affinity for nature. Her childhood days of playing in red Georgia clay north of Atlanta were a preamble to her more than 25 years as a potter. The doors of the studio are kept wide open toward the river to catch the breezes. Feel free to wander in and find a unique piece to take home with you. My favorite thing: handmade bowls.
Betsy’s Sunflower is a “kitchen store and more,” carrying functional, affordable and fun gifts and necessities for the kitchen, garden, home and gourmet. It opened at 268 Water Street in November of 2016, but you may remember this store when it was located on Avenue D from 1994 until 2005. Owner Betsy Doherty also owns a seasonal store in Brooklin, Maine and enjoys dividing her time between the two small coastal towns that she loves. Her new store offers a wide selection of unique products at reasonable prices. The atmosphere is fun and friendly with excellent customer service, free gift wrapping, gift registry—and shipping is available, too. Take advantage of daily taste testing of gourmet products. Betsy makes this newly renovated space, painted in crisp, fresh white, pop with color. Vibrant table linens, kitchen rugs, candles, platters and more in hues ranging from sunny yellow to marine blue adorn the shop. It’s well worth seeking out. My favorite thing: shark-shaped cookie cutters.
A little further up Water Street you’ll find Up the Creek Raw Bar. This restaurant has been around for a while and although a little off the beaten path, it’s sought out by locals and visitors for the great food with an incredible view. The name is a little deceiving, as this restaurant is so much more. While it’s true that they’re known for oysters, the menu also includes vegetarian options, burgers, a variety of seafood entrees, and a salad bar to name a few. You can even give alligator a try if you’re feeling adventurous. Up the Creek also offers draft beer, wine and cocktails. There’s ample outdoor seating where you can enjoy the gorgeous view from the shady screened porch or open-air deck. Be sure to check out the delicious daily specials. Up the Creek is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friend. My favorite thing: key lime pie.
Celebrating its 10th year, Water Street Hotel and Marina offers 30 beautifully appointed suites overlooking the Apalachicola River. With 12 floor plans ranging in size, each unit is unique. Hemingway-style furniture, hardwood floors and oriental rugs make the accommodations feel less like a hotel and more like a home. Renowned artist Mary Erickson, whose work is collected throughout the United States and Europe, was commissioned to create artwork for the hotel that captures the natural beauty of the area. Her original oil paintings and reproductions are featured in each of the suites. Guests also enjoy high speed internet, fully equipped kitchens, and yoga classes on site. Other amenities include a 20 slip marina, pool, and meeting facilities. Check their website for specials and packages. My favorite thing: Each suite has a private screened veranda with a gorgeous view of the Apalachicola River.
Located on Commerce Street between Avenues F and G, The Bowery Art Gallery is a delightful fine arts and crafts gallery founded in 2010. Whether shopping for gifts or fine art for your home, there is truly something for every taste. The works in the gallery are all original and range from classical painting to modern folk and abstract. Stop by and browse the gorgeous array of fine jewelry, pottery, sculpture, painting, custom accent tables, and interior as well as exterior pieces. Over 60 local and regional artists are represented. The collection is continually refreshed with new works arriving weekly. Owner and artist Leslie Wallace-Coon enjoys sharing her love for art with the public. She made a name for herself in New Orleans, Atlanta, and a variety of galleries throughout the Southeast, but she’s happy to have settled in Apalachicola. Her passion for offering a wide range of works by exceptional artists is evident in her gallery—and it’s even been noticed by the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal. The gallery is dog-friendly. Drop by and meet Leslie’s adorable new corgi puppy, Liam. I can’t wait to see the works of art that he inspires. The Bowery Art gallery is located at 149 Commerce Street. My favorite thing: original dog sculptures.
Dating to circa 1900, The Nichols Building on the corner of Commerce Street and Avenue G is an historic preservation success story. Originally it was the location of the Economy Cash Store which sold groceries, dry goods, shoes, medicines, and more. It was owned and operated by the Nichols family, who lived upstairs. Until its remarkable renovation completed in 2015, the building had sat vacant for decades. Mel Livingston hand selected reclaimed vintage building materials for the restoration project to preserve the look and feel of the space as enjoyed by generations before. Today, the building offers lodging upstairs and retail space downstairs.
Upstairs, The Bowery Inn gives visitors a rare glimpse of “Old Florida” through the authentic restoration, antique decor and minimal distractions of modern technology. An inviting common area provides guests with gathering places to drink coffee and a wrap-around covered deck is the perfect setting to enjoy the peaceful ambiance of Apalachicola. Features such as an antique claw foot bathtub, beautifully hand-crafted stairwell, and period furnishings give an authentic historic feel. Each of the four guest rooms is tastefully appointed. The fresh white paint on ceilings and walls provides contrast to the patina of salvaged architectural details. Though quietly nestled in the historic Bowery District, the inn is within walking distance of shopping and nationally recognized restaurants. The Bowery Inn won a 2016 Florida Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation Project. My favorite thing: the claw foot tub.
Downstairs, The Seahorse Too is a renewal of the original Seahorse Gifts, Florist and Jewelry that was in business for more than 50 years. It opened in the Bowery District last August. Step into the historic space, and you’ll find traditional antiques, home decor items, jewelry, baby gifts, paintings by renowned local artist Susan Richardson, and more. Owner Ouida Sack believes in personal service. She goes above and beyond for her customers and is constantly adding new and unique items that you can’t find anywhere else in town. Wedding and baby registries are available. My favorite thing: gorgeous baby gifts.
Augusta West is executive director of Apalachicola Main Street, a non-profit organization dedicated to downtown economic development and historic preservation. She can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 274-1321. Main Street’s mailing address is 1 Avenue E, Apalachicola, FL 32320.