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A year after shutdowns, Franklin County businesses thankful for brighter days ahead

St George Island on the eve of a months long shutdown in March 2020.
St George Island on the eve of a months long shutdown in March 2020.(WCTV)
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 10:34 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A year ago Monday, Franklin County commissioners made the tough decision to close beaches to the public.

Five days later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the suspension of vacation rentals, kicking off a very difficult time for the Gulf Coast.

Back in March 2020, Blue Parrot Co-owner Steven Rash wasn’t sure what the days ahead would bring him.

“We really don’t know what to expect,” he told WCTV at the time.

On Monday, he was asked to send a message back to his 2020 self.

“Just hang in there,” he said. “It’s going to get better.”

Get better indeed. Vacation rentals resumed by mid-May, and thousands flocked to the Forgotten Coast to take advantage of the wide-open spaces and escape the pandemic.

“Things didn’t slow down,” Rash said. “It kept right on going through October and November.”

The impressive rebound led to a record year for tourism in the area, according to Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Solomon.

“It’s a positive to be in the green for the year, especially dealing with a pandemic that the world had to deal with,” he said.

Solomon said the impacts are still being felt by the Bay, but the community is used to bouncing back.

“They’re very head strong of making things work and finding a way to make things work,” he said.

As for Rash, the toughest days still stuck with him. He recalled a particularly rough week.

“Total business was $4,000 and our payroll that week was $16,000,” he said, recalling that they couldn’t last long with those margins.

But the tide turned quick enough, and a year later, there’s a sunnier outlook for all.

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