August 28, 2014

Tourism - Travel

Trendsetters: Inn Culture

Mike Vogel | 5/1/2008
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David and Susan Caples [Photo: Kelly LaDuke]

Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, owners
Fernandina Beach

Caples’ rule: Success is one-third owed to the building, locale and amenities and two-thirds owed to the culture of service created by the owners and emulated by the staff.

Admired property: The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, British Columbia

Success: “We were fortunate all the way along.”
If you want insight into inns beyond the breakfast quiche or evening wine hour, David Caples can provide it. Struggling owners fall into two categories, he says. Some provide good service but are in the dark on marketing. But the big problem for many is service. Perhaps they invested with “guest glasses” on, failing to appreciate that inns only look easy to operate because someone behind the scenes works 14-hour days. “Just when you’re taking your child to the soccer game is when somebody’s TV goes down. The successful innkeeper is going to take care of the guest.”

Caples, 62, and his wife, Susan, 61, opened Amelia Island’s first B&B 28 years ago. They later sold it and a property management business to build the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, a 25-room inn they opened in 1992. Caples, with the lodge’s former innkeeper, Helen Cook, also consults for small lodging properties. They hold nationally recognized seminars for aspiring innkeepers that lead half the attendees to abandon their plans. It’s good, Caples says, to save people from investments that don’t suit them. “Inns are always about the staff and the culture the owners create.”

The Caples are creating a new chapter, David in consulting and Susan in lifestyle education, and both in an organ donation foundation named for their late daughter, Katie, who was a donor after an auto accident.

So the lodge is for sale for $8.5 million on the consulting website. True to form for operators who know that business has to underlie the romance, the particulars accompany the picture of the Nantucket-style inn: Annualized occupancy of at least 80%, $224 average daily rate, $2 million in gross revenue.

“You always miss places you build up,” says Caples, but, “there’s more good stuff around the corner.”


» GOING DEEP

Capt. Ron Beermunder, 37, owner, Pensacola Dive Co., Pensacola, has run 238 dives to the USS Oriskany since the carrier was scuttled in 2006 to create an artificial reef. The former Navy special warfare trained diver also is a minister who married a couple underwater at the Oriskany last year. “Living my dream,” says Beermunder, who started the business in 2005 in Pensacola.

» RESORTING TO JAZZ

Ibis Romero, executive director, Sunny Isles Beach Resort Association, says Sunny Isles Beach, north of Miami Beach, has been transformed by luxury hotels such as Trump International, Acqualina and Le Meridien and by an influx of Russian and other international visitors lured by the weak dollar. Raised in New York by Cuban parents, Romero, 52, took over the city’s resort association in 2007. She’s launching a Sunny Isles Beach jazz festival in October. “Every year I want it to get better.”

Tags: Dining & Travel, Trendsetters

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