With 2.5 acres of manicured gardens, guests turning off U.S. 1 into Bay Harbor Lodge & Coconut Bay Resort in Key Largo for a stay enter an intimate and peaceful place. Orchids, hibiscus, bougainvillea and other tropical plants make the bayside resort not only a popular waterfront paradise, but also a getaway from the busy world.
The resort’s grounds are finely tended — not to mention the beautiful bayside views and homey cottages where guests stay. With all the amenities of a warm pool and leisure on the water comes a special treat proprietress Peg Mullin Laron crafts every morning for her guests. A former Key Largo School teacher, Laron and Jo Courtney, her soon-to-be daughter-in-law, whip up a variety of fresh warm scones to go with a cup of coffee as visitors rise with the sun in the Keys.
“We bake at least three kinds each day to give people choices,” Laron says as she holds a basket of blackberry almond, guava cream cheese and banana walnut scones on a Monday morning.
So, how did the scone become a supreme morning sweet at the bayside resort? Laron said it all stemmed from a complaint she received back in 2010 from a guest who was upset because no coffee was available.
“I decided when I retired from teaching that I would brew up coffee,” she said. “If you’re going to have coffee you have something with it. I tried different things but was horrified by the fact people would pick pieces of cake up with their hand, even though the spatula was there for them.”
Laron wanted to find an individual morning treat that people could enjoy. She started out with rock bottoms, an English cake made with lard. Laron then moved to scones, which evolved quite rapidly over time to more than 25 different varieties in Laron’s recipe list.
“They’re nice and warm and flavorful. They’re not like the traditional bullet when you think of a scone,” she said.
Scone flavors come from Laron’s experiences. Take the honey lavender: Laron said the idea originated from a lavender ice cream she had in France. The amaretto scone came to be after Laron and Courtney were trying flavors for her wedding cake.
“They evolve from things we’re exposed to and say, ‘oh, we can make a scone out of that,’” she said.
Before Laron set out as a teacher, resort owner and scone maker, she lived her young life in Paris as a student, spoke fluent French and spent time traveling throughout the continent where she’d visit small hotels.
Laron lived in a small town called Addington, a northern suburb of Philadelphia. She got married in 1977 and subsequently moved to Florida. In 1983, they came to Key Largo. She spent 25 years as a Key Largo School teacher, and much of that time was with kindergartners. She retired in 2011.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said.
During her years as a school teacher in Key Largo, she and her husband managed the waterfront Howard Johnson in Key Largo (now a Hampton Inn). In 1994, the dream of owning a resort became reality with the purchase of Coconut Bay, a five-unit bayfront motel that Laron promptly began updating. In 1997, the motel next door, Bay Harbor, was added with a “tear-down-the separating-fence” celebration – to create the current full two-and-a-half-acre waterfront resort property. Laron took over the business in 2000. Today, she runs the resort with her son, Jonathan.
“I love meeting the guests and seeing that they are satisfied with their stay,” she said. “I think with so much lately, we have lost the joy. Once they get here and see the foliage and see how we treat them, it’s relief.”
Scones are served every morning for resort guests out of Peg’s Scone truck. When asked if the truck might venture to other locations in the Keys, Laron joked, “unless Jo decided she wants to cart it from one place to another.”
Outside her resort business and scone making, Laron is an active member in the community. She served on the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce board. She’s a current member of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council’s DAC 5, Take Stock in Children board and Key Largo Community Preservation Association.
Laron’s resort has received quite the distinction from TripAdvisor as No.1-rated specialty lodging in Key Largo.