When Hurricane Wilma rolled through Big Pine Key, Florida, last Sunday, it damaged more than just property, it also damaged history.
For some 25 years, the Big Pine Key has been the winter headquarters of D’s Leathers, the place where owner Dee Johnson and her husband, Larry, escape the winter cold while Dee gets down to the business of providing leather motorcycle racing suits for many of the top stars on the AMA Flat Track circuit. Unfortunately for the Johnsons, they were not spared from the wrath of Wilma, as the huge, wind-driven storm surge destroyed the D’s leather shop.
“You cannot believe the devastation down here,” Dee Johnson told Cycle News by telephone. We have lost everything, every hyde of leather that I have, my sewing machine, everything from 25 years of being down here. And the sad part is that they [Florida officials] aren’t telling anyone how bad it is down here because they want the tourists to keep coming.”
Johnson also said that among the couple’s personal effects, her husband’s prized 1940 Ford convertible was also destroyed in the deluge.
“It was like a tsunami hit us,” Johnson said. “The whole thing flooded in less than 10 minutes, and it left our shop in five feet of water. We managed to save our motorhome, and now I’m the only one down here who has a refrigerator and a gas stove, so we have been having about 15 people over for dinner for the past few nights.”
Johnson said that despite the heavy loss, none of which is insured, D’s Leathers will continue on. Johnson said that she will soon be returning to Ohio, where she can work out of her summer shop and continue to fill orders.
“We’re alive, and that’s something,” Johnson said. “I’m still in business, and I really need the work now.”