FORT WALTON BEACH — It's a ghostly sight at the Greyhound bus station on Perry Avenue.
For more than four decades passengers packed the terminal while traveling to and from Fort Walton Beach. Only a small can of pepper spray, an old Greyhound sign and a 100-year-old safe were left behind in the empty, dusty building Tuesday.
The pay phone outside can still dial out if you have 50 cents to spare. Not one customer was there to use it, though. Nor were there buses to pick up anyone.
Vince Bruner, who has owned the building for 20 years, said that's because the era of Greyhound bus stations has ended.
"Greyhound has been working deals with different gas stations where they can rent for free," Bruner said Tuesday. "Jimmy Ready, who owned Jimmy's Pawn Shop, owned it for 20 years before me, I think. I was a little disappointed when I found out (the station was closing), but it is part of the changing economy."
A sign on the building says the bus pickup and drop-off has moved to the Shell gas station at 401 Miracle Strip Parkway. Over at Shell, nearly a dozen passengers waited for a bus headed for Orlando.
Carolyn Peterson, manager of the convenience store, said the owners made a deal with Greyhound to allow a make-shift terminal in the parking lot. Shell, according to Peterson, hoped to benefit from the passengers wanting snacks and services. She also said Greyhound plans to operate out of gas station parking lots nationwide.
The new pick-up location began March 1. The bus station on Perry Avenue closed Feb. 28.
Some longtime residents are sorry to see the station close.
Martha Garvie, owner of the Aunt Martha's Bed & Breakfast, said she remembers the Greyhound station when it first opened as a Trailways station in 1958. She was just 17.
She'd watch as passengers boarded the station, which Garvie said looks nearly the same today.
"I'm sad," Garvie said. "The station is a part of history. There's not many things like that left. People didn't have the luxury of cars in those days, so people caught the bus to visit their relatives. I don't think it would have survived this long if people weren't still using it. But I guess that's why it closed, isn't it?"
Bruner said since opening in the 1950s, the station has bounced several times between the ownership of two competitors — Greyhound and Trailways. Greyhound took the building back over in the early 2000s, he said.
Tom Rice, owner of Magnolia Grill, said as a 9-year-old boy he would board the Trailways bus with his older brother to visit family in Ohio. He remembers that the buses in the '50s definitely weren't air conditioned and that they smelled of disinfectant.
As a teen, he would rush to the bus station before it closed to pick up ice cream delivered from New Orleans to Perri's Italian Restaurant where he worked.
Rice also said he was emotional when he passed the bus station and saw a "For Rent" sign in the lawn.
"Another familiar landmark that has ceased to function in its old way," Rice said. "I think it would make a neat little restaurant."
Greyhound did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Bruner said he's unsure of the future of the building.