When Dorle, of Dorle Communications in Minnetonka, started vacationing in Florida in 1992, he considered forwarding the calls of his marketing and advertising clients. But he and his wife worried that clients would not appreciate their “working” in the land of umbrella drinks and warm breezes.
So they asked them. “They didn’t care as long as we got the job done,” he said.
Dorle soon began getting Florida business after networking some Minnesota connections in Naples at the Breakfast Club.
John Allen, CEO of Industrial Equities commercial real estate investment company in Minneapolis, said the area boasts a high level of culture and resident education, plenty of success stories and philanthropic giving, despite far fewer residents.
“It’s a decidedly Midwestern town,” Allen said. “You aren’t going to miss many Minnesota friends. They’re all down here.”
Allen admits that Naples’ winter advantages do take a toll on a long-distance business. “If I were in Minnesota all the time I could be 25 percent more efficient,” he said.
Twin Cities über-restaurateur Richard D’Amico became a resident several years ago to increase his efficiency. With four locations in the Naples area, the business needed one partner to watch over it, he said.
He opened a D’Amico & Sons in 1996, Campiello in 1997, Lurcat in 2002 and Masa last year. Two D’Amico & Sons locations have closed, but Campiello continues to enjoy success as one of Naples’ most popular eateries. It generates twice the revenue of the company’s second-best revenue generator, Lurcat in Minneapolis, D’Amico said.
Although the Twin Cities restaurants and catering business make up two-thirds of total revenue, the company’s future growth lies in South Florida. “There’s a point in Minneapolis where if you open more restaurants you’re just stealing from yourself,” he said. “We’re looking at Miami.”
Other expatriates have planned a slower transition to a business in Naples. Jay Cook, a real estate lawyer formerly with Dorsey & Whitney, has been traveling to Naples for 25 years, working with Minnesota clients via electronic communication.
He started his own commercial real estate practice in Naples in 2007. Referrals from existing clients, many of them Midwestern, kept the doors open during a slow time in the real estate market.
“My business plan was to leverage the network I have in Minnesota and the contacts from Naples,” he said.
Principals from another major Minnesota law firm, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, also opened an office in Naples because of the high number of Minnesotans there, said partner Elliot Kaplan.
“We’re not residents,” Kaplan said. “We just use it as a place for Minnesotans who have issues here.”
Many professionals find working remotely relatively seamless. They can continue to work with clients back home, and if they plan to establish residency in Naples they can cultivate new clients in Florida.
That’s what Bob Ritter, a ReMax Results Realtor in Wayzata, is doing. He and Mary, his wife and business partner, have had a second home in Naples for 15 years.
Although neither is yet affiliated with a broker in Naples, they educate Minnesotans who want to buy a second home there about neighborhoods, home maintenance and types of homes. They plan to “semi-retire” in Florida, getting licensed and affiliated to sell homes and live there for six months to establish residency.