Chapter 10


“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” That was the motto Sam Bailey gave to his family’s general store, and a humorous one for a general store located on a still-pretty-isolated island. The store carried everything from ladies’ garters to pigs’ feet in gravy to all manner of tools. (An eight-year-old reportedly came up with a needed item not thought of: toilet paper – better than the corncobs and Sears catalogs found in some outhouses.)

Here are some interesting facts:

  • The Bailey family came to Sanibel in the 1892 and successfully farmed. In 1899, they bought the complex of buildings that made up a plantation store on Mathews Wharf in San Carlos Bay.
  • The hurricane of 1926 destroyed Sanibel’s commercial farming, as well as Mathews Wharf and all the buildings on it. Only the steel safe, now in the corner, remained. It had to be dragged out of the water.
  • The “new” Bailey’s General Store, built in 1927, was built safely near the bay on a beach ridge. The building has structural hurricane defense features, ensuring survival through decades of storms.
  • The store was the island’s communication center with telegraph and telephone service, a freight dock and, a ferry landing. People voted here, socialized, and shopped for everything essential.
  • The store was moved to this site in 1992 and meticulously restored to its 1930s appearance, including the original cash register, desk phone, and glass-fronted cases.
  • Most of the cans are displayed with labels that came from a company that reproduces old labels specifically for museum use.

While it might look like the back room was an afterthought, it was built at the same time as the main room of the store. The back room was reserved for bulk items and some storage. Now it houses exhibits about Sanibel’s farming and transportation history, ferry exhibits, and a large white box that replicates the one used for smoked meat and hard cheese – before refrigeration.

In the 1950s a shed extension was added to the back room, the front portico was enclosed, and the entrance shifted to what is now the south side. Some pictures on display reveal this different set-up.

This second Bailey’s General Store has found a permanent home at the Historical Village after almost 40 years of service to the Sanibel community. After the Baileys moved their store to what is now the Bailey Shopping Center at Periwinkle Way and Tarpon Bay Road, the building was used for a number of purposes, including as the island’s first early childhood education center.

Bailey’s General Store is still owned and operated by the Bailey family.