FORT MYERS, FL—With shuttered windows, empty parking lots, and clearance sale banners dotting nearly every block, the community of Fort Myers, Florida has in recent years become a veritable wasteland of professional athletes’ failed side businesses, sources confirmed Thursday.
Residents told reporters that defunct enterprises, ranging from a closed seafood restaurant owned by retired Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler to a padlocked batting cage complex once operated by former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis, have come to dominate the city’s commercial district.
“Nowadays, you can’t walk down the street without seeing a boarded-up nightclub, laundromat, or oil change place that doesn’t represent some athlete’s doomed investment,” said local man Charlie Stinson, 42, listing off an array of unsuccessful establishments that included a hair salon owned by professional tennis star Monica Seles and a southern BBQ restaurant founded by Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame fullback Franco Harris. “On this block alone, there are three different bars, all of them closed, and all of them started by members of the Showtime Lakers.”
“You’d think that James Worthy would have decided to invest his money elsewhere after seeing what happened to Mychal’s and The Rambis Hole, but you get the feeling that these guys didn’t really think any of this through,” Stinson added.
Residents confirmed that the city of 62,000 has in recent years seen the opening and rapid closing of dozens of athlete-run ventures, including coffee shops, sushi bars, and go-kart tracks, nearly all of which have been mismanaged or neglected by a variety of current and retired sports figures.
Specifically, sources pointed to such insolvent establishments as The Punchline, a comedy club bankrolled by former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe; a real estate office launched by Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz; and three-time Pro Bowler Tiki Barber’s tropical-themed watering hole, The Tiki Lounge. Officials from the chamber of commerce confirmed that none of the operations remained in business for longer than six months, and all have left behind unoccupied strip mall units throughout the greater Fort Myers area.
“A community this size can’t possibly support two men’s clothing boutiques opened by both Shannon Sharpe and Sterling Sharpe,” resident Eric McGill said. “And poor Dusty Baker, he spent so much on TV commercials and print flyers, but you knew that his pool supply dealership would never get off the ground around here.”
Though lamenting the demise of these and other enterprises, observers said that they were not particularly surprised to see these ventures fail, noting athletes’ tendency to quickly lose interest in their fledgling projects and leave responsibility for the commercial undertakings in the hands of various relatives and associates with no business experience.
“I used to get pretty excited when I saw someone like Jimmy Connors or Pedro Martinez showing up for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new steakhouse or car wash, but they always jet out of town and their businesses never stay afloat for very long,” said Fort Myers native Sherri Walsh, who pointed out the poor service and mediocre food at the numerous defunct crab shacks erected by members of the 1993 Chicago Cubs. “Now, there are too many vacant storefronts to even keep track of. Prime Time Security. Yoga by Yaz. Sir Charles’ Gentleman’s Club. All of them gone.”
“And I could have sworn the city shut down Lenny Dykstra’s off-track betting parlor, but I still see him hanging around the back entrance all the time, so maybe it’s still up and running,” Walsh continued.
According to sources, the array of failed athletes’ businesses stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming success of former San Francisco Giants first baseman J.T. Snow’s software company, Snow-Tek, which is estimated to be worth nearly $85 billion.