On the day after Hurricane Irma, he was denied entrance into Goodland by a Marco Island policeman. It was total wreckage and the roads were impassable, Steve was told. Now, back at his home, with dark doubts beginning to arise, he wondered if he could ever get through this and come back.
The next day he made it into Goodland and was devastated by what he saw. His restaurant still stood, but a three to four foot wall of water and mud had destroyed everything on the first floor. Even sections of floor had been ripped up by the force of the surge. The furniture had been tossed around like matchsticks and the kitchen equipment inundated. All was ruined. A two to three inch layer of slimy, foul-smelling mud covered the floor. Outside, his long porch roof had been torn up and, worst of all, the stage where his father, Stan Gober, had performed for so many years, was smashed into kindling. “It took us only two weeks to recover from [Hurricane] Andrew,” Steve said, “but I never saw devastation like this. It was disheartening and gave me pause.”He returned home that night only to be overtaken with recurring flashes of the enormity of the damage to the restaurant, which his father had entrusted to his care after dying of cancer in 2012. The thought of being unable to continue the legacy began to intrude into his mind. The season was coming on and there was so much to do to bring back that venerable 60-year-old building. There would be no help from an insurance company; there was none. Steve was unable to get a response from FEMA. He was on his own here. “For the next three days and nights, I was having a panic attack,” Steve said, “I was having trouble focusing and concentrating on anything. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.” With the constant encouragement of his long time soulmate, Trish Oehler (whom he is soon to marry) and a pledge of help from his family and staff, Steve returned to begin the rehabilitation of Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant. “Once we found out that the building and roof were sound, we decided we could get this done,” said Trish. For the next three weeks, Stan’s was crawling with family and staff, cleaning up the mess. First the mass of mud had to be removed and then the ruined equipment, furniture, and debris hauled across the street to Stan’s parking lot. It all but filled up the lot with a 10-foot high heap of furniture, kitchen equipment and debris. Steve and Trish were working 12 to 14 hour days, 24/7, supervising and doing much of the dirtiest work them- selves. I caught up to Steve on September 27 after my own odyssey, and also found his sons, Michael, Dylan, Ryan and Zach, hard at work. Amy Schwab, a five-year employee, says that she is honored and privileged to work for a family that is bound together in times of such turmoil. “They have my utmost loyalty,” she said, “I would do anything for them.” Schwab, along with most of the staff, has been on site every day. Steve is shooting for a reopening date of Friday, October 27th. The kitchen equipment was to be delivered on October 7th. After Stan died in June 2012, Steve was overtaken with the fear that many would not return. Those fears turned out to be unfounded. Now, after Irma, that specter still haunts him he wants everyone to know that in honor of his father, he is going to keep the restaurant going (and continue to entertain people who come here from all 50 states, as well as raising a lot of money for charity). “Dad would want me to do this,” he said, “I can’t let him down.”