VILANO BEACH, Fla. -- The Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach is open for business once again.
"This has been a real fixer upper," Earl Jensen said. "A real big one!"
Jensen and his wife, Remy, bought the rundown motel two years ago and they've brought it back to its original 1951 splendor.
They say the its murals and art deco style drew them to the site.
Over the last year, original murals in every room were retouched, aqua-colored bathroom tile was salvaged, and the flamingos on the exterior walls were repainted. The large neon sign, which reads "Magic Beach Motel" and features a top hat and jumping rabbits, was saved as well.
Practically everything else from the pipes to the pillows is brand new.
The Magic Beach Motel is an icon of Vilano Beach. Vilano is a 23-acre beach town that was a happening hot spot in the 20th century.
But in the 1990s, it went downhill when the big, new bridge over the intracoastal waterway was built a block north of Vilano Beach, "and it bypassed our little town," Vivian Browning said.
Browning has been called the unofficial mayor of Vilano Beach. She is an advocate of the town and a key player in its revival.
In 2005 and 2006, Browning, along with others in Vilano Beach had grand plans to revitalize the area.
A few years later, the financial market went belly-up and properties in Vilano were foreclosed on.
Then came word that a Publix was moving into town, and Browning said that store made people and investors think differently of Vilano Beach.
"It's our anchor," Browning said of Publix "It says 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval!' It says, 'You're going to make it!'"
Publix opened its doors in the winter.
Now, restaurants and shops have started to line the half-mile main street once again.
Just as it's been a lot of work to bring Vilano Beach back to life, the motel has taken work too.
The Jensens poured about $1 million into the Magic Beach Motel.
"It's taken a lot of money," Earl Jensen noted. "It's taken a lot of time, a lot of sweat and for my wife ... a lot of tears. I mean a lot of tears!" They both laughed.
Now, it seems that Vilano Beach and its old motor lodge have their magic back.
First Coast News