Thursday, August 19, 2004

Tristate transplants pack into Skyline

By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer staff writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Another little piece of Cincinnati - the Skyline Chili restaurant in a Fort Myers strip mall - felt the wrath of Hurricane Charley.

Fort Myers, about 20 miles south of Punta Gorda, was spared the full fury of Friday's Category 4 Hurricane.

But Skyline was closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tiles blew off the restaurant's air conditioner, which is on the roof. Owner Rob Rodenfels, a former Ohio newspaper publisher, reopened Monday.

"It's amazing," he said of the clientele that visited after the storm; "three-fourths were from Ohio."

Apparently nothing calms hurricane-frayed nerves of a native Cincinnatian like a Skyline three-way.

Rodenfels also owns a Skyline franchise farther south in Naples. He opened the Skylines in 1988.

In the Fort Myers store, a framed photo of the Cincinnati riverfront hangs on the wall. Pennants from UC, Miami, the University of Dayton, Xavier and other Ohio colleges are lined above the counter.

Up north

Residents were allowed back Saturday into Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, which sits at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor.

Gene Daniels, 50, of Walton, left his home there Thursday to escape the hurricane and returned Saturday to check damage. He arrived back in the Tristate late Tuesday night.

"I was already down there. We were going to ride the storm out," he said.

Daniels went to the hardware store and bought a hurricane-preparedness kit, including a flashlight and weather radio.

Then he heard the island might experience 10- to 15-foot water surges. That's when he decided to leave with his wife and son.

His home was not badly damaged.

"We timed our escape just right," said Daniels, who owns the two Sports of All Sorts buildings in Northern Kentucky.

"We were right behind (Tropical Storm) Bonnie and ahead of Charley."


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