Everglades / Historic / Southwest Florida

Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee: Everglades icon still owned by original family

At Smallwood Store, you live a little Everglades history

Historic Smallwood's Store in the little town of Chokoloskee, south of Everglades City. (Photo: Bonnie Gross

Historic Smallwood’s Store in the little town of Chokoloskee, south of Everglades City. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Update, Oct. 13, 2017: Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island sustained 8 to 10 feet of storm surge during Hurricane Irma, but many businesses have re-opened.

Smallwoods Store is open again, as is Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery, Ivey House B&B, Parkway Motel and several restaurants in Everglades City.

The Gulf Coast Visitor Center of Everglades National Park is closed and may move to temporary quarters in order to reopen this winter.

The Shark Valley loop in the Everglades is closed due to continued flooding.

The Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City is closed.

Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center is open, but Loop Road is closed due to fallen trees. 

 

Smallwood Store is an exceptional slice of Florida history at an end-of-the-road site overlooking Chokoloskee Bay near Everglades City.

You’ll have to travel many miles to find a more evocative, authentic look at old Florida.

Mallory Smallwood McMillin at Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee

All in the family: Mallory Smallwood McMillin with a mannequin of her great-grandfather Ted Smallwood at Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee

Smallwood Store opened in 1906 when Chokoloskee was the Wild West and Ted Smallwood was a pioneer. This wooden building on an island was an Indian trading post, post office and general store to a small community of hardy and sometimes ornery individualists.

Historic Smallwood Store at Chokoloskee Island

View of Smallwood Store as you enter the front door. The counter is called a “hooped skirt counter.” Its slant lets a woman stand next to the counter without her hoop skirt getting pushed up to expose her legs in back.

Today, one thing that makes Smallwood Store so special is that not only has it been preserved, but it is still owned and loved by descendents of the family that founded it.

Interior of Smallwood Store at Chokoloskee

Inside historic Smallwood Store.

Admission to Smallwood Store is $5 and if you like old stuff, you can while away an hour soaking up the ambience, reading the extensive and informative displays and admiring the view.

Back deck at Historic Smallwood Store

Back deck at historic Smallwood Store overlooking Chokoloskee Bay

You’ll learn that the wooden counters slanted in at the floor to accommodate hoop skirts, that in 1984 two-thirds of the adult male population of Everglades City was jailed for trafficking in marijuana, that the first Coke machine came to town in 1945 at Smallwood’s, which had the only electricity for 30 miles.

You’ll see rattlesnake skins, wooden barrels, a shot-gun worn out from shooting alligators and an antique gumball machine.

You’ll see the stories of Seminole Indians, pioneers, murderers, recluses and strong, persevering women. (On display is a handsome wooden table built by one of Ted Smallwood’s daughters.)

Smallwood Store photo by Constance Mier

Smallwood Store photo by Constance Mier

Smallwood Store devotes space to telling the legendary story of suspected serial killer Ed Watson, who sought refuge from the law in the Ten Thousand Islands. He was later killed himself at Smallwood’s Store by residents who suspected he was killing their neighbors.

Books on the Watson episode are available in a small gift shop, where you also can buy Seminole arts and crafts, postcards,  T-shirts and plastic alligators.

 

The day we visited Smallwood store, we were lucky enough to meet Mallory Smallwood McMillin, who grew up at the historic store. Her mother opened it as a museum when she was 3 and she remembers taking her naps in a back bedroom where her great-grandfather slept when he stayed at the store when Seminole Indians camped there. She graduated from Everglades City High School (in a class of 13) and returned after college to live here and work at Smallwood Store.

Smallwood Store was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and remained open as a working store until 1982. When the doors shut, 90 percent of the original goods remained in the store, according to the family.

Today visitors from around the world come here for a peek at a non-commercial Florida.  Folks fish from the back desk and launch kayaks into the Ten Thousand Islands wilderness.

For the moment, what you see at Smallwood Store is a world Ted Smallwood would easily recognize.

[Note: For almost four years, neighbors and fans rallied around Smallwood Store in a dispute with a developer who claimed to own the only road to the store, actually building a fence across the road that closed the store for six months. Smallwood won that dispute in spring 2015.]


Visiting Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee:

  • 360 Mamie St, Chokoloskee, FL 34138
  • Open seven days a week; 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (From December to April, opening time is 10 a.m.)
  • Smallwood Store’s website

Things to do near Everglades City and Chokoloskee:

Interesting nearby places to stay and eat: 

Find a room in Everglades City:

Everglades City Hotels

Updated January 2017

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One Comment

  1. What a neat place.

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