Following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the team at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada was faced with the difficult task of rebuilding our beloved Florida Keys resort. And each individual—some facing their own, more personal devastations as a result of the Category 4 storm—rose to the challenge. Under the expert guidance of General Manager Bob LaCasse, our staff has spent the last several weeks restoring and upgrading this legendary resort, and all with an admirably positive attitude. From taking on new roles at the property, to helping neighbors in the community, the team has worked together to reopen one of the best resorts in the Florida Keys.
Here are just a few of our stories:
“When we got back on site, the first thing we needed to accomplish was cleanup and safety for first responders and team members that would need to get into the resort soon. We also helped locals clear the streets . . . there was a real community-based focus. We enjoyed cooking for the first responders and hearing their stories in the evenings.
I am out in the community a lot and the attitude is very positive—everyone believes in Keys Strong. They are really excited about Cheeca reopening, too, because we bring in so many guests to the area that do business with them as well. I’m really proud of the team and it has made me realize how much we can really do when we band together.”
– Nishant Chaudhary, Director of Food & Beverage
Nishant Chaudhary has been with Cheeca for two years and has over 20 years of food and beverage experience. Chaudhary and Bob LaCasse were the first to return to the property following the hurricane.
“On my first day back at the resort, I couldn’t believe the devastation. I was walking in with one of my coworkers and we were walking slowly, looking around, and we were crying. Then Bob [LaCasse] drove up on a golf cart and stopped to pick us up—he told us don’t worry, it’s all going to be ok, we’re in this together, cry if you need to, but we’re coming back strong.
I couldn’t believe that our general manager took the time to personally comfort us like that. It stays with me to this day.”
– Yolanda Aguiar, Laundry Supervisor
Yolanda Aguiar has been with Cheeca for two years. Since the hurricane, she has helped with inspecting rooms, counting inventory, and more. When she’s not at Cheeca, she can be found volunteering at her church.
“I’ve been doing special projects, cleanup, pressure washing, painting, working on safety, whatever I can do to help move the reopening along. Now that we’re getting closer to reopening, I will help the Director of F&B prepare the banquet team to start welcoming our groups back!
It’s so nice to see people from all different departments coming together to maintain the resort. It’s wonderful that everyone is willing to do any project, whatever it takes . . . It’s going to be a good year.”
– Ismael Sandoval, Banquet Supervisor
Known by many team members and guests as “Smiley” due to his warm smile and sunny disposition, Ismael Sandoval has been with Cheeca for 13 years and has over 25 years of hospitality experience.
“I have been really impressed, not just with how everyone is working together every day, but how caring everyone was after the storm. Everyone was looking after each other and making sure everyone was ok on a personal level . . . I lived in employee housing on property and although I didn’t really lose any personal belongings, I lost my home. Thankfully, the resort provided me with a room and I feel very fortunate.
It’s been a ride, and we’re so proud of the community, but we’re all ready to get back to our ‘normal.’ Bring it on 2018!”
– Taryn Brown, Lead Reservations Agent
Taryn Brown, the “Booking Queen,” has been with Cheeca for almost 10 years. Although this is her first luxury hospitality position, she has spent many years previously in guest services and call centers.
Thanks in no small part to the dedication of these and other team members, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is set to reopen on March 30, 2018. Reserve your stay today and look forward to the return of a legend!