August 4th, 2010 15:39 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Mark Vandeloo, General Manager, CasaMarina Hotel, Jacksonville, Florida
The CasaMarina Hotel and Restaurant (circa 1925), Jacksonville`s only historic hotel with the designation of HHA (Historic Hotels of America), has a new General Manager " one of the youngest in the U.S. to be at the helm of a 1920`s landmark property.
Mark Vandeloo, 31, believes The business is ever evolving and it`s a challenging one. That`s the fun part " keeping the history and beauty of an 84-year old hotel up to speed by balancing the weekday business traveler and the weekend "dream` wedding and leisure romance guests ".
Vandeloo`s career didn`t begin in the hospitality industry. He joined the Navy at 18, went to aircraft maintenance school at Cecil Field, Florida and then traveled the globe with the Department of Defense private sector in the Middle East. He signed 4 consecutive contracts with the D.O.D. and worked in Turkey, Oman, Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Iran. His pre-hospitality plan was to be a flight instructor when he took a part time position at the Casa Marina as bartender.
I took a huge interest in the Hotel as I met the people who walked in the door. They had fond memories or a story of its history and what it meant to them. It seemed that the Casa offered something different and special to everyone. During those first few months of 2003, I listened to their glamorous stories and felt that we could recreate that "magic` in our world today ".
From bartender to Bar Manager, Vandeloo`s organizational and leadership talents brought more responsibilities, especially with the expansion and extensive renovation of the Hotel. During his watch, the original historic first floor bar expanded to the new Penthouse Bar; 30 small hotel rooms became 23 elegant accommodations and Parlor Suites. It was only a matter of time until the Casa Marina gained its acclaim as a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Flying was taking a back seat in Vandeloo`s career as he spent time with the front desk staff, learning the reservation system, hotel financials and accounting. I wanted to learn everything I could about the food & beverage side of the business too. I absorbed and studied everything I could about our Hotel including the hospitality industry globally ". Within a year, the hotel GM promoted Vandeloo to Night Manager/Beverage Manager and then Assistant General Manager.
Today, Vandeloo looks at the past five year with amazement. It`s hard to believe how far we`ve come. I`ve been fortunate to have worked and lived through the Casa Marina`s current re-entry into our generation. I enjoy the history that WE make every day. Hopefully in 84 years, people will visit and tell their story to another bartender about the great experience they had "!
691 1st Street North
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognizes where significant moments from history took place. The Casa Marina`s legacy (as a member of the Trust) helps to revitalize the neighborhood, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability " along with 200+ hotels throughout America. Some of the prestigious members include the Waldorf-Astoria, the Grand Hotel, Peabody Hotel and The Greenbrier.
The 1920`s in Jacksonville were "hot`. The train terminal opened in 1919 and everybody who was anybody came southward to Florida: the Duke & Duchess of Windsor, John D. Rockefeller, Presidents Harry S. Truman and F.D.R. Rumor claims that these celebrities including Jean Harlow and Al Capone were guests at the hotel in its early years. The movie industry boomed and Hollywood "greats` made guest appearances from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to Laurel & Hardy, Mary Pickford and Clara Bow. There have been many forgotten moments in the vast drama of the 1920`s, but the mystery of the Casa Marina is that she must have seen it all!