■ BY SUE ERWIN
Islanders Beverly Furtado and Len Tatko will soon bid farewell to Boca Grande, but they’re not going very far.
The Palmetto Inn property has been available on the market for many years, and recently a solid offer was made that cemented the deal.
Beverly purchased The Palmetto Inn in 1980 with her late husband, Jack.
They were introduced to the island in 1978 when a friend, Buddy, brought them here to visit his parents, who were camping at the north end.
Beverly said there weren’t any homes at the north end at that time, and the area was used as a public campground.
“We liked the island so much that we bought a camper and spent the next winter here,” she said.
A few months later, the campground property was sold to a private buyer, and the campers were told they wouldn’t be able to return the next year.
Jack spoke with several Realtors and searched for property on the island, but he couldn’t find anything in their price range.
One evening, while socializing at Whidden’s Marina, they heard that Jack and Mable Oller had a small apartment building in town wanted to sell it. Bev and Jack arranged a meeting and learned that a couple from Chicago had expressed interest in buying the building. So they left contact information just in case those buyers fell through.
Six weeks later the phone rang, and it was the Ollers. The property was still available. After several phone calls to lawyers, Beverly and Jack had purchased a Boca Grande apartment complex known as The Palmetto Inn.
They had previously worked at a rental unit in Massachusetts, where they did maintenance and home repairs.
“I learned to paint and putty windows, and Jack was very good with a hammer and nails,” Beverly said. “If we didn’t know how to do something, we’d learn how to fast.”
When they originally purchased the inn, much of it was in dire need of restoration. It was unpainted and weathered.
Over the years, they put on coats of fresh paint and renovated each unit, adding new windows, floors and air conditioners.
The home was originally built in 1908 as a private residence. In 1913, additions were made to the back of the building, and it became The Palmetto Inn. The complex had a total of eight units.
“The living room had a fireplace which has since been removed. And we added sliding glass doors to obtain more natural light.” Bev said. “The former owner used to serve meals in the main dining room, which was part of our apartment for many years.”
Regular patrons became familiar with Dixie the talking parrot, a pet Bev owned that lived with her at the inn.
“She was a very smart bird, but you had to be careful what you said, because she knew some foul words,” Bev said. “My son, David, found her for sale at a veterinary office, and he knew I always wanted a bird.”
Dixie gave compliments to pretty women and would sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” all the time.
Bev recalls that the inn guests would gather outside in the evenings at the front porch stoop.
“There wasn’t a front fence or wall there before. It looked like an old New York tenement building, and everyone came outside at night,” she said. “None of the air conditioners worked when we bought the place, so most likely it was because it was cooler.”
The building right next to the patio at the inn was a dull grey color, so in 1995, Bev decided to get “crafty,” and she painted the wall with a soft turquoise background and slowly added colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life. She named the painting “Tranquilo” and signed her name. The project took more than two years to complete.
Bev met Len in 2001 at the Gasparilla Marina docks, where they were both storing their boats.
“I had recently lost my husband, and I decided to sell my boat because it was too much for me to handle,” she said. “And Len was at the dock next to me, scrubbing his boat, and he said he had recently lost his wife,” Bev said.
Len lived in Venice at that time, and Bev offered to give him a tour of Boca Grande … and their story continues from there.
The Palmetto Inn currently has two small efficiencies and three suites (The Tarpon Suite, The Snook Suite and The Redfish Suite) that come with Wi-Fi access, televisions and kitchenettes, as well as living rooms and pull-out sofas. There is also a shared covered patio with seating.
It’s a five-minute walk from the beach.
Bev has photos of several distinguished guests who have visited the inn, including former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.
Ben and Len wish to thank their guests over the years for their patronage and the many memories made.
The Palmetto Inn is located at 381 Palm Ave. in Boca Grande. More information is available at the website at thepalmettoinn.com.