Couple at Colony Resort approaches silver anniversary with fond memories, friends
By JEFF LYSIAK
The first trip that Larry and Mary Nan Evans came to Sanibel on back in 1982 was a prize.
All these years later, the couple considers their lives here life’s greatest reward.
Larry, as a result of winning an Employee of the Year Award from the hospital where he worked in Missouri, traveled to the islands with his wife, spending a long weekend at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva.
By the time the couple returned to their home in Waverly, Mo., they had already decided that they wanted to move to Southwest Florida.
“When we visited here, we thought what a gorgeous island this was, but we never dreamt of living here,” recalled Larry. “But as soon as we went back home, we decided to sell everything and make the move.“
Soon after relocating to the island, Larry found work as the maintenance supervisor at the Colony Resort, a 36-unit condominium complex located on the east end of Sanibel. At the time, there was only one opening at the resort, so Mary Nan found employment elsewhere.
But as fate would have it, the couple who formerly ran the condos as facility manager and reservationist departed, paving the way for the Evans’ to step into those roles.
In 2009, Larry and Mary Nan will celebrate 25 years of working together at the Colony, a major milestone by all accounts.
Asked why, after nearly a quarter of a century working at the same job, she enjoys it so much, and Mary Nan smiles broadly. “I just love it here,” she explained. “It’s not a big place… it’s really what you’d call a ‘Mom & Pop resort’ because we know almost all of our guests by name.“
“We both love being on the island because the weather’s so great,” Larry added. “But I think we like getting to know the people the most. Over the years, we’ve really gotten to know our guests well… they’re all like a big family to us.“
The Colony Resort is comprised of individually-owned condo units, each sleeping 2-6 guests, with daily linen service, a heated fresh water pool and sun deck. According to Larry, the original pool at the facility was only the 15th pool constructed in Lee County.
Over the years, the couple have seen many changes — almost all of them positive, they noted — including the installation of a new pool, the addition of 18 houses and duplex units along the shoreline of the property as well as infrastructure improvements to East Gulf Drive, which provided better access to their site via both vehicular traffic and the shared use path.
They can also recall many happy encounters during their tenure, including visits by then Illinois Senator Paul Simon (“He wasn’t wearing a bow tie, but I immediately recognized him,” said Mary Nan.) and former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim (“His granddaughter learned to ride a bicycle right here on the property,” she added.).
When asked to what do they owe their success of staying at their positions for 25 years, both of them responded by giving a lot of credit to their trusted staff.
“We have a great staff, and we don’t see a lot of turnover either,” Larry said. “Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have hired some very good people.“
Mary Nan recalled one experience that happened about 20 years ago, when a man from Miami who had been a guest at the resort called to report his wedding ring had gone missing. When Larry called back to tell the man it had been found, the guest was almost shocked to learn that it had been turned in.
“He was just amazed that he got his ring back, because he thought he’d never see it again,” she said. “Honestly is always the best policy.“
One of the biggest challenges, Larry explained, is his responsibility to keep all 33 unit owners pleased with the resort’s performance as a quiet, peaceful and relaxing place to spend their vacations, be they a couple of days each year or months on end.
“Our people come from all over the U.S. and from all different walks of life,” he said. “But when they get here, they all just want to relax and enjoy Sanibel.“
The Evans’, who have been married for 44 years, both hope to stay in their positions at the Colony for many years to come primarily because of the lifelong relationships that they’ve built with their customers.
“Even if they stay with us for two or three days, we’ll stay in contact with them throughout the year,” said Mary Nan. “We get to know them because they keep coming back, year after year. And some of them have been coming to the resort longer than we’ve been working here.“
Added Larry, “They’re all like family to us.”