In 2005, bass guitarist Mike Horvat moved to California, signed with a record label and began touring the globe with a band and the woman of his dreams.
Then Hurricane Wilma flooded his dad’s retirement plan on Grassy Key.
So Horvat brought his bride and their infant twin boys to the Florida Keys to help clear the damage left in the wake of the five-foot storm surge.
What they’d intended to be a “working vacation” turned out to be a permanent relocation.
This week, as they do each and every day from their gulf-side waterfront resort, the Horvats greeted annual customers like Gail and Eric Losey from the Orlando area by placing an urn of coffee under one of the many tikis in their backyard.
“Try this fruit we picked up in Florida City on the way down!” Gail encouraged Stephanie and her sons, Jack and Casey. “They called it a mimi fruit?”
Eric had invited his family from Charleston to come down and help celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday at the Gulf View Waterfront Resort.
“We started coming down here back in the mid 90s when Chuck was the only one around!” he exclaimed. “I’ve told all my co-workers about this place, and they’ve started bringing their families down. We just love it here! We eat almost all our meals right here on the water.”
“Chuck” is Mike’s father who convinced his wife, Susan, to bid farewell to the corporate world following a quick Keys vacation back in the early 90s.
“October 2, 1995 we closed on this property,” Susan remembered.
She was a systems manager for a healthcare company, and he was head of marketing.
“Bye, bye, corporate America,” she laughed.
After Chuck passed away in 2009, Mike and Stephanie had proven their capabilities for managing the facility and Susan moved to Kentucky. She still spends stints back in the Keys assisting where she can by grabbing phones and making reservations or greeting guests that return to the resort year after year. Stephanie said since the boys have grown up in the midst of the family business, their collection of family follies is rich and storied in only six years.
“When he was only 3 years old, Jack answered the phone ‘Gulf View Resort’!” Stephanie remembered.
The family lives above several of the units they rent to their guests. Living on property demands a certain level of respect from guests, but it’s one that seems to come naturally.
“There are families that have been coming here for years, and many have children the boys’ age,” she continued. “So, we all look forward to them coming each year.”
Another initiative Mike’s kept alive as part of his father’s legacy is an abundance of natural and “green” initiatives. The well-manicured lawns are maintained with water collected from a cistern on the property, and the family regularly collects and shares an abundance of pineapples, key limes, star fruit, Meyer lemons, grapefruit, bananas and oranges with their guests.
Jack and Casey love serving as ambassadors for the property, showing first-timers the aviaries with their pet birds and giant tortoise family as well as a pet iguana!
Though having a small business and living right in the midst of the daily chores – cleaning rooms, taking out trash, changing sheets, checking guests in and out and offering recommendations for entertainment – offers up its own set of challenges while raising a family, Mike is still able to nourish his passion for music by playing with his band, The Stone Crabs, each Saturday evening at Hawks Cay and Sunday evenings at Salty’s Waterfront Grill.