Johnny Morris owns an island; what’s next?

Eric Olson, SBJ EditorIt wasn’t a complete surprise to read this week that Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris was buying up parcels on an island in the Florida Keys. How he intends to turn his island rights into a business proposition, if at all, remains to be seen.

According to a report on KeysNet.com, the Springfield businessman has purchased two resorts and all but one of the residential properties on Valhalla Island in the Keys’ city of Marathon.

We already know the illustrious fisherman has spent much time in Florida’s coastal waters for both vacationing and business. After all, Bass Pro’s boating and fishing products should be tested and approved by its owner before they hit the sales floor, right?

I remember phoning Morris’ right-hand man Martin MacDonald for a story I was writing some years ago, and McDonald informed me Morris couldn’t be reached because he was on his fishing boat in the Keys.

Of course, the company already operates six stores in Florida, including the World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada, a city in the Keys. Morris and company last year sponsored the World Sailfish Championship in Key West, in part to bring exposure to its Offshore Angler brand.

Reporter Ryan McCarthy’s story for the Keynoter publication indicates Morris is maneuvering to develop an island resort. McCarthy interviewed Morris’ personal property manager, Mike Dunham, and his Upper Keys attorney, Nick Mulick.

“We’re assessing the most viable options for the property,” the property manager told the Keynoter. “[Morris has] considered a fishing retreat, a resort for fisherman, or a camp for kids and outdoor education. His real goal is to connect people to fishing and nature. We’re doing some work to clean up the property and will probably be developing a final plan in the near future.”

Morris is actually no stranger to the island. He’s owned the majority of the island for 25 years, and last year, Morris bought the Valhalla Point Resort and Valhalla Beach Hotel & Resort. He has since closed the resorts.

The island property sits in the Middle Keys, on the southern tip just off U.S. Highway 1/Overseas Highway. It’s about an hour between Key West and Key Largo.

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